My response to Elaine Morgan's response to me
Are we confused yet?
While surfing a while ago I came across a response Elaine Morgan had made to my site.
Although in this response she makes some demands of me, she seems to have chosen not to actually let me know about them, but simply to post them on one of her supporters' web sites.
(Maybe she didn't really want me to do what she insisted I do. But then that would make her demands just a grandstanding rhetorical device. Oh well...)
Let me make it plain that although I critique Morgan and other AAT/H proponents here, I am not insisting they provide me with info or otherwise oblige me; I just wish they'd do even the minimum research required of any theory.
Since I found (not really to my surprise anymore) that much of Elaine's response was, sadly, error-laden, I've reprinted it here with my clarifications and corrections.
I kept their color-formatting, which had material from my site in green, and Elaine's responses in blue; my added corrections, etc. are in black.
Aquatic Ape Theory: Sink or Swim?
Instead I've begun an ongoing response of pointing out errors of fact,
errors in theoretical understanding (which, though critically important, is
more problematic because a lot of people seem to think this is waffling),
and urging the theory's proponents to respond to valid objections to their
There are a number of claims made by AAT proponents, and tracking own the source material which supposedly supports these claims is not always easy.
In a dramatic departure from the way science is supposed to work, references for specific AAT claims are not always available; many times the author(s) involved simply make a claim without any reference to a source of evidence for the claim.
For instance, during the period I put together most of the evidence for this site, chief AAT theorizer Elaine Morgan was posting regularly in the sci.anthropology.paleo newsgroup, and claimed to be willing to supply references for her written AAT claims, but she proved to be reluctant to provide these references to people who have a past history of actually reading the source and reporting back what it really says.
Others -- who didn't engage in this sort of "anti-social" behaviour -- reported they have no problem getting references from Morgan.
I supplied every single reference which Jim asked for to the best of my ability.
Perhaps instead of this blanket claim he would like to specify which one(s) he is still looking for and in what words I expressed my "reluctance" to comply?
Only one request of his I failed to comply with.
He instructed me to compile a list of every quotation I had ever used in any book or paper, and give details of the references including page numbers.
I thought that was a bit much.
I did, after repeated requests, and many weeks of waiting, get a ref for one of two specific statements I had asked about, and Elaine posted the other after one of her supporters asked for it (she ignored my repeated requests for it). Both of those refs proved to not support her statements (they're detailed on this site, re seal sweat and re aldosterone and head-out immersion).
That last Elaine refers to was a request for "any and all" references, and I specifically said that any, any at all of her references for the statements in her books would be appreciated.
This is a common and valid use of the English language, and means that I'll take any I can get, and that I'd love as many of them as possible (I do find it odd that having to explain this to an Oxford English graduate).
The more curious or enterprising amongst you may wish to read further about some of these features, and you'll find that easy to do by simply going to a library and picking up one of the books or journals I mention.
If you try to do the same with most pro-AAT accounts, you'll find one of several problems: they often don't give a reference for a statement or quote at all when they do the reference is often incomplete (just a name with no clue as to what publication or year the info is supposedly from; sometimes a wrong name).
As Jim is too modest to mention, I took this criticism on board and in my last two books he would be hard put to it to find any quote that was not fully referenced.
Here again Morgan is either deliberately misleading or just not understanding -- after years of people explaining this to her -- what is minimally expected from works intended to build a scientific hypothesis.
References are needed as support for statements (accurate refs that actually support the statement), not just quotes (although for quotes it is expected you'll provide page numbers as well so they can be checked for accuracy).
In one manner or another, Morgan falls down on this in all of her books, although, as I've already said here on my site, she has done more of this in her last book than she had before.
This, however, includes references that don't actually support what she's saying.
For instance, it took some hunting to find the source for a quote when the quote supposedly came from a "famous authority during a television programme" (it was actually a 1929 book by Prof. Frederick Wood Jones).
I took the quote from Desmond Morris.
