by Paul Niquette
Copyright ©1996 Resource Books All rights reserved.

quadrumanous adj. Having four feet with opposable first digits, as primates other than man. 

It would indeed be a tragedy if the history of the human race proved to be nothing more than the story of an ape playing with a box of matches on a petrol dump.
 -- David Ormsby Gore
There is no independent test of fitness.  The "great tautology" of evolution derives from this elementary fact of -- well, it's a fact of life.  Traits which confer fitness are known by their presence in creatures that are fit (see survival value).  What is is.
Opposable first digits -- now, there is an attribute that affords fitness.  Look no further than just beyond your own wrists.  There are 5 billion of us now, 10 billion opposable first digits.  That's fitness for you.  No question about that.

Still, we only have two each.  Other primates have four.  If opposable first digits are so advantageous, why did our ancestors lose half of them on the way to becoming us?  Take off your shoes and look at what's left.  Not a pretty sight, is it.

If humans were quadrumanous, we might have...
  • made tools,
  • harnessed fire,
  • channeled water,
  • planted fields,
  • domesticated animals,
  • conceived writing,
  • invented the loom,
  • perfected the movable type press,
  • organized governments,
  • printed money,
  • built bicycles,
  • plundered the forests,
  • burnt petroleum,
  • developed plastics,
  • surmounted pain,
  • created television,
  • overcome disease,
  • borrowed money,
  • designed structures,
  • laid highways,
  • managed factories,
  • spent money,
  • honked up the atmosphere,
  • walked in space, and
  • deployed nuclear weapons
...twice as fast.
Or still be swinging in trees.
In retrospect, then, for conquering planets, two opposable first digits per person is enough.

When it comes to intelligence, though -- you can never get enough of that.  Smarter is always fitter.  More intelligence means more fitness.  No question about that.

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