Science in Christian Perspective



An Anthropological Perspective on Man
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Marquette University Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53233

From: JASA 28 (December 1976): 173-180.


"Man" and "human" are not scientific, but rather colloquial terms. In considering the relationship of man to other organisms-the question of taxonomy-it is preferable to use terms such as hominid or Homo sapiens rather than "man." For most people the term "man" has a "cry restricted meaning, referring only to Homo sapiens sapiens (Clark 1955:6).

There is actually little agreement on what is meant by "man." Some emphasize the achievement of upright posture, others the acquisition of language, and still others the use of tools or the attainment of large brain size, etc. (Quigley 1971:520). In a review of John Pfeiffer's The Emergence of Man, L. S. B. Leakey (1971:381) claims that it is not clear whether Pfeiffer is equating man with the genus Homo or only with Homo sapiens.

Simpson claims that all attempts to answer the question, "What is man?" before 1859 are completely worthless and should therefore be studiously ignored. In discussing the nature of man the only fixed point of departure is man's biological nature, both in its evolutionary history and present condition. Simpson recognizes that a biological study of man may never give a satisfactorily complete answer to the question, and that the older approaches through metaphysics, theology, art, and other nonbiological, nonscientific fields can still contribute.

But unless they accept, by speculation or by implication, the nature of man as a biological organism, they are merely fictional fantasies or falsities, however interesting they may be in those nonfactual categories (Simpson 1966:3).

Not everyone agrees with Simpson on the basic importance of man's biological nature. Others (cf. Quigley 1971:521; Roe 1963:320) note that most of the criteria which have been suggested for differentiating man from other animals are behavioral in nature, rather than changes in physical structure which can be documented by the fossil record.

One problem in considering the nature of man is that certain terms may be interpreted differently than the user intended. For example, the statement that man is an animal is interpreted by some to mean that man is simply an animal, and therefore they feel compelled to reject the statement. Bube's introduction to a special edition of the Journal ASA on whether man is only a complex machine deals with an analogous problem:

It's the "only" in the question, "Is man only a complex machine?" that causes the problem . That man is a
complex machine is a scientific conclusion. That man is only a complex machine is a subjective philosophical speculation not derivable from science . . . . We should expect that every event in which a human being takes part can be described on each of the levels appropriately associated with the physical sciences, the biological sciences, the psychological and social sciences, and ultimately in terms of that theology which relates the event and the man to Cod. It is never a question of something happening on this level but not on another; it is always a question of something happening on every level simultaneously (Bube 1970:122).

It is difficult to be "objective" about the nature of man, for we all have so much vested interest in the conclusions. Man has been characterized in many ways: a little lower than the angels, a mechanical misfit, a ridiculous weakling, and/or the most dangerous creature alive. It is obvious that these statements are based on value judgments and are not open to scientific verification.

In this paper I would like to explore the question of the uniqueness of man from three different perspectives: paleontology, biochemistry, and language.


In 1961 Howell stated that "Human evolutionary studies are still greatly hindered by a taxonomic morass which is seriously in need of revision" (1961:119), and acknowledged the difficulty of applying the biological species concept to fossil populations. The situation has improved little (if any) since then, Livingstone (1961:117) has complained that to most physical anthropologists, a hump here or a difference of a centimeter someplace else is conclusive evidence for placing two specimens in separate species, and that the process of, e.g., assigning mandibles to different species on the basis of morphological differences, makes neither ecological nor morphological sense.

I would go even further and maintain that we shall never infer or understand the course of human evolution by comparative anatomy or detailed analysis of the miserable scraps of bone which have been found. Only by considering these scraps as living, kicking animals who thus conform to all the general laws of ecology and evolution will we ever understand our own ascent or descent (Livingstone 1961:117).

The fact is that the judgments of anthropologists on anatomy, taxonomy and phylogeny are liable to error, controversy and revision. "Yesterday's Paranthro pus becomes today's Australopithecus, whilst today's Australopithecus is tomorrow's (though not yesterday's)
Homo!" (Tobias 1974:410-11).

Campbell succinctly states the problem of taxonomy in relation to fossil forms:

Palenspecies are sequent, continuous, and not discrete units, and they cannot be distinguished by morphological characters alone. Somewhere, many times, an Australopithecus gave birth to a Home and they were indistinguishable at the taxonomic level. Nothing is to be gained by creating intermediate taxonomic categories, for neither morphological nor behavioral boundaries exist in reality, however hard we look for them (Campbell 1972:39).

