Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Be very very quiet

I was reading How the Mind Works, and Pinker commented the reason we don't see woolly rhinoceroses and other ice age creatures is that humans quickly hunted them to extinction. That made remember an article from a National Geographic issue on Africa, which said that Africa had such extensive mega-fauna because they had "co-evolved" with humans, and thus had adapted to human hunting techniques.

For some reason, these two arguments made me think, what if the situation was reversed? What if Africa was as devoid of mega-fauna as Europe, and the rest of the world was overrun with mastodons and their ilk? It would be obvious, right? The mega-fauna in Africa had been hunted out millennia ago. It would only be a matter of time for the rest of the world.

It seems to me that an situation that can be reversed and produce an equally valid explanation is bunk. A better explanation, to me, is that Africa is a climate ill-suited for humans. The burgeoning of plant and insect life makes agriculture hard and disease rampant. Add the difficulty in technology transfer of Guns, Germs, and Steel and the non-extinction of Africa's large animals requires no evolutionary explanation at all.


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