Jim Moore's "AAT Sink or Swim?" Web Site
AAT Claims and Facts: Aldosterone, water and bipedalism

This web page was blank on the web site itself when I went to review it (on 5th March) so, assuming it hasn't changed much since I first viewed the page, here's a link to the way it looked at the start of 2004.

What's the first thing that strikes you about this web page? was it the first word 'Aldosterone'? Me too. It kind of looks odd and out of place next to water and bipedalism. You might start thinking 'what's that Elaine Morgan claiming now?' and if you did, you probably be doing exactly what Moore intended you to do.

Again he sets the scene for a mauling... describing it as a "thorny little thicket". He deftly switches from the AAH claim that wading in water would be a better environment for a newcomer to bipedalism because of the support water gives the body in upright posture, which no-one would disagree with, to the apparently dodgy claims about to be dealt with here with  "the aldosterone evidence..."

Building up the suspense,  he switches to a little related story about how Morgan denies that she'd never made these claims and didn't know anyone who had. Well, she must be guilty of something, otherwise why would she be denying it?

Well, no, actually. She was not guilty of anything. Moore's little story - was based upon a quote taken from a newsgroup forum that was completely out of context. (Remember all those accusations about how the AAH proponents do that? Moore has a whole web page on that too.)  She made the point then that this whole argument, the one Moore built a whole page on and I've had to do the same in response, was a minor part of the argument and was taken out of context. Moore snipped that sentence out of his story. Well he would, wouldn't he? Because it reveals exactly what his methods are all about.

So what about the accusations themselves? Are there any? What about that aldosterone?

It turns out the the entire substance of Moore's problem with Morgan's two pages about aldosterone in 'Scars of Evolution' was that... wait for it... that Morgan listed "Standing" alongside other causes of aldosterone release without emphasising that the others she listed also induced the release of glucocorticoids too. Did this effect the argument at all? No, not one jot. The argument, was merely that standing up in humans can cause such a profound drop in blood pressure going to the brain that we've evolved a hormonal mechanism to compensate. Does Moore dispute this? No. All he can do is claim that the effect would take much longer than Morgan had implied and that the effect would be less dramatic.

Again, Moore's character assassination turns out to be yet another bitter farce and yet another complete waste of time.

When I first loaded this page I must admit that I was somewhat puzzled. 'What has aldosterone got to do with the AAH?' I thought. I concluded that it must be my ignorance. Perhaps I'd just not read all of Elaine's books as thoroughly as I should have. So I started out reviewing this page as a way of improving my own knowledge of the AAH.

Aldosterone, water, and bipedalism
This "thorny little thicket", Moore tells us, is a fundamental part of the AAH, namely the idea that "water environments were necessary for the evolution of bipedalism is to help support the body weight of our ancestors while walking upright." 
Moore's right to suggest that Hardy made quite a point about it (but not about aldosterone.) And he's right that Morgan devoted an entire chapter to it (bipedalism) in 'Scars of Evolution', chapter 3 and part of chapter 4, but only about two pages (out of 36) dealt with aldosterone, and about half of that outlined the standard textbook explanation of its quite complex function.

Moore writes "it was there she brought up the aldosterone evidence... " as if it was something really damning, some great goof-up, or worse - a connivance to distort more facts to fit the AAH. I soon found out that it was nothing of the sort.

But before actually getting into the body of the accusation, Moore takes us on a little diversion. He writes "Wait, just a sec... I can't keep typing without mentioning this. Sorry, but this one just slays me. Back when I was posting on this subject in the sci.anthropology.paleo newsgroup, Elaine made the most amazing claim. I have to mention it -- it's even apropos, since it sheds light on her research and debating style. Here's what she said about this on the 4th of July, 1995."

"Jim Moore says that "all" (sic) supporters of AAT claim that a major reason for the evolution of bipedalism was that wading in water helped to support the body weight. I do not know of anybody that says this".