In the past the general opinion has been that the more we learn about fossils, and the more of them we find, the clearer will be our understanding of their relationships to one another. However, it seems that the opposite is true.

Progress in the study of human evolution based on the fossil record has been beset by nearly as many problems as it has resolved. While today we know far more of the fossil evidence than those who wrote early in this century, we have also come to realize more clearly the theoretical difficulties which stand in our way. We know that we can never do more than present hypotheses on the basis of presently available evidence. As time-bound creatures, no ultimate truth about the origin and evolution of mankind can ever be known to us.

The recent discovery of so many fossil hominids has . . , opened up a wider range of hypothetical possibilities than have been appropriate in the past. , . . The numerous fossils now known offer alternative interpretations (Campbell 1972:27).

Leakey (1973:173) notes that the collection of hominids found in 1972 in the East Rudolph area of North Kenya has presented more questions than answers. He concludes that the pattern of hominid development in east Africa was much more complex than had earlier been thought.

An interesting approach to the problem of interpretation is taken by Wolpoff (1968). After admitting that one can never be really sure about which specimens constitute a species, he notes that the final interpretation must rest on the framework which one selects, and that the framework must be generated by one's hypotheses concerning the selective pressures that oriented human development. The best one can do is to choose the framework which most closely fits the "facts," and although the facts do not speak for themselves, we can always manage to do a great deal of talking for them. Wolpoff's framework is that man has adapted culturally to the physical environment, and morphologically to effectively hearing culture. "Because of this hominid adaptive characteristic, it is difficult to understand how different hominid species could have arisen or have been maintained sympatrically" (Wolpoff 1968; 479). He then concludes that "the question of sympatric hominid speciation is more than a mere taxonomic problem. An entire theory about hominid evolution is at stake" (Wolpoff 1968:480). He therefore accepts all hominids alive at a given time as being within the range of variation of a single species.

It is commonly held that beginning with the australopithecines there was no speciation, only phyletic change. However, the recent finds in south and east Africa seem to point to the conclusion that hominid development has been cladistic rather than only phyletic. In east Africa it seems that at least two types of hominid were in existence at the same time from the earliest stages of Au.stralopithecus, and some australopithecines seem to be present with Homo erectus at Olduvai and Ternifine (Tobias 1973:326).

It is necessary to use imagination to develop models or hypotheses for handling the problems of human development, but we are still in a preliminary phase of the work-collecting data and attempting to put it in order. Although some seem to thrive on speculation (e.g., Todd and Blumenberg 1974), most prefer to be tentative in their reconstructions.

A few examples will serve to illustrate the "taxonomic morass." The Meganthropus mandibles were identified as Homo erectus by some and Australopithecus robustus by others (Wolpoff 1971:401). The Vertesszollos find is classified as Homo sapiens by Raemsch (1974:436), whereas others classify it as Homo erectus. At Olduvai Gorge, Hominid 7 has been variously classified as Australopithecus and Homo lsalnlis, and Hominid 13 as Homo Jiahilis and Homo erectus (Kinzey 1971:531). As we now consider the fossil data, it is important to keep in mind Wolpoff's (1968:477) statement that "The interpretive problem is inevitable in the study of fossil man, and the question of which specimens do or do not constitute a species will always remain open."

The most commonly mentioned candidate for the earliest known hominid (on the line of modern man) is Ramapithecus, specimens of which have been found in both Africa and India. Unfortunately, the finds are extremely fragmentary, with no skulls, limb bones, or even canine teeth (Washburn 1971:534). For example, Rarnapithecus wickeri consists only of an incomplete upper dentition in two maxillary fragments and part of the left side of the mandible.

This paucity of information does not deter some people from speculating broadly. Todd and Blumenberg (1974:383) state that there was an obvious extension of the juvenile period, which they infer from the differential attrition of the molar teeth which resulted from their delayed eruption. Poirier (1974:408) comments that if this is true (remembering, of course, that the evidence is from wear on a limited sample), the possibility has important implications for the "socialization and learning process." Ulumenberg (1974:419) even maintains that the ecology and habits of Ramapithecos can be extrapolated from the presumably associated fauna, while others strongly disagree.

Although Campbell admits that "on superficial examination" the Rarnapithecus specimens seem very ape

The uniqueness of man from three different perspectives: paleontology, biochemistry and language.

like, he maintains that the total morphological pattern is not that of an ape and varies from it quite specifically.

No one feature of this specimen can be characterized as hominid, as distinct from pongid, but the total morphological pattern is significant and falls very close to what might have been predicted for a form intermediate between an early Dryopfthecns ape and an Australopithecus (Campbell 1972:30).

