Jim Moore's "AAT Sink or Swim?" Web Site
A brief critique of Morgan's latest, her 1997 book,
The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis


Moore's web site has updated fairly infrequently since it first hit the web. The most significant change recently was Moore's buying of the URL www.aquaticape.org, although the content didn't change much when he did. The last changes to the content noted before writing this were made in early 2004 and yet, seven years after the most recent and most important work on the so-called "Aquatic Ape Hypothesis", Moore has still only written a single (albeit, fairly long) page about it.

I suppose we are all busy with more important things to do. Well, me too. I have spent many hours reading and critiquing Jim Moore's web site and by the time I got to this page I was extremely tired of it all. I started reading this page and, again, began making notes but, having only got to the second sentence I thought 'what is the point?'

I re-read Morgan's book quite recently and was very impressed with it. I was particularly taken by her grasp of the issues regarding the origins of bipedality and the four chapters that covered them. As with all of her work, it is largely speculative and explores many areas in which there is simply a lack of scientific literature. Even so, most of the evidence she refers to is backed up with solid citations, certainly to the same sort of degree as one would expect from a good popular science book.

So what does Moore have to say about her latest book? Even though he hadn't yet been able to give the book "a thorough going over" (an appropriate phrase if ever there was one) he still found errors, problems and logical fallacies. He adds "this is instructive, since it shows just how badly done her work is, and why it isn't accepted as reasonable; if it's so easy to see major problems with something just at first glance, what hope is there that delving into it at length will turn up a useful scientific theory?"

I have to say that I hold a similar view about Jim Moore's 'work'. If even in the second sentence one can see that he has made no effort to give a fair and balanced account of her considerable efforts to meet his own criticisms, then what is the point of reading the rest of the invective bilge?

The point is, of course, that Moore's critiques, like the AAH itself, needs to be challenged. No-one, least of all Elaine Morgan, would expect anyone to read about the hypothesis in an uncritical way and, similarly, readers of Moore's web site should also be critical too. They should be wary of his objectivity. Why would someone buy the URL www.aquaticape.org if they were opposed to the hypothesis? The point of these pages is to show that many of Moore's criticisms are bogus and misunderstandings at best, misrepresentations at worst.

At least, on this page, almost all of the specific criticisms of the book are backed up with unambiguous page references so that they can be cross-checked more easily.

Moore makes one good point about sebum (in Chapter 13) but otherwise distorts definitions (Chapter 1, 2, 4, 9, 13) and ignores vast bodies of the literature (Chapter 1) or parts of AAH arguments (Chapter 9)  to try to discredit Morgan, tells a lie about part of Morgan's argument (Chapter 2, 10), misrepresents ideas in some (Chapter 5, 6, 13) and selectively chooses the evidence he wants to see in others (Chapter 6, 11). In parts (Chapter 7, 8) he encourages mistrust of Morgan's citations and evidence by exaggerating slight errors into shock-horror mega deceptions. In parts (Chapter 8, 13) he ridicules subtle arguments by viewing them in crude black and white terms.

Overall, Moore's whistle-stop tour of Morgan's latest and best book is not a valid critique. It fails to concede a single point and merely attempts to stir up lynch mob style suspicions of every piece of evidence offered in its favour. As usual, upon close scrutiny, those allegations have no real substance and are, at worst, slight errors which Moore joyfully blows up out of proportion to imply some kind of attempted deception. Characteristically, Moore uses many of the tactics he alleges Morgan uses himself, notably his 'Creationist Darwin-quoting style' techniques, to discredit her work.

'Hypothesis' or 'Theory'
First Moore notes that the title of the book has become 'The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis', as opposed to '... Theory'.
Morgan writes in the preface "The idea on which this book is based does not qualify as a theory in the strict Popperian sense adopted by scientific philosophers - it is more accurately a 'hypothesis'. But the acronym AAT (Aquatic Ape Theory) has been in use for so long that it would be confusing to change it now." Morgan (1997:11)
Moore cannot resist any opportunity to have a dig at her, though, and uses this to claim that it was a victory for the aquasceptics on the internet newsgroups.

Moore then sets off on a whirlwind tour of Morgan's book. A couple of paragraphs of destructive comment and then onto the next. I'll track his journey here as thoroughly as I can.

