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photo of chimp grasping grass
Apes have much more limited grasping abilities than humans  

People have long wondered what separates humans from the rest of the animals. Is it a soul, tool use, language? Could it be baseball?

Our hands are unique in their flexibility and grasping capabilities. A chimp's hands, good for swinging in trees, are virtually useless on the baseball diamond. In "Handmade Humans" anthropologist Mary Marzke suggests that the traits that make people the world's best ball players might have spurred on the evolution of the human mind.

Itís the flexible joints of our index and pinky fingers that allow us to palm a ball and choke up on a bat. Those same joints allowed our ancestors to fashion stone tools and wield clubs. According to one hypothesis, tool-making offered early humans such a competitive advantage, natural selection favored the evolution of our dexterous and versatile hands.

photo of Alan and Mary Marzke
  Alan talks with anthropologist Mary Marzke

But making tools also requires a brain that can think ahead and consider cause and effect. The ability to look into the future- thatís what truly separates us from the rest of the animals.

For more on this topic, see the web feature:
Meet Lucy

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