AAT/biped replies

Elaine Morgan (Elaine@desco.demon.co.uk)
Mon, 24 Apr 1995 09:22:08 +0000

The bipedalism thread seems to have got deleted - these answers are
from memory.

First to all critics of my "ranting and raving" paper some time ago:
OK, point taken. apologies, promises not to do it again etc.

To the guy who said I should write a book on astronomy and make a lot
of money out of it: I don't think the parallel between astrology and
anthropology is a very close one. There are no astronomers refusing to
give serious consideration to a well-argued hypothesis on the grounds
that it's not needed becuse they have too many answers already.
And what';s this recurrent theme about money? Message to anyone who
imagines I have some kind of fat-cat life style: If you're ever
visiting the Welsh (ex-) mining valleys let us know. You can drop in at
number 24 for a cup of tea and revise your opnion

Answers to pnich:

You ask why quadrupedalism would still be a n easier option for a
climber coming to ground. Because it had evolved to be a climber.(Not a
leap-and-cling merchant like the indris or the intermembral index would
be different) As a climber its feet wouldn't be flat, its knees
wouldn't lock, its pelvis would be all wrong, its spine would still be
cantilevered, its head would be stuck on at the wrong angle instead of
balancing on top of its head. You quote Rodman and McHenry to the
effect that bipedal ape walking consumes no more \(and no less) energy
than quadrupedal ape walking. On the other hand, bipedal ape standing
comsumes more energy than quadrupedal ape standing. Bipedal ape running
consumes a great deal more energy than quadrupedal ape running and it
is also much slower. That last fact alone could mean the difference
between life and death on the savannah.

Wheeler. I heard him say it in a lecture at Sheffield. Precisely what
he said was that 0.7 litres of water a day would replace a day's water
loss "if it (the hominid) retreated into the shade for a four-hour
period in the afternoon." Of course perhaps it would be able to
consume more than 0.7 litres
per day. If you ask me it could consume all the water it needed or
wanted because it lived by the lake, or the river.

Right. so Wheeler now concedes that bp didn't evolve on the savannah
but on the forest edge, the interface. All you are now asked to believe
is that this ape, with its brain allegedly hypersensitive to
overheating, took its first lessons in bipedalsim by choosing to go out
and stand up in the midday sun, presumably only retreating to the shade
of the trees when the heat was off. Now why would it do that?
You keep saying that Wheeler's hypothesis was tested. It was tested
with an inanimate model not a living animal. Forgive me if I think
that you cannot extrapolate like that

Adrienne Zihlman.

She wrote "The Wading Ape" in Oceans in May 1980. I asked for space to
reply, Answer: sorry, can't be done.
She wrote "The leakey Logic of the Aquatic Ape" in the BBC Wildlife
mafagzine in April 1986, refuting AAT. And that was strange because how
were her readers to know what she was refuting? At that time the BBC
had never by word or deed led its viewers, or its radio listeners, or
its magazine readers to suspect that such an idea as AAT even
existed. Total taboo (broken for the first time recently by Desmond
Morris after a fierce tussle with the top brass.) So it seemed a bit
one-sided and I asked for space to reply. Answer: sorry, can't be done.

Zihlman's motives, like pnich's are entirely honourable. She wants to
warn and protect people against what she sincerely belives is a
dangerous heresy. When she started the AAT case did have enough leaks
in it to look easily debunkable. I believe she is both intelligent and
fairminded , because though she still rejects it, as the case has got
stronger her critique has become less loftily dismissive.

"The Aquatic Ape: Fact or Fiction? "

No, this book is not out of print. It is obtainable from Souvenir Press,
43, Great Russell St.,London WC1B 3PA. Every university library should
have a copy. There is plenty of stuff in it you won't find anywhere
else. (For the record, I was instrumental in finding a publisher for it
after several had rejected it.) The editors' final summing-up comes
down on the side of a "fiction" verdict - not too heavily. But to my
mind the contest ended in a draw, even though they had infinitely
heavier academic artillery than we did and even though at that time the
savannah scenario was still alive and kicking.

Bipedalism: an extant model.
It is noteworthy that stationary bipedalism in feeding behaviour or in
sentinel behaviour has never led to locomotor bipedalism, nor has
diplay behaviour. But wading behaviour has. In my AAT video there are
shots of proboscis monkeys wading bipedally through water, followed by
shots of a group of proboscis monkeys walking bipedally on the forest
floor - not displaying , not carrying anything, not feeding, just
locomoting from one place to another in their own wild habitat but
doing it on two legs.

You said "Sceince is not a democracy and majority rule is not what
determines the value of a hypothesis " Thank God for that, or I'd have
been dead in the water twenty years ago.

You keep saying "We know that the hominids moved from the forest to the
savannah". You are being economical with the truth there. You know the LCA
livbed in the forest. You know the hominids appeared, strangely
transformed, a couple of million years later. You do not, repeat not,
know where they spent the interim. And you cannot prove that they were
not "on the savannah" in exactly the same sense as the hippoptamus is
on the savannah.

You said I "don't like the verdict" I am getting from the scientific
community. Please try to believe that I am very happy abpout the way
things are going. I could easily cite between a dozen and a score of
cordial, even blushmaking, responses from reputable journals and
academics. I won't do it on the Net. I would get flamed for being
big-headed or hyping the books or something. But I could send it to you
under plain cover if you doubt it.

"It is lighter than you think"
(James Thurber)
Elaine Morgan