Chapter 1 - Death of a Hypothesis
Moore trots out the usual attempted denials here. "In chapter one", he writes, "Morgan sets right to work on a favourite technique of hers, constructing a savannah strawman."
Apparently, no-one ever claimed humans evolved on the savanna before Elaine Morgan invented the term 'savanna theory.' Moore would have us believe that even the term 'savannah' is being misrepresented by Morgan. ".. savannahs by definition are woodlands, and can be either dry or wet....", Moore tells us.
This is one of those areas which, clearly, is open to a degree interpretation and there is some flexibility on both sides to, shall we say, stretch the argument.
Moore chooses the 'Bio Tech Life Sciences' definition of the savanna as "a type of woodland characterized by a very open spacing between its trees and by intervening areas of grassland" and, on his AAT definition page as "an early hominid habitat consisting of mixed vegetation: trees, bushes, and grass". He even has a page on the subject. But these are selective references. He chose them because they tend to suggest a slightly 'woodier' and 'wetter' kind of habitat than others do.
If I searched through the literature I could come up with another set of 'definitions' which imply fewer trees and greater aridity. Just go to Google and search for "savanna definition" and you'll see what I mean.
Here's a few I found: "a grassy plain with drought-resistant vegetation and scattered trees in tropical or subtropical regions; zone of transition from dry grassland or semi-desert to tropical rainforest."
"A tropical or sub-tropical plant community characterized by trees and shrubs scattered among a cover of grasses, herbs and forbs. The climate of a savanna is tropical with a dry season occurring in the low sun period of the year."
"a type of grassland with widely spaced trees and a blanket of grasses that require a lot of light. Rainfall usually occurs in the warmer, summer months with a dry period of between two to eight months. Fires are typical across savannas during drier months and occur at intervals from one to 50 years."
"A grassy plain in tropical and subtropical regions, with few or no trees."
"Tropical Savannas (alternate sp. savannah) are a grassland biome, dotted with trees, generally located at tropical latitudes. It is much drier than most tropical forest. Rainfall on savanna is between 50 and 150 centimetres (20 to 60 inches) a year, and can be very seasonal, with the entire year's rainfall sometimes occurring within a couple of weeks. Although the term "savanna" is believed to have originally come from an Amerindian word describing "land which is without trees but with much grass either tall or short" (Oviedo y Valdes, 1535), by the late 1800s it was used to mean land with both grass and trees. It now refers to land with grass and either scattered trees, or an open canopy of trees. Although rainfall is generally seasonal, rivers are found in many savanna regions and often cause seasonal floods. Much of the plant life on savannas is adapted to this seasonal aridness, either having long tap roots to reach water tables, or bulbs to store water."

Moore wants you to think that Morgan's doing the savanna spinning but, if anything, it's him.

It's the same with the so-called 'straw man' argument. The very idea that the prevailing view of human evolution was based on greater aridity and a move from closed woodland to more open habitats is, we are to believe, another invention by Elaine Morgan. John Langdon first attempted to argue this, and Moore dutifully follows.

However, the most perfunctory examination of even the most basic literature for the previous hundred years on the subject is simply riddled with the idea. From the most elementary school book, in the early 1960s, illustrated with man -the-mighty-hunter images chasing antelopes on open grassland, to very technical works like 'African Biogeography, Climate Change and Human Evolution' in 1999, you find references to the process again and again: It was aridity, or 'the drought' as Coppens refers to it (Coppens 1999:14) which was the prime driver of in human evolution and it was the resulting changes in habitat from closed woodland to more open savannahs which was the mode of change.

Now Moore and Langdon might have had a point if they'd tried to argue merely that Morgan exaggerated the case and, perhaps, ignored the viewpoint of some (a minority) who had promoted the view that human evolution had always occurred in wooded habitats. But even if they'd have done that, they'd have been fighting a losing battle. It's not just Morgan who has argued that the savanna idea was a prevailing view. "Until recently, the evolution of early hominids in the savanna has been a strongly held, prevailing hypothesis. Yet some of these human characteristics would have made us hopeless savanna-dwellers." Tobias (2002:15)
"Over much of the twentieth century, scientists thought that human evolution entailed a simple trajectory from apelike to humanlike and that this process was promoted by the challenges of an open savanna." Potts (1998:106.)

Moore patronisingly and rather stupidly claims that "Morgan, by the way, has been corrected on this subject many times over the course of the past decade" but, actually, it can be clearly seen that on this point it is Moore that is absolutely wrong. He misrepresents Morgan's argument completely, twisting the definition of 'savannah' towards his view,  ignoring the vast body of literature that backs up her case and omitting the comments of respected anthropologists who actually agree with her point.

