Stuffing the ballot box

John Grehan jgrehan at SCIENCEBUFF.ORG
Tue Jan 11 12:04:26 CST 2005

> still think you are stuffing the ballot box in your favor, whether you
> realize it or not.
>      ---Ken Kinman

I gave some more thought to this view (I need to get a life) and I
realized that if one wanted to "stuff' the ballot box, so to speak,
there are certainly more characters that could go into the mix. I have
not done so because there is a lack of comparative information. Possible
human-orangutan characters that might be added to the 43 so far include:

1. Female genitalia. Unfortunately this is currently just an observation
by one primate specialist who noted that the morphology of juvenile
female orangutan genitalia are more like human females than any other
primate. He provided no illustrations or other comparative information.
Assuming he had a broad background one might take the view that it is
true, but without documentation this will have to remain on the
sidelines for now. For all the interest in human evolution and primate
relationships there is a lot of basic biological and anatomical
information that is either missing or very hard to find (particularly as
many comparisons are just between humans and African apes).

2. Female initiation of copulation. This has been documented for
orangutans and humans. The literature I have read so far on other
primates only refers to females approaching males, but not actually
starting the copulatory process.

3. Foreplay initiated by both sexes. Again, documented for humans and
orangutans, but I've not yet seen anything about this in other primates.

4. Mechanical cognition. So far it appears that orangutans outstrip any
other primate other than humans for apparent inclination to investigate
mechanical objects, and their abilities to get out of locked cages are
legendary. I am almost inclined to add this to the list now even though
it has not been formally measured since the difference between orangutan
and other primates appear to be universally agreed upon.

5. Mimicry of human behavior. Children of humans mimic other humans as
they grow. Orangutans seem to be the most inclined of all primates to
mimic human behavior and even understand the goals of that mimicry (such
as trying to start fires using gasoline). There are pages and pages
devoted to describing this behavior in orangutans. So far I have found
nothing comparable for chimps (one primate biologists I talked to got a
bit irate when I pointed this out and he tersely said it was just
because no one bothered to record it for chimpanzees. I am very tempted
to include this in the 'formal' list.

So there we are, up to 48 characters if I were to stuff the ballot box.
If anyone has any familiarity with any of the above characters, or
colleagues who might, I would certainly be very, very grateful for
feedback that might resolve the status of these characters.


> P.S.  I am very surprised that Schwartz would reject Shoshani et al.'s
> characters 102 and 104 because the size of Gorilla might cause a
> problem.  Even if it were a scaling problem, that would throw Gorilla
> with the same coding as gibbons and orangutans, thus adding yet
> two potential synapomorphies for a Pan-hominid clade.  You lose either
> way----unless you just throw them out and give them zero weight.  If
> are going to be supercritical and throw out babies with the bathwater,
> then at least be fair and do the same thing to your orangutan-hominid
> of characters.

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