He didn't remember where he got it from and thought it might have been the Brains Trust.
I later found the source in the 1929 book and included that information in a later publication which Jim has not read.
Or else he has read it but prefers you to think he found it unaided and that I will be chagrined to see it unearthed.
Why would I be trying to hide it?
Jones said exactly what I said he said.
Jim started out with the conviction that I was making up quotations off the top of my head.
I simply pointed out that you were wildly inaccurate and it made finding the reference incredibly difficult.
I thought you'd just made up the TV reference; now you say Desmond Morris just made up the TV reference.
Seems odd to me that Morris, who was after all in the TV business in London at that time, would remember this so inaccurately (yet verbatim) or that he would remember it verbatim for his book when the show had been off the air for years at that time.
(Or for that matter, that Prof. Wood Jones could appear on a TV show that didn't start till a year after he'd died.) The point is that when you use a quote, you should ideally give the source, but if you don't know the source, you should not give the source anyway, because let's face it, how accurate is that likely to be?
Not giving the source is the approach Morris took when he quoted Wood Jones in his book.
If indeed Morris gave Morgan the erroneous info about Wood Jones' after-death "TV appearance", she really should've checked it out or simply not reported hearsay as fact.
p.s. I certainly never gave the impression that I ever had the conviction that Elaine was making up the quotation, just the source.
She does have an ongoing history, however, of altering quotations to suit her needs, as documented elsewhere on this site.
So I guess I'd say my qualifications for this work are 1) a knack for library detective work, 2) an ability to learn basic scientific precepts (anyone should be able to do this one), and 3) being just a little bit nutty, cause those examples I just gave show you've got to be a little crazy to do it.
EM: You didn't actually give the examples Jim.
You didn't pin down the errors.
A short list of those would be more convincing than the harrowing tale of what you went through looking for them.
Elaine seems to be up to the sort of selective reading she uses in books like Denton's The Hunger for Salt, and Frey and Langseth's Crying: The Mystery of Tears (as described on this site).
In this case she seems to have completely skipped virtually every page of my site.
But of course it certainly can't be described as a short list.
As a note, let me state that I am not the Jim Moore who is a primatologist at UCSD, nor am I the Jim Moore who wrote and co wrote several books on Darwin, nor the Jim Moore who's an anthropologist at CUNY.
Although I'm not them, from what I've seen of their work, I wouldn't be insulted to be mistaken for any of them.
I hope they feel the same.
I've only heard from the primatologist at UCSD, and he seems to like it.
He says of my site: "For a thorough and entertaining discussion of the theory that we went through an aquatic phase prior to Australopithecus, this is THE place to go.
Erudite, witty, and insightful".
Good enough for me.
In surfing while rewriting and adding to this site, I've noticed several AAT boosters make the rather odd criticism that my previous site was old, as if that somehow made the facts therein wrong.
Although many of the facts posted on this site were first posted on my old site in 1995, they are still valid.
The facts have not changed.
The diving reflex has been present in terrestrial mammals for centuries, it was in 1995, and it still is, despite the AAT claim to the contrary. Salt hunger has been present in humans for centuries, it was in 1995, and it still is, despite the AAT claim to the contrary.
The infant swimming response has been present in terrestrial mammals for centuries, it was in 1995, and it still is, despite the AAT claim to the contrary.
Hymens have been present in terrestrial mammals for centuries, they were in 1995, and they still are, despite the AAT claim to the contrary.
What you don't point out is
a) that in every one of those examples, as evidence came to light that the sources I was using in 1972 were proved to be mistaken, I specifically amended them in subsequent publications, and drew attention to the fact that the previous statement was out of date.
In every single case.
b) many of them were based on data given in papers by hard-nosed scientists and believed by them to be right at the time.
c) There is no scientist in this field whose work could not be shown in the same way to be suspect.
In 1972 several of them believed our ancestors had lived on the savannah for twenty million years and been separate from the apes all that time.