Of course, in all this furore Morgan's beautifully elegant point is forgotten. Let's hear what she has to say on the matter.

"The original savannah model - though it did not stand the test of time - was argued in strong and clear terms. We are different from the apes, it stated, because they lived in the forest and our ancestors lived on the plains. The new watered-down version suggests that we are different from apes because their ancestors, perhaps, lived in a different part of the mosaic. Say what you will, it does not have the same ring  to it." Morgan (1997:18-19.)

She is right. Moore's attempts to confuse the issue of what makes a savanna doesn't help in the slightest in putting forward a case to explain the differences between humans and the apes. And Moore's dismissal of this very important point shows an alarming naivety on his part.

Chapter 2 - Where the Hominids Died
Throughout this review I've tried to avoid using inflammatory language. However, on this occasion, the only label to place on another of Moore's accusations is to call it what it is: an outright lie.
About Johanson's book 'Lucy: The Origin's of Humankind' Morgan made the case that he did not report the fact that "Lucy's bones were found eroding from sand which also contained the remains of crocodile eggs and of turtle eggs and crab claws" Morgan (1997:23.) Moore comments that "she implies that this was a malicious sort of misrepresentation of Lucy's environment perpetrated by people out to hide evidence." But did she? No, absolutely not. In fact she spelled the opposite view out very clearly: "It was not because he wanted to conceal the fact; it was because he had been conditioned not to register it as a fact of any significance." (Morgan 1997:23.) It is difficult to see why Moore would want to distort Morgan's argument 180 degrees in such a way, other than as an attempt of a  kind of character assassination.

It is a rather obvious point, actually. Most fossils are found in depositional layers formed on the margins of lakes and rivers. And, of course, in such places one would expect to find a great deal of aquatic fauna buried alongside. Kathlyn Stewart more or less wrote the same thing in her 1994 paper. "Fish remains are also associated with many early hominid sites, often in dense concentrations such as at sites in Olduvai Gorge. Unfortunately, fish bone assemblages associated with early hominid sites display little direct evidence of modification such as cut marks, and with a few exceptions (See Clark, 1960) these have been given little attention in the archaeological literature, except to be regarded as washed in 'background noise.' " Stewart (1994:230.)

Moore implies, as is the normal response, that this is just due to taphonomic bias. "... if our early ancestors were frequenting shorelines, we would expect to find far more than the relatively few we do find. Instead we find the sort of numbers we might reasonably expect from an animal which was spending most of its time elsewhere. But it seems Morgan would have it that if you die in hospital; you must have spent most of your life there."
But hold on, literally thousands of hominid fossil have been found in such places and not one single, isolated chip off a tooth from ancestors attributed to Pan or Gorilla. Isn't this exactly what one would predict if it was our ancestors that had been living closer to the water's edge and theirs had been, generally, living away from it?

Moore writes "On page 30 Morgan tells us that crocodiles are just friendly, fish-eating fellows." She hardly does that but cites two pieces of anecdotal evidence that suggests the crocodile population in the Awash is relatively harmless to man.
Moore did make some good points on his 'Predators' page and the threat of croc predation, in my opinion, is the most important objection to a modest, fresh-water based AAH-like model of human evolution. But the evidence does seem to be that the Awash crocodiles are rather morphologically and behaviourally different from Crocodilus niloticus even though, as Moore correctly points out, they are taxonomically classified as the same species. This subject is definitely in the category: 'In need of more data'.

Next, Moore criticises Morgan's attempt at answering one of his 'tricky questions of the AAT' - why didn't our bodies become more 'fusiform' like seals and dolphins and exhibit limb reduction? It is special pleading, we are told, to argue that some traits (like short paddle-like limbs) didn't evolve in Australopithecus afarensis because there wasn't enough time but that there was time for other traits (like nakedness etc) to do so.
But, again, Moore rather misrepresents her argument. She does argue that there wasn't enough time as part of the answer, true, but much more importantly she also argues that the proposed hominid was not very aquatic and was also clearly adapted to other forms of locomotion, such as climbing trees.
Morgan wrote "Nobody has suggested that they turned into mermen and mermaids. They would have been water-adapted apes in the same sense that an otter is a water-adapted mustelid." (Morgan 1997:31)
But this, common sense, moderate viewpoint is clearly not one Moore wants the reader to hear, so he just doesn't report on that part.

