They don’t believe her.

And you wonder why?

Don’t ask.

Homo anthropologicus?

Scientists are supposed to be objective, open minded, fair minded, and logical. Paleoanthropology is supposed to be a science. Think again.


Most of science is good, and mostly right, if not trivial and mundane. It’s the best we can do at the moment. But, there is this particular case — the question of origin of mankind — it’s unbelievable — these so-called “scientists” are acting like priests. Not objective, not open minded, not fair minded, not logical, and not scientific. What’s up?

They don’t believe Elaine Morgan —

despite her iron-clad scientific explanation of The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis.

Who is this old lady, with no degree in science, telling the established, credentialed, tenured, academic paleoanthropologists that what they accepted and endorsed as the how mankind became different from other primates — was wrong. Badly wrong. Stupid wrong.

Who is she?  She is a Maverick.  She, who learned science on her own: perfecting and building a solid scientific theory from an interesting guess (hypothesis) put forth by Alister Hardy, and with no help from those paleoanthropologists, luckily.

I won’t listen to the experts, ever again — Richard Feynman

Elaine Morgan, Inventor Rational, as teenager went into the arts because she had gotten a scholarship. She was interested in words — etymology (the fancy Latin word for it).  She was very bright and creative, and did very well as a writer.

They [Inventor Rationals] are the most reluctant of all the types to do things in a particular manner just because that’s the way they have been done. As a result, they often bring fresh, new approaches to their work and play. They are intensely curious and continuously probe for possibilities, especially when trying to solve complex problems. [Please Understand Me II]

She was an award winning writer.

Elaine Morgan began writing in the 1950s after winning a competition in Statesman, successfully publishing, then joining the BBC when they began produce her plays for television. Morgan’s works include popular dramas, and newspaper columns.

Morgan has written for many television series including the adaptations of How Green Was My Valley (1975) and Testament of Youth (1979). Her other work includes episodes of Dr. Finlay’s Casebook (1963–1970), the biographical drama The Life and Times of David Lloyd George (1981) and contributions to the Campion series (1989)

She has won two BAFTAs and two Writers’ Guild awards. She won the Prix Italia in 1975. She was honoured with the Writer of the Year Award from the Royal Television Society for her series of Testament of Youth.  [Wikipedia]

However, she always had an interest in science, even as a little kid.  So, when Desmond Morris mentioned an obscure reference to Hardy’s work, she pursued it, to possibly counter the “Alpha Male” (or tenured faculty, Paleoanthropologists) explanation of human evolution.  Elaine Morgan, who had never bought into the unquestioned Savannah Hypothesis, perked up when Hardy hypothesis was mentioned.

I would certainly never have heard of it but for a reference to it in Desmond Morris’s The Naked Ape. Desmond, who knew and admired Alister, gave a brief account of the theory, but concluded that if there had been an aquatic interlude, its effects were probably minimal. The big story, the true story, was still the exodus onto the plains.

But when I read that passage, it came as a revelation. To me it made more sense than anything else in the book. This was at the beginning of the seventies, and I had started writing a book of my own, with a feminist message. Its theme was that all the current books on human evolution were written from a male standpoint. Some of the changes allegedly designed to make the male a better hunter would have had unfortunate consequences for his mate and her offspring. A female primate in the middle of an African plain would not be better equipped to find food, or to escape from predators, by becoming naked and bipedal. That would involve having to carry everywhere in her arms, while foraging or running away, a large and particularly helpless slow-growing infant that could no longer travel astride her back, nor cling to her fur so as to leave her own hands free. I preferred the aquatic hypothesis. I wrote to Sir Alister, asking for and receiving permission to follow up the suggestion he had made.” [The Naked Darwinist, Elaine Morgan]

She started slow, assuming that eventually maybe an ambitious graduate student would take up the idea.

