Jim Moore's "AAT Sink or Swim?" Web Site
Alister Hardy's original "Aquatic ape theory"
Moore claims to try to answer allegations that he does not properly address Hardy's original mild hypothesis but, actually, he adds to the evidence for this by avoiding the parts of Hardy's paper that are difficult to refute and, instead uses his usual tactic of picking out a medley of quotes which, he feels, he can dismiss easily. Even these points, however, do not stand up to scrutiny.
Alister Hardy's original "Aquatic ape theory"
Moore writes "These folks get away with this
[that aquasceptics parody Hardy] because
they assume, usually correctly, that the critics haven't read Hardy's
original articles and they're generally right about that." This is quite an
admission. Indeed, there is a remarkable amount of ignorance about what
Hardy actually wrote and I have spoken to academics who were convinced that
Hardy's original ideas were actually meant as a joke.
Critique of Hardy's version of the AAT
Moore credits Hardy with...
1) Giving a fairly specific time span for the suggested aquatic period
2) Giving some idea of how many hours he thought these hominids would be in the water,
3) Recognizing that they would have to be in neck-deep water much of the time for his theory to work.
4) Recognizing that aquatic predators exist.
Moore says "these not so insignificant details were largely overlooked or glossed over by later proponents of the theory."
It is interesting that Moore chooses to credit Hardy with the aspects he then takes to task but does not credit Hardy with parts which he then ignores (presumably because he cannot do so.)
The specific time scale Hardy referred to in 1960 was the
best available guess at the time but it is one which many AAH proponents
would now argue is not correct.
Moore then picks out eight statements from Hardy's statements quoted in Morgan's (1990) book (although he doesn't direct you to each one specifically) and tries to pull them apart.
1) "The extent to which sponge and pearl divers can hold
their breath under water is perhaps another outcome of such past
2) "It may be objected that children have to be taught to
swim; but the same is true of young otters, and I should regard them as more
aquatic than Man has been. Further, I have been told that babies put into
water before they have learnt to walk will, in fact, go through the motions
of swimming at once, but not after they have walked."
Moore then challenges Hardy's baby reference, again alluding to the same paper as he did earlier - although Hardy cites no such paper. The undisputable fact is that, as human infants are significantly fatter than their chimpanzee cousins they are certainly more buoyant and on that basis alone are clearly better adapted to surviving water immersion.
3) "Does the
idea perhaps explain the satisfaction that so many people feel in going to
the seaside, in bathing, and in indulging in various forms of aquatic sport?
Does not the vogue of the aqua-lung indicate a latent urge in Man to swim
below the surface?"
4) "Whilst not
invariably so, the loss of hair is a characteristic of a number of aquatic
mammals, for example, the whales, the Sirenia (that is, the dugongs and
manatees) and the hippopotamus. Aquatic animals which come out of the water
in cold and temperate climates have retained their fur for warmth on land,
as have the seals, otters, beavers, etc. Man has lost his hair all except on
the head, that part of him sticking out of the water as he swims; such hair
is possibly retained as a guard against the rays of the tropical sun, and
its loss from the face of the female is, of course, the result of sexual
Moore claims that Hardy contradicted himself by pointing out that the hairlessness in humans is more apparent than real. But, surely, no one would claim that even the hairiest man is anywhere near as hairy as an ape.
Moore then does make some pretty good counter points about the hair-tract arguments which Hardy and Morgan have supported.
Let's tackle them individually:
graceful shape of Man-or woman! -- is most striking when compared with the
clumsy form of the ape. All the curves of the human body have the beauty of
a well-designed boat Man is indeed streamlined."
Moore then goes on to praise Hardy for, at least, seeing that wading would have to be in deep water to support body weight. He writes that this "puts him far ahead of many AAT proponents now, who seem to want their hominid to be in shallow water at the edge, water which will somehow support them and somehow cause them to lose their body hair (well, some of it, in some people but not others, at some ages, but not other ages)." Moore seems to think that 'support' of the body in water is the only argument in favour of the wading hypothesis and appears to be ignorant of the fact that chimpanzees and bonobos tend to move bipedally even in very shallow water.
6) "It seems
likely that Man learnt his tool-making on the shore."
7) "My thesis
is, of course, only a speculation - an hypothesis to be discussed and tested
against further lines of evidence. Such ideas are useful only if they
stimulate fresh inquiries which may bring us nearer to the truth."
