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Fear of Snakes May Have Driven Pre-Human Evolution

Hemos posted more than 7 years ago | from the snakes-on-a-plane dept.

553

Krishna Dagli writes "An evolutionary arms race between early snakes and mammals triggered the development of improved vision and large brains in primates, a radical new theory suggests. The idea, proposed by Lynne Isbell, an anthropologist at the University of California, Davis, suggests that snakes and primates share a long and intimate history, one that forced both groups to evolve new strategies as each attempted to gain the upper hand. Early primates developed a better eye for color, detail and movement and the ability to see in three dimensions — traits that are important for detecting threats at close range. Humans are descended from those same primates. "

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553 comments

This only highlights mankind's TRUE FEAR (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15768821)

Snakes...ON A PLANE

Re:This only highlights mankind's TRUE FEAR (1)

maniac/dev/null (170211) | more than 7 years ago | (#15768981)

...and there ain't a GOT-DAMMED thing you can do about it!

Insider Scoop (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15769058)

I hear the producer of Snakes on a Plane already has a sequel in the works (negotiations), Snakes on a Train (We got snakes on a train! Yes a train motha f******! Choo Choo motha f*****! Choo Choo!).

Re:Insider Scoop (2, Funny)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769226)

The snakes in Spain stay mainly in the plane!

(hisssss!!!! hisss!!!!)


The snakes in Spain stay mainly in the plane.

Snakes on a Segway (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769243)

Did, I'm already standing in line for the 7th film in the series, "Snakes on a Segway".

"This m______ing Segway can't even go faster than a m______ing newborn garter snake!"

Re:This only highlights mankind's TRUE FEAR (2, Funny)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769079)

> Snakes...ON A PLANE

I think that should read:

Snakes...ON A PLANET

Re:This only highlights mankind's TRUE FEAR (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15769326)

Snakes... ON A PLAIN

Re:This only highlights mankind's TRUE FEAR (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15769098)

The "scientist" is actually just a shill for the movie industry, duh.

Re:This only highlights mankind's TRUE FEAR (2, Funny)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769202)

YES THEY DESERVE TO DIE, AND I HOPE THEY BURN IN HELL!

lets hope he lasts longer than he did in Deep Blue Sea and Jurassic Park ;)

Re:This only highlights mankind's TRUE FEAR (4, Funny)

thewiz (24994) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769253)

Do you think that airplanes will evolve to keeps snakes off of them?

Re:This only highlights mankind's TRUE FEAR (1)

Megane (129182) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769301)

As long as he can find a cardboard box to hide under, I don't have any problem with Solid Snake being on a plane.

Finallly (5, Funny)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#15768823)

Humans are descended from those same primates.
And lawyers/politicians/managers are descended from snakes.

At least its an explanation of the uneasy feeling I get when I see Darl Mcbride.

I knew that already... (4, Interesting)

countach (534280) | more than 7 years ago | (#15768825)

Genesis 3:14-15 The LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you will go, And dust you will eat All the days of your life; And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel."

Re:I knew that already... (5, Insightful)

Roody Blashes (975889) | more than 7 years ago | (#15768852)

Unfortunately for the bible-thumpers, this isn't actually a theory, it's just an idea. The idea that among a litany of predatory creatures human beings were primarily pushed by one - that although fear-inducing is relatively harmless on the scale of tribes and socities - is a bit of a stretch.

If this is pursued by scientists we will likely find that, yes, there are specific factors involved in competition between humans and snakes that drove specific selections that persist in modern humans, but to suggest that all of "pre-human evolution" was driven primarily by snakes is a bit silly.

Re:I knew that already... (5, Funny)

operagost (62405) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769231)

Use the phrase "bible-thumpers" in your post on a scientific topic and you're sure to be modded up insightful!

Scientist 1: How'd you like my paper on "Impact of herpetological influence on anthropological evolution?"
Scientist 2: Bad news, dude! The "bible-thumpers" have glommed off your hypothesis! Something in Genesis about chicks stomping on snakes. Sounds fetishy. Anyway, we can't afford to lend these cretins any legitimacy. You'll have to think of something else.
Scientist 1: Crap! Back to the drawing board. How about 'gators? They're hella scary!

Re:I knew that already... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15768865)

So what you are saying is that our fear of snakes caused us to incorporate them into our myths and legends as the stereotypical "bad guy"? Makes sense to me.

Re: I knew that already... (4, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 7 years ago | (#15768900)

Uhmmm... the hypothesis, even if correct, doesn't say that snakes lost their legs due to meddling in the affairs of a couple of innocent humans.

Re: I knew that already... (5, Funny)

Belgarion89 (969077) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769109)

Dude, they were hardly innocent. They ran around outside butt naked for crying out loud!

Re: I knew that already... (1)

Nyago (784496) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769321)

No, but our long "relationship" with snakes may have inspired the story of Genesis.

Carl Sagan suggests this (and in general discusses the (possible) relationship between mythology and evolution) in his book "The Dragons of Eden".

Re:I knew that already... (5, Interesting)

arivanov (12034) | more than 7 years ago | (#15768987)

I had the same thought at first.

