Elaine Morgan (Elaine@desco.demon.co.uk)
Thu, 20 Jul 1995 15:36:47 GMT

I hope I will be forgiven if I drop out of debates with other
correspondents and concentrate on this one. I will answer qeuries -
but not arguments - by e-mail.--

You got to the heart of the matter very early on. You said "The
differences strike some as enormous and others as minimal". That is bot
true and extraordinary, concerning the broad range of agreement over
the data. Without being too deconstructionist, it is worth asking where
these attitudes came from. The early Darwinists had to be minimisers
because they were challenging the creationists. They had to hammer home
the similarities - Look, this is the same, that is the same...

Then a generations of eminent anatomists moved on to tackle the next
valid question: "Given the close relationship, how do we differ?" They
were specialists like you, spent their lives in dissecting rooms. Their
mindset had to be if not to maximise at least to focus on the
differences. They hoped to find a consistent pattern in them, a
unifying theme. They failed. And their quest was felt to be a finite
one, as the mapping of human DNA will be. Their discipline did not
attract the ambitious young as the gateway to a great career. Their
bookds gathered dust on the shleves.

So the maximising tendency became very unfashionable. A typical title
wa Robert Foley's "Another Unique Species." combating the simple man's
solecism that every species is unique but ours is more unique than the
others. This attitude helped to entrench them in a habit of minimising
differences: "no, no, we are not really naked.." etc.

Max Westenhofer and Alister Hardy, quite late in the day, thought they
had found the unifying factor which the classical anatomists had sought
in vain. (For the record, Wood Jones thought he had found it long
before svannah theory or AAT. He thought the anomalies were all relics
of a very distant ancestor, showing we had broken away millions of
years ago. Sarich and Wilson et al have scuppered that but like anyone
with a bee in his bonnet it drove him to unearth nuggets of information
others had overlooked)

Forget for the moment whether MW and AH were right or wrong. They and
their followers mounted a last ditch stand against the minimisers, and
blew the dust off people like Wood Jones and Negus and Schieffendecker.
Whether we were right or wrong, I doubt if anyone would have dreamed of
doing research in the 8o's and 90's into the eccrine glands of
anthropoids if it hadn't been for us.

So where do we stand? You suspect my followers of maximising the
differences; I suspect yours of sweeping them under the carpet.There is
nothing there, given good will on both sides, which intrinsically
precludes arriving one day at a synthesis, at least concerning the data.

And we differ on the time scale. You woudn't deny the differences are
by now considerable.You would say they accumulated slowly by easy
stages. A bit of genetic drift (we'll get down to those building bricks
when I've had time to swot them up) the chance acquirement of behaviour
patterns like reaching up to pick fruit or chipping a flint, some
random mutation and a lot of feedback. Maybe millions of years between
each item

I would say with Hardy that possibly a whole clutch of them ,
particularly the ones that make least sense, were acquired (or the
potntial for them like speech was acquired) right at the beginning.
That would tend to suggest a more catastrophic environmental change
than the gradual minor shifts that would suffice for your scenario.

Both timescales are hypothetical and will probably remain so. I think I
discern a pattern that you cannot recognise. Lke those wizards, some
people can see it. In any case, I think it is healthy that each new
fact that emerges should be tested against both possibilities. When
there is only one scenario on the book, facts that fit it are acclaimed
and inflated and those that do not are quietly ignored.

How much of that would you agree with?