For Human Eyes Only

– I find this idea a bit weak because it doesn’t address the fact that many people of oriental extraction have eyes which are quite narrow and thus it is hard to see the whites of their eyes at all. Am I missing something here? Your comments are welcome.


COL. WILLIAM PRESCOTT is said to have prepared his troops for a charge from the British Army at the Battle of Bunker Hill by telling his men, “Don’t one of you fire until you see the whites of their eyes.”

If the opposing army had not been British men but rather a horde of charging chimpanzees, the American troops would have been summarily overrun. Why? Because neither chimpanzees nor any of the other 220 species of nonhuman primates have whites of the eyes, at least not that can be easily seen. This means that if their eyes are looking in a direction other than the one in which their heads are pointing, we can easily be fooled about what they are looking at.

Why should humans be so different? And yet we are. We can’t fool anyone. The whites of our eyes are several times larger than those of other primates, which makes it much easier to see where the eyes, as opposed to the head, are pointed. Trying to explain this trait leads us into one of the deepest and most controversial topics in the modern study of human evolution: the evolution of cooperation.


– research thanks to John P.

– This article is from the NY Times and they insist that folks have an ID and a PW in order to read their stuff. You can get these for free just by signing up. However, recently, a friend of mine suggested the website as an alternative to having to do these annoying sign ups. Check it out. Thx Bruce S. for the tip.

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