At second - another thought. Birds of prey. Keeping alive from them requires similar improvements in vision. It also requires much more.

Current primates do not cooperate to defend against snakes. At the same time they cooperate even on interspecies level to keep track and warn the pack about forest eagles. There is some extremely good footage narrated by David Attenborough on that (forgot in which one of his movies). The most important characteristic of primates is their socialness. In fact the size of a primate brain for the lower primates is directly proportional to the group size (once again quoting Attenborough).

So the primary driver in primate development should be the predators which improved their pack social cohesion and group communication. Eagles, tree mammal predators from the polecat family and to some extent cats.

Not snakes.

Re:I knew that already... (2, Interesting)

AndersOSU (873247) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769028)

FTFA,
predatory birds evolved much later than snakes, after primates developed steroscopic vision.

Re:I knew that already... (5, Interesting)

hey! (33014) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769088)

My mind leapt to Genesis as well.

The thing is, the snake is by no means a uniformly malign figure in mythology. Quite the opposite; they are often beneficent. The snake has other symbolic potentials, with its ability to shed its skin (rebirth) and to form a circle by biting its tail (eternity).

Chinese dragons are conspicuously snake-like, and share the common mythical snake role as bringers of wisdom. In fact Genesis, if you read it closely, is clearly a compilation of myths. It is clear that in the source material for the temptation story, the snake plays exactly the bringer of wisdom role in the story ("Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made." Gen 3:1). But with irony that is a particular characteristic of Jewish scripture, that gift is a source of misfortune.

Stories of dual natured gifts are not uncommon in folklore and myth. The point of these stories is pretty much the same: life is full of pain and toil, then you die. But on the other hand if you could choose otherwise, there would be a price you might not be so happy to pay: without death children are not born, illness and suffering does not end. Wisdom is a particular source of pain, but as the generations of scribes and their successor Talmudists, it's also a source or pleasure and comfort. There is no wisdom without toil and suffering.

Our way of looking at these stories, Genesis in particular, has been diminished by religious ideology. To the point that those of us raised in the Judeo-Christian tradition think nothing is more natural than to hate and revile snakes. The snake figure in Genesis was never equated with Satan until a much later date. "Satan" comes from the Hebrew word for "obstacle" or "adversary". Read carefully: the snake's part in the story puts enmity between him and humanity, but it does not unambigiously put him in the role of The Enemy; he could equally be seen as a tragic figure that nudged humanity down an alternative path of pain and enlightenment.

In any case, to bring this back to the topic at hand, it is certainly not the case the myth and religion can be used to show an atavistic revulsion to snakes that may have an evolutionary basis.

Re:I knew that already... (1, Funny)

operagost (62405) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769260)

Our way of looking at these stories, Genesis in particular, has been diminished by religious ideology. To the point that those of us raised in the Judeo-Christian tradition think nothing is more natural than to hate and revile snakes.
No kidding! After last week's fellowship, we all ran into the woods and started beating the suckers with sticks! Evil little beasties!

Re:I knew that already... (4, Informative)

operagost (62405) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769298)

I forgot to add something else to the thread.
But on the other hand if you could choose otherwise, there would be a price you might not be so happy to pay: without death children are not born, illness and suffering does not end.
In Genesis 2, God says that he will "greatly increase" woman's pain in childbearing. Clearly, children were being conceived and born in Eden. Also, Eden is the definition of Utopia, and no trace of illness or suffering are to be found. Perhaps you do not find eternal life to be palatable, but the entire Judeo-Christian theology revolves around it (save for the Sadducees, whose position Jesus soundly refuted).

Re:I knew that already... (4, Interesting)

digitalhermit (113459) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769101)

Of course it may only be coincidence that pre-Christian civilizations worshipped snakes... These civilizations saw the annual re-birth of the snake (via shedding its skin) as somehow divine. It may also be coincidence that the bull (horns, cloven feet) was also worshipped by pre-Christian civilizations. Or not so coincidental. Nothing like making the god of the old religion the icon of evil, eh?

Of course, this didn't always happen. In many cases the beliefs and rituals of the previous civiliation were modified by Christianity. It's not just coincidental -- almost all civilizations/religions have a feast time at the end of winter, end of harvest, during the winter. There are *human* reasons for this. Most times it's either for rationalizing the unknown or just an excuse to feast. So we have Christian feasts that coincide with the Saturnalia and other ancient ceremonies. Maybe when we sit down for a Christmas dinner some ancient god nods and thanks us for remembering. Maybe when we recognize the Resurrection of Christ some primal force awakens and pushes the new plants out.

But back to snakes. The story of Genesis is old and borrows heavily from previous traditions. To condemn the snake by selecting one reference is wrong though, as the snake/serpent is considered wise throughout other books in *YOUR* Bible (E.g., John 3:14). Read your Book!

Re:I knew that already... (1, Offtopic)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769170)

Ugh. No, the people that came up with the stories in the bible had a fear of snakes, likely because this rivalry is still a part of us. Its call instinct, it doesn't mean that there is a god.