He then states that one's opinion of whether Ramna pithecus is or is not on the line of man "can only be based on a personal assessment of very complex and conflicting evidence" (Campbell 1972:43). Others (cf. Aguirre 1974:399; Clark 1974:402; Kortlandt 1974: 429) have specifically questioned the hominid status of Ramapithecus, and Washburn (1971:534) argues that "dogmatic assertions of what our ancestors 'must' have been like or how they 'must' have behaved on the basis of this evidence is unfortunate."

The traditional viewpoint has been that the genus Homo evolved from the australopithecines. Depending on one's interpretation, it was either the gracile (africanus) or the robust (rohustus) form from which Homo was derived. However, recent discoveries in east Africa have made the picture less clear. As a result of his work at Omo, Olduvai, and East Rudolph, Lcakey (1971:244) has concluded that the data (both cranial and postcranial) seem to suggest that Homo and Australopithecus existed at the same time and shared the same habitat. The East Rudolph specimens of Australopithecus date from about 3 m.y. (million years ago) to just over 1 m.y., with very little morphological change during that time. Those classified as Homo have been recovered from deposits covering a similar time span, but show greater morphological variation (Leakey 1974:653).

The mandibular specimens from East Rudolph which have been attributed to Homo are in many ways similar to those specimens included in the africanus collection from Sterkfontein, South Africa, Therefore Leakey (1972:268) has concluded that the latter collection contains specimens that represent two different lineages -Australopithecus and Homo-and has recently (1974; 655) concluded that the East Rudolph forms of Australopithecus are much like the rohustus forms from south Africa, It is very probable that the finds which Leakey (1972) has classified as Homo at East Rudolph would have been called africanus if found in other areas (cf. Robinson 1972:240). Robinson would solve the discrepancy by transferring all africanus specimens to Homo, which would result in three species of Homo: Homo ofrfcanos in south and east Africa, Homo erectus for the lava, Pekin, etc. finds, and Homo sapiens for the rest.

There is still the problem of chronology to he dealt with. Most of the K/Ar (potassium-argon) dates for the australopithecioes have been very early, leading to the conclusion that the robustus form died out, leaving the africanus form to give rise to Homo. However, the discovery in Kenya of a specimen which seems to be long to the robustus form and which is dated by K/Ar at 1.1-1,2 m.y. raises further questions. Were the robustus forms really an over-specialized group heading for extinction, or were they as recently as 1 m.y. still a viable and adaptable group (Carney, et. a!. 1971: 514) ?

Swedlund (1974:519) argues that if there were in actuality two australopithecine species, they must have been allopatric-that is, not related-hut arising from two different lines. He (1974:525) believes, however, that the africanus and robustus forms fit most logically into a single species, and that those who want to separate them must develop a credible ecological framework to explain the extinction of the robust forms. The only infallible criterion for defining a given species is whether or not the individuals comprising the study population are capable of interbreeding successfully, and since we have no indication of this for the australopithecincs, the answer can only be tentative.

It has also been hypothesized (Butzer 1974:382) that the Taung specimen (which was the first Australopithecus discovered) may postdate the arrival of true Homo in southern Africa, which would open a new range of problems concerning the relationship between the two forms in that area.

The discovery of the KNM-EH 1470 skull at Koobi Fora (Leakey 1973) has caused further speculation. The cranial capacity of the find is aproximately 800 cc, and the probable K/Ar date is 2.9 m.y., which means that a Homo form predates many of the australopithecines in east Africa. One interpretation of the data posits a sympatric relationship between Home and Australopithecus, with Home providing scavenging opportunities for Australopithecus:

However, as H. erector developed ever more sophisticated behavioral and technological means of defense against predators, the utility of the relationship with australopithecines would have diminished. The gradual extinction of Australopithecus may have been an inevitable outcome of the breakdown in association with Homo, for predation pressure would inexorably have shifted to Australopithecus (Todd and Blumenberg 1974:387).

Needless to say, this reconstruction has not met with unqualified approval. To quote one critic:
I can only remark that such unbridled speculation can be justified only by accepting at face value the unwarranted assertions of many authors, interpreting altogether too liberally the cautious statements of others, and exercising a selectivity that excludes from consideration voluminous contrary opinion (Kress 1974:405).

