Tue 17 Jun, 2003 09:30 am
Did you see this special on Sunday on the Discovery Channel? If not, it'll be rerun several times, I'm sure.
The show was about the evolution of humans, from Australopithecus Afarensis (Lucy, from about 3.8 million years ago) to Homo Sapiens. It was, I feel, just an A+ production through and through. The graphics were stunning, the science was interesting and thought-provoking but also provided the right balance between being understandable (but not boring) and challenging (but not frustrating).
Alec Baldwin hosted, and I believe he did an excellent job getting across the extensive and often confusing information that's out there. In fact, my only gripe was that it wasn't longer (it was 2 hours long, about 1 1/2 hours once the commercials are factored in), because unfortunately the show had to rush through Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons.
So, did you like it? Did you dislike it? Do tell!
Walking with Cavemen
PS The show was the third part of a series started with Walking with Dinosaurs that continued with Walking with Prehistoric Beasts (those beasts being the ones that were around after the dinosaurs but before today).
I haven't seen them, but I sure wish I had. That stuff is really interesting. I'm gonna keep my eyes open in case it comes back around again.
jespah, Is this anything like "dead man walking?" c.i.
Well, yes, c.i. -- they're all dead now!
Excellent production and Baldwin's articulate and convincing narration made it even better. Reading about all our precessors, some species which reached a dead end and didn't survive, is one thing but the CGI and make-up was first class and really brought it all together.
I thought the show was outstanding. Intelligent and enlightening. And I agree that the Neanderthal and Cro Magnon coverage was too rushed. I was amazed to learn that the ancestors of our species were almost extinct. How can they know that only two thousand of them existed at one point?
I think one of the things that impressed me the most was Baldwin speaking so naturally about a lot of things, including how we know that Lucy stood and walked upright. Of course he's reading a script, but the delivery was fantastic.
Yeah, Roberta, I agree - I also found it curious how they seem to know what certain behaviors were. I bet we can more or less figure out if a species used language (brain size, jaw shape, that sort of thing), but how do we know if they were monogamous, for example?
I'm waiting for them to win a passel of awards.
I saw part of it, then I got sleepy. What I did see was excellent. I need to see it again.
Here's the link from The Discovery Channel
. It re-airs tonight at 9.
The only downside to all of this is my husband has started to call me cavewoman. 'Course I now call him cavedude so I think we're even.
Must go fix food in magic box of fire. Ugha!
You don't do a convincing "ugh," so not to worry, Jesp.
I think they didn't give the Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons too extensive a coverage because so many people already know that section of our human history.
It's the very early evolutions that would startle most people and it still won't be convincing to those who don't have the mind set to comprehend. They still expound on ridiculous "Creationist Theory" of how the Grand Canyon was formed in 6,000 years, for instance. Carbon dating is just as reliable as DNA ID.
I really loved seeing the things that on nature shows normally make me extremely squeamish (I'm weird, okay?). Things like when the leader of one group (I think they're the Home Habilis folks) is killed by a lion and dragged off, and the lion crunches down on something, which you know is just not good news for our foreparents. But it's reality, and of course it makes perfect sense that the other humans would then spend their time figuring out who'd be their next leader, rather than mourn too much over the lost one. After all, they just weren't wired that way. Think of modern chimps and you're pretty close to their sympathy level.
When the Heidelbergensis (I think) folks try herbs and crying and rocking to save a mortally injured man, I felt for them. They were very real, and very helpless, and very distressing to watch. You think, this was such a horrible existence, and a cut could kill you, and you'd be right.
Plus, they ate a lot of bugs, which also makes perfect sense, and is something I agree, LW, that a lot of modern humans would look away from. We like to think of cavepeople as mighty hunters and noble gatherers of vegetables and fish but it's highly likely that they ate a lot of a very abundant and somewhat easy to catch protein - insects and spiders. It's the old "noble savage" argument all over again, that they were somehow purer than us and lived in a clean world with no pollution. Well, sure, there was no pollution, but living past thirty was not in the cards for most people, and most of their time was spent trying to intake enough calories to make it to the next day of searching for enough calories to make it through the next day, etc.
I hope they make another sequel, to better cover Cro-Magnons and follow through to the rise of civilization among the Home Sapiens. I'd love to see speculation on how writing developed, and agriculture, and building. The record's not bad (despite the irreparable loss of artifacts from Iraq) and it would certainly be compelling the way they tell it.
Then again, I also want to see some sort of prequel to the dinos show, going back to the rise of life itself, and through the Carboniferous and Permian periods, up to the rise of the dinos. I would happily fork over $$ for a boxed set of all of that. Evolution completely fascinates me.
I think the program also handled Intelligent Design well and spoke to it head on. Baldwin at one point intones that it was a series of accidents that got us where we are, and in the meantime we survived like everything else on earth survives - through luck, grit and determination.