What's this all about? An attempt to build the tension before the accused hears her crime? Moore then goes on to provide quotes from her book showing that, of course, she has written this before suggesting, what, that Morgan's also a liar as well as a poor researcher, distorter of facts and the rest.
 "Okay, I'm better now. Where was I? Oh yeah... " and then gets back to his aldosterone page.

But wait a minute. What about that Morgan quote? Did she really write that? It seems a bit odd that she would, after all as Moore says, it's been a pretty clear part of the AAH argument for years. So I went to the usenet archives to dig it up. You'll never guess what I found: That Moore had only taken a part of the paragraph in Morgan's posting, taking it right out of context. And, you'll never guess what the rest of the paragraph was complaining about... well here it is in full:

"Jim Moore says that that "all" (sic) supporters of AAT claim that a major reason for the evolution of bipedalism was that wading in water helped to support the body weight. I do not know of anybody that says this. [The part Moore quotes] He quotes one sentence of mine out of context. I was suggesting weight support was a minor spin-off, an accidental advantage which happened to make the business of walking on two legs (difficult for a beginner in any circumstances) one degree less difficult." [The part he doesn't]

So Moore chose to post one sentence (out of context) and not the other sentence that complained that he had been doing the same thing before. It seems that nothing has changed in Moore's tactics in the nine years since. What was all that stuff about Morgan's tactics quoting people out of context? I think we can add it to his assurances that on his web site it's easy to find the sources of his material.

The point here is, as we are seeing as a recurring theme throughout this web site, that Morgan has used one part of one argument somewhere and Moore has found it, dissected it out, treated it out of context, amplified it to gross proportions and publicised it on his triumphant URL www.aquaticape.org, for all to see as if it was Morgan's only argument on that topic. The idea that water helped support the body weight in water is a minor part of the argument in favour of a wading origin to bipedalism, just like improving swimming speed is a small part of the aquatic argument for nakedness.

But let's get back to the plot before we forget what it is: Moore and his aldosterone web page.

Moore lists 75% of what Morgan wrote about aldosterone, word for word. To increase the drama, I thought, he chose to end the quoted paragraph with the sentence "The aldosterone levels respond in the same manner to standing up as to surgery", rather than the next sentences which ended much less dramatically by alluding to fainting rather than to being cut open by a scalpel. Moore did some surgery himself by transplanting another quote from the next chapter to follow the previous Morgan quote: "Standing up in water does not trigger secretion of aldosterone, salt retention or higher blood pressure. The reverse is the case: head-out immersion causes a prompt and marked fall in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, plus increased excretion of salt in the urine." (Morgan 1990:p47)

Moore ends this section: "Lucky little buggers. If only it were true..." implying that in the next section he will reveal that it is 'just another of Morgan's distortions'.

The reality about the standing up "emergency"
Moore starts this section with another attack on Morgan's academic accuracy, claiming that it was difficult to find the references for her claims but that Morgan had "eventually" posted them on the newsgroup. (I wonder how many other authors are prepared to go on public forums to defend their work in this way.) Moore then says that "There are some interesting differences between the list in these books and the list in Morgan's book" before going on to reveal them.

Moore implies that Morgan has, somehow, twisted the text in Ganong to her advantage but on closer examination it could be argued that it is Moore who is doing the twisting. He says that Morgan seems to be trying to get the reader to think that not just the aldosterone receptors but the whole organism  "would 'respond in the same manner' to standing up as it would to massive haemorrhage or to surgery." But that interpretation is not what Morgan wrote at all. Perhaps Moore's careful juxta-positioning of the word 'surgery' with the idea that immersion in water would help an early biped was just meant to leave that idea in the mind of the reader.

I have a copy of Ganong (although it is an older edition) and found the same table Morgan was referring to and reproduced in 'Scars..' Ganong (1979:p297) Moore takes her to task for failing to distinguish between those stimuli that increase aldosterone secretion and also increase glucocorticoid secretion too and those that don't. But this distinction hardly seems an important one. Indeed, it could be argued that it is more remarkable that standing has a specific effect on aldosterone secretion alone.

