Welcome to this Serious Nonsense! From Man the Footballer: Homo Passiens.
Man the Footballer: Homo Passiens is a fun book. It is not to be taken seriously. But it does use some principles drawn from the evolutionary and cultural history of mankind such that, if it were true, it would fit in with a crazy hypothesis that humans evolved bipedalism (walking on two legs) to play football.
Two very important principles in this respect are “neoteny” and “ludeny”. The theory of neoteny was around for more than a century before being developed by the real-life American biologist and author Stephen Jay Gould. The theory is that we humans keep our infant genes and anatomy throughout our lives – we do not metamorphose into an adult form like other primates, such as chimpanzees. This shows strongly in our facial features and our flat baby faces. If our jaws extended forwards and our brows angled backwards – like they “should do” – we would not be able to head a football! Neoteny also explains other oddities, such as our lifelong curiosity, inventiveness and nosiness. Simply put, we never fully grow up.
The next important real-life theory is ludeny. This was thought up by the Dutch cultural historian Johan Huizinga. You can read all about it in his original book Homo Ludens. It is based on the idea that all human culture – technology, science, language, literature, art, music and poetry – stems from adult “game-playing”. The Latin word ludens is derived from ludus which refers to sport, play, school, and practice.
It isn’t difficult to connect the two theories. Humans (as far as we know) are the only species in which the adults still play games – which neatly brings us back to the subject of bipedal football, known to be the largest and most universal form of game-playing we know of. If football were a country, it would be the largest in the world with around 2.5 billion citizens (fans and players), and its annual turnover would exceed that of the world’s largest economy – the United States of America. Once you accept that Homo passiens is the original species of the genus Homo, you will never be the same again. You will know that Homo sapiens is a derivative, an offshoot, and as your primal unconscious mind already knows, bipedal football expresses the deepest essence of what it is to be human. You will know that your children and grandchildren will grow up in a football environment, and will become Homo passiens, or the sibling species Femo passions, to become football players and/or football fans. You will learn that Homo passiens and Femo passiens predate Homo sapiens by about two and a half million years, and you will discover all about football anatomy, physiology and psychology, and the genes, glands and hormones that characterise this wonderful bipedal football species.
You will meet Professor Gordon P. McNeil in the pages of this book, Professor of Archaeology and Paleoanthropology at St Andrews University, Fife, Scotland, and you will admire how brilliantly and persistently he demolishes the concept proposed by Professor Yuvel Noah Harari in his twenty-first-century book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, in which Harari makes the outrageous claim that humans express no genes for football! This is a massive own goal and the greatest faux pass in the history of science. This is what Harari said:
“Evolution did not endow humans with the ability to play football. True, it produced legs for kicking, elbows for fouling and mouths for cursing, but all that this enables us to do is perhaps practise penalty kicks by ourselves. To get into a game with strangers we find in the schoolyard on any given afternoon, we not only have to work in concert with ten teammates we may never have met before, we also need to know that the other players on the opposing team are playing by the same rules. Other animals that engage strangers in ritualised aggression do so largely by instinct – puppies throughout the world have the rules for rough-and-tumble play hard-wired into their genes. But human teenagers have no genes for football. They can nevertheless play the game with complete strangers because they have all learned an identical set of ideas about football. These ideas are entirely imaginary, but if everyone shares them, we can all play the game.”
Harari may have taken sapiens science to a new level of understanding, but he failed to examine the role of passiens as our founding species, and he missed the critical role of “neoteny” in our evolution, without which we would not have developed our juvenile, curious, innovative, endlessly creative minds that characterises our strange bipedal, foetalistic, semi-adult species. Professor McNeil couldn’t ignore the comment that we have “no genes for football” and curtly elbowed the claim in the following letter.
Dear Professor Harari,
Never in the history of evolutionary science, either before or after Charles Darwin, has an eminent and respected academic of evolutionary history been so erroneous in his or her analysis of the underpinning, founding seed and driving forces of the evolution of the genus Homo. With respect, Professor Harari, a penalty kick requires a goalkeeper and a goal; the species Homo exists as a socially and environmentally constrained species, or it is simply not human. A penalty kick – far from being a solitary and introverted illustration of human conduct – is actually one of the highest expressions of bipedal neotenous culture and behaviour of the genus Homo.
If an elbow is not an anatomical and physiological instrument of high-value fouling, then what may it be? A Stephen Jay Gould spandrel or exaptation? An evolutionary by-product? Or an adaptation for which there is no clear fitness or survival advantage? No! The elbow of the Homo species is not some kind orphan anatomical offshoot without significant function, rather it is an exquisitely engineered evolutionary skeletal instrument for violently inhibiting opponents during open bipedal neotenous football play.
A recent and seminal paper, published in the Journal of Passienic Sciences found, through a series of elegant studies conducted at the Sep Blatter Faculty of Forensic and Passienic Anatomy at the University at Visp, in the canton of Valais, that a set of related elbow and hip genes and gene sequences correlate with both elbow and hip hit-plasias (ELB-HIT alpha-1 and HIP-HIT beta-2), and these are expressed in the teenagers of Homo sapiens, Homo passiens and Femo passiens, most potently of all in Homo passiens professional football players, with the highest expression occurring in defenders who have secured the most yellow and red cards during highlycharged contests (particularly during Derby matches between local rivals).
So indeed, Professor Harari, since you raise the issue, evolution did produce elbows for sophisticated gain of function fouling, and now we have plenty of beautiful genetic information that confirms that.
With the greatest respect, and acknowledging your excellent work in a number of fields, it must be stated that your attempt to intervene in the field of bipedal neotenous football is indicative of a degenerative and profoundly unfruitful adherence to a “sapiens” mindset that is long out of date, and which denies bipedal neotenous football as the generative seed and driving force of human evolution.
With a view to finally establishing whether indeed Homo passiens is the original founding species of the genus Homo from 2.5 million years ago, and Homo sapiens is a recent and derivative species from 200,000 years ago, I challenge you to a debate in the town of Stenhousemuir in the Forth Valley, Stirlingshire, Scotland. A suitable time would be during the Forth Valley Festival of Passienic Culture and Arts, held annually in that town, which attracts many thousands of football fans, academics and student visitors from around the world. As a World Archaeology Heritage Status Area, Stenhousemuir is the spiritual home of prehistoric football archaeology and artefacts, and is therefore a highly appropriate venue to hold an international forum and invite public discussion on whether bipedal neotenous football is the true seed and driving force of human evolution, so that this issue may be finally settled—for all time.
Professor Gordon P. McNeil
Departments of Anthropology and Palaeontology
St Andrews University