By JOHN TIERNEY
An anthropologist looks into the roots of the open-hand shrug gesture and finds they run deep.
drawing by marguerita
The upturned palm, is one of the oldest and most widely understood signals in the world.
It’s activated by neural circuits inherited from ancient reptiles
that abased themselves before larger animals.
Chimps and other apes, notably humans, adapted it to ask not just for food, but also for more abstract forms of help, creating a new kind of signal that some researchers believe was the
origin of human language.
If that’s true, if human eloquence can be traced from a primal message
signifying “Gimme,” I’m not sure what conclusion to draw about our species.
Maybe that we are inherently social creatures who survived and prevailed against mightier animals by learning to enlist
the cooperation of others.
Or maybe just that,
in our heart of hearts,
we are all slackers. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/28/science/28tier.html?8dpc