Where Morgan could be argued to have been a bit sloppy was in omitting a few stimuli from the list altogether: High potassium intake, low sodium intake, construction of inferior vena cava in the thorax and secondary hyperaldosteronism (in some cases of congestive heart failure, cirrhosis and nephrosis) (Ganong 1979:p297.) Although, as Moore didn't criticise her for that too, I'm left wondering if the 1983 version did not omit them too.

At the end of all of this, one is left, again, feeling, at best let down, at worst angry that one has spent so much time taking Moore's allegations seriously for nothing. Moore has led us all the way up  yet another garden path

to reveal another big, shock-horror revelation against Elaine Morgan and what do we find?: She missed a few, rather boring, reasons for aldosterone secretion off a text book list. Big Deal! Did they effect her argument one jot? No. Absolutely not.

The key point she made holds good: The act of standing has required humans to evolve compensatory mechanisms to help support blood volumes reaching the brain. Therefore it needs some extra explanation for why it happenned. 'Scars' listed several such 'problems' with human bipedalism and the next chapter made a reasonable case for the wading origins argument. Other books have made an even better case. Moore decided not to bother with all of that though, and instead focused on one tiny aspect he thought he could pull down. However, he failed even in doing that.

The reality of water immersion
Finally, Moore takes Morgan to task for the most important claim about this aldosterone factor - that wading in water would reduce the drop in blood pressure associated with standing and therefore negate the need for an aldosterone surge.

Moore doesn't really dispute that immersion in water has an effect, just that the effect would take too long to be useful. Citing Epstein he says is happens "as early as 60 min of immersion" (Epstein 1984. pg. 181). Moore cites immersion in water has other effects too, such as increased excretion of urine and, later, salt "which is why", Moore tells us, "you can get dehydrated in water. unless you can drink it; of course in the usual AAT saltwater environment you can't drink it." But Moore doesn't point out that some AAH models propose a fresh water environment.

Moore concedes that Epstein agreed that water provides another benefit: "water immersion is associated with a significant, albeit slight, decrease in mean arterial blood pressure", (Epstein et al. 1978: p495 [italics in original]) but has to turn even this against Morgan by claiming that this "isn't quite so dramatic as Morgan seems to imply." Well maybe Epstein isn't reporting as dramatic an increase as Morgan claimed, but once again we are left thinking: ' is that it?'

The page finishes by saying "These changes do not happen quickly, as Morgan suggests and as her scenario requires. They also don't happen unless you're in water up to your neck (or higher). For them to have a helpful effect when we stand up, her bipedal hominids would have to always enter the water by crawling (or maybe scooting in on their rear ends) and then stand up only after an hour or so. Hard to see where that helps you in the common AAT scenario of running into the water to escape predators. Maybe they could scoot really fast."

But isn't there a little confusion there? Morgan's point was that when you stand up there is a surge or aldosterone to restore blood volume pressure and hence blood supply to the brain. She wasn't arguing that in water there'd be a reduction. That surge is immediate, or one would be more likely to faint.

Moore simply refuses to take on Morgan's general, overall point about this: that wading in water is easier than walking on land to a beginner or to an animal that has not had the benefit of several million years of evolution to perfect it. The fact that may patients of cardiac bypass operations and other serious surgery begin rehabilitation programs with hydrotherapy - wading through water - is proof enough of what Morgan was arguing for.

Epstein, Murray (1978)
"A Kinetic Assessment of Aldosterone Responsiveness in Secondary Hyperaldosteronism and in Anephric Man"  Edgar Haber, and Richard Re, in The Endocrine Function of the Human Adrenal Cortex vol. 18, pp. 493-508.

Ganong, William F (1979). Review of Medical Physiology (9th Edition). LANGE Medical Publications (Los Altos)

Morgan, Elaine (1972). The Descent of Woman. Souvenir Press (London)

Morgan, Elaine (1990). The Scars of Evolution. Oxford University Press (Oxford)