NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Thursday, October 22, 2015, 3:30 PM
The fist is an evolutionary knock-out.
A Utah biologist theorizes that the human hand mutated over generations to pack a punch.
The commonly accepted theory for why the palm and fingers grew shorter and the thumb grew longer over millennia is that it allowed humans to better use tools.
Though David Carrier, a professor of comparative physiology at the University of Utah, doesn’t dismissing that view, he adds a new one: evolution brought about a necessary ability to deck your enemies without hurting yourself.
If true, “It says that aggression was important in our evolution,” Carrier, who’s just published a new paper on the subject, told the News.
The paper is based on a study Carrier and his colleagues did using the arms from nine cadavers. Rigging the arms up to punch padded dumbbells, they measured the impact on bones of different kinds of punches, using an open palm, a relaxed fist and a clenched fist.
The results indicate that evolutionary changes to the hand’s shape made it a more effective weapon.
“Our results suggest that humans can safely strike with 55% more force with a fully buttressed fist than with an unbuttressed fist and with twofold more force with a buttressed fist than with an open-hand slap,” Carrier writes in the current issue of Experimental Biology.
This ability “definitely leaves the puncher with less pain and less potential for serious injury,” he says.
Carrier — who has presented his theory that we evolved as brawlers in previous work, including a study suggesting that our facial structure may have evolved to better withstand being punched — is prepared that his assertion will meet with controversy, as it suggests that “we have always been violent.”
“That is troubling,” he allows, “but it is only part of who we are. It is just one side of human nature.
“I think the reason why this work is important is to help us get around it,” Carrier continues. “There is a dark side to human nature — how do we use it to make the world a safe place?”