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In the September/October issue of Archaeology, I read what may be the single most important reason for why human evolution simply has to be true! In a ground-breaking article, Zach Zorich–whose name will henceforth be sung in praise by all the faithful–shows that evolution makes baseball possible.

Let me repeat: without evolution, there is no baseball. If this isn’t enough proof for you, move to Norway and follow ice curling.

Zorich’s article summarizes the work of a team of researchers led by Neil Roach of George Washington University.

From top: Paleolithic man with dropped spear; 6th c. BC Attic Greek hunter; Tom Seaver, 1973.

During the several-million-year journey our ancestors made from climbing trees to living their lives primarily on the ground, they evolved two traits that would ensure that our species thrive: upright posture and the ability to hurl a 100-mile-per-hour fastball. Humans are able to throw much harder and more accurately than any of the great apes, despite having much less powerful muscles than many of them….

Please note that both walking upright and throwing a 100-mph fastball are the very definition of thriving for our species, what separates us from the apes, as it were.

I would take this a step further and argue for the profound and logically required theological implications, i.e., that which makes us human, image-bearers of God, but let’s stay focused here.

“For the brief instant that the throw occurs, you are storing about 50 percent of the energy that you need to create this tremendous velocity in your shoulder,” says Roach, who conducted the research while at Harvard University. When the participants cocked their arms back to throw, the tendons and ligaments in their shoulders stretched and stored up energy that was then released in a burst. Roach identified three anatomical traits that humans evolved to perform this feat—torsos that move independently of our waists, shoulders located on the sides of our torsos, and upper-arm bones shaped to increase our ability to stretch the shoulder tendons and ligaments. 

Dispute remains, however, as to when exactly this adaptation occurred, but “the traits for modern throwing came together in Homo erectus no later than 1.6 million years ago,” or, roughly the last time the Chicago Cubs made it to world series.



Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.