As the above data show, there are a number of different interpretations of the African fossil finds, each of which can be supported by experts. One can argue that the robustus and africanus forms of Australopithecus belong to separate genera, or belong to separate species, or were simply the males and females, respectively, of the same species. In interpreting the relation ship between Homo and Australopithecus, possibly only the robust forms should be classified as Australopithecus and the africanus forms as Homo. On the other hand, possibly some of those now classified as Homo should be reclassified as africanus. One can argue that there was only one hominid species alive at a given time, or that there were two (or more).

According to the most generally accepted framework, the Australopithecus stage of human evolution was followed by the Home credos stage, which in turn was followed by the Neanderthal stage, and finally by modern man. Ordinarily all hominids beginning with Neanderthal Man are labelled Home sapiens, and there are even those who would include the Home ercetus forms in that species. Modern man is then classified as Home sapiens sapiens to distinguish him from Home sapiens neanderthalensis.

Much controversy still exists about the relationships between Neanderthals and anatomically modern Home
sapiens, with widely different interpretations being used. Brose and Wolpoff (1971) argue against the quite commonly held theory that Neanderthals were replaced by Home sapiens sapiens, and insist that the latter (in the form of Upper Paleolithic man) evolved from the Middle Paleolithic Neanderthals. Their definition of Neanderthal, which includes "all hominid specimens dated within the time span from the end of the Hiss to the appearance of anatomically modern H. sapiens" (1971:1156), raises problems. For example, this would include Fontechcvade, a find which is considered by others to be Home sapiens sapiens. Their suggestion that all populations of modem man are derived from a universal Neanderthal population is not meaningful in terms of populations (Howells 1974:25). Brose and Wolpoff do not deal with the Swanscombe find-which is Second Interglacial in date-but others (e.g., Howell 1960) would classify it as well as Steinheim with the Neanderthals in spite of its more modern characteristics.

The relationship between the "progressive" (more modern appearing) Neanderthals like Skhul from Palestine and the "classical" (more primitive appearing) Neanderthals is not clearly understood. One of the major problems is that the progressive forms predate the classical forms. Brosc and Wolpoff (1971:1183) classify Omo 1 and Skhul 5 as transitional Neanderthals, but admit that both would be identified as Home sapiens sapiens if they had been found in a different geological context.

Callus (1969:495) suggests that the classical Neanderthals may he seen as a subspecies which like Homo
sapiens evolved from the Homo erectus substratum, but lost plasticity early and changed very little. It is therefore neither a descendant of early Neanderthals nor an ancestor of Homo sapiens sapiens. Howells (1974:26) would prefer to recognize a category of "archaic Home sapiens" which are not at all Neanderthal in the strict sense.

Which of these fossil forms can we call "man"? If one uses the criterion of religious beliefs, then Neanderthals almost certainly qualify because they had many of the same practices which we classify as religious when found among peoples living today. If one uses the manufacture and use of tools in a certain pattern, then we have man at least as early as the Homo erectus forms. There has been a continuing controversy over whether Australopithecus made stone tools. It has been claimed that the Oldowan culture was a product of the australopithecines, but later L. S. B. Leakey attributed it to Homo habilis. With the discovery of KNM-EH 1470, the possibility that only Homo was a maker of stone tools has again been suggested (Blumenberg and Todd 1974:387).


Another way in which scientists have attempted to understand the place of man in nature is to compare contemporary man with contemporary great apes. If they had a common ancestor (which evolutionists believe to be true), there should he biochemical similarities. Since man has more in common with the African apes (chimpanzees and gorillas) than with the Asian apes (orangutans and gibbons), most of the investigation has been on the former.

Soon after the field of molecular biology expanded in the 1950's, many researchers became interested in comparing proteins and nucleic acids of one species with another in an attempt to estimate the "genetic distance" between species. One method involved the use of the chromosome banding technique, by which chromosomes could be compared. It was discovered that the four gorilla chromosomes corresponding to human numbers 3, 13, 15 and X are identical in banding patterns with those human chromosomes. When the same method was used with chimpanzees, it was found that six chimpanzee chromosomes (corresponding to human numbers 3, 7, 8, 10, 14, and X) are identical with those of humans (Miller, et. al. 1974:537). It has been claimed that a total of fifteen chromosomes of man and chimpanzees have such similar banding patterns that homology seems clear in spite of minor differences; that there is general agreement on homologies for three more, with a fourth seeming highly probable; and that for the remaining four the homologies are considered to be far less certain (Warburton, at. al. 1973:457-59).

