The Aquatic Ape

Brian Ruckley has been recommending the TED Talks page – this is an amazing organisation which allows experts, amateur and professional, in almost every field to have their say about pet ideas, in front of an audience of academics, celebrities and ‘real people’. 

I was particularly struck by this talk by one of my all time heroes, Elaine Morgan.  Morgan is one of the finest writers ever to script dramas for BBC Television; and she is also an avid proponent of the much mocked and discredited Aquatic Ape theory.  This hypothesis attempts to explain why humans, uniquely among the apes, have streamlined bodies, no fur, and, fat beneath our skins.  The suggestion is that for a period in human evolution, we were semi-aquatic – like dolphins, who are land animals who then made a life in the sea.  Except in the case of humans, we left the sea again and returned to the jungle – as naked, talking and, er, fat hominids. 

That’s a pretty crude summary of the theory – Morgan’s books and website explain it all in more detail. (I read The Descent of Woman many years go, and its ideas have always stayed with me.)  But the substance of her talk is an attack on the blinkeredness of modern science, which refuses to take the hypothesis seriously, even though there ISN’T a better theory available. 

Morgan is in her 80s now – and she’s sharp as a tack, adorable, and witty too.

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