Re:I knew that already... (1)

the_wesman (106427) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769217)

... where ye shall eat naught but burning hot coals, and drink naught but burning hot cola ....

How to become a popular scientist (4, Funny)

tsa (15680) | more than 7 years ago | (#15768853)

1. Dream up a far-fetched 'theory' that Joe public can understand and involves strong emotions
2. Seek publicity
3. ....
4. Profit!

Re:How to become a popular scientist (5, Funny)

October_30th (531777) | more than 7 years ago | (#15768866)

As a scientist I am intrigued by this "profit" thing. Please tell me more.

Re:How to become a popular scientist (4, Funny)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#15768905)

Perhaps you should consider subscribing to his newsletter.

Re:How to become a popular scientist (0, Redundant)

grub (11606) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769069)


1) Publish papers
2) Next fiscal propose a budget increase and refer to your previous publications
3) ????
4) PROFIT!!!

Re:How to become a popular scientist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15768885)

FFS, did you bother reading the article? Are you knowledgeable about primate evolutionary theory?

Or are you just blathering because you have nothing meaningful and/or humorous to add to the discussion?

wow (-1, Redundant)

MrSquirrel (976630) | more than 7 years ago | (#15768864)

So is "Snakes On A Plane" (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0417148/ [imdb.com] ) the story of the next step in snake-spurred human evolution? Go Samuel L Jackson, go... use your evolutionary powers!

Conventional wisdom (4, Interesting)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 7 years ago | (#15768876)

Conventional wisdom is that our depth perception and improved color vision supported an arboreal fruit-eating lifestyle.

It's not obvious why our lineage would co-evolve with snakes any more than any other mammalian lineage would.

BTW, "improved color vision" is relative. Birds have receptors for four colors rather than three. Early mammals lost two of the four, which is why your dog is "color blind". Our lineage re-gained a third, though not the same as either of the two that our ancestors had lost. There was an article about this in Scientific American a month or two back.

Re:Conventional wisdom (3, Informative)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 7 years ago | (#15768919)

Addressed somewhat in the article (yes I actually read it).

Scientists had previously thought that these traits evolved together as primates used their hands and eyes to grab insects, or pick fruit or to swing through trees, but recent discoveries from neuroscience are casting doubt on these theories.

Re:Conventional wisdom (3, Funny)

B3ryllium (571199) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769014)

Our lineage re-gained a third

Some people also have a fourth, I've heard.

Re:Conventional wisdom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15769084)

Hmmm ... interesting.
Do these people use special four-color TFT screens?
And do they download four-color images from the web?

Tetra and quinta? chromatic humans (5, Informative)

arete (170676) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769229)

To my knowledge - which is admittedly a year or so old - basically there are three relevant points.

1. Most people have 3 color receptors that they actually use, while some are colorblind to varying degrees including a relatively high number are red-green colorblind having effectively one RG and one B receptor. HOWEVER, where (what wavelength) the "R" "G" and "B" receptors is is NOT exactly the same for each person. So it is very possible that a perfect match for one person is not a perfect match for another especially for colors that are a complex mixture of wavelengths (eg most real-life pigments in sunlight) Note that generally matching the amount of the same pigment should generally be very, very close - to demonstrate this effect you mostly need to be combining very different wavelengths that "should" be the same added together.

The take-home geek message is that you can use an RGB monitor to match every color you can see - IF the monitor's RGB match yours. Otherwise it's not perfect. (Also see point 3)

Have two receptors very close together eventually becomes indistinguishable from just having one as they approach being in the same spot.

2. Some people are known as "tetrachromats" All examples I've heard about have been the mothers of red-green colorblind men. Essentially they have an extra receptor between R & G. This means that they can determine that two colors don't match in situations where everyone with three receptors would think they matched.

3. Apparently we may also have a 4th (or 5th, depending on pt 2) receptor in the ultraviolet range. However, most of the light in this range is blocked by the alchohol in our eye fluids, so this receptor is mostly pretty useless. However, this doesn't mean we don't see SOME color with this receptor right at the edge where it's not blocked by the alchohol - it's just not a very large part of our sight.

These colors definitely don't exist in monitors, which I personally and nonscientifically think is why I love staring at the LED on a PS2.

Re:Conventional wisdom (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769043)

Well, the article says that recent research shows that reach-and-grasp did not evolve at the same time as the better vision, which makes it unlikely that they evolved for the same purpose. I'm not sold on this, as competitive advantage in food-gathering would still exist, IMO.

It's not obvious why our lineage would co-evolve with snakes any more than any other mammalian lineage would.

One obvious reason to me would be habitat. Maybe the primate lineage occupied the same areas as snakes? Maybe other mammals developed other strategies (like giantism or fecundity)?

Re: Conventional wisdom (2, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769118)

> Well, the article says that recent research shows that reach-and-grasp did not evolve at the same time as the better vision, which makes it unlikely that they evolved for the same purpose.

I'm not sure that's a good argument. It's not like evolution happens on demand.

Our own upright posture, opposable thumbs, and big brains didn't all evolve at the same time, but we still build our lifestyle around their conjunction.