One major difference is that humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, whereas chimpanzees have 24 pairs. One suggestion (Warburton, at. al. 1973:459) is that the short arm of human chromosome #2 corresponds to the long arm of chimpanzee chromosome #17, whereas the long arm of human chromosome #2 corresponds to all of chimpanzee chromosome #13. It has also been suggested (King and Wilson 1975:114) that if one takes the point of view that man and chimpanzees had a common ancestor, there were at least ten large inversions and translocations and one chromosomal fusion since that common ancestor.

Other similarities have been noted. For example, blood types A, B, AB, and 0 are found in chimpanzees (though they are not exactly the same chemically as in man), and chimpanzee hemoglobin seems to he identical with human hemoglobin (Buettner-Janusch 1973: 434, 460)
Its summarizing the results of the biochemical comparison of man and chimpanzees, King and Wilson (1975:107) conclude that the "genetic distance between humans and chimpanzees is probably too small to account for their substantial organismal differences." Amino acid sequencing, immunological, and electrophoretic methods of protein comparison all yielded concordant estimates of genetic resemblance, all indicating that the average human polypeptide is more than 99 percent identical to its chimpanzee counterpart. They also found that genetic distance measured by DNA hybridization indicates that man and chimpanzees are as alike as sibling species of other organisms, and that the antigenic differences found among the serum proteins of congeneric squirrel species are several times greater than those between humans and chimpanzees (King and Wilson 1975:113-115).

The major problem to which King and Wilson address themselves is how the two species could be so distinct morphologically and culturally when they are so similar genetically. They finally conclude that there must be a small number of genetic changes in systems controlling the expression of genes, and that the organismal differences may he due to arrangement of genes on chromosomes rather than from point mutations (King and Wilson 1975:115).


A number of attempts have recently been made to discover the language capabilities of nonhuman primates. Because chimpanzees relate relatively well to man, they have been used in these experiments. Since early attempts to teach them the use of vocal symbols was almost a total failure, current experiments utilize language without vocalization.

Probably the best-known instance is the work of the Gardners with Washoe (Gardner and Gardner 1969). Since hand signals are an important part of chimpanzee behavior in the wild, they decided to use American Sign Language (ASL) in which motions stand for words. It has been claimed that the most primitive and simplest capacity for language in humans is to give names to things (cf. Lancaster 1968:446). If this is correct, then Washoe used language, for there is evidence that she assigned names (cf. Bronowski and Bellugi 1970:670). For example, she used the sign for "dog" and "cat" in response to pictures of the animals in magazines, and even used the same sign for different breeds of dogs and cats. She also applied the sign for "open" to doors, bottles, the refrigerator, etc., and would sign "more food" when there was none in sight. Some other typical combinations of signs which Washoe used were "go in," "go out," "open key" (for a locked door), and "please open hurry" (Peters 1972; 39).

Another experiment was conducted with a chimpanzee named Sarah (Premack 1971). The basic linguistic unit chosen is the word (no phonemes are used), each of which is represented by a piece of plastic hacked with metal, which adheres to a magnetic slate. The experimenters began with a two word stage, such as "Mary apple," which meant that to obtain an apple when Mary was present, Sarah would have to put the words in that order. She learned to distinguish between same and different: e.g., she was given two cups and had to place between them a marker meaning "same." The same process was used for testing for an understanding of different. Sarah not only learned the names of items, but was required to write, for example, "apple not name of banana." She also learned color, shape and size, and was able, for example, to put a brown colored object in a red dish when asked to. An interesting experiment involved Sarah's ability to produce sentences which were appropriate to the behavior of the trainer, rather than just behave in ways which were appropriate to the trainer's sentences.

On each trial she was given three words-two color words and "on." She was required to place them on the board in a way that corresponded to, or described, the trainer's placement of the cards. Thus, if the trainer put the blue card on the green one, Sarah, who held the words "green," "blue," and "on," was required to write "blue on green," She was correct on eight of the first ten trials (Premack 1971:814).

Of course, it is possible that rather than symbolizing, Sarah was only connecting a piece of plastic with a given object. To test this possibility, she was given an apple and a pair of alternatives (e.g., red and green, round and square, square with a stemlike protuberance and plain square, etc.) and was required to indicate which of the alternatives was more like the apple.

The properties she assigned to the word "apple" show that her analysis of the word was based not on the physical form of she blue piece of plastic, but on the object that the plastic represents (Premack 1971:820).

A computer controlled training situation devised for a chimpanzee named Lana was much more complicated. Each "Ycrkish word" or lexigram is a distinctive geometric white symbol on a colored background, and the keys of a console are imprinted with these color-coded lexigrams.

