3/27/08

Totally Radical : Aquatic Ape Theory

The longer I went on reading his own books about himself, the more I longed
to find a volume that would begin: "When the first ancestor of the human race
descended from the trees, she had not yet developed the mighty brain that
was to distinguish her so sharply from all other species..."

Of course, She was no more the first ancestor than he was- but she was no
less the first ancestor, either.
- Elaine Morgan


Elaine Morgan
my heroine of evolutionary theory


The very same longing is what led me to start drawing hairy, hominid females as an undergraduate art student. It is a theme I have come back to often and in various ways. Explorations of this and related subjects led me to realize how much of an ideology biology can be. The role bias (whether gender, racial, species based, class, etc. etc.) plays when theorizing or attempting to understand is immense. The different perspectives surfacing from women in the world of paleo such as Elaine Morgan and Olga Soffer have brought up easily over looked tidbits that open possible doors to a female prehistory.

Elaine Morgan is the fierce presence behind the Aquatic Ape Theory (AAT) and we have her to thank for developing the theory and sharing it with the world. Sir Allister Hardy was the first person on record to wonder about a possible aquatic past for
Homo sapiens. The aquatic idea was not a popular one and not wanting to risk his career and become a target of ridicule in the scientific community he did not do much more with AAT.

Elaine Morgan could give a care and went to town fleshing out the theory in numerous texts including
The Descent of Woman.


In Descent of Woman her complete lack of self doubt along with the sheer ferocity of her hypothesis leave me with both tears in my eyes and loudly exclaiming "Hells yeah!" as she takes me from point to counterpoint. Morgan is a wrecking ball in the shoddy, old house of tarzanist thought.

In Descent of Woman Morgan repeatedly counters Desmond Morris, author of numerous books including The Naked Ape for his male (bordering on misogynist) centered view of evolution.

Last week while in the waiting room of my veterinarian's office I noticed a book on the table. The picture on the cover was of two wee kittens cuddling. And beneath the title Catwatching: Why Cats Purr and Everything Else You Ever Wanted to Know was the author's name... Desmond Morris. At home I googled it up and yes- it was indeed the same Desmond Morris. I laughed so hard.

not amused by Desmond Morris or sparkly thing


New discoveries in the mammal world including a report published last year in Nature that modern humans lived near and ate creatures from the sea as well as a study of gooey substance that only covers new born humans and some aquatic mammals support Morgan's theories. David Attenboro interviewed her for BBC radio 4 about the latter.



There is so much I want to say about Elaine Morgan and her various texts. I just wanted to get my bias and fanaticism out of my system first and give some background. Stay tuned.

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