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HomeEvolutionIs the Human Shoulder Badly Designed?

Is the Human Shoulder Badly Designed?


Picture credit score: West Level, U.S. Army Academy, by way of Flickr (cropped).

A couple of months in the past, I fell and dislocated my left shoulder. My higher arm bone was put again in its socket the identical day, however then I spent months in bodily remedy to regain full perform. Within the course of, I’ve discovered loads about a tremendous joint that I beforehand took without any consideration.

The drawing under exhibits solely a part of the human shoulder’s anatomy. Not proven is the massive deltoid muscle, which overlies the shoulder joint and connects the higher arm bone (humerus) to the collarbone (clavicle) and the shoulder blade (scapula). Additionally not proven is the trapezius muscle throughout the again, which connects the left and proper scapulas. Each the deltoid and the trapezius play vital roles in stabilizing the joint. 

Picture supply: Nationwide Institute Of Arthritis And Musculoskeletal And Pores and skin Ailments (NIAMS); SVG model by Angelito7, Public area, by way of Wikimedia Commons.

Anatomy of the Shoulder Joint

Within the drawing, yellow signifies bone, crimson signifies muscle, blue signifies tendon, and purple signifies bursa (a fluid-filled cushion). The dashed black strains point out the hidden ball-and-socket joint between the humerus and the scapula. Not like the hip joint, during which the ball is deeper within the socket, the shoulder joint is extra open. This implies the shoulder joint is much less steady than the hip joint, however it’s also far more versatile. In reality, it’s the most versatile joint within the human physique. 

The biceps muscle on the decrease left will get its title from the truth that it has two heads. One attaches, via a tendon and a small bursa, close to the highest of the humerus. The opposite head attaches to the coracoid course of, an extension of the scapula. The decrease finish of the biceps muscle is connected to the forearm. Though it’s primarily concerned in transferring the forearm, its divided head helps to stabilize the shoulder joint.

Each the pliability and stability of the shoulder joint are due primarily to the muscle tissue of the “rotator cuff,” listed on the left aspect of the drawing. All 4 of the listed muscle tissue stretch throughout the scapula and fix to the highest of the humerus. For a 10-minute tutorial on the rotator cuff, see right here. For an extended (20-minute) tutorial on the actions, bones, and muscle tissue of the shoulder, see right here.

The extra I’ve discovered concerning the shoulder joint, the extra I’ve been impressed by its specified complexity, which factors to clever design. Think about my shock once I got here throughout a six-and-a-half-minute video claiming that the human shoulder is a “design catastrophe.” The video was made by Cheddar Information, which describes itself as “the one information community centered on the subsequent era of innovators and decision-makers[.] Cheddar Information is the place ahead thinkers go to study concerning the individuals, concepts and improvements which are driving change and creating what’s subsequent.”

I’m assured {that a} rigorous argument will be made for the clever design of the human shoulder. However that isn’t what I current right here. In what follows, I look at the claims in opposition to design which are made within the Cheddar Information video.

Proof that the Human Shoulder Is a Design Catastrophe?

The video’s producer is Natalia Ryzak, who has a grasp’s diploma in journalism from Columbia College. At first, Ryzak explains that “human shoulder blades tilt down and outwards, whereas chimps tilt up. Small variations like this are the explanation people have terrible shoulders. And chimps, with whom we share almost 99% of our DNA, don’t.” For that, Ryzak continues, “we will thank evolution — or extra particularly, how we’re outpacing it.”

However the tilt distinction doesn’t clarify why the human shoulder is “terrible.” If we spent most of our time swinging from tree branches, it’d; however we don’t. And the claimed 99% similarity between human and chimp DNA has no bearing on the difficulty.

Ryzak goes on (from 0:47 to 0:59) to say:

Unintended effects of a human shoulder might embrace dislocation, separation, rotator cuff tears, bursitis, tendonitis, tendonosis, impingement syndrome, instability, arthritis, adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder), and fracture.

However these will not be “unintended effects,” any greater than getting a flat tire is a “aspect impact” of constructing an car. Or having a roof torn off by a twister is a “aspect impact” of constructing a home. And these issues will not be distinctive to people: Chimps may undergo from arthritis and fractures, amongst different issues.

Enter Nathan Lents, professor of biology on the John Jay School of Prison Justice in New York Metropolis. In 2015, Lents argued on his weblog that the human eye is badly designed, primarily as a result of “the vertebrate retina is wired in backwards.” Like Richard Dawkins and others earlier than him, Lents based mostly his declare on the truth that the light-sensing cells face away from the incoming gentle. However proof revealed from the Nineteen Sixties onward — and reported in commonplace textbooks — exhibits that this association is much better than the one Lents favors.