8) Several people have asked me why, if Man has had a long enough evolution in the water to produce such characters as loss of hair and subcutaneous fat, he has not also got webbed hands and feet. Regarding the development of hands, I am sure that selection would not favour such mutations, for his separated fingers would be of greater value in finding and dealing with marine food.
the feet, the truth is that some people have their toes webbed but they do
not like to talk about it!"
pulls together a long list of the dodgiest-looking quotes from an article he
wrote in the the Oxford University magazine for undergraduates, called
Zenith. Moore certainly catches Hardy with his guard down, speculating
openly about the hypothesis but not doing so in a very rigorous way. Reading
this piece today, it does feel very naive, highly speculative and easy for
someone to criticise.
So much, Moore triumphantly concludes, "for Hardy's original 'mild', 'modest', 'irrefutable' version of the theory." The theory turns out to be neither mild nor modest and especially not to be irrefutable. "Sorry", he says.
I think he should apologise because what he has done again here, like with his treatment of Morgan's writings, is to pick out the bits of the arguments he thinks are easiest to dismiss and parade them one after the other. This is not an honest and scientific approach.
The 1960 paper is the only one Hardy wrote specifically to promote and clarify his idea in a scientific journal and therefore it is the one which has most importance in this debate.
Moore chose a few comments from this paper to criticise. As we have seen here, even these points do not really stand up to close scrutiny.
It's a very short paper. People should read it all in its original context to decide for themselves whether Hardy's original idea was extreme or modest. See this link for a copy of the original paper and not rely on Moore's processed packaged points.
The main counterpoint that was being made about Hardy's hypothesis, that Moore said this page was trying to address but that he all but ignored, was that Hardy's original hypothesis was merely that man had been 'more aquatic'. It was the title of his paper and he spells it out clearly enough... 'otters... more aquatic than man has been.'
Moore all but ignores this point, though. He is too busy collecting bits of sentences that can be dissected out and reassembled to look ridiculous.
On the otter
comparison, he just wishes it away with a facile 'otters don't show the
features supposedly seen in humans' - as if they would.
Moore has never, at any point in this page or anywhere in his web site, taken in the main, simple but powerful question: 'Was man more aquatic in the past?' And, by more, we should mean 'more aquatic than an ape'.
Moore ends the page with another set of selective quotations from AAH proponents who make this argument, that aquasceptics refuse to take the AAH on in its originally defined moderate (water-side, only 'more aquatic') sense. He probably thought that having demonstrated how wild and crazy even Hardy's original hypothesis was, with his use of selective quotations, readers would dismiss the proponents' arguments too.
He quotes three from Marc Verhaegen, Marcel Williams and myself. They're all good points (especially mine!)
My favourite is quite an appropriate way of closing this topic down.
I wrote "the question Hardy posed was merely 'was man more aquatic in the past?' It is people like you who refuse to consider it in the modest, boringly obvious, sense - because then you'd have to concede that there can be no serious objection to it at all."
This is exactly right and, is clearly shown by this very page which Moore has, apparently written to counter this kind of claim.
The discussion which is most strikingly absent on the web site called www.aquaticape.org is that surrounding the question of why humans can swim but our nearest relatives, chimpanzees, cannot.
Anyone who thinks in Darwinian terms and who is not influenced by the huge peer pressure in anthropology to conform and dismiss the 'crazy' AAH would surely conclude that, perhaps our ancestors were exposed to the risk of drowning more than theirs were.
"Let us now consider a number of points which such a conception might explain. First and foremost, perhaps, is the exceptional ability of Man to swim, to swim like a frog, and his great endurance at it. The fact that some men can swim the English Channel (albeit with training), indeed that they race across it, indicates to my mind that there must have been a long period of natural selection improving man's qualities for such feats. Many animals can swim at the surface but few terrestrial mammals can rival Man in swimming below the surface and gracefully turning this way and that in search of what he may be looking for."
when Hardy decides to start listing the human features which might be
explained by this 'more aquatic' past, the very first one he mentions is
When one considers this striking difference in abilities and considers Hardy's original hypothesis that our ancestors were simply 'more aquatic' I suggest that it is indeed rather boringly obvious and impossible to refute. After all 'more' could mean 'only slightly more'.