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Biotech Science

Chimpanzees Shed New Light on Hand Preference 519

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the southpaw-monkeys dept.
An anonymous reader writes "'Language skills are associated with the left side of the brain, and many scientists have said early humans developed a preference for their right hands when they acquired speech,' but Emory University's Yerkes National Primate Research Center has a new study that links hand preference to the motor skills area of the brain rather than the language part of the brain. 'That means lefties have probably been around much longer than believed -- at least 5 million years, when scientists say humans and apes branched on the primate family tree. And evolution has purposely kept them.'"
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Chimpanzees Shed New Light on Hand Preference

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  • by andorsch (833253) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @06:47AM (#11016271)
    why? evolution is not a process of "optimisation" it is a selection process. Those who are "good enough" survive.

    Obviously there is no disadvantage for being left handed, why should there be a selection against it?

  • "Purposely"? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @06:59AM (#11016319) Journal
    And evolution has purposely kept them.
    That sounds like evolution is something that deliberately picks what it thinks are good traits, and then decides to keep them around. In other words: God :)

    Perhaps left-handedness doesn't have any advantages, but no drawbacks detrimental to survival either. That too would allow it to remain in the 'gene pool'.
  • by DataCannibal (181369) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @07:03AM (#11016329) Journal
    Nothing to do with handedness, that's just the way wome are. You'll realise that as you get to know more of them :-)
  • Re:"Purposely"? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dave420 (699308) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @07:22AM (#11016394)
    In the same way that gravity purposely decides what's balanced, and what will topple. You can call it God if you want, I just call it well-documented and well-researched science :)
  • by Black Parrot (19622) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @07:22AM (#11016395)


    > You don't think that labelling anyone who may have faith in a higher power (whether or not you agree with them) as a whacko is just a trifle intolerant?

    Yep. You should only call them whacko when they maintain beliefs that have been refuted by huge piles of evidence, such as belief in a young earth or a global flood.

  • by c0p0n (770852) <copong@gUMLAUTmail.com minus punct> on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @07:32AM (#11016424)
    I was raised as a Catholic and am still a firm believer in creationism...

    Me too. But I ended believing such things as soon as I realized that the Wise Men were my parents. I can understand that you believe such things. But my tolerancy doesn't make you less fool.

    I can understand a catholic saying "Big Bang was God stuff to create us all". Or a variation of that, that would make much more sense than all that crazy Genesis stuff. But we were NOT created on 6 days. There's enough touchable evidency of that. On the counterpart, you have an ancient book that has been proved many times to be wrong (when speaking about historical facts, not the religious content which is another business).

    I am no more a catholic believer, but I know all about that (I grew for 9 years on a Jesuit boarding school) and I can say one thing about my Jesuit biology teachers: they didn't mention a single time the creationist theory. We studied deeply the current biology paradigm, as done in any other Spanish school. Things about the bible and religion had another place and another time; when speaking about science, our teachers taught us on the current scientific paradigm.
  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @07:33AM (#11016428) Journal
    Consider the two options:
    1. Create people and animals by waving your hands and saying `let there be stuff'
    2. Create an incredibly simple system in which a combination of seemingly random events give rise to the evolution of consciousness.
    Personally, I'd have more faith in a God who did the second - it's far more elegant - any God that opts for option 1 clearly has no sense of style. Assuming the existence of God, I'd say that belief in creationism is rather insulting to said being.
  • by dJOEK (66178) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @07:48AM (#11016484)
    why do mensa members feel the need to constantly plug that fact?

    The fact that you're in mensa really has nothing to do with being ambidextrous.

    I suggest you try therapy, since you obviously have some problems to adapt to society, and it might wipe that smug "I'm-smarter-than-you" grin of your face

    And try using your capabilities for something useful, other than doing monkey tricks with your writing. they're really only feeble attempts to make other people feel inferior, and hardly impress other intelligent people.

    find a cure for cancer, then come back to brag
  • by Kjella (173770) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @08:11AM (#11016570) Homepage
    ...as good as one hand can get, I'm sure there are evolutionary good reasons to also have a good second hand. That'll keep left and right fairly equal, and then the "gap" to flip it around and use left as your primary and right as your secondary isn't that big.

    I think many people misunderstand evolution as a process towards a "superbeing", one obviously better than the last in every respect. It is just as much about providing a flexibility so that a species may adapt to changing circumstances. Being able to throw a left punch in a right-punch world. Or to live in a colder / warmer / drier / wetter / whatever climate. Dinosaurs excelled as the circumstances were. They changed, and the dinosaurs couldn't adapt.

    Hell, I could talk about modern-day life. Those who can adapt to the stress, instant communication and almost constant hustle and bustle do well, those that don't do less well. Could evolution adapt to that in the span of decades? No way. But it has given each of us different capabilities, some of which will be more useful, some less. To adapt is much more important than being 0.3% stronger than the last generation.

    Kjella
  • by HanB (774214) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @08:13AM (#11016578)
    I am left handed, they tought me to write with right (the friendly way). But when I was eight I broke my right wrist and started writing with left again, after that they tought me to write with right again. So now I'm ambidextrous (two-handed).
    Quite practical while playing a game of pool. I don't have to play those odd balls behind my back which everyone always misses. I just switch to the other hand.

