August 2, 2009


Homo erectus.


In psychology, showing primitive forms of behavior




The Random House Webster's College Dictionary (2000) recounts these definitions of atavism:
1. a. the reappearance in an individual of characteristics of some remote ancestor that have been absent in intervening generations.

b. an individual embodying such a reversion.

2. reversion to an earlier type; throwback.

We need to stop Supreme Court confirmation hearings. . . . . The game (and it is one) becomes an atavistic search for an emotional gotcha moment, a test more appropriate to a hockey goalie than a Supreme Court justice.
Fineman, Howard. The Take. "Advise and Shut up Already: Let's End Confirmation hearings." Newsweek, 27 July 2009: 28.


Taking the long ancestral view, we could say that Fineman is suggests archly that certain Judiciary Committee members seem to be acting less like members of the generation of homo sapiens, but more like members of the next ancestral generation behind us, homo erectus. Bob Holms of New Scientist (1 August, 2009, 6) tells us that the average brain volume of homo sapiens is 1500 cubic centimeters and that that of homo erectus is smaller by a third, at only 1000 cubic centimeters. In a sense, Fineman is telling each perceived atavist on the committee: "Grow your brain!"


From the Latin atavas, meaning ancestor


at'a-vis'ti-cal-ly (adverb)
at'a-vist (noun)


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