Discovery and PBS - I believe both gave us pretty detailed documentaries about the Neanderthal but I don't remember one particularly about the Cro-Magnons. I'm sure there has been and of course Jane Auel's "Clan of the Cave Bear" and other novels have given pretty authentic profiles of what those people and their mileau were all about (forget the movie -- "Quest for Fire" has been the only really good, authentic film about cavemen). I could delve back into the archives as well as the History Channel and also the PBS site that sells the VHS and DVD tapes of earlier shows.
Ewww -- that once scene where the caveman chows down on the taratula was a bit stomach chrurning. He could have at least had some Bernaise Sauce for on top!
(I guess if one can eat Escargot....)
Yeah, we both said Ewww when the tarantula was eaten - and what I think was a silk worm. Blech.
YOU HAVE TO RECOGNIZE THAT MUCH OF THAT PRESENTATION ABOUT THE DIET IS ONLY SPECULATION. IM NOT AWARE OF ANY EVIDENCE THAT THE H. HABILI ATE TARANTULAS. (I SURE AS HELL WOULD NOT SNACK ON ONE OF THEM FUZZY SUCKERS, IVE BEEN TOO WEIRDED OUT BY SPIDERS OF ALL KINDS IN THE REALLY WILD)
FOR ONCE, I THOUGHT THE SHOW WAS WORTH WATCHING. IT WAS DEVELOPED MORE FOR ITS INFORMATION AND LESS AS A CGI SHOW. THE"RAISING THE MAMMOTH" WAS A BORE WITH NO SCIENTIFIC THOUGHT. "WALKING WITH DINOS" WAS JOHN GOODMAN SKIPPING THROUGH ALMOST 200 MILLION YEARS OF EVOLUTIONARY TIME WITH NO CONNECTIONS .I KNOW 2 OF THE SCIENTISTS WHO WERE TECH CONSULTANTS TO "WALKING...DINOS", AND THEY WERE BOTH PISSED AT HOW THE EVOLUTIONARY STRESSES WERE GLOSSED OVER. THEY FELT THAT THE SHOW LOST MUCH OF ITS SCIENTIFIC VALUE
THIS ONE, BECAUSE IT REALLY ONLY COVERED ABOUT 4 MY AND WAS QUITE UP TO DATE, WAS CREDIBLE. SO CREDIBLE THAT IM THINKING OF USING IT FOR BACKGROUND INFORMATION FOR A SEMINAR ABOUT THE
PLEIOCENE/PLEISTOCENE BOUNDARIES AND HOMINID EVOLUTION.
I HOPE THE IMPORTANT FEATURE THAT ALL THESE SPECIES OF HOMINIDS OVERLAPPED IN TIME AND THAT THE BRAIN (BIG BRAIN) WAS NOT A DRIVER OF HUMAN EVOLUTION, IT WAS A CONSEQUENCE OF UPRIGHTEDNESS AND A DIET THAT CONTAINED MEAT(AND MARROW) PROTEIN. ALSO , I GUESS THE ASPECT OF LUCK HAS TO BE APPRECIATED
Well, of course, these are shows made primarilly for entertainment and entertaining they are. Think of them as sugar-coated evolution. The fact that they do make it go down easier is probably too much for the purist educators. I believe one might research the bug eating dipiction and a good start would be on Discovery's Website where they often give off site reading links. If these shows encourage people to actually read the modern writings about evolution, they do serve a purpose.
Somehow the worm eating brought to mind Hyacinth at the beginning of each "Keeping Up Appearances" when she discovers the worm crawling out of the flower. It might be funnier if they change it to a tarantula!
WIZ-PALEO ANTHROPOLOGISTS HAVE STATED THAT THERE IS A POSSIBLE CONGENITAL LINKED FEAR OF SPIDERS THAT COMES FROM THE DAYS IN THE TRIASSIC WHEN MAMMALS WERE JUST GETTING STARTED AND SPIDERS WERE VERY BIG. SPIDERS, UNLIKE INSECTS HAVE A BREATHING APPARATUS THAT DOESNT NECESSARILY LIMIT THEIR SIZES. SO FOSSIL SPIDERS FROM THE JURASSIC HAVE BEEN FOUND THAT WERE RATHER LARGE WITH HUGE FANGS. ITS AMAZING HOW DEFENSES ARE BUILT INTO CREATURES , SUCH THAT PREDATORS WONT EVEN WANT TO TRY TO EAT THEM
THE CLOSEST SPIDER-RELATIVE THAT ID WANNA SNACK ON IS A LOBSTER.
AS A PAST "PURIST" EDUCATOR, THERES NOTHING WRONG WITH ENTERTAINMENT. IT IS OFTEN A GREAT TOOL. HOWEVER, IN THE CASE OF 'WALKING WITH DINOSAURS" THERE WAS MUCH THAT ACTUALLY WAS IN ERROR. OR IN DEEP DISAGREEMENT AMONG THE PALEO GUYS THATS NOT GOOD.
