News | Published:

Research Items


    Man or Ape? In view of the difficulty which has been felt in determining the position of the Taungs skull in relation to man and the anthropoids, Dr. Paul Alsberg of Berlin puts forward in Man of October a suggested criterion for deciding on biological lines whether in an indeterminate instance, such as the Taungs skull, the specimen is to be assigned to the human or anthropoid branch in the line of descent. Biologically, man and the animal develop on diametrically opposite principles. The animal develops by physical or organismal adaptation, man by extra-physical or non-organismal adaptation, that is, by the liberation of the body from the necessity of adaptation through extra-physical means, for example, tools. The animal possesses a perfect body with manifold structures for offence and defence; while man's body is utterly defenceless and helpless. His technique develops and replaces his adaptation to Nature; and as evolution proceeds, his technique becomes more perfect, while his body becomes more and more deficient. The development of technique is not limited to tools, but is also revealed in the mental province, being responsible for the development of the word, speech and the concept, the basic element of thought. Further, the body, owing to the use of tools and the principle of body liberation, has suffered both regressive and progressive changes, such as the retrogression of the jaws, or the modifications produced by upright walking, the improvement of the hand, the development of the speech organs and the enlargement of the brain. The ape, on the other hand, has taken the line of animal adaptation. Thus the ape's hand, originally better adapted for tool using, developed for climbing. Again, the upright gait is bound up with the fight principle, but while the gorilla developed or retained equipment for fighting, man did not. Judged by these criteria, a border line case such as Pithecanthropus erectus is definitely human, while the Taungs skull points in the human direction.

    Rights and permissions

    Reprints and Permissions

    About this article


    By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.