Reply to Elaine Morgan

Phil Nicholls (
3 Jan 1995 04:05:18 GMT

In article <> (Elaine Morgan) writes:

Hi Phil
>> You wrote: Morgan has followed the traditional path
>> of popscience and pseudoscience in that she is
>> presenting her theory only to a mass audience.
>> Pop science ignores those with expertise in the
>> area and tries to make its appeal to the public
>> at large..Pop scientists only present their arguments
>> to the masses.

> Oh honestly! This is Catch 22. Papers submitted to
> established scientific journals are vetted by believers
> in the conventional scientific wisdom and if critical
> of that view they are rejected. What you are saying is
> "These ideas are unacceptable and the proof of that is
> that we have not accepted them."

Hi Elaine,

No. What I am saying is that information in science is
communicated primarily through journals. If you want the
aquatic ape theory to be taken seriously you or someone will
have to enter that forum, present your evidence and deal with
the peer review.

You claim that the views critical of the conventional
scientific wisdom are rejected. Surely you are aware that
Raymond Dart published his original 1925 article on the Taung
skull in _Nature_. Certainly you are aware of the fact that
such radical ideas as continental drift and the Cretaceous
meteor impact theory originally appeared as articles in
scientific journals.

Have you submitted any papers to such journals and had them
rejected? Have you submitted abstracts to the meetings of
various scientific societies and had those abstracts rejected?
If not, then how can you claim to be a victum of bias?

> I understand and endorse the need for peer review (even at the
> cost of inconvenience and frustration to outsiders) so I'm
> left with two options: either consent to be silenced
> altogether or look for a commercial outlet.

Or, write an article based on the arguments from your books and
submit it to a journal. If it gets rejected, try another
one. That's what everyone else does.

Or, write an abstract and prepare a 15-20 minute presentation
of your theory and submit it to the American Society of
Primatologists or some other group to be presented at their
yearly meeting. I bet you could dash off an abstract in an
hour or two.

> If my books were "scholarly" in the Nicholls sense, loaded to
> the Plimsoll line with footnotes and a 20-page bibliography,
> no publisher would look at them. So yes, "The Scars of
> Evolution" and my new book "The Descent of the Child" were
> addressed to the public at large.

Sarah Hrdy's _The Woman Who Never Evolved_ included 42 pages
of endnotes, was aimed at a general audience and is published
by Harvard University Press. My advisor, Dean Falk, wrote
_Braindance_ for a general audience. It includes some 22
pages of notes and references and is published by Henry Hold
and Company. _Scars of Evolution_, I note, is published by
Oxford University Press. Certainly when you refer to the work
of Sibly and Alquist you could do them the courtesy of
including them in your bibliography. You might also have
mentioned that their methodology and conclusions have been the
subject of criticism in the last few years.

> But God knows I have never "tried to ignore those
> with expertise in the area." For over twenty years I have
> built me a willow cabin at their gate and grabbed at every
> opportunity of meeting, listening to, talking to, inter-
> acting with them, as well as assiduously reading what they
> write. Recently the gate has opened a crack. I have been
> invited to speak at seminars at Oxford, London and other
> universities, and been well received. Only America is still
> run by the diehards.

Dr.Gordon Gallup who has done some important research in the
recognition of self in chimpanzees, teaches a class called _Evolutionary
Psychology_. He has mentioned your ideas somewhat favorably
(if a bit too uncritically in my opinion) in that class. I
suggest you write to him (c/o Deparment of Psychology,
University at Albany, Albany, NY 12222) and I am sure he would
be thrilled to have you speak to his class.

> If you really think I'm afraid to debate this
> subject with anyone but "the masses", why not try wangling
> me an invitation to Albany? ..Harvard? ..Yale? That ought
> to call my bluff. (Or theirs.)

Well, aside from my suggestion of contacting Gordon Gallup I
am afraid I can't do much more than offer to debate you myself
right here on sci.anthropology.paleo. I'm afraid I am but a
graduate student and would be unable to issue invitations.
You seem to be getting the hang of using the software.

By the way, you might be interested to know that the talapoin
monkey (Miopithecus talapoin) is a good swimmer and is
reported to leap into the water when frightened. For more
information, please review

Gautier-Hion, A. (1973) Social and ecological features of
talapoin monkeys -- comparisons with sympatric cercopithecines.
IN Comparatiave Ecology and Behavior of Primates, R.P. Michael
and J.H. Crook, eds, pp.147-170. New York: Academic Press.

If your French is good, try:

Gautier-Hion, A. (1970) L'organization sociale d'une bande de
talapons dan le Nord-Est du Gabon. Folia Primatologica

Philip "Chris" Nicholls Department of Anthropology
Institute for Hydrohominoid Studies SUNY Albany
University of Ediacara
"Semper Alouatta"