Re:Conventional wisdom (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769319)

BTW, "improved color vision" is relative. Birds have receptors for four colors rather than three. Early mammals lost two of the four, which is why your dog is "color blind". Our lineage re-gained a third, though not the same as either of the two that our ancestors had lost.
Why would losing a color receptor constitute an evolutionary advantage?

It makes sense! (-1, Redundant)

deadhammer (576762) | more than 7 years ago | (#15768882)

Given the instinctive fear of snakes that humans possess, coupled with the intense fear that a large portion of the population has towards air travel, I'd say the information found in this informative documentary [snakesonaplane.com] starts to make sense.

Re:It makes sense! (2, Insightful)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769054)

Given the instinctive fear of snakes that humans possess,


Not all humans have an instinctive fear of snakes. For instance, I've taken pictures of some local snakes at a range of about 6". These snakes are not poisonous so I know the worst I could get from them is a nasty bite.

If these were poisonous snakes would I still be that close? Probably not but that's simply a healthy respect for the snake and not a fear of it. If you take your time and don't ruffle its scales you can get close to most any snake. If these were copperheads or rattlers I could probably, comfortably, take pictures at a range of 12" or so.

Granted, there are those that the mere picture of a snake will send them into a tizzy but with therapy can overcome that fear. Same with spiders and other crawly things.

Personally, I believe that the reason some people fear snakes is three-fold. First comes from the bible and it's boogeyman characterization of a snake being an evil thing. Second, from all the bad movies showing snakes being evil creatures. Third, from parents telling their kids that snakes are evil things (which comes from points 1 and 2.).

If people are brought up that snakes should be respected and not feared, many problems between snakes and people wouldn't be around.

Re:It makes sense! (1)

swv3752 (187722) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769289)

Go to some young child under three. He/she will react adversly to several things like creepy crawlies and snakes. They can overcome this natural revulsion, but it is there.

2D-3D? (1)

AWhiteFlame (928642) | more than 7 years ago | (#15768893)

They...they couldn't see in 3 dimensions before? ...Could we evolve to see 4 dimensions, then?

Re:2D-3D? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#15768967)

Only with more, bigger and better snakes, obviously.

Let the evolution race begin!

Re:2D-3D? (2, Informative)

Roody Blashes (975889) | more than 7 years ago | (#15768990)

You don't see in 3 dimensions now, you MOVE in 3 dimensions and you SEE in 2. If you could see in 3 dimensions you'd be awfully confused, because you'd be able to see every side of every object in your field of view.

Theoretically, this would not be possible anyway given our current configuration and understanding of light. To be able to see in 3d, you'd have to somehow pick up light that was being deflected away from your eyes, or that was blocked by foreground objects in your field of vision.

Re:2D-3D? (2, Informative)

AndersOSU (873247) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769053)

I'm pretty sure you knew this, but seing in three dimensions means having stereoscopic vision, and the benifits of much improved depth perception.

Re:2D-3D? (3, Insightful)

Roody Blashes (975889) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769130)

Within the context of the original post (the evolving to see in 4 dimensions thing), it suggests to me that he meant seeing all 3 spacial dimensions. Stereoscopic vision is not the same as that. It just means your brain is capable of recognizing angles on objects and interpreting them for you as some level of depth. People with poor depth perception don't necessarily have anything wrong with their eyes. They see the same thing everyone else does, their brains just don't interpret the angles properly.

You can prove quite easily that you can only see two dimensions of space. Simply place a cube on a table, lower and center your vision so it's pinpointed right in the center of one side, and note that you see a square, not a cube. Without the angles to suggest depth, you're not capable of perceiving three dimensions at all.

Re:2D-3D? (2, Interesting)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769000)

I can already see in four dimensions.
Your memory stores information about the passing of time and so you can see what something used to look like and how it looks now.

For an often strange example, go and visit your childhood neighbourhood and you will see all the things that have changed since.

Re:2D-3D? (1)

pla (258480) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769087)

They...they couldn't see in 3 dimensions before? ...Could we evolve to see 4 dimensions, then?

Think of it like this... When you look at a photograph, a 2d captured moment, you can still consciously determine what lies closer or further than a given point most of the time. Some unusual lighting effects or geometry may throw you off, but you know the tiny tree belongs much further away than the giant mouse in the foreground.

Now extend that to 4d perception - Our eyes give us a pseudo-3d snapshot of the world around us. But we can consciously determine, for example, that a distant car moving straight at us will eventually reach our position, causing either us or them to need to change course slightly (or cause some serious harm, and not to the car).

So - Could we evolve a better sense of the 4d world around us? Sure! Our entire prefrontal cortex, which sets us apart from even other primates, seems geared toward an "intuitive" sense of time and complex problem solving - Basically an evolutionary shift toward 4d thought. A dog, seeing food through a fence, will helplessly bark at the food (some smarter dogs will use a nearby opening, but if they can't see it, very few dogs will let the food out of sight to search for a gate). A monkey in the same situation will, without much hesitation, circle the fence to find an opening; But if you put the food in an immoveable container just barely bigger than the monkey's hand, it will get its hand stuck in the jar trying to pull the food out (yet with a smaller opening, it will eventually decide to poke at the food with a stick).

