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Opposable Thumbs In Humans Evolved For Punching

Human Fist

Opposable thumbs in humans evolved out of the necessity to throw punches, a new study suggests.

The University of Utah biologists behind the study, which was published in the journal Experimental Biology on October 21, employed cadaver arms and padded dumbbells to study human punches and slaps in an attempt to resolve the debate over whether or not human hands evolved for more than manual dexterity, such as fist creation — so males could duke it out with one another over females.

University of Utah professor of biology David Carrier, the study’s senior author, implored those who would heed his words to “be aware” that if human anatomy is indeed adapted to fighting, then there is a possibility that humans could find themselves perpetually “haunted by basic emotions and reflexive behaviors that often don’t make sense – and are very dangerous – in the modern world.”

The idea that aggressive behavior played a role in the evolution of the human hand is controversial (…) Many skeptics suggest that the human fist is simply a coincidence of natural selection for improved manual dexterity. That may be true, but if it is a coincidence, it is unfortunate. As an alternative, we suggest that the hand proportions that allow the formation of a fist may tell us something important about our evolutionary history and who we are as a species (…) If our anatomy is adapted for fighting, we need to be aware we always may be haunted by basic emotions and reflexive behaviors that often don’t make sense – and are very dangerous – in the modern world.

Humans are by no means the only creatures on this spinning rock to harness the power of the opposable phalanx, as opossums boast an opposable digit on their hind feet and chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas — to name a few — have opposable digits on both their hands as well as their feet. Chimp hands in particular, according to new research, might actually be more evolved than the human hands.

The researchers, whose study was funded by the National Science Foundation, found that after hundreds of slaps and punches, the “results suggest that humans can safely strike with 55 percent more force with a fully buttressed fist than with an unbuttressed fist, and with two fold more force with a buttressed fist than with an open hand slap.” Subsequently, the researchers indicated that it “may be that these are the proportions that improved manual dexterity while at the same time making it possible for the hand to be used as a club during fighting.

At least one popular blogger has referred to Carrier’s theory as “bro science” while making reference to “dudes pummeling each other” as a driving force behind human evolution.

What do you think, did humans develop opposable thumbs so they could beat each other up?

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