Re: AAT Theory

Mike Reid (
5 Sep 1995 21:46:02 GMT (J. Moore) wrote:
> Mike Reid <> writes:
> MR> Why is there such vehemence against the Aquatic Ape Theory?
> MR> It's true that it's far out and lacks strong fossil evidence to
> MR> support it, but that does not mean that it's wrong!
> It doesn't lack "strong fossil evidence"; it lacks *any* fossil
> evidence. In fact, it has been specifically stated online by
> Elaine Morgan that she considers no fossil evidence, no matter
> what it is, can possibly ever disprove the AAT, which essentially
> means that to her fossil evidence is considered irrelevant.
> An odd attitude, certainly.
Did she actually ever say this?

> Now to get on with the several errors involved in accepting
> Morgan's view that she's the next Wegener...
> MR> In the early years
> MR> of this century, Wegner proposed the idea of continental drift based
> MR> solely on his observation that the Earth's continents, if rearranged,
> MR> could fit together like a jig-saw puzzle.
> His idea was not "based solely on his observation that the Earth's
> continents, if rearranged, could fit together like a jig-saw
> puzzle", which you would know if you read a little about the
> theory of continental drift. Besides the basic outlines of

In the course of my schooling as a geologist, I read a lot about
continental drift. Quite a lot. And yes, as another person pointed
out last week in a similar append, Wegner had other evidence as well.
I should not have used the word "solely." However, this does not
affect my point. Please see my Aug. 29th reply to his append.

> continents, there were geodetic measurements from Greenland
> showing apparent large-scale land movements, the patterns of late
> Paleozoic climate changes from fossil evidence, and the
> distribution of fossil and living flora and fauna. Wegener,
> unlike Morgan, certainly did not consider fossil evidence to
> be non-data.
> MR> This was purely
> MR> circumstantial evidence. Most Earth scientists of that time dismissed
> MR> his idea as foolish and far out. It was not until the 1960's when
> MR> seafloor spreading was discovered that Wegner's idea was born out.
> MR> Today, scarcely anyone doubts the truth of continental drift.
> There are two particularly interesting aspects of Morgan's
> use of Wegener's theory of continental drift to try to make her
> own position seem to be that of a misunderstood genius. One is
> that it contains a common logical flaw, one that I call the
> "Fulton's Folly Flaw", which arises when the "misunderstood"
> person cries: "They laughed at Fulton, and they laughed at me;
> therefore I am a great inventor!"
> The second is that Morgan could hardly have picked a worse theory
> to compare hers with. The AAT claims that hominids evolved from
> an hominoid ancestor through the mechanism of an extended period
> of aquatic living. Paleoanthropology has also always suggested
> that hominids evolved from an hominoid ancestor, but rejects the
> mechanism of an aquatic past (well, except for the aquatic past all
> life on earth shares). In other words, the theoretical difference
> isn't in *what happened* (hominids evolving from an hominoid
> ancestor), but in the *mechanism* for it.

Where and when did Elaine Morgan compare herself to Wegner and the
AAT to continental drift? If you are referring to certain writings
or statements by her that I am unaware of, please note them. If not,
please reread my append. In this thread, it was I who mentioned
Wegner and continental drift, not she. In my append, I made no
mention of her or of anyone else and I don€t think I said anything
that one could reasonably construe as a reference to her. I was not
comparing Elaine Morgan to Wegner. I was not comparing the AAT to
the theory of continental drift. I WAS comparing the vehemence of
the attacks on the AAT today with the vehemence of the attacks on
continental drift early in this century. And in that, I believe,
there is an analogy and a lesson.

> The problem for Morgan and the AAT here is that Wegener was correct
> only in the initial part of his claim -- the part about *what
> happened*. He was dead wrong, almost laughably so, about *the
> mechanism*. His mechanism, a combination of pole-fleeing force and
> the tidal attraction of the sun and moon, was far far less powerful
> than would be necessary, and Wegener admitted this himself in the
> 4th edition of his book.
> So the history of Wegener's exposition of the theory of continental
> drift is anything but a pallitive for supporters of the AAT. The
> problem with the AAT is not the *what happened* part; both the AAT
> and the rest of paleoanthropology agree that hominids evolved from
> a hominoid ancestor. The AAT is not offering a new idea there.
> The new idea the AAT offers is in the *mechanism* for this
> evolution, and it's in the mechanism that the AAT, like just
> Wegener's theory, falls flat.

Yes, major aspects of Wegner€s theory were completely wrong. But
part of it, and in my humble opinion the most important part of it,
was right. I refer, of course, to the notion that some now distant
continents were once united. Equally, just because some aspects of
the AAT are problematic does not mean that all of it is wrong! Many
of Wegner€s contemporaries erred in focusing so much on those aspects
of his theory which did not work while ignoring those aspects of it
which explained observable phenomena. There are peculiar
characteristics of human anatomy for which the AAT provides an
explanation: the subcutaneous fat layer, the fact that human
infants can swim, the ability to hold our breaths, etc.

> MR> Until
> MR> more fossil evidence is discovered, I doubt that it will be possible
> MR> to either prove or disprove the AAT. Until such time, why can't more
> MR> "mainstream" scientists at least view it as a plausible theory
> MR> worthy of respect, whether they agree with it or not?
> MR> Mike Reid
> As has been stated, "more fossil evidence" is considered irrelevant
> by AATers. As for viewing it as a theory worthy of respect, there
> are several people here in this newsgroup who have been doing just
> that for many months, including me. We've been providing evidence
> that contradicts it and asking the same sorts of questions the
> AATers ask of conventional paleoanthro, as well as the sorts of
> questions that must be answered by any theory of human origins.
> In return we get silence, obfuscation, and abuse.

There may be no fossil evidence to support the AAT, but there is also
no fossil evidence to refute it. If one day someone finds a
continuous succession of fossils of clearly land dwelling hominids
which fill the infamous late Miocene gap, then we could probably
safely but the AAT to bed. But, that has not happened yet. And until
such time, I think that it is folly to dismiss the AAT in its entirety
just because there are difficulties with some aspects of it. And
there IS evidence in support of the AAT. There are numerous aspects
of human anatomy which are consistent with an aquatic lifestyle and
don€t seem to make much sense for a savanna dwelling creature.
Granted, this evidence is not conclusive and its meaning is subject
to alternate interpretations. But, it is there.

> We start with a writer who refuses to give references for most of
> her claims, whose refs, the few times given, can rarely be tied to
> statements made in the text (unlike any standard practice), and
> which are generally devoid of page numbers -- all of this making
> it extremely time-consuming and difficult, and at times virtually
> impossible, to check their accuracy -- who alters quotes and cites
> people as being in support of claims their work contradicts, who
> claims she didn't write things she did in fact write. We go from
> there... does this sound like a "theory worthy of respect"?
> If it does to you, I ask you: Why does the AAT, alone amongst
> theories of hominid divergence, deserve this preferential treatment?
> Jim Moore (

Not having researched her writings, I can€t speak to this. However,
I fail to see how attacks on her, her methods, or upon other
AAT proponents (deserved or not) shed any light on the enigma of
subcutaneous fat layers, swimming human infants, etc. For me, the
interest is in a balanced (and polite) discussion of the theory itself
independent of its advocates and detractors.

Mike Reid