Each key is constructed of laminated clear acrylic plastic. Lamps located behind the keys allow for (i) no backlighting, when the keys are inoperative; (ii) lowintensity backlighting, when the keys are operative; and (iii) high iotensity backlighting, which signals Lana that she has successfully depressed the key, whereupon a facsimile of the lexigram on the key surface appears on a projector above the console. The consoles were designed to allow for alternations in the position of keys so that the location of a key would not reliably indicate its meaning (Rombaugh, et. of. 1973:731).

Each sentence must he ended with the period key, which is a signal to the computer to evaluate the communication. If the communication is unacceptable (that is, incorrect), the computer erases the projected images and resets the word keys. If the communication is correct, the computer also activates the dispensing mechanism which gives the requested reward, e.g., music, movies, M&M's, etc., and sounds a tone. To be acceptable, each sentence has to start with "please" and end with a period. An example of a communication would he "please/machine/give! M&M/period." To ensure that she was not just memorizing an order on the console, the keys were randomly assigned among others on the console. Lana has discerned that once she has made an error, there is no point in continuing a sentence. She then pushes the period key, which erases her abortive attempt, and tries again. The experimenters conclude that

The results of these . . . experiments are taken as evidence that Lana accurately perceives Yerkish words, reads their serial order, and discriminates whether they can or cannot be completed in order to obtain the various incentives. And if successful completion of the valid sentence starts is viewed as analogous to typewriting, it can be said that Lana both reads and writes (Rombaugh, at. at. 1973:733).

It has been argued that the results of such experiments give clear evidence for relatively simple semantic and syntactic comprehension competence in chimpanzees. Peters maintains that it is not our state of knowledge that segregates our linguistic capacities from those of other primates, but rather our state of ignorance and our prior methodological naivete. He strongly suggests that there are probably degrees of linguistic competence and that our ignorance is the only reason for not expecting that "at least some components of linguistic competence may be shared by a wider set of taxa than Homo zapienz" (Peters 1972:33). He is aware that we still are faced with the question of why, if chimpanzees can learn to develop such a system in captivity, they have failed to develop a communication system with proto-linguistic features in the wild (1972:45)

Not all researchers are convinced that the experiments demonstrate the linguistic capacity of chimpanzees. Mistler-Lachman and Lachman (1974:892) argue that the conditioning of Lana does not imply language use, and that there is no evidence that the meanings for terms, or syntax for strings exists anywhere but in the linguistic competence of the trainers. They also note that the highly structured and carefully controlled training procedures are totally unlike the circumstances in which a human child learns a language.

The animal is reinforced with 100 percent consistency; it is presented with only well-formed strings; and only the well-formed strings for a particular phase of training receive reinforcement, In contrast, human children are inconsistently reinforced; they are presented with illformed strings; and their ill-formed productions are often rewarded, especially if they are factually correct (Mistler-Laehman and Laehman 1974:871).

Washoe seemed to use various orderings of words indiscriminately and did not differentiate the basic grammatical relations. Although signs for "you," "me," and "tickle," have occurred in all possible orders in Washoe's signed sequences, the different orders do not seem to refer to different situations in any systematic way. Her spontaneous signed combinations seem to represent unordered sequences of names for various aspects of a situation (Bronowski and Bcllugi 1970: 672). Children do not need to be taught the rules of grammatical structure because they discover them for themselves. They not only have the capacity to learn names as they are specifically taught by other humans in the early stages of language learning, but more importantly, they have the ability to analyze the regularities in the language, to break down the utterances into component parts and then to understand the parts so that they can put them together again in new combinations. When one knows a language, it seems that the relationship between a sentence and the reality it refers to was achieved by putting the sentence together. Whereas, in actuality, it begins by taking reality apart.

In short, we must not think of sentences as assembled from words which have an independent existence already, separate from any kind of sentence . . . . The experience of learning about the world consists of an inner analysis and a subsequent synthesis. In this way, human language expresses a specifically human way of analyzing our experience of the eternal world. This analysis is as much a part of learning language as is the more obvious synthesis of sentences from a vocabulary of words. In short, language expresses not a specific linguistic faculty hot a constellation of general faculties of the human mind (Brnnowski and Bellugi 1970:673).

It is, therefore, this process of total reconstitution which is characteristic of the human mind. At the present we have no evidence that the nonhuman primate is capable of doing this even when given the vocabulary readymade.