Her first book The Descent of Woman (1972) was originally planned to pave the way for Hardy’s more academic book, but Hardy never published his book. Morgan’s first publication was mentioned by E. O. Wilson in 1975, comparing it to other ‘advocacy approaches’ such as The Imperial Animal as an ‘inevitable feminist’ counter, but describing the method as less scientific than other contemporary hypotheses. She accepted this criticism and so her later books were written on more scientific basis or more “po-faced” as she herself described it. [Wikipedia]

The Aquatic Ape Theory has improved each iteration: Scars of Evolution, Aquatic Ape, and her final book The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis.    Her books have countered the arguments put forth against the Aquatic Ape Theory as to advance its merits.

“During the last few years, when I have found myself in the company of distinguished biologists, evolutionary theorists, paleoanthropologists and other experts, I have often asked them just to tell me, please, exactly why Elaine Morgan must be wrong about the aquatic theory. I haven’t yet had a reply worth mentioning, aside from those who admit, with a twinkle in their eyes, that they have also wondered the same thing.”  – Daniel Dennett

Quote1.pngThe trouble with specialists is that they tend to think in groovesQuote2.png  — Elaine Morgan

15 thoughts on “Unbelievable

  1. Brian S. February 21, 2012 / 8:36 pm

    Her struggle to gain respect reminds me of another scientist working outside of the academic establishment: Judith Rich Harris, who challenges the conventional wisdom on child development with her hypothesis of socialization by peer groups, not by parents.


  2. pam February 22, 2012 / 12:02 am

    …and Alfred Wegener, (weatherman), originated continental drift theory. (Mocked by people at the time he proposed his theory).


  3. pam February 22, 2012 / 12:13 am

    …and also for that matter, Lynn Margulis for her endosymbiosis theory. (my understanding it was part based on research from obscure mid-19th century Russian scientists). Her initial scientific paper on the subject was not only rejected but ridiculed by journals and other scientists.


  4. paulusminimus March 6, 2012 / 8:23 am

    Interesting article. But the description given of “priests” is a very narrow and bigoted view of clergymen. Certain fundamentalist theists, who take scriptures at face value, and never question, never seek to understand, then that can definitely be said. But if one sees religion as ignorance, combating religion with more ignorance gets nowhere. One can be logical and a theist. We all come to different conclusions.

    I did understand entirely what you meant, and am not offended personally, because your view of religion is narrow (no offence intended), but in the future, unless wording is watched carefully, many could be offended.


  5. Natalie P June 30, 2013 / 8:47 am

    People are sheep… afraid of pioneers and afraid of pioneering themselves… Where does this culturally adaptive value system stem from? Perhaps from generations of abuse by tyrannical governments, monarchs, schools and religious organizations. Seriously we need to snap out of this autopilot response and wake up to new ideas! We have been conditioned to respond this way… let’s all agree to make change for a better more open minded attitude towards differences.


  6. Lord Anthony June 30, 2013 / 2:28 pm

    Good gracious! I have talked to these “scientist” types. They strike me as SJs who have no business in science instead of NTs who gravitate towards it. I want to know the evolution of how THAT happened. Consensus and Science have NO BUSINESS together. They are mutual antagonists.
    A person cannot suggest an evidence based hypothesis without the approval of some stuffy suits?
    Does anyone else find this strain of attitude within the scientific community as equally appalling as I do?


  7. Kell July 18, 2013 / 4:52 pm

    Elaine Morgan’s suggestion that we similarly apply Richard Dawkin’s advice on how to deal with religious priesthood, to the priesthood of scientific academia, is fantastic. I am looking forward to exciting new discoveries being made, which emerge from science taking the aquatic theory seriously.


  8. marc verhaegen February 4, 2014 / 4:08 pm

    FYI, an AAT update.
    AAT is not about apes becoming more aquatic c 6 mill.yrs ago, as Elaine thought, but about archaic Homo following the coasts & rivers of Africa & Eurasia during the Ice Ages, less than c 2 mill.yrs ago, feeding on waterside & shallow aquatic foods.
    -vaneechoutte rhys evans,
    -econiche homo,
    -laden misconceptions verhaegen.