    I was dyslexic until I tought myself writing properly at the age of 29. I had two mental breakdowns at the age of 11 and 22. It's still lurking around the corner and can only be held at bay by strong discipline. And I'm a typical case of asperger.
    So yes, the results don't surprise me at all.

    Although people generally agree I am very intelligent it won't help me since I have none of the skills that are required for material or social success.

    Personally I think you are all a cruel bunch who never speak clearly and are only interested in personal gain.
    I do feel like I come from another planet sometimes, at least I am treated that way.

  • by kahei (466208) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @08:28AM (#11016644) Homepage

    Evolution is not a god that sits on a mountain somewhere. It's the theory that those forms that have the greatest tendency to propagate in a given environment gradually become more frequent in that environment(*).

    Seriously, this kind of bizarre 'science as voodoo' thinking is why to a lot of people creationism doesn't sound so stupid -- "God wanted there to be left handed people for his own ineffable plan" sounds about equivalent to "Evolution has kept left handed people on purpose".

    It sucks and requires a certain amount of discipline, but it's better to keep science as science, a methodology for choosing between theories, than to let it become just another set of beliefs, like a religion.

    (*) I know this is not a good or rigorous definition of evolution in general or biological Darwinian evolution in particular, but throw me a frickin' bone here.
  • Re:"Purposely"? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dave420 (699308) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @08:38AM (#11016677)
    Evolutions goals don't change at all - I don't know where you got that idea from. Evolution is a process. The process is continual. It's just the materials which get processed that change...

    Evolution strives as much as physics does - that is not at all. Both happen as a result of the physical makeup of the universe. Their "goals" remain the same - as goal of multiplication remains the same, as does that of subtraction :)

  • by Tim C (15259) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @08:40AM (#11016689)
    Evolution hasn't purposely done anything. For whatever reason, there is not sufficient evolutionary disadvantage to being left handed for it to have died out amongst humans. Conversely, any advantage there may be to being right-handed is sufficent to make it dominant, but insufficient to wipe out left-handedness.

    Evolution is a name for a process, not a thing, it doesn't do anything, on purpose or not.

    For a geek/tech site, we're very loose with our terminology and language at times...
  • by adrielus (554990) <adrielus.gmail@com> on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @09:00AM (#11016768)
    And to all those who read into this too far; are righties really too different than lefties? My mother was a lefty "beaten" to be a righty and therefore ambidextrous. She can write with both hands. One of the more smarter individuals I've met. I myself am a righty and I find no challenge in thinking right-minded or left. So really, in the end, does it make a difference?
  • by Raumkraut (518382) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @09:00AM (#11016771)
    However, if in the past lefthandedness was often/usually beaten out of children, you would expect fewer lefties in older generations.
  • Re:"Purposely"? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Scarblac (122480) <slashdot@gerlich.nl> on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @09:09AM (#11016823) Homepage

    Doubtful as gravity's goals don't change like evolution's does.

    Evolution is just the phenomenon that if the exact genes of individuals can drift a tiny bit over the generations, and if some sets of genes tend to produce more offspring than others, you end of with more of one type than another over a long time.

    It doesn't have "goals".

  • by biglig2 (89374) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @09:22AM (#11016948) Homepage Journal
    Eh? That doesn't make any sense.

    Yes, all castles spiral the staircase the same way, so that it is easier (for right handed people) to fight down than it is up.

    But this trick only works if both defenders and attackers are the same-handed.

    If the defenders are left handed and attackers right-handed, then this fails, since the defenders are impeded as well as the attackers. Flipping the direction of the stair, while meaning that the defenders have it easier, also makes it easier for the right-handed attackers to fight up.

    Having attackers and defenders opposite hands just means neither side has an advantage.
  • by clarkcox3 (194009) <slashdot@clarkcox.com> on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @09:24AM (#11016967) Homepage

    I mean, i don't believe in magical pink unicorns either, but you can't pretend to be more enlightened than someone else when you have no evidence that a magical pink unicorns doesn't exist.

    The burden of proof lies with the one making the outrageous claim. The existence of an all-powerful being is an outrageous claim.

  • by YouHaveSnail (202852) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @09:56AM (#11017279)
    And evolution has purposely kept them.

    I have a big problem with the word "purposely." Evolution does not do anything "purposely," or with intention. Natural selection is a process that applies to all things that reproduce, whether it's an ape or a computer virus, just as gravity applies to all things that have mass.
  • by Scarblac (122480) <slashdot@gerlich.nl> on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @12:28PM (#11019313) Homepage

    No more outrageous than saying everything that has happened in all of the universes and galaxies seen and unseen up until now has happened by random chance.

    Indeed. And in fact that claim is rather more outrageous (science claims the universe is much older, bigger, more complicated, more awesome etc than religion ever has, and the claim is that the processes that caused all of it are actually understandable by us).

    The difference is that the outrageous claims of science are backed up by a stupefying amount of evidence, and the religious claims by zilch.

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