By contrast, Discovery Channel broadcast an excellent program,"Discovering Ardi," on the recent presentation of the remains of Ardipithecus ramidus, "the oldest skeleton from our branch of the primate tree."
The contrast, indeed, could not be greater. When I watch one of those History channel programs, I find myself growing impatient and looking at my watch (isn't it time for the commercial and another beer?), unless I am busy scribbling down notes about another new inanity. In the case of Discovery's "Ardi" program, however, two hours devoted largely just to conversation by scholars sitting around a table went by quickly. They were interesting because intelligent people were teaching us something new.
• Discovery Channel:
Let us consider the single tiny but telling example of how our skulls and faces became "human." Although we usually think of brow ridges, facial angles, and jaw structures, another measure is: small canines.
The female, "Ardi" is going to mate one day and will have to make a choice: She could of course succumb to the blandishments (well, it's not quite that romantic in the natural realm, but then, our dating customs are not all they're cracked up to be, either) of the traditionally attractive male with large canines. He's sort of like the captain of the football team. But does she want a guy like that, who's going to spend all his time competing with other males for prestige? or is she going to choose a guy with other desirable characteristics?
What sort of fellow might that be? Well, the serious student and nice guy—I mean: one with small canines, who can be attractive and win her over in other ways. For example, he may go out and bring back exotic or otherwise desirable foods. She will be willing to trade copulation for food. And then this will become a regular habit. And in the process, he'll have to make quite a trek through forests. What's the result: the trait for small canines is passed along, the development of bipedalism is encouraged. So, one human trait connects with another: our teeth and walking upright. Voilà.
- It's serious history and science
- They got it out in short order (the discovery was announced only two weeks ago)
- No glitzy special effects, no cheesy re-enactments, just serious talk about important matters.