05 July 2006

Aquatic ape

Back in high school, I read Elaine Morgan's The Descent of Woman, which argues that there was a key recent period in human evolution in which humans lived in an environment where they did a lot of swimming, and thus became well adapted to it. It's a charming, well-written book, and the hypothesis accounts for a number of human morpological peculiarities—the very weird distribution of fur on our bodies, and the peculiar structure of the human nose, for instance. I was a casual aquatic ape booster for a long time; it's a seductive idea.

But a few years back, I had the hypothesis debunked to my satisfaction. Charming as the theory is, it's just wrong. Lindsey Beyerstein of Majikthise reports a similar recent disenchantment, as a result of a very impressive site which debunks the aquatic ape hypothesis very thoroughly.

Sigh. I don't believe in Julian Jaynes' Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind any more either: an even lovelier idea, but utterly impossible to really demonstrate. And the neutrino turns out to be a disappointment, too. And Lovecraft had no connection to Crowley.

Next you're gonna tell me that Oswald really did act alone.

3 comments:

Kate said...

Anyone who tells you that about Oswald is sorely mistaken.

Mom

Marc Verhaegen said...

We did not descend from aquatic apes, of course, although our ancestors were anatomically & physiologically not adapted to running over open plains as some anthropologists still believe. Instead, Pleistocene Homo populations simply followed the coasts & rivers in Africa & Eurasia (800 ka they even reached Flores >18 km overseas), google, eg, “econiche Homo”.
–eBook “Was Man more aquatic in the past?” introd.Phillip Tobias
http://www.benthamscience.com/ebooks/9781608052448/index.htm
–guest post at Greg Laden’s blog
http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2013/01/30/common-misconceptions-and-unproven-assumptions-about-the-aquatic-ape-theory

Artturi Laitakari said...

Aquatic ape is a terrible name for the theory.

We are COASTAL APES, been for millions of years.