Chapter 4 - Walking in the Mosaic
Moore is again very patronising here when suggests that "Morgan suffers some confusion in this chapter." Actually, I found her summary of the debate on the energy efficiency argument for bipedal origins very clear and succinct, although I would agree with Moore that her notion that "since 1970 one of the goals of anthropologists has been to erase the image of human bipedalism as recklessly profligate of energy" was a little journalistic. I would also take issue with Morgan's advice that "we assimilated their [Taylor and Rowntree's] message and accepted their advice, that in debates on the origin of bipedalism, arguments hinging on energy costs 'should not be used'". Energy costs are clearly an important factor and cannot be ignored.
Reading Moore's points, I am left wondering what his problem is with Morgan's chapter.
His citation of the the evidence from chimps and capuchins that they are as efficient when moving bipedally as quadrupedally and that chimpanzee knuckle-walking is about 50% less efficient than human walking is well known (indeed the last part was cited by Morgan herself) but there is clearly some kind of rubicon against bipedalism in non-human primates, otherwise they would use it far more than they do, a fact Moore just ignores.

Moore misrepresents the argument for a wading origin for bipedalism when he suggests that "... the thrust of the AAT's argument regarding bipedalism has been that it could not occur without the support of water." This is only one, rather small part of it. The main argument is that, whilst moving through shallow water, an ape has no choice but to move bipedally, another point conveniently ignored by Moore.

Chapter 5 - A Surfeit of Solutions
Moore's single paragraph dismissal of this chapter is facile in the extreme. Basically he appears to argue that it is better to have the dozen or so reasons for bipedalism that have been debated mostly for the part 150 years rather than the wading idea because twelve ideas that don't rely on water are better than one that does.

Moore completely ignores the fact that many of the dozen purely terrestrial ideas regarding bipedal origins are contradictory whereas the wading origins model isn't necessarily contradictory to any of them.
Again the notion that wading might have been a component in the locomotor repertoire, a factor helping to encourage bipedal movement, is not even considered. Moore wants the reader to think that the AAH argument is black and white - 'we only started to move bipedally when our ancestors had the support of deep water, and never for any other reason.'

Chapter 6 - The Wading Ape?
In another facile point, Moore writes "... Morgan notes the 'first family' I mentioned above, implying they were aquatic, but neglecting to explain how they managed to drown. I'd wonder myself, but then those of a scientific bent are prone to wondering about things." Note that word 'aquatic' again, not 'more aquatic'.
Did Morgan imply that they were 'aquatic'? No, of course she didn't. She wrote "At site AL 333, where the First Family was found, surprise was expressed that virtually no specimens of other species were present 'except for fish and rodents'" Morgan (1997:63). Her point is, merely, that the Hadar site was "a pretty soggy place" and hardly dominated by open grasslands.
Water-side dwelling animals do drown sometimes. 
Moore writes "On page 66, Morgan makes (as she often has before) the bogus claim that proboscis monkeys, which swim well and fairly often, use bipedalism more often than other primates" but she doesn't actually make that claim, but merely cites documentary evidence that they do wade bipedally "regularly."
Next, Morgan is accused of "a remarkable blindness of vision regarding evidence" because, according to Moore, she didn't notice that a photo taken in National Geographic magazine of a gorilla wading had its arms wet up to a point between its elbow and arm pit, implying that it had just been wading through the water quadrupedally and had only got up onto its hind legs in order to have its photo taken.
Moore clearly has not seen much footage of apes in water. Of course, when the water is shallow enough the gorillas at Mbeli Bei may move quadrupedally, particularly when they are foraging for shoots in the aquatic vegetation. However, when the water is deeper they move bipedally and when it is deeper still they may even swim. It is interesting to note that chimpanzees and bonobos, not noted for their swimming abilities, are more reluctant to move quadrupedally, even in the shallowest of water.

Chapter 7 - The Naked Ape
In this section Moore attacks Morgan over her apparent dismissal of sexual selection in terms of explaining human nakedness.
He blows hot air again about her accuracy when quoting Darwin, comparing it with the method creationists use claiming that Morgan only cited the part of the Darwin's argument that supported her argument. On close inspection, though, her point could hardly be claimed to be a misrepresentation. The part she quoted: "No one supposes that the nakedness of the skin is any direct advantage to man;" rather heavily implies the next part "his body therefore cannot have been divested of hair through natural selection" anyway.
It seems to be just another instance of Moore beating the drum to stir up mistrust and suspicion.

