AAH as pseudoscience

Phil Nicholls (pn8886@csc.albany.edu)
30 Dec 1994 14:36:07 GMT

> In article <AB270B12CB034197@mangbx1.brl.mil>
> Troy Kelley <tkelley@hel4.brl.mil> writes:
>>In article <3drq3e$c81@rebecca.albany.edu> Phil Nicholls,
>>pn8886@csc.albany.edu writes:

>>The anthropological community does not discuss the theory more because
>>it is one of the many "pop-science" verging of pseudoscience "theories"

> As a psychologist I know all about "pop-science". AAT is not
> "pop-science". Here's how I would characterize "pop-science",
> especially in the field of psychology. Pop-science is ususally
> characterized by people, or non-scientists, putting forth
> theories that have no formal training in the field of
> psychology.

> AAT was first proposed by a scientist, albeit not an
> anthropologist, but nevertheless he was a respected scientist
> (biologist) with formal training in science. Ususally in
> psychology people will write books about psychology, without a
> background in psychology.

True enough. However, Hardy did not defend his proposal and
it has since been almost the exclusive property of Elaine
Morgan, who is NOT a scientist, at least by training. Now I
don't think that excludes anyone from making a contribution to
science. However, Morgan has followed the traditional path of
pop-science and pseudoscience in that she is presenting her
theory only to a mass audience.

I was told that her third book, _Scars of Evolution_, was more
scholarly. It is not. While _The Aquatic Ape_ contained
almost no references, _Scars of Evolution_ contains a few.
However, much of the information she uses to make her
arguments is still not referenced. The concluding chapter in
which she entitled "Aquatic Ape Theory-The Counterarguments"
does not address any of the counterarguments. Instead she
gives us a history of how "orthodox" science ignored hardy and
yet another account of diving women. Though the book was
published in 1990 she makes only one reference to the
conference you mention below that produced _Aquatic Ape: Fact
or Fiction_ and this only concerns a single article about fat.

Pop-science ignores those with expertise in the area and tries
to make its appeal to the public at large.

> Other "pop-science" occurences in psychology are usually in
> the form of new complexes. "Peter Pan" complex, "Nepolean"
> complex, "Cinderalla" complex. Nothing wrong with this.
> Everyone is intitled to an opinion. Even "respected"
> psychologists can come up with some crazy theories (i.e.
> Freud). Either these theories make it into mainstream
> psychology, or they don't.

As I stated above, the difference is where you make your
arguments and to whom.

> But really "pop-science" means "popular science" or science
> that has been made available to the masses. I see nothing
> wrong with this. Stephen Hawkins and Carl Sagan both have made
> a career out of bringing simplified science to the masses.

Pop science makes its case almost exclusively to a mass
audience. Hawking and Sagan have numerous publications in
_Science_, _Nature_ and more specialized scientific journals.
They have presented their ideas to the scientific community
for review and critique. Pop science authors only present
their arguments to the masses.

> 1) AAT is not popular. Very few people, especially average
> non-scientific people, have ever heard of it.

But it is defended almost exclusively by those without
expertise in anthropology or evolutionary biology.

> 2) I suggest everyone pick up "Aquatic Ape: Fact or Fiction"
> which is essentially a conference proceeding publication by
> SCIENTISTS who discuss the pro's and the con's of AAT. You
> would not find a conference of psychologists discussing the
> "Peter Pan" complex, at least I have not heard of any.

In 1978, Carl Sagan organized a symposium at the yearly
meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of
Science inviting Immanuel Velikovsky and his supporters to
come and make their case.

In 1982 Creationists were invited to an AAAS symposium to do

Both meetings were organized and attended my scientists with
the overt purpose of presenting a forum for debating ideas
that had avoided such debates. I understand that the the
meting to which you refer was another example of this. It is
also my understanding that the vast majority of articles were

The point is that most pop-science/pseudoscience is ignored
until it reaches a point in the public mind that some feel a
response is in order. That is what happened with the AAH.

The AAH proceeds from an erroneous assumption: that the
differences between humans and modern great apes are should
best be explained as a result of a single adaptation. It
implies that apes have "evolved less" than humans, despite the
fact that Morgan takes to ask such "evolutionary scales" in
her book. Off all the features cited in her books, the only
one that we know was established by 4 million years ago is
bipedalism. Given the fact that Australopithecines retain an
ape-like brain, why should we assume that they had less body
hair than the common ancestor or more subcutaneous fat?

We know the diving reflex is a bogus argument.
We know that her sweat glands argument is bogus.
We know that the nose argument is bogus.

We know that fat, hair and bipedalism can be explained without
recourse to an aquatic existence.

In short, as I said before, there is no evidence to support
the AAH.

Philip "Chris" Nicholls Department of Anthropology
Institute for Hydrohominoid Studies SUNY Albany
University of Ediacara pn8886@cnsunix.albany.edu
"Semper Alouatta"