Again to the video on “Why the Human Shoulder is a Design Catastrophe.” Lents says (at 1:30) that the shoulder is “extra of a floating joint than every other joint within the physique.” Ryzak explains that the outer layer of muscle tissue (consisting of the deltoid and trapezius) is stronger than the inside layer (the rotator cuff). Then Lents continues (from 1:59), “Having such an overlapping meshwork of muscle tissue, what you’re inviting is pinching, and tearing, because the orientation can shift.” Lents compares the shoulder joint to the hip joint, during which “the connection of the hip to the leg is pretty fastened in place.”

Up to now, the video has summarized the construction of the shoulder and its distinction from the hip. The shoulder is extra versatile than the hip. Good factor, too, or we wouldn’t be capable of carry out lots of the actions we do. Simply watch an acrobat acting on the parallel bars. Or a baseball participant pitching a fastball. Or an athlete swimming the butterfly.

However journalist Ryzak confidently concludes ex cathedra (beginning at 2:19) that “we’ve confirmed to you simply how cr*ppy our shoulders are.” How so? Ryzak doesn’t say. As an alternative she merely suggests going “again into the evolution half.”

Does Evolution Clarify It All?

In keeping with Lents (beginning at 2:28), “In our quadrupedal ancestors, in our deep previous, actually we had 4 legs, they weren’t actually arms, to talk of. While you consider a canine and a cat, they don’t have arms, they’ve legs. However they nonetheless have a shoulder joint, as we will consider it.”

Then Ryzak says, “Our shoulders advanced for a life within the bushes, swinging and hanging out. Then we left the bushes behind and started to face upright. This freed our arms up for different functions, like searching and gathering.” So from four-legged animals that walked and ran on the bottom, we get animals that spend a few of their time on the bottom however largely swing from branches to branches within the bushes. Then these animals “advanced” into animals that stood upright and used their arms for different functions. That is the usual Darwinian narrative. However how, precisely, did four-legged animals on the bottom evolve into two-armed animals that swung on tree branches, which then advanced into two-armed animals that stood upright on the bottom? The video provides no rationalization; solely an imaginative story.

Lents continues (beginning at 2:54), “We’re partially tailored for throwing, which is… no different animal in our group of animals throws something.” This isn’t true: Chimps can throw, although not as far or as precisely as people. Certainly, they’re notorious for flinging feces at guests to zoos.

However that’s a minor element. Lents goes on to say, “So we consider that throwing was a really robust evolutionary stress as we started to hunt — throwing spears, thrusting as effectively, so thrusting and throwing are very particular sorts of movement. And that required that floating nature to our shoulder.” However “evolutionary stress” simply signifies that throwing favored the survival of early people. It doesn’t account for the origin of the human shoulder. As Darwinian biologists wrote in 1996, diversifications “concern the survival of the fittest, not the arrival of the fittest.”

So the declare that “we left the bushes behind and started to face upright” doesn’t clarify the outstanding anatomy of the human shoulder. In any case, chimps depart the bushes frequently (although they don’t stand upright). But their shoulder anatomy has not modified.

The Drawback and Its Resolution

In keeping with Lents (at 3:57), “A part of the issue in present-day people shouldn’t be a lot a foul shoulder design however a mismatch between what our shoulder is designed to do and the way we use it each day.” After all, Lents doesn’t suppose the shoulder was intelligently designed. As a Darwinist, he believes that the shoulder advanced via unintentional variations and survival of the fittest. And in our rapid ancestors, the shoulder was tailored (“designed”) to swing via bushes.

Most of our fashionable actions are very completely different. Ryzak provides (beginning at 4:16), 

It would shock you, however merely sitting at your desk is a serious contributor to shoulder issues. After we hunch ahead for days, hours, months, years on finish, we find yourself inflicting pointless pulls and strains on our rotator cuff muscle tissue. That may result in accidents.

Lents explains (beginning at 5:20) which you could reduce shoulder issues by “altering the way in which you eat, altering the methods you utilize your physique.” And, Ryzak provides (from 5:34 to five:52), “take note of primary posture.” So after all of the speak about unhealthy design and evolutionary mismatch, the answer to our “design catastrophe” is for us to concentrate to weight-reduction plantrain, and posture

I believe I may have figured that out with out all of the anti-design rhetoric and Darwinian storytelling. Oh, and I might add: Watch out to not fall in such a means as to dislocate your shoulder.




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