And humans? We think nothing of seeing the food in the jar behind the fence, and without even making a first failed attempt, will go get a suitable tool to extract the food. Yet when it comes to picking our leaders, we fall for the same meaningless cries of "for the children" every time. So we still have room for improvement. ;-)

Re:2D-3D? (1)

dmatos (232892) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769283)

Sure. All you need is another eye, displaced from the first two some known distance along the 4th dimensional axis. Then, through the parallax with the other two eyes, you should be able to interpret an equivalent "depth" in the 4th dimension.

new movie title (0)

Beached (52204) | more than 7 years ago | (#15768894)

I guess the movie should have been titled "Snakes on the plains"...

Why snakes? (5, Interesting)

triskaidekaphile (252815) | more than 7 years ago | (#15768897)

Did the primates have no other predators? As I recall, binocular vision is a characteristic of predator, not prey. (How far do I have to run or jump to catch dinner?) Motion detection and wide-field vision are a characteristic of prey, not predator. (Is something about to run or jump on me? Maybe a moderator with points?)

Re:Why snakes? (1)

radja (58949) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769002)

accurately gauging distance can be a very good thing when leaping from tree to tree (at least... I imagine so. I'm not a biologist or something, but it's the first idea I had)

Re:Why snakes? (2, Informative)

swv3752 (187722) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769137)

The big cats, particularly the cave lion and sabertooth tiger preyed on early man. There have been a number of skulls of early man found with holes in the cranium consistent with the fangs of the big cats. Of course this article is talking about time before there was big cats. There would have been crocs and proto-birds. The crocs and birds would have driven motion sensing. Our motion sensing is so strong that we flick our eyes aboutconstantly to create a pseudo-motion so that we can see properly.

Re:Why snakes? (1)

gijoel (628142) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769242)

Not necessarily. There are two main methods of catching prey.

1.) Outrun your prey 2.)Sneak and Ambush.

Both of these are in some respects interchangable but for the purposes of illustration, lets assume they're not.

If your main predator uses strategy 1 then you want to be able to detect it as soon as possible. The sooner you notice the cheetah charging towards you the sooner you can run for it. The sooner you run for it the bigger the lead you have on your pursuer.

Thus motion dection and a wide field of view has a considerable evolutionary advantage to prey species.

On the other hand your predator could use strategy 2. This involves sneaking up on a prey or positioning yourself somewhere where prey will come close to (ie. forest trails, water holes, etc).

Motion dectection becomes even more useful for a prey species as it will allow them to detect a predator sneaking up on or hiding from them. So in either case, motion detection and a wide field of view can be useful tool in avoiding predation. It's not the only way to do so, but it's still useful when you have it.

"Matter of Fact" (-1, Flamebait)

n2art2 (945661) | more than 7 years ago | (#15768922)

Humans are descended from those same primates.


And we wonder why there is a debate between Darwinism and Creationism. I do find it interesting that those who propose to believe in a scientific answer, which defines itself on proof of fact, that they will make "matter of fact" statements that have not been proven as such, but are in actuallity mere theory and speculation.

Now I assume this will cause the generic, self-agnostic complaints and personal insults, but let them come. The same thing you complain about those on the other side of the fence, you do yourself as well. Complain that creationism has no scientic "proof" then deny science when making sweeping "matter of fact" statements about a theory that you subscribe too.

Let the hypocrisy fly!

And you want to be treated like adults.

Re:"Matter of Fact" (1)

MrSquirrel (976630) | more than 7 years ago | (#15768947)

I know, when will people stop knocking the work of the Great Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Re:"Matter of Fact" (1)

n2art2 (945661) | more than 7 years ago | (#15768982)

(Smiles) It's all relative, or is it? To truely believe, is to believe that all have free will and choice to believe in what they choose to believe.

You call yourself a geek? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15769012)

While being a creationist?

That's foul. MOD DOWN.

Re:"Matter of Fact" (1)

hkmwbz (531650) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769061)

It is a "matter of fact". Or rather, to be more precise, it is a recognized and well known scientific theory (they don't like to call them "facts", but non-scientists will often do so because it's easier to say). It is so strong that one can indeed make it as a "matter of fact" statement.

Re:"Matter of Fact" (2, Insightful)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769234)

Well we see proof in the world around us that Darwinism is possible. We have yet to see "something pop out of nothing" as creationism suggests.

So while Darwinism is just a theory at this point, its a theory well grounded in current scientific observation, while Creationism is not..

