Wednesday, March 04, 2009

When Will the Aquatic Ape Theory Appear on the Horizon?

Watching Horizon last night about whether humans could unlearn their naked shame, I found myself amazed at exactly how complicated some of the theories have got that explain why we are a naked, bipedal, big-brained ape when the much ridiculed aquatic ape theory is a lot more elegant at explaining so much of humanities features. Having read the Descent of Woman, the aquatic ape theory explains:

a) that we became hairless to help us move through water
b) why humans and human babies in particular have a natural propensity to swim and dive
c) why we have a subcutaneous layer of fat (namely to replace the primary function of fur: to keep us warm)
d) why we walk on two legs (to keep our head above water stupid)
e) the origins of Ophidiophobia (humans often think of snakes as 'slimy' but in fact their skin is dry. Are we confusing them with far more poisonous eels?)
f) the origins of the hymen (to keep out water)

and possibly many more. Given how many hoops the scientific community have to jump through to justify the 'sweat-cooling theory' for example, I really cannot understand why the aquatic ape theory has not been gained more traction. Can it really be because it has mainly appeared hitherto in a treatise on feminist evolutionary theory?

One problem with evolutionary theories is that they can explain much but predict little. As a result, a lot of nonsensical theories can be proposed by so-called serious scientists. Is Elaine Morgan the misunderstood Darwin of our time?


Crushed said...

I read the Aquatic ape a few years back and was actually quite impressed with it.

The point about the fat layers was quite interersting, as is the point that the Rift Valley was largely composed of lagoons back then.

JPH said...

You can add to the list that the aquatic ape explains why we still have hair on our heads and why we can swim but chimpanzees can't.

In "The naked ape" Desmond Morris said he wasn't really against the idea of the aquatic ape, it was just that it was quite a big step with no direct evidence for it in itself just to get a few nice explanations.

Crushed said...

It actually satisfies the 'Occam's Razor' test, though.

It answers points no other theory does- to the same degree. No better theory explains those few points. And of course, it makes predictions concerning fossils we should expect to find from the early pliocene.

Now the Kenyanthropus fossils may be badly prserved and perhaps spurious, but the implication SEEMS to be that of a hominid that survived on fish.

It also seems to be the case that the common ancestor of humans and chimps was not, as previously thought, more chimplike than humanlike.

The only satisfactory way in my opinion, that one can reconcile the Ardpithecus, Orrorin and Sahelanthropus specimens into the tree is by assuming that Sahelanthropus is the last common ancestor, Orrorin is ancestral to Homo and Ardpithecus to the Chimpanzee. In that light then one has to face the likelihood that Australopithecus is closer related to the chimp than the human branch- it, like the chimp, descends from Ardpithecus.

This would imply that the chimps are descended from bipedal apes who then reverted to an arboreal lifestyle and LOST bipedalism.

In other words, Sahelanthropus was a bipedal ape, but probably still fully hairy, perhaps an early aquatic ape. The Orrorin/Homo line went through a fully aquatic ape, whereas the Ardpithecus/Australopithecus/chimp branch reverted to the trees.

Just an idea. But one I have been mulling over for a while since the Sahelanthropus fossils emerged.

Anonymous said...

It also explains why fish and omega 3 based food is so much better for us than meat. It's better for us physically and seems to power the brain better.