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Science & Technology

Human hands may have evolved for punching

By T.K. Randall
October 25, 2015 · Comment icon 54 comments

Our fists work very effectively as weapons. Image Credit: CC BY 2.0 el grito
Our ability to make a fist and strike an opponent with sizable force might be an evolutionary trait.
Scientists have long maintained that our hands evolved to give us the manual dexterity needed to make and use tools, but now researcher David Carrier and his colleagues at the University of Utah have put forward the idea that our ability to punch may have also played an important role.

To reach this conclusion the researchers carried out a series of bizarre experiments that involved swinging deceased human arms in to various punching targets in a laboratory.

The rather gruesome research effort required a total of nine donor arms, each fitted with a series of special sensors that were embedded in the bones and muscles - a procedure that would have been far too damaging to carry out using living test subjects.
By using the arms to strike a target in a variety of different ways, the researchers were able to determine that a clenched fist is simply the safest and most effective way to punch something.

Not everyone however is convinced that the human hand evolved with this behavior in mind.

"I think a lot of the criticisms we get come from a fear that any evidence of aggressive behavior having been important in our evolution somehow provides a kind of justification for bad behavior," said Carrier.

"Rather than justifying aggression, an improved understanding of who we are, of human nature, should help us prevent violence of all kinds in the future."

Source: Live Science | Comments (54)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #45 Posted by Uncle Sam 8 years ago
I don't know why, but the way they announced this gets on my nerves. I think it is because we are a product of evolution, everything we can do was gained through evolutionary traits. Thus us being able to punch has always been a evolutionary trait.
Comment icon #46 Posted by Ashyne 8 years ago
I remember reading the same thing concluded by another study posted on UM front page a few months ago. That study showed that human hands had knuckles specifically so that when a fist is clenched, it would turn it into a club. http://www.livescien...d-fighting.html The hand shape essentially turns "this relatively delicate musculoskeletal system into an effective club," said study co-author David Carrier, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Utah. To find out, the researchers measured the force produced as 12 experienced male boxers and martial artists whacked a punching bag as hard ... [More]
Comment icon #47 Posted by lightly 8 years ago
yes we can punch.. but i think it's a big stretch to say it's the primary reason our hands are the way they are? our fingers and knuckles are too delicate to be used , primarily, as weapons? I often walk, in cold weather, with my hands/fists clenched just to keep them warmer. it helps.
Comment icon #48 Posted by Likely Guy 8 years ago
The evolution of a hand better adapted for holding/gripping tools would have a secondary consequence of a hand better adapted to forming a fist - however, that doesn't mean the hand "evolved to be better for punching". This study unfortunately has too narrow a focus and so has led those who undertook it to an erroneous conclusion. Hands better adapted to holding a tool, like a weapon, yes. Even though they can, hands suck for punching, too many tiny bones to break.
Comment icon #49 Posted by taniwha 8 years ago
You think your fist is your weapon...?
Comment icon #50 Posted by Timonthy 8 years ago
I don't know about you guys, but my hands evolved for loving.
Comment icon #51 Posted by aquatus1 8 years ago
Takes a brave man to say that out loud.
Comment icon #52 Posted by Timonthy 8 years ago
I don't ko Takes a brave man to say that out loud. Well it's true, what's the point? These days there is really no excuse for violence.
Comment icon #53 Posted by aquatus1 8 years ago
**A reminder that this is a family forum. Let's keep the comments appropriate.**
Comment icon #54 Posted by TzarSeft 8 years ago
that's hideous, evolution is false as well.

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