Re:"Matter of Fact" (1)

n2art2 (945661) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769264)

evolution does not define Darwinism. And Ironicly Darwin, himself, professed Christianity later in his life.

instinct (1)

digitalhermit (113459) | more than 7 years ago | (#15768928)

I wonder what other deep-rooted, genetic fears we have... I know that snakes in the wild give me that weird chill on the back of my neck. So does hearing tigers. Lions sound different and they don't have the same effect, but hearing a tiger growl I guess triggers some primal fear. Maybe it's that these animals -- snakes and tigers -- can kill you without you ever knowing you're in danger. Imagine a snake biting you, injecting venom, then sitting there waiting until you finally kick the bucket. I can imagine laying there, your life starting to fade, and watching that snake moving around and cleaning his knives and forks.... Plus humans suck at fighting. We have soft underbellies, no claws, no proper teeth, our reproductive organs hang out in plain sight, we can't run fast, we can't climb trees quickly, our sense of smell sucks. Maybe horror writers understand this better. Add deadly unseen things, darkness, and we're terrified.

Re:instinct (1)

n2art2 (945661) | more than 7 years ago | (#15768997)

Plus humans suck at fighting. We have soft underbellies, no claws, no proper teeth, our reproductive organs hang out in plain sight, we can't run fast, we can't climb trees quickly, our sense of smell sucks.


Yet we "evolved" into a friece predator. Wait a min.

Re:instinct (1)

bytesex (112972) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769175)

Lots and lots of animals; I remember my little son, when he was one, would instinctively shudder when he saw a spider in the garden. I found myself somewhat strangely in a similar position recently - drifting a bit OT here - I was in this zoo in France which was built up against a hill; when you entered it, there was this bit where you could see the chimps moving about, but you couldn't see their perimeter, which was water surrounding their island. It gave me a sudden impression that I shared a piece of uninhibited terrain with a chimp, especially since the zoo was quite empty at that time of day. It made me stand completely still for a moment. Weird.

Re:instinct (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769246)

Plus humans suck at fighting. We have soft underbellies, no claws, no proper teeth, our reproductive organs hang out in plain sight, we can't run fast, we can't climb trees quickly, our sense of smell sucks.

Sure, but unlike any of the other predators mentioned in this discussion, we make tools, and we're also much better at building shelters and forming communities for mutual benefit. A man vs. a tiger isn't a fair fight, but a dozen men with good firearms in vehicles vs. a tiger also isn't a fair fight. Why do you think the victims in horror stories usually meet their demise alone, somewhere completely bereft of effective shelter and weapons?

Deep rooted genetic fears (1)

pieterh (196118) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769261)

Snakes, spiders, water, heights are genetically-enabled fears that all primates share if they are imprinted. The mechanism has been demonstrated on monkeys and chimpanzees. If you show a young chimpanzee a snake for the first time, and show him other chimpanzees expressing fear, the youngster develops a fear of snakes. If you show him chimpanzees ignoring the snake, he does not. We know it's a genetic function because the same does not happen with a flower, a chair, etc.

It makes sense because there's no point being afraid of harmless snakes, safe water, etc.

But some fears are so deep they don't need activation. One of these is the fear of fanged predators in the night. It so happens (I read about this many years ago and can't find the reference) that there was at least one population of sabre-toothed tigers that evolved specifically to hunt proto-human primates, and it's quite possible that this group (the survivors, at least) were an ancestral population. IIrc there was a mountain of ape skulls in the tiger's cave, each showing marks where the teeth wrapped around the whole head as the tiger dragged off its victim.

Vampires are probably a modern expression of this ancient terror.

As for snakes forcing us to develop 3D vision? That's just junk science. We're evolved from fruit-eating primates and such animals develop colour vision to detect fruit, and 3D vision because swinging through trees without a depth of field is very quickly selected against.

Humans suck at fighting??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15769268)

Sure we do. We've just covered the planet, wiping out species wholesale. Humans with minimal technology (wooden spears and fire) can bring down antelope 3 times our size.

We suck at many things, but fighting isn't one of them.

In Soviet Russia (1, Funny)

dud83 (815304) | more than 7 years ago | (#15768931)

Men evolved from snakes...

This Idea = Bogus (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15768936)

I *am* a psychologist / scientist that studies vision, and I can happily report that this material is a) not new [see the bogus theoretical ramblings of Mineka on the subject] and b) not in any way factual.

Why should the threat of consumption from snakes (snakes! of all things!) have driven us to evolve incredibly good eyesight? Why not hearing? Why not some more obvious and simple snake defense mechanism (like, immunity from snake poison?) At no time in our evolutionary history did snakes actually represent a dominant predatory force (To deal with this, some "experts" claim generalization from dinosaur tails. Right). Just because it has the word "evolution" in it doesn't mean it's right.

This idea, and almost every instantiation of this idea, is total crap, and should be treated this way.

Re:This Idea = Bogus (0, Troll)

n2art2 (945661) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769021)

evolution

Yet, we swallow it up not even knowing the difference.

Re:This Idea = Bogus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15769115)


You prefer the "theory" from the bronze age? Ohhh a son of a god has leet magic skillllzz000rrssssszzzz!!!

Religious kook, take the red pill and face reality.

Re:This Idea = Bogus (1)

n2art2 (945661) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769225)

funny how a coward would take a simple statement, and assume something absolutly opposite. Can one contend a theory without being assumed to be of a particular religious group? You are sad indeed.