Jim could do us a great service by pointing out that they were wrong.
What they wrote then has not changed.
The facts have not changed.
So they must have been lying...?
Sadly, this is not true.
First. these weren't, as she intimates here, just said in her first book; she has repeated many of them up to and including her latest (1997) book.
In some cases the actual, contrary, facts had been known for many years before she began writing, for instance, the facts about the diving reflex and the infant mammal "swimming" response were known for decades (!) before Hardy said his first words about the AAT/H (using bogus info about the diving reflex as support).
Some of Morgan's claims are actually contradicted by the facts in the very sources she claimed as support for them (salt hunger and its implications for our ancestral environment, for instance).
As I pointed out in my critique of Morgan's 1997 book, not only hasn't she dropped some of her bogus claims, she has repeated them there.
As only a few examples, a quick browse through that section alone shows these problems on the subjects of hymens, swimming babies, fat vs. fur as an insulator, her strawman bogus savannah characterization, and of course her statements that sebum waterproofs human skin (it can't) and has no known purpose in humans (it's a scent producer -- pheromones, you know).
There's info on each of these on this site (along with a lot more, of course).
There was a conference on the subject in 1987 with both pro and con participants, and a book from that, The Aquatic Ape: Fact or Fiction?, shows the relative strengths of their positions.
Although I'm sure any AATer would disagree, the pro-AAT articles in that book are distinctly amateurish compared to the ones which don't support the AAT.
It's a good book to take out and read sometime if you can find it, as it does cover the basic arguments and has some good arguments to the contrary.
I would recommend it.
I persuaded my publisher to print it.
It is quite true that the style of the opponents is more professional.
The opponents were professionals.
A) non-professionals can (and need to) do professional-quality work (see my mention of Alan Mootnick as an example of a non-professional who does); and
B) professionals can (but shouldn't) do non-professional-quality work (many of the pro-AAT/H contributors in that book are University-level professionals in scientific fields.
They just didn't do the work professionally).
Morgan is correct in admitting that the work of those opposed to the AAT/H was more professional.
P.S. One thing I found from posting on this subject in sci.anthropology.paleo is that Elaine Morgan
a) doesn't like it when you imply she is the primary proponent of this theory (she is certainly the best known and widest read)
b) doesn't like it when you mention any claims made by AAT proponents other than her.
a) I do (or did) get tired of reading that the idea "had been dreamed up by a Welsh TV-writer housewife" (guilty on all counts) rather than by an Oxford professor and Fellow of the Royal Society.
and b) What gave you that idea?
A) I have always said (many times, in fact) I don't care who says what, just that what they say is backed up by facts. Your work so far has not qualified.
B) What gave me that idea?
It was one of the many invective-ladened newsgroup posts you aimed at those who pointed out your errors for you.
It may have been the one when I mentioned others' AAT/H claims and you said I was "just smearing like the worst kinds of politicians"; or the one where you said I was a "Joe McCarthy"; or it may have been the one where you said that my reporting these errors of facts (yours and others'), with refs to back it up, was just "all trumped-up imaginary statements made up out of your head.
You really are a shocker."
Or maybe it was all of these, and others.
Plus, you did it again in this very response.
It's in your reaction to my response to the issue of sweat as a salt-regulatory system (you'll come to it as you continue down this page).
Another major problems with doing a good AAT critique is that the AAT's proponents generally insist that one accept the AAT view of what physiological changes did happen and which are relevant.
So they only look at some, ignoring others.
What's this "insist"?
Everybody gives his own view of what is relevant.
And Jim would like you look at the others, ignoring the some.
I'm examining the things that AAT/H proponents say are relevant, like your books and your pamphlet's list.
I'm trying to cover them all but it is time-consuming; AAT/H proponents put out an enormous number of statements, and since they do so without properly examining the evidence, they can really churn it out.
All those I've covered so far have shown the pro-AAT/H view to be in error.