Finally, Chomsky (1972:67) argues that a careful consideration of experiments with chimpanzees provides little support for the assumption that human language evolved from systems of animal communication. He concludes that they demonstrate more clearly that human language is a unique phenomenon for which there is no significant analogue in the animal world. The postulation of a lower stage in the evolution of language in which vocal gestures were used for expression of emotional states, and a higher stage in which articulated sound is used for expression of thought, leaves a gap for which Chomsky sees no bridge.

There is no more basis for assuming an evolutionary development of "higher" from "lower" stages, in this case, than there is for assuming an evolutionary development from breathing to walking; the stages have no significant analogy, it appears, and seem to involve entirely different processes and principles (Chomsky 1972:68).

Chomsky also questions the concept that language is characteristically used to communicate information, either in fact or in intention. In reality language can be used either to inform or mislead, to clarify our thoughts to other people, to display our cleverness, or even simply for play. The crucial factor in understanding language and the capacities on which it rests is to ask what it is, not how it is used, or for what purposes it is used. When we ask what it is,

we find no striking similarity to animal communication systems. There is nothing useful to be said about behavior or thought at the level of abstraction at which animal and human communication fall together (Chomsky 1972:70),

In summary, although many experiments have been devised to determine the linguistic capacities of nonhuman primates, it seems that possession of human language is associated with a specific type of mental organization, not simply a higher degree of intelligence (cf. Lancaster 1968:446).


What then is "man" from an anthropological viewpoint? In terms of language, there seems to be no question that he has abilities which are different in kind rather than only degree from all nonhuman primates. Although there are some close biochemical correspondences between contemporary man and the African great apes, there are crucial cultural differences as well as major morphological differences between the two groups. Conclusions from paleontology are difficult to draw because of the problems of interpretation. However, Neanderthals should almost certainly be classified as "man," and probably Homo erectus forms as well.


