NOT BEING PHYSICAL anthropologists, we were confused by the otherwise heartening discovery the other day that the modern human being, as we know it, has an ancestor who lived in Africa 3 million or 4 million years ago, and that this missing link possessed the extraordinary combination of an ape-like brain and an erect body. The surprise expressed at the latter discovery confuses us. For we had been unaware of the conventional anthropological view that an erect posture and a large brain evolved simultaneously. Now, evidently, the discovery of the Australopithecus afarensis has baffled scientists specifically as to why a creature "incapable of making tools" would have begun to walk around on his own two feet.

What we do not understand is the theoretical correlation between standing and making tools. Is it as odd as the anthropologists contend that our early selves -- Australopithecus afarensis or africanus or whatever -- might have wished to make tools lying down? One can make perfectly good tools from any of several reclining positions, including sitting. Is it not also possible, to say nothing of logical, that our ancestors wanted to walk around a bit before deciding what tools they needed to make? And why this premium on tool-making? When the Australopithecus afarensis finally stoold up after millions of years, maybe he didn't want to make tools right away. Two could blame him?

We don't wish to presume on our scientific friends, of course, so we'll let the matter drop. And, theories aside, it's always a bit of good news whenever someone discovers a form of life lower than our own. These creatures had brains one-third the size of ours. Imagine.