This? This is a bit of anything, if not absolutely everything. Human evolution, primatology, anthropology, biology, philosophy, art, and archaeology.
I'm (an occassional, usually expatriated) American, a traveller, a past and future grad student, a researcher, and a writer. Hobbies include coffee, procrastination, compartamentalizing, interneting, cooking at odd hours of the night, post-it & making messes.
I studied Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Bristol, UK and Human Evolutionary Studies at the University of Cambridge, UK.
(Yes, Elaine Morgan seems lovely and yes, I would love to sit next to her at a dinner. But Aquatic Ape Theory? No.)
Just - no.
Why no? Because of the following:
It’s an overly-complicated answer to series of not necessarily related phenomenon. It’s a house of cards. It’s a jimmy-rigged mess of pieces from different puzzles. It’s not cladistically “parsimonious” - which is how paleoanthropologists say “Occam’s Razor says no”.
But it’s “sexy” - especially to the interested lay-person just getting into paleoanthropology, because it’s fun and “out of the box” and one of those “paradigm shifting” things that you just really want to be true. But being cool isn’t enough to make it true. And it doesn’t seem to ever die.
The number of times I’ve been asked about this by people at parties. And the thing that their faces do when I bash it. And the slightly less interested in human evolution that they get. It’s just sad. People who should know better - physicists, chemists, law students. I mean, really. (It’s up there with “Neanderthals were matriarchal and highly spiritual and psychic and worshiped a moon-spider goddess ” - except that’s a different kind of party and more historians and retired English professors and they really can’t be talked out of it.)
And, even worse, we get hated on by the interested lay-people who are beginning to say its a conspiracy of the academia to kill it. I mean, seriously? Isn’t human evolution beautiful and amazing enough without needing something just a little bit crazier? Don’t we have enough political battles to fight (textbooks, education, Creationism, being accused of attacking religion), without this?
It’s “politically” problematic within the discipline because it’s tarnishing a whole suite of other research (into water access, resource exploitation, coastal vs riverside vs lakeside, eating fish, how eating fish might affect metabolism, etc). This is where I start to get personally frustrated, but because biological anthropologists have had to keep refuting it (to the interested public, for the most part, but occasionally to each other). And each time that happens, we move away from anything that sounds even remotely like it.
(But: If we all get together on this can we just put it to rest? Please? If I beg?)