An example is the assertion, echoed by almost all AAT versions, that
paleoanthropologists claim that early hominids lived on "the arid savannah", which AATers typically -- and inaccurately -- characterize as a waterless, treeless plain.
The AAT is then said to be the only sensible theory, since early hominids were probably not well adapted for surviving on a treeless, waterless arid grassland. But paleoanthropologists don't make this claim; they actually refer -- quite clearly -- to an early hominid habitat consisting of mixed vegetation: trees, bushes, and grass.
Although online Elaine Morgan has derided this correct version as some new idea -- a sort of last ditch desperate act by weaselly scientists to try to keep hominid evolution on land -- this is the definition of savannah which has been used for about a century.
But whenever it was used to explain a distinctive human feature it was usually attributed to the cruel heat of the overhead sun.
Only when they were out on the grass they were evolving?
Your statement above is yet another strawman version of what paleoanthropologists say; you seem incapable of even seeing the word savannah without building your strawman.
It is a complete reflex action for you now, isn't it?
The AAT theorists have also gone for that classic technique among marginal theories, the shifting target.
In explaining (excusing?) this shifting target strategy, AATers simply say their theory is adjusting to new evidence, as any scientific theory should.
However, actions speak louder than words, and when we examine AATers' actions,
Dear Jim, All we have to go on are one another's words..
For a writer, words are action, Elaine.
Haven't you yet picked up on that in nearly 50 years of professional writing?
As one example, with the change in the AAT mentioned above (i.e., a less aquatic wading ape), the AAT claim that these hominids would not and could not evolve bipedal posture and locomotion without being in neck-deep water falls by the wayside... and yet they still use that claim.
I never said neck deep.
Alister never said neck deep.
Marc never said neck deep.
Could we have a reference please? With page-numbers?
As just one example, you said it on page 47 of The Scars of Evolution.
This is only one of the many times you and others -- including Hardy, as reprinted in your 1982 book, The Aquatic Ape (pages 140 and 143) -- have stated that these proto-hominids were in up to their necks, sometimes even using the phrase "head-out immersion"; the AAT/H accounts also have typically stated that wading was necessary for an early hominid to maintain upright posture, which wouldn't be the case unless they were in way over their waists.
In the case of a shallow-water wading animal, this just doesn't work, yet it's still done.
This deep-water wading has also always been the necessary crux of the AAT/H's explanation of why we have hair on the tops of our heads (they ignore the large amounts of body hair many modern humans have).
When scientists have facts pointed out to them which prove their line of
evidence is wrong, they drop that line of evidence.
AAT proponents rarely do, and even when they do, others continue to use it.
Sometimes the very same person who says they've dropped it continues to use it (example below).
From: Elaine Morgan in sci.anthropology.paleo on 13 Jul 1995: "In The Scars of Evolution you will seek in vain for a mention of hair tracts or swimming babies or the direction of the nostrils.
New evidence for AAT comes in faster than anything I have to keep in abeyance pending
Note: All these things, however, were stated in 1982's The Aquatic Ape
(although Morgan had also falsely claimed her inaccurate statements about the evolution of the nose only appeared in her 1972 book).
My suggestion about the function of the "roof" over the nose was not a statement of fact but a hypothesis.
"Hypothesis" does not mean "wild guess with no supporting evidence whatsoever", which is the only accurate description of your nose and nostrils claim.
From: Elaine Morgan in sci.anthropology.paleo on 19 Jun 1995: "The nose - yes, I did once make the mistaken assumption that the nasal spine was in evidence prior to H. erectus."
I was not retracting the hypothesis.
I was saying that I was mistaken in thinking the nasal spine predated H.Erectus.., It does not necessarily mean that the nostrils themselves did not already point downwards at that date.
So you're saying that you were only dropping your nasal spine claim (which was well-known to be untrue for several decades before you first made it), and that the rest of your statement at that time was simply a piece of trivia that wasn't meant to be a response to the posts you were responding to?
