It was a profoundly moving epic. The underpinnings of these developments were discovered by no less authority than Marx’s bearded sidekick, Friedrich Engels. We were told that the prime motivator for the transition from an ape to a human was tool making and labor.
The story made little sense even to a child. Why would anyone labor, when the heavenly Father provides for all of us? The hominid lineage diverted from the apes millions of years ago. In all of this time, our cousins the apes did not spent a single moment of their busy lives occupied with daily toil. There is no need to labor for food in a world where there is foliage, fruit and nuts whole year around, aplenty. It may well be that hard labor would exert elevating effect on the simian soul, but modern apes seemed decidedly uninterested in such pursuits, and it was not obvious what could've forced them to change their unripe minds.
Even dedicated Marxists felt that the epic needed some fortification. Since the Great Founder never explained how the laboring ape began its endless toil, stories of heart breaking hardship were put in circulation. It was impossible to read such accounts without tears. Our bipedal ancestors lived horribly wretched lives on sun-scorched African savannah, running from abrupt climate change and large predators, while making clever stone tools and building an occasional fire during the rare moments of respite. Meanwhile, unintelligent chimps and gorillas had their fill without all this unnecessary strife. That was the oddest thing. The hardship theory aimed to demonstrate the value of evolving intelligence, yet what was intelligent in dwelling in the least desirable places while there was plenty of opportunity elsewhere? If our ancestors were as smart as we were being told, why didn’t they kick those stupid apes out of their forests and lived there themselves? Asking such questions produced thoughtful silences followed by telephone calls to my parents.
Years have passed, the USSR is no more, but the laboring ape still labors on those thoughtful silences. Had it labored less and thought more, it might’ve discovered that the Promethean tale has never made much sense.
So, what was the prime mover? I do not know how miracles are being performed; yet I do have an inkling what truly matters.
We are proud of having large craniums filled with brain. However, as one can readily observe on a visit to a zoo, our heads are not bigger than the heads of gorillas; the volume that in our heads is taken by the cranium, in great apes is taken by masticatory muscle that moves the jaws. The heavenly manna is delivered only onto those who can chew it properly. Apes consume hard plant material; they need powerful cranium-bound muscle. Had we had this amount of muscle, we would have much smaller craniums since the birth canal can only be so large.
Our masticatory muscle is abnormally slender. One would think that degeneration was caused by dietary adaptations (processing food) that decreased the demands on chewing. In reality, this atrophy greatly preceded such secondary adaptations. We have them because of the atrophy rather than the other way around. Long time ago, a frameshift deletion in MYH16 gene (that codes myosin heavy chain 16 muscle protein in the masticatory muscle) transformed the active gene into a pseudogene.
... Human sarcomeric myosin gene (MYH16) is expressed in the masticatory muscles of most primates. A frameshift deletion at codon 660 of the human MYH16 gene truncates the predicted 224-kDa myosin heavy chain. As a result, a 76-kDa fragment containing an unstable portion of the myosin head domain is formed, leading to hypotrophy of >80% of the human type II fibers of the masticatory muscles as compared with macaque. Apparently, such mutation could be extremely deleterious, because powerful masticatory muscles are essential for survival in most primates. However, because the appearance and fixation of this inactivating mutation in a hominid ancestor ≈2.4 Mya, a diminished contractile force was likely translated into a reduction in the stress across patent sutures, sites of the dura-mater-patterned growth in the immature neurocranium, presumably giving a rise to a process of enhanced encephalization, which is of obvious importance for humans. Indeed, the MYH16 frameshift deletion at codon 660 is fixed and was only found in our species. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/article
... Powerful masticatory muscles are found in most primates, including chimpanzees and gorillas, and were part of a prominent adaptation of Australopithecus and Paranthropus, extinct genera of the family Hominidae1,2. In contrast, masticatory muscles are considerably smaller in both modern and fossil members of Homo. The evolving hominid masticatory apparatus—traceable to a Late Miocene, chimpanzee-like morphology3—shifted towards a pattern of gracilization nearly simultaneously with accelerated encephalization in early Homo4. The gene encoding the predominant myosin heavy chain (MYH) expressed in these muscles was inactivated by a frameshifting mutation after the lineages leading to humans and chimpanzees diverged. Loss of this protein isoform is associated with marked size reductions in individual muscle fibres and entire masticatory muscles. Using the coding sequence for the myosin rod domains as a molecular clock, we estimate that this mutation appeared approximately 2.4 Mya, predating the appearance of modern human body size and emigration of Homo from Africa6. This represents the first proteomic distinction between humans and chimpanzees that can be correlated with a traceable anatomic imprint in the fossil record.
see also http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org/content/e
At their root, our encephalization and dietary adaptations (such as cooking) could've been caused by a mutation that permanently weakened our jaws; later behavioral and morphological adaptations were desperate attempts of Mother Nature to adapt our bodies to this crippling interference. There are retractors of this scenario
but I do not find their counter-arguments persuasive.
This observation exemplifies “hidden miracles” I wrote about in a previous post. People tend to think that our arrival was predicated by the self-obvious adaptive value of higher intelligence. It was nothing of the sort. In all probability, the first steps towards humanity could’ve been genetic abnormalities incapacitating our less than fortunate ancestors. It was this sadness that began a long arc leading to adaptations negating detrimental effects of such mutations. Nature is good at developing such adaptations - ever inventive, ever accommodating. The strategic surgery that is required to initiate this chain of unlikely events is an entirely different matter. It is nothing short of the providential touch. Too much, and the maladapted will disappear; too little, and they will never step on the path of the righteous. Who could’ve guessed the ramifications of changing codon 660 in a gene coding an obscure muscle protein...
Incidentally, what caused this mutation? Yes, I know. It was “chance”... Thank you for reminding me.
Think of the odds of this chance happening. Nearly everything in our lives is as improbable as this one chance.
Blessed be the one who releases the bound.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, מַתִּיר אֲסוּרִים.