This was a BBC project and I'm guessing Discovery re-edited it with Alex Baldwin as the narrator:
I'll have to check tonight on the credits and see what paleontologists parciipated -- of course, there is dissagreement between scientists on details that may have been shown in the series. I still maintain it encourages people to read further. Let each individual decide what the evidence suggests.
For instance, you say possible
fear of spiders and in reality there are many people who are not arachnophobic today. Of course, that doesn't mean they'd chew up a live one! Perhaps the fear of spiders came about by foolishinly popping them into one's mouth and eventually it was figured out they have fangs and will bite your tongue for you. Perhaps if cavemen hadn't been so indiscrete...
IM NOT THE ONE CLAIMING CONGENITAL -FEAR -OF SPIDERS, REMEMBER THE MONARCH BUTTERFLY. HIS TASTE IS SO VILE THAT ANIMALS AVOID EATING. ITS AN EVOLUTIONARY SELECTED DEFENSE. OTHER BUTTERFLIES (THE VICEROY) MIMICKS THE MONARCH EVEN THOUGH , IVE BEEN TOLD, THAT THE VICEROY IS QUITE TASTY.
YOURE CONFUSING AN EVOLUTIONARY RESPONSE WITH SOMETHING ELSE ENTIRELY. I DIDNT SAY" POSSIBLE FEAR OF SPIDERS", I SAID THERE IS A" POSSIBLE GENETIC LINK TO FEAR OF SPIDERS'
.A N EVOLUTIONARY SIGNIFICANT TRAIT NEED NOT BE UNANIMOUSLY APPLIED TO ALL THE MEMBERS OF A POPULATION .IT NEEDS TO , JUST BE STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT. THATS WHY MANY OF THE HOMO.. SPECIES ACTUALLY LIVED AT THE SAME TIMES AND ONE GRADUALLY REPLACED THE OTHER BECAUSE IT WAS MORE SUCCESSFUL AT FACING THE ENVIRONMENT THAT PRESENTED ITSELF AT THAT TIME.HUMANS ANCESTORS WERE OPPORTUNISTS BUT THEY EVOLVED THE ABILITY TO PLAN AND FIGURE THINGS OUT LIKE A COSMIC CHESS GAME, WHEREIN MOVES FAR AHEAD MADE THE DIFFERENCE FOR SURVIVAL.
THE FACT THAT MANY PEOPLE ARENT ARACHNOPHOBIC IS BECAUSE ITS BEEN MANY GENERATIONS OF GUSTATION (AS DR JOHN GOODMAN SEZ) THAT HUMANS HAVENT BEEN LOOKING ON EVERY LIVING THING AS FOOD, SO THAT DIETARY CHOICES ARE NOW FIXED IN CULTURES AND ARE PROBABLY RECORDED IN SHORT TANDEM REPEAT ALLELES OF A POPULATIONS GENOME. EARLY MAN MAY HAVE EATEN SPIDERS AND DIED, BEEN MADE SICK, OR DIDNT LIKE THE TASTE, OR PAYED ATTENTION TO THE GENETIC WARNING THAT MAY(I SAY MAY ) BE PRESENT IN MAMMALS. NO MATTER, THE WORD (OR GRUNT) WAS PASSED ON
CERTAIN POPULATIONS OF BUSH PEOPLE AND ABORIGINAL PEOPLE DO EAT SCORPIONS (NO BUTTER). HOWEVER SCORPIONS ARENT REALLY TRUE SPIDERS THEY ARE MORE CLOSELY AKIN TO HORSHOE CRABS OR LOBSTERS, AND THEY HAVE HANDY LITTLE HOLDERS.NOT TO MENTION THAT SCORPIONIDAE STING WITH THEIR TAILS AND NOT THEIR HEADS.
MY POINT HOWEVER, IS, THE TV SHOW, "WALKING WITH CAVEPERSONS" ADDED THAT SPIDER GNOSHING TOTALLY FOR ENTERTAINMENT AND UGH FACTOR, NOT FOR SCIENCE .
AS FAR AS THE PAST WALKING SHOW, THE ERRORS THAT WERE PRESENTED AS FACT WOULD COVER A PAGE. DISCOVERY, WAS , AS YOU SAID, TAKING ORIGINAL BBC MATERIAL AND REPACKAGING WITH SOME LICENSE. THEY WERE TOLD BY A NUMBER OF SCIENTISTS TO BE MORE ACCURATE . ITS A SORT OF THING THAT SHOULDNT HAVE BEEN PRESENTED WITH PRIMARY ERRORS WITH THE HOPES THAT SOME KIDS WOULD BE INCENTIVISED TO LEARN THE TRUTH. WHAT WOULD BE THEIR FRAME OF REFERENCE TO ASK INTELLIGENT QUESTIONS?. KIDS BELIEVE ALOT OF WHATS ON TV, THEY DONT QUESTION. I CAN SITE MANY EXAMPLES .
With the invention of cooking spiders were almost certainly eaten. Prior to that I can't see it.