Odd, to say the least; and the context of your post then clearly tells a different story.
We just don't know, if this evidence has been dropped, why do I bother documenting its inaccuracy here?
There are several reasons:
Although some of these ideas are dropped by one AATer, other AATers continue to use them.
For instance, while Elaine Morgan says she dropped the "swimming babies evidence" after her 1982 book, Marc Verhaegen has continued to use it (without noting that it is a response common to all infant terrestrial mammals tested).
Even though an AATer may say they've dropped an idea, the same person may actually continue to use it.
For instance, in the sci.anthropology.paleo newsgroup post quoted above (from 13 July 95) Elaine Morgan says she dropped the "evidence" about the direction of the nostrils after her 1982 book, but she subsequently began using it again online -- starting 14 July 95: the following day(!).
I didn't say I had dropped the swimming babies evidence.
I said I did not deal with it in "Scars."
So it was another of those non-responsive trivia tidbits again?
But it was bogus the first time it was mentioned; the evidence that it was bogus was well known since the study and paper on it in the late 1930's.
The only way to "deal with it" in the first place would be to either not use it or admit that it provides no support at all for your hypothesis.
My apologies for saying that you had at least at one time come to your senses and accepted the facts which had been known, at that time, for some 45 years.
I accept your present statement that you had never accepted this reality at all.
By the way, the first part of what they've quoted me as saying up there ("We just don't know,") not only isn't mine, it didn't come from any part of my site.
Why they added that is beyond me, but let me say again that when quoting, you're not supposed to just make up words and put them in others' mouths.
But then, Morgan has won awards for writing TV docudramas, which specialize in doing just that.
She's also using that info, as well as the salt, sweat, and tears info she said she'd dropped, in her latest book.
"Using" the salt sweat and tears info?
You mean "Using it" to point out that my original hypothesis didn't hold up and why?
How very obstinate of me.
When all you wanted me to say was "I lied in my teeth with the object of misleading everybody especially Jim Moore."
Have you actually read that last book?
I hope your readers will.
What you are primarily using it for now is to claim that you are a competent, honest researcher who was simply misled by the info available at that time.
However, at the time you originally made your tears, sweat, and salt claims, the evidence that showed it to be false was available.
In fact, it was in the very sources you used as "support".
So you held in your hands the evidence that showed your views were wildly in error, yet you made them anyway.
Now you attempt to mislead people as to the gross seriousness of your action, since it can't really be said to be an error: it was either gross incompetence or deliberate dishonesty.
Relevant Questions for the Aquatic Ape Theory
These are five real aquatic traits, traits shared by virtually all aquatic
mammals, even those which are not closely related.
Why don't humans exhibit these actual aquatic adaptations?
You're a bit out of date on this.
It is now called "Homoplasy" which is perhaps why you couldn't find much recent gen on it.
Answer to all five:
Because (a) they are primates.
Evolution (and homoplasy) has to start with where you come from, not where you would like to go.
And (b) we were not in the water nearly as long as most of the aquatics.
Think sea otter, not dolphin.
The sea otter is one of the aquatic mammals with the traits my list refers to.
These aquatic traits, as I clearly pointed out, vary between those creatures and their terrestrial cousins.
In none of these ubiquitous aquatic features do humans vary from our cousins.
In addition, the AAT/H claims changes that are far more radical than any of these; why was there not time for these actual ubiquitous aquatic traits when there was time for more radical changes?
I'm familiar with the term homoplasy; it's hardly new ("The term ‘homoplasy’, introduced by Lankester in 1870..." Alec L. Panchen, "Homology-history of a concept"). Homoplasy is simply a category which includes parallel evolution and convergent evolution.
Convergent evolution is what produces these actual aquatic traits, just as it is purported to produce the not-actual aquatic traits the AAT/H refers to.
Humans have young that are born less developed than our relatives, and they develop more slowly as well.
This process set in much later.
Look it up.
