Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The Evolution of the Inadequate Modern Male

The weak have inherited the Earth.

The weak have inherited the Earth.

By Peter McAllister

The superior strength, endurance and eyesight of ancient humans reveals that the weak have now inherited the Earth.

Peter McAllister is an archaeologist and lecturer at Griffith University, and author of Manthropology (Hachette Australia).

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Very early in my career as an anthropologist I stumbled across a curious report about an mid-19th century Aboriginal man, a whaler called Thomas Chaseland, who was said to have extraordinary physical capabilities – particularly eyesight. Chaseland’s shipmates claimed he could see land from

30 miles out to sea, spot whales surfacing outside of telescope range, and see a full mile underwater. A huge man of apparently prodigious strength, Chaseland also survived several shipwrecks at the hands of thrashing whales, on one occasion swimming 6 miles through freezing waters that killed his fellow whalemen.

But the attribute that stands out is his vision. Could it really be true, I wondered, that this Aboriginal man’s eyesight was so much better than that of his European shipmates?

It was hard to believe, for several reasons. Chaseland’s reported eyesight was, for a start, better than most scientists thought theoretically possible. There was also the problem that the stories had something of the “noble savage” myth about them – the hardy native whose “wild essence” gives him superhuman powers.

A little research, however, showed that Chaseland’s shipmates were probably right. Aboriginal men, even today, do have eyesight four times as good as men of European ancestry. A 1980s survey of Aboriginal eye health proved it.

This made me wonder how...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.