    Human Evolution publishes in 2 special editions the proceedings of the symposium with David Attenborough & Donald Johanson on human waterside evolution ‘Human Evolution: Past, Present & Future’ in London 8-10 May 2013:
    Special Edition Part 1 (end 2013)
    – Peter Rhys-Evans: Introduction,
    – Stephen Oppenheimer: Human’s Association with Water Bodies: the ‘Exaggerated Diving Reflex’ and its Relationship with the Evolutionary Allometry of Human Pelvic and Brain Sizes,
    – JH Langdon: Human Ecological Breadth: Why Neither Savanna nor Aquatic Hypotheses can Hold Water,
    – Stephen Munro: Endurance Running versus Underwater Foraging: an Anatomical and Palaeoecological Perspective,
    – Algis Kuliukas: Wading Hypotheses of the Origin of Human Bipedalism,
    – Marc Verhaegen: The Aquatic Ape Evolves: Common Misconceptions and Unproven Assumptions about the So-Called Aquatic Ape Hypothesis,
    – CL Broadhurst & Michael Crawford: The Epigenetic Emergence of Culture at the Coastline: Interaction of Genes, Nutrition, Environment and Demography.
    Special Edition Part 2 (begin 2014) with 12 contributions.

    –marc verhaegen


    • David Keirsey February 5, 2014 / 7:04 pm

      Thanks for the references. Did Elaine Morgan ever see your work? Based on Elaine’s TED talk, where she said she would be happy if some individuals would work on the problem, which did not accept the Savannah hypothesis carte blanche. It appears that this conference would be something Elaine would have approve of if she could have lived longer. Apparently you both (Elaine and you) would agree on one point, the Savannah hypothesis is very bogus. Quoting you:
      “… it is highly unlikely that hominid ancestors ever lived in the savannas. Man is the opposite of a savanna inhabitant. Humans lack sun-reflecting fur, but have thermo-insulative subcutaneous fat layers, which are never seen in savanna mammals. We have a water- and sodium-wasting cooling system of abundant sweat glands, totally unfit for a dry environment. Our maximal urine concentration is much too low for a savanna-dwelling mammal. We need much more water than other primates, and have to drink more often than savanna inhabitants, yet we cannot drink large quantities at a time …”

      Liked by 1 person

  9. marc verhaegen May 4, 2014 / 9:53 am

    Hi David, sorry for this late answer.
    Yes, of course, Elaine saw my work (eg, see the 2d sentence of “Scars” acknowledgements), she even frequently corrected & re-wrote it. She contacted me a year or so after I had written my first paper (Med.Hypoth.1985), we wrote 1 paper together (New Scient.1987), we met many times, and Elaine stayed at my home a few times. She wrote the whole paper “Human regulation of body tp & water balance” (in Roede 1991), shortening & rephrasing a draft which she found too difficult (she didn’t want to co-author, saying she didn’t know much about physiology), and her husband Morien typed 1 or 2 of my papers.
    However, our opinions differed in when & how it happened. Elaine thought “it” happened 6 or 7 mill.yrs ago, at the split of Pan & Homo, but IMO our semi-aquatic past has nothing to do with apes or australopiths: apparently our most-aquatic characteristics appeared in H.erectus & archaic relatives with the Pleistocene sea-level lowering & opening of vast continental shelves: very heavy skeleton (pachyosteosclerosis is typical of littoral mammals), long & flat skull, external nose, flattened femora, ear exostoses, very broad pelvis & body (iliac flaring), intercontinental diaspora, coastal sites from Indonesia to SW.Africa to England (Mojokerto, Dungo V, Happisburgh resp.) etc.
    Apparently early-Pleistocene Homo populations simply followed the coasts & later from there trekked inland along rivers, instead of running after kudus on an imagined Savannahstan… 😀


  10. Marc Verhaegen January 18, 2018 / 7:31 pm

    Hi all, for some recent info on the littoral theory (early-Pleistocene dispersal of Homo along African & Eurasian coasts), google e.g.
    -Attenborough Schagatay Brenna reply,
    -aquatic ape thelory made easy 2017


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