August 24, 2009

Elaine Morgan at TED: The Aquatic Ape theory lives!

Wow, this is cool: Elaine Morgan has given a TED talk about the aquatic ape theory.

I remember reading her book in the early 90s and being completely blown away by it. Since then I've strongly suspected that the path of human evolution must have taken a temporary detour through the water. But frustratingly, this theory has never taken off -- though Morgan claims that the theory now holds some heavy hitting supporters, including David Attenborough and Daniel Dennett.

In this TED Talk, Elaine Morgan, who is now in her 80s, provides an excellent overview of the hypothesis and shows just how passionate she is about the subject matter.


Anonymous said...

Gee, I thought that it was the commonly accepted theory because it's the only one which currently has a significant amount of evidence in favor of it. I wasn't aware of any major opposition to it in favor of a null position. Shows how much I know about how science "works".

midnightsun said...

If the assertions on this page regarding Morgan's use of quotes are true, it seems she's up to some shenanigans when it comes to supporting her position with quotes from scientists:

As a writer with a degree in literature, she should be able to convey quotes and their context accurately, even moreso than someone with a scientific background. I'm interested in the idea and liked her video, though.

Unknown said...

I'm not too familiar with the current standing of the aquatic ape hypothesis in regards to the larger scientific community, but the Wikipedia page on the AAH isn't too supportive of it.

admin said...

Sadly (for me too, I like the idea of this 'theory') it never took off because there's really no good evidence for it, and quite a bit against it.

Anonymous said...

Nice to see AAT discussed here.
Of course the term "aquatic ape" is an unfortunate misnomer, it's not about apes or australopiths (only about Homo), and it's not about having been aquatic (a better term is "littoral").
But however one wants to name it, the Hardy–Morgan theory is beyond doubt: it's obvious that Pleistocene Homo populations lived along coasts & rivers: how else could they have reached Flores? why else are all archaic Homo fossils found next to edible shellfish (work of J.Joordens, of S.Munro, and others), all over the Old World, from the Cape to Eritrea to Boxgrove to Dmanisi to Mojokerto, from at least 1.8 Ma until 125 ka?
The only "problem" IMO is that anti-AAT people attack their own idea of what they believe AAT is (eg, dolphin-like ancestors). Their "critiques" are usually irrelevant, misunderstanding, misrepresenting, obsolete, not essential (attacking a possible sub-hypotheses), irrealistic and/or illogical ("crocodiles would have killed aquatic apes").
We have to discern 2 theories:
- the littoral theory of Homo (AAT s.s.): Pleistocene diaspora of human ancestors along coasts & rivers, beach-combing, wading & diving for waterside & aquatic foods,
- the aquarboreal theory of apes: Mio-Pliocene hominoid adaptations (eg, vertical branch-hanging & wading) in flooded forests (mangrove, gallery, swamp forests).
For up-to-date insights, please
- google "econiche Homo" on human evolution,
- google "aquarboreal" on ape evolution,
- or read our forthcoming ebook "Was Man More Aquatic in the Past? Fifty Years after Alister Hardy: Waterside Hypotheses of Human Evolution" M.Vaneechoutte, A.Kuliukas & M.Verhaegen eds 2011 Bentham Sci.Publ., with contributions of Elaine Morgan, Phillip Tobias, Michel Odent, Anna Gislén & others,
- or see our recent paper "Pachyosteosclerosis suggests archaic Homo frequently collected sessile littoral foods" in HOMO J.compar.hum.Biol.62:237-247, 2011.
Marc Verhaegen