Why are we naked? (The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis)

by Milla — she=he

Raymond Dart - A White Male - came up with a hypothesis for human evolution in 1924, that stayed with us for a long time. According to Dart our ancestors got out of the forest and onto the open plains, where we got bipedal. We were standing on two legs peering over the grass into the distance - looking for danger or prey, running and hunting on two legs, with our hands free for weapons and tools. This hypothesis has now been scrapped since most recent research indicates that our ancestors got on two feet in forested habitat. The hypothesis presented to me in school, is nowadays thought to be not such a great idea after all.

Today’s Song: Water – Eggstone

In 1930 another white male – Alister Hardy – came up with another hypothesis sprung from the thought that the fat layer beneath the human skin reminded of the blubber of sea mammals. Hardy thought that humans might have had a semi-aquatic phase in our evolution, causing us to lose our fur. Wading around in water on two legs is not as straining on the knees and back as on land, and a great motivator to stay on two feet would be that it’s necessary to keep breathing. These thoughts developed into what’s now known as The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis.

Alister Hardy thought that this might be the reason for why we got in to the habit of walking on two feet.

This was a man with ambitions, knowing that it would not be wise to present these ideas within a scientific community with a heart and mind set on Dart’s open plains idea, commonly known as the Savannah Hypothesis. So Hardy kept the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis silent for decades, and first published the theory in an article, after already having achieved knighthood and a position within the scientific ‘scene’.

“My thesis is that a branch of this primitive ape-stock was forced by competition from life in the trees to feed on the sea-shores and to hunt for food, shell fish, sea-urchins etc., in the shallow waters off the coast. I suppose that they were forced into the water just as we have seen happen in so many other groups of terrestrial animals. I am imagining this happening in the warmer parts of the world, in the tropical seas where Man could stand being in the water for relatively long periods, that is, several hours at a stretch.”Alister Hardy (‘The New Scientist’, March 17, 1960)

For an overview of the Savannah and Aquatic ideas: History Planet – Aquatic Ape Theory

What interests me in this story, is how this thesis was received: Silence. Dismissal. Ridicule.

In schools we kept on hearing that ‘man started walking on the Savannah’ and not even a side-note mentioning other possibilities. What interests me in this story is the interplay between the dominant discourse and what from a mainstream position is labeled as the ‘fringe’. Some stories are viewed as coming from a ‘margin’, and many of these stories are not allowed space within the stories given attention, and validity within the majority/mainstream. This story speaks to me since it is something that I experience as a repeated part, an essential occurrence, in my everyday life.

Every cloud has a silver lining –
Every crowd has a lunatic fringe.

Elaine Morgan – white female – picked up on the Aquatic Ape idea in the 1970’s and wrote a book (The Descent of Woman) criticizing the male centered Savannah hypothesis with men hunting and running, supposedly losing hair because of sweating profusely in the chase, with them as the center of evolution [see the image provided in the beginning of this post] while females – having a use for fur for offspring to cling onto while escaping danger – not being regarded as a relevant driving force for evolutionary change in the human species.

She has with the consent of Hardy taken on the huge task of taking The Aquatic Ape hypothesis from the lunatic fringe of the scientific community, and make its way from silence and scorn to take a place in the attention besotted and credibility adorned mainstream discourse. Four decades and 6 books later you can hear what she has to say on the matter in a 17 minute long speech at TED:

Elaine Morgan says we evolved from aquatic apes

BBC made a documentary in 1998 on the Aquatic Ape, where we can see Elaine Morgan, Alister Hardy, Raymond Dart and Philip Tobias – a former student of Dart, and now a strong proponent of the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis:

For more information on Elaine Morgan’s books and discussion on the aquatic ape:

Elaine Morgan’s Website

On her site you can download her latest book: The Naked Darwinist. For free.


6 Responses

  1. Have you noticed how you yourself deal with any criticism of your actions? With dismissal and ridicule. You dismiss the notion that you have a mental illness. Why? Is it shameful to you to admit that you might have a problem?

    Or is it that you don’t want a cure? That you secretly derive pleasure from engaging in endless fights with people?

    That your claim to care about social justice is just a cover for your real goal, which is to find someone, anyone out there in the world who you can fight with? That you will drag the fight on and on, for years, for as long as you persuade/threaten/force/shame the other party into engaging with you because you thrive on conflict, because it means that someone is paying attention to you? That your need for a person (object) to fight with supercedes that person’s right to be left alone, treated fairly, or treated like a human (rather than just an object to be used for your amusement, to alleviate your boredom and anxiety, and object for you to take your frustrations out on)?

    • hello whoever you are,

      i am willing to hear your criticism. i would like for you to help me on your part by being as specific as possible of actions and words on my part, so that i can learn from what you’ve experienced as dismissal and ridicule. and in what ways you’ve experienced persuasion, threat, force, shaming, and all the other negative feelings you mention and hopefully be able to do something about it.

      i do not dismiss that i experience mental illness:

      i do not find it pleasurable to engage in talks where there is no clear healing resolution in sight. and it’s hard hearing assumptions like the ones you are making in your statement. i want quite the opposite. i want peaceful coexistence. you tell me of your needs and i tell you of mine. and hopefully we both care enough to be creative in finding solutions that fit both of us.

  2. Specific? How about publishing correspondence that people ask you not to publish? Furthermore, I see your endless questions as just another ploy you use to ensnare people into having long conversations with you.

    Oh, and the point about your mental illness is that IT TAINTS YOUR JUDGMENT. Instead of looking back and saying, “wow, that was pretty crazy of me to insist that this guy, a stranger to me, do what i say and put my comments on his fb page. that was even crazier of me to publish his correspondence on my website,” what you say is, “What? What did I do? Oh why does this always happen to me! It must be the sexism. Yeah that’s it, the sexism, because the way I treat people is compeletely normal!”

  3. I’m guessing Martin is one of the hundred people who you have victimized. Nice try, but nope, that’s not me.

    • hi boar2

      i repeat:

      “i don’t act in the same way you do, and i don’t do as you expect me to do, so you think i’m mentally ill?

      you don’t believe sexism is a common everyday occurrence?”


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