Re:This Idea = Bogus (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769046)

I agree, it would seem that lions, tigers, bears, wolves, and other tribes of our own species would be more of a threat.

Re:This Idea = Bogus (2, Informative)

hey! (33014) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769171)


Why should the threat of consumption from snakes (snakes! of all things!) have driven us to evolve incredibly good eyesight? Why not hearing? Why not some more obvious and simple snake defense mechanism (like, immunity from snake poison?)


Because evolution does not provide an organism with what it needs to survive and reproduce. The organism takes what it gets from the mutation lottery and does the best it can.

However, I agree, it seems very unlikely that snakes could be an explanatory factor in the development of stereo vision. After all, there's no reason to think snakes particularly predated on early primates is there? Squirrels, for example, are prime candidates for tree dwelling snakes the hunt in the tree rather than drop on prey. But rather than stereo vision, they have eyes on either side of their heads which provide greater coverage. If snake predation necessarily produces stereo vision, then we would expect all kinds of animals subject to snake predation to have it; if it does not necessarily produce stereo vision, then I'm not sure the idea has any meaning.

Scared of snakes? (1)

The_Shadows (255371) | more than 7 years ago | (#15768955)

The only time snakes really scare me is when I'm over the Pacific Ocean, halfway between LA and Hawaii and some nutcase release snakes... while I'm on the plane.

Snakes on a Plane 2: Snakes Furthering Human Evolution.

Re:Scared of snakes? (0, Redundant)

Maul (83993) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769082)

Darn! Someone beat me to the snakes on the mutha-#%&@$# plane comment.

Mushroom MUSHROOM! (-1, Offtopic)

ToxikFetus (925966) | more than 7 years ago | (#15768958)

Badger badger badger badger [badgerbadgerbadger.com] ...

How exactly... (5, Funny)

bunbuntheminilop (935594) | more than 7 years ago | (#15768970)

...a snake participates in an arms race, I'll never know.

Bullshit (2, Interesting)

dargaud (518470) | more than 7 years ago | (#15768991)

Why are there such bullshit theories regularly sprouting in the news ? Either the summary is (very) bad, or the theory itself is. It's so obvious that there are _many_ factors guiding the evolution of several _sets_ of species like that. And snakes don't eat primates (except for a few exceptions). They only bite when threatened or scared, so I don't see how this could be a leading evolutionary factor.

Re:Bullshit (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769215)

Yeah but if you're reaching for a piece of fruit in a tree and don't see the snake, you get bitten and maybe die. The snake will just sit there trying to to be seen and this damn monkey will keep reaching for it, so it'll bite in self-defense. There's an evolutionary pressure towards being able to spot the snake.

Now a clever monkey, maybe having seen some relatives die of snake bites, might decide to squash the snake with a rock. Or maybe it would think that the snake would be a better meal than that piece of fruit. A couple of good motiviations for killing the snake, to be sure. That would provide an evolutionary pressure for the snakes to get better at not being seen.

One deeply confused person right here (1)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769006)

In the article they mention evolution as if its some kind of choice that each species made towards their own goals. Last I checked living beings don't have the ability to simply become venomous at will (though thats arguable with some folks), or shift their eyes physically somewhere else to get improved vision (with the exception of those who actually happen to have eyes in the backs of their heads)... it simply doesn't occur that way. Its really just physical or mental "anomalies" that just happen to pass down through generations simply because they survived with those new traits of improved vision, venomous fangs, or some sort of improved intelligence.

In a way thats really whats been happening over the last thousand or two years, only our intelligence has gone up not because of fear of snakes, but from our own kind.

Re:One deeply confused person right here (1)

n2art2 (945661) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769076)

mod up, mod up, I mean evolve to a higher status! Either way we can't do it on our own now can we? Good point.

Re:One deeply confused person right here (2, Interesting)

OhHellWithIt (756826) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769172)

That struck me, too. From TFA:
"Primates went a particular route," Isbell told LiveScience. "They focused on improving their vision to keep away from [snakes]. Other mammals couldn't do that. Primates had the pre-adaptations to go that way.

Natural selection doesn't work that way. Pre-human primates focused on staying alive. It could be that the ones who were better at detecting snakes survived and the others didn't, but we humans are the first species that seem to be capable of directing the evolution of our descendants (for better or worse).

I wish that people who wrote about evolution would learn to use phrasing that conveys how natural selection works, instead of attributing it to the intelligence of the species in question. I know, it's a Fox News article, but I've even seen Daniel Dennett make that mistake in his writing.

Alternatives? (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769013)

The key to TFA is recent research that demonstrates that reach-and-grasp didn't evolve alongside 3D vision. So the question this theory attempts to answer is, "Why did early primates evolve advanced, close-up, 3D vision?"

As with most things, the simplest answer is usually the best. While predator evasion could very likely be part of it, there is also an advantage in food gathering -- and while this good vision didn't co-evolve with reach-and-grasp ability, it's quite possible that once reach-and grasp evolved, better eyesight was the 'next step' in better food gathering.