Aguirre de Enriquez, Emiliano
1974 Comment on: Recent Thinking on Human Evolution, by Karl W. Butzer, et. at. Current Anthropology 15:398-401.
Blumenberg, Bennett
1974 Reply to Comments on: On the Association between
Homo and Australopsthecur, by Bennett Blumenberg and Neil B. Todd. Current Anthropology 15:416.20.
Blumenberg, Bennett and Neil B. Todd
1974 On the Association between Homo and Australopithecus. Current Anthropology 15:38688.
Bronowski, J. and Ursula Bellugi
1970 Language, Name, and Concept. Science 168:669-73.
Bmse, David S. and Milford H. Wolpaif
1971 Early Upper Paleolithic Man and Late Middle Paleolithic Tools, American Anthropologist 73:115694.
Bube, Richard H.
1970 Is Man only a Complex Machine? Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation 22:122.
Buettner-Janusch, John
1973 Physical Anthropology: a Perspective. New York: John Wiley and Sons,
Butzer, Karl W.
1974 Paleocology of South African Australopithecines: Taung Revisited. Current Anthropology 15:367-82.
Campbell, Bernard C.
1972 Conceptual Process in Physical Anthropology: Fossil Man, In Annual Review of Anthropology, Volume 1. Bernard J. Siegel, et. al., Eds. Palo Alto: Annual Reviews, Inc. pp. 27.54.
Carney, J., et. al.
1971 Late Australopithecine from Baringo District, Kenya. Nature 230:509.14.
Chomsky, Noam
1972 Language and Mind. New York: Harcourt Brace Jnvanovich (Enlarged Edition).
Clark, G. A.
1974 Comment on: Recent Thinking on Human Evolution, by Karl W. Butzer, et. al. Current Anthropology 15:402.
Clark, W. E. Le Gras
1955 The Fossil Evidence for Human Evolution. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Gallus, Alexander
1969 Comment on: Neanderthal Man and Homo sapiens in Central and Eastern Europe, by Jan Jelinek. Current Anthropology 10:492-93.
Cardner, R. A. and B. T. Gardner
1969 Teaching Sign Language to a Chimpanzee. Science 165:664-72.
Howell, F. Clark
1960 European and Northwest African Middle Pleistocene Hominids. Current Anthropology 1:195.232.
1961 Reply to: More on Middle Pleistocene Hominids, by Frank B. Livingstnne and George Cowgill. Current Anthropology 2:118-20.
Hnwells, W. W.
1974 Neanderthals: Names, Hypotheses, and Scientific Method. American Anthropologist 76:24.38.
King, Mary-Claire and A. C. Wilson
1975 Evolution at Two Levels in Humans and Chimpanzees. Science 188:107-16.
Kinzey, Warren G.
1971 Comment on: Assumption and Inference on Human
Origins, by Carroll Quigley. Current Anthropology 12:531.
Kortlandt, Adriaan
1974 Author's Precis of New Perspectives on Ape and Human Evolution. Current Anthropology 15:427-30.
Kress, Jonathan H.
1974 Comment on: On the Association Between Homo and Australopithecus, by Bennett Blumenberg and Neil B. Todd, Current Anthropology 15:386.88.
Lancaster, Jane B.
1968 Primate Communication Systems and the Emergence
of Human Language, In Primates: Studies in Adapta
tion and Variability, Phyllis C. Jay, Ed. New York:
Halt, Rinehart, and Winston. pp. 439-57.
Leakey, L. S. B.
1971 Review of: The Emergence of Man, by John Pfeiffer. Current Anthropology 12:380-81.
Leakey, R. E. F.
1971 Further Evidence of Lower Pleistocene Hominids
from East Rudolph, North Kenya. Nature 231:241-45,
1972 Further Evidence of Lower Pleistocene Hominids from East Rudolph, North Kenya. Nature 237:264-69.
1973a Further Evidence of Lower Pleistocene Hominids from East Rudolph, North Kenya, 1972. Nature 242:170-73.
1973b Evidence for an Advanced Plio-Pleistocene Hominid from East Rudolph, Kenya. Nature 242:447-50.
1974 Further Evidence of Lower Pleistocene Hominids from East Rudolph, North Kenya, 1973. Nature 248:653-56.
Livingstone, Frank B.
1961 Comment on: European and Northwest African Middle Pleistocene Hominids, by F. Clark Howell. Current Anthropology 2:117.18.
Miller, D. A., et. al.
1974 The Gorilla Karyotype: Chromosome Lengths and Polymorphisms. Cytogenetics and Cell Genetics 13:536-50.
Mistler-Lachman, Janet L. and Roy Lachman
1974 Language in Man, Monkeys, and Machines. Science
Peters, Charles R.
1972 Evolution of the Capacity for Language: A New Start on an Old Problem. Man (os) 7:3349.
Premack, David
1971 Language in Chimpanzee? Science 172:808-22.
Poirier, Frank E.
1974 Comment on: Recent Thinking on Human Evolution, by Karl Butzer, et al. Current Anthropology 15:40708.
Quiglcy, Carroll
1971 Assumption and Inference on Human Origins. Current Anthropology 12:519-26, 53640.
Raemsch, Bruce E.
1974 Comment on: Recent Thinking on Human Evolution, by Karl Butzer, et. at. Current Anthropology 15:436.
Robinson, J. T.
1972 The Bearing of East Rudolph Fossils on Early Hominid Systematics. Nature 240:239.40.
Roe, Anne
1963 Psychological Definitions of Man, In Classification
and human Evolution, Sherwood L. Washburn, Ed. Chicago: Aldine Publishing Co. pp. 320-31.
Rumbaugh, Duane, et. at.
1973 Reading and Sentence Completion by a Chimpanzee (Pan). Science 182:731-33.
Simpson, George Gaylord
1966 The Biological Nature of Man. Science 152:472-78. [Reprinted in Perspectives 00 Human Evolution 1, S. L. Washburn and Phyllis C. Jay, Eds. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Wioston. pp. 1-171.
Swedlund, Alan C.
1974 The Use of Ecological Hypotheses in Australopithecine Taxonomy. American Anthropologist 76:51529.
Tobias, Phillip V.
1973 New Developments in Hominid Paleontology in South and East Africa, In Annual Review of Anthropology, Volume 2, Bernard 1. Siegel, eta1. (Eds.). Palo Alto: Annual Reviews, Inc. pp. 311-34.
1974 Comment on: Recent Thinking on Human Evolution, by Karl W. Butzer, et. at. Current Anthropology 15:410-12.
Todd, Neil B. and Bennett Blumenberg
1974 On the Adaptive Radiation of Hominids. Current Anthropology 15:383-85.
Warburtoo, Dorothy, et. al.
1973 Karyotype of the Chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes, Based on Measurements and Banding Pattern: Comparison to the Human Karyotype. Cytogeoeties and Cell Genetics 12:453-61.
Washburn, S. L.
1971 Comment on: Assumption and Inference on Human Origins, by Carroll Quigley. Current Anthropology 12:533-35.
Wolpoff, M. H.
1968 "Telanthropus" and the Single Species Hypothesis. American Anthropologist 70:477-93.
1971 Is the New Composite Cranium from Swartkrans a Small Robust Australopithecine? Nature 230:398-401.