We actually don't know for sure when this happened, although it's likely it was part of the suite of changes seen during the transition from australopithecines to homo.
We do know that the marine mammal trait is both ubiquitous and radically different from their terrestrial relatives and from us and our primate relatives.
All marine mammals produce milk that is extremely rich in fat and protein, and very low in lactose (milk sugar).
It ranges from a low of 20-25% fat for sea otters to 30-60% for pinnipeds and whales; protein ranges from 5-15% or more; lactose is virtually non-existent.
By contrast, human milk and cow's milk are about 2-4% fat and 1-3% protein; lactose in the milk of terrestrial mammals is typically 3-5%.
The lactose content of human milk is as high as 6-8 percent.
Why are humans so unlike all marine mammals and so like terrestrial mammals?
Some of those seals feed their young for a matter of weeks only, in a very
We fed ours for years in a very hot one.
"Some of those seals" do indeed, while many others "of those seals" suckle their young for very long periods, even years, in hot climates, yet they all have that trait.
And it's not just seals, but all marine mammals: seals, whales, manatees...and yes, sea otters too.
All of them.
We, on the other hand, are radically different, and instead are very like those mammals' terrestrial relatives in the composition of our milk.
The pattern of these radical differences indicates that this is not due to relatedness but is instead a convergent trait (you may say "homoplasy" if you like) due to adaptation to either a marine environment (for those with milk high in fat and protein, and extremely low in lactose, unlike us) or a terrestrial environment (for those with milk low in fat and protein, and much higher in lactose, like us).
One AAT claim is that we evolved in saltwater and therefore adapted in the same manner as aquatic animals, with convergent evolution supposedly evolving a salt excretion system like that seen in sea birds and crocodiles (and many terrestrial reptiles and birds).
Claim "is?" Present tense?
Would you oblige me with a signed statement to the effect that "I Jim Moore have read the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis? and not just caught sight of the book jacket in a shop window?"
If so you could have fooled me.
There it is again, that incensed tone as you make the assumption that I must always be referring to you when I mention AAT/H claims.
Didn't you just wonder where I got the idea you did that?
We've already seen your propensity to begin using again lines of evidence you say you've dropped (sorry: kept "in abeyance pending further facts"); there is also the fact that your previous work, both your books, your articles, and things like your leaflet, continue to be seen and therefore misinform people anew, who, unaware they have been misled, parrot your words.
I am countering those continuing claims.
And if I really did do that detailed critique of your book, reciting chapter and verse, after just catching sight of the book jacket in a shop window (shop window? who's dreaming now?), I think James Randi owes me some money!
Forgive me, I am tired of this.
I've just fast-forwarded and see it goes on
for much longer than I can stay awake, I am, as Jim vividly points out, a very aged wrinkly decrepit old soul with a Fred Flintstone tablet to carve out my answers on.
The chisel is getting too heavy for my bony crooked fingers.
I have always intimated both that you used a computer and were far from decrepit, and I have treated with you in that spirit; it has been your supporters who've said you post to the net with a manual typewriter and that you're too far gone to handle the correction of your many mistakes.
Only one thing never changes.
Jim supplies a million reasons why what I think is wrong.
He never has and never will stick his neck out to tell us how he would explain a blind thing about human evolution.
With a quarter of the time and work he has put in he could surely have come up with a theory that would knock Hardy's into a cocked hat.
What a waste of years and intelligence.
There are many people writing about human evolution, providing a lot of fascinating and accurate theory-building. I am simply taking one theory, and pointing out its abundance of errors. I can certainly understand why you would prefer I didn't, but my correcting the errors introduced by the theory's authors hardly seems a waste -- indeed, this is an essential part of science.
It's the keystone on which science builds.
Spending 30 plus years spouting the same disproven false "facts", on the other hand, does seem a waste, but only if one thinks the theorizer was capable of more than that.
p.s. I would have thought a million reasons was enough to sink in. Seems not.