I'm guessing here, but I find it likely that good close-up vision proved advantageous in more than just evading snakes, and I think it's a little simplistic to say that evolutionary one-upmanship with snakes is the sole cause of our (primates) excellent up-close vision.

IANAEB (evolutionary biologist) so I may be completely incorrect...

Far-fetched. (4, Interesting)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769024)

suggests that snakes and primates share a long and intimate history, one that forced both groups to evolve new strategies as each attempted to gain the upper hand.



That's quite far-fetched. Snakes and primates do not strongly compete for the same food source and do not really have a strong predator/prey relationship. In fact, they can get along quite well as long as they stay out of each other's way.



The primates' evolutionary developments might have other, much more direct reasons. Color perception is directly related to gathering food (red and yellow fruit vs. green leaves. Btw, picking strawberries is quite a pain in the ass if you're colorblind). Depth perception is pretty much a necessity when jumping from tree to tree - natural selection manifests quite quickly and painfully here. Being able to perceive movements ... well, primates are somewhere in the middle of the road here. They don't perceive ultra-slow movements as well as a prey animal would, nor do they have the ability to perceive quick movements that a pure predator needs.

Re:Far-fetched. (1)

rbarreira (836272) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769078)

In fact, they can get along quite well as long as they stay out of each other's way.

Good vision might help there.

Re:Far-fetched. (1)

Kupek (75469) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769111)

The article mentions proto-primates, not what we would call primates today. So for those snakes and mammals, they might have had a stronger predator/prey relationship than what we call primates. The current relationship you bring up may be a result of primate evolution to be able to detect snakes better.

I'm not arguing the theory is correct, just that it is self-consistent and sounds plausible.

One of the recent language studies ties in to this (4, Interesting)

CurtMonash (986884) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769081)

I've misplaced the link, if I ever had it (I just recall hearing about this from my wife the evolutionary biology teaching fellow) but there's currently a species of primate (bonobo?) that has different behaviors for different kinds of predators. They scurry up into trees for land-based predators, they go down under cover for large birds, and do something in between (I forget what) for snakes.

And they have different calls for each of these kinds of predator.

Well, they've developed another one for humans with rifles. And they give the call if they just see hunting dogs.

So yeah -- adapting to predators is a top-level priority. Although in that case they're benefitting from previously-evolved capabilities, presumably, given the speed of adaptation.

Fear of snakes is why I drive (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15769083)

Bad joke. Go viral marketing!

Hence the most fearsome terrorist organization is: (2, Funny)

Lord of Hyphens (975895) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769121)

COBRA!! (Cobra!)
COBRA!! (Cobra!)
Armies of the night
Evil taking flight
COBRA!! (Cobra!)
COBRA!! (Cobra!)
No where to run
No where to hide
Panic spreading far and wide
Who can turn the tide?

GI Joe- (A real American hero)
Yo Joe!
GI Joe is there
Fighting for freedom
Wherever there's trouble
over land and sea and air
GI Joe is there

One of our basic instincts (1)

PhotoGuy (189467) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769159)

I think I remember from psychology class, that an innate fear of snakes is one of the very few visible human instincts. It's also something that is present in all (or nearly all?) mammals? If you take a stiff rope and shove it towards a kitten (who has never dealt witha real snake before), he will have a far stronger reaction than with other toys. The recognition and fear of snakes is built-in. (Sorry I don't have any references offhand, just my hazy recollection; any expert care to commment?)

snakes did drive technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15769183)

In fact, Wilbur and Orville Wright invented the airplane in the hopes that mankind would break free of the bonds of the snake-infested Earth and live free and happy in the snake-free skies. Little did they know...

Ah!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15769186)

Cobras!

-- Homer

Eyesight is for tools, which animals cannot use. (1)

aersixb9 (267695) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769274)

I'm pretty sure that the distance a person can see increases with the different weapons they fight with. In particular, a person with brawling or stickfighting capabilities can only see a short distance, while gunfighters can perceive targets a bit further. F-15 pilots have pretty good eyesight, and can typically spot a missile or aircraft at ranges in excess of 400 km, much further than other humans. Animals, on the other hand, have pretty bad eyesight since no animals can use tools or weapons to fight. Eyesight abilities are not constant, of course, and this theory can easily be tested by learning to fight with a gun, and determining if after gun training and gun killing, a person can identify another person at a greater range than before, without telescopes and/or 'glasses'. (I've personally tested this theory, and it is accurate.)

What the university student's report failed to mention, about the fear of snakes, is what archaeological & DNA evidence supported this theory. It's a stupid theory, imho, and was probably voiced not because of any particular insight on the part of the student, but instead to get reputation and/or credentials and was written to 'sound good'.

Did Rupert Murdoch Approve this Article? (4, Interesting)

lbmouse (473316) | more than 7 years ago | (#15769312)

The only thing stranger than the content of this article is the fact that it is being hosted on foxnews.com.

Re:Did Rupert Murdoch Approve this Article? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15769340)

On any given Slashdot story about evolution, a predictable group of morons will continue to bellow about the Creationism/ID/Evolution debate instead of contributing to the topic at hand like a group of responsible people would do.
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