Moore argues that the differences between the sexes on this point and the changes that occur during puberty indicate that sexual selection is the main cause, a view Darwin held himself.
Of course this is, at least in part, true and sexual selection is therefore a likely contributory factor.
As Morgan argues, however, it is not a wholly satisfactory explanation because although there are differences between men and women in their body hair, those differences are rather slight compared to the differences between man and ape. Also, some populations around the word have smaller differences in body hair between the sexes. It is mainly men of Indo-European  stock which tend to increase their body hair around puberty. In other populations men and women show relatively few differences.

Another accusation of misrepresentation turns out to be, on closer reflection, a simple mistake in not accurately reporting the source of a citation. It did not change the argument in the slightest. Moore ignores the point Morgan was making - that the argument that explanations for the difference between humans in chimps in body hair were 'mercifully not needed' because the density of hair follicles in humans was greater than in chimps, was a kind of special pleading - but, instead, concentrates on slur. He writes "So Morgan inadvertently teaches us another point to remember about science if you want to be taken seriously: don't just make stuff up." She didn't make the argument up, just mistakenly attributed it to the wrong source.
With the skill of a political spin doctor, Moore's final sentence on this chapter offers readers a link to more on "the creationist style I referred to in quoting Darwin."  The uncritical reader, he must have calculated, would surely now be duped into making this association. Morgan's style =  Creationist style.

Chapter 8 - The Other Naked Mammals
In this section Moore accuses Morgan of not understanding the concept of convergent evolution. His argument is that hominids tend not to share those traits that are common in aquatic mammals whilst the human traits Morgan claims to be evidence of an aquatic past are actually rarely shared by aquatic mammals.

Morgan, apparently, made a mistake in stating that "the Arctic fox and the Arctic hare and the others have converged in respect of one single trait only. [My emphasis, referring to their snowy white fur]" (Morgan 1997:79.) This is clearly not true. As Moore correctly points out, there are several other features, notably ear size, on which they have converged.
But does it change her argument? It was, remember, that animals that have quite different phylogenies sometimes converged in one (ok, or a few) trait(s) indicating a common adaptation to a particular habitat. Does her slight 'goof up' invalidate that argument? No, of course it doesn't but Moore is no mood for charity. His conclusion was "it would be easy for anyone who is doing even the least amount of research into convergent evolution to report this accurately. That Morgan did not suggests either a deliberate misrepresentation or very shoddy research; neither encourages one to have confidence in her work."
It occurs to me that such deliberate 'hyping up' of tiny errors is not symptomatic of good science but a desperate attempt to discredit a hypothesis.

On the next subject Moore again clearly demonstrates his misunderstanding of the AAH due to binary thinking. Moore takes issue with Morgan's argument that ancestors of elephants, pigs and rhinoceroses may have been "in some degree aquatic" arguing that if the ability to swim or even wallowing in mud is taken as 'aquatic' then practically all mammals could be said to be "in some degree aquatic."
The point here is, again, that Hardy's original hypothesis was that man was more aquatic in the past and by this he was quite explicit in suggesting that this was still less aquatic than an otter.
The aquasceptic argument resists this 'grey area'. Instead it always prefers to keep things simple, and very much 'back and white'. There are aquatic animals and there are non-aquatic animals, it argues. Humans are clearly placed in the non-aquatic camp and so are all the primates therefore it is highly unparsimonious that  human ancestors leaped over to the other side of the fence for a period of their evolution and then leaped back again.
Thinking in such terms makes dismissing any kind of AAH a trivial task. Where it becomes harder to dismiss is when one considers that there are, of course, degrees of aquaticism just like there are degrees of arboreality.

Ask yourself the question: Is a chimp arboreal or terrestrial? The images of chimpanzees flashing in your mind should indicate to you that they are actually a bit of both. They are neither fully arboreal nor fully terrestrial. So, then, what about orang-utans and gibbons? Is it unreasonable to suggest that, in these terms, gibbons and orang-utans are more arboreal than chimpanzees, and that gorillas would be slightly less.

In terms of aquaticism, it is clear that a fish is more aquatic than a whale, that a whale is more aquatic than a seal, that a seal is more aquatic than an otter, that an otter is more aquatic than a human and that a human is more aquatic than a chimpanzee. The idea, completely misunderstood and misrepresented by Moore and aquasceptics like him, is that something in our evolution has pushed us somewhat more in the direction of aquatic animals than did the ancestors of chimpanzees.

The subtlety of this kind of argument is, however, completely lost on Moore.

Chapter 9 - The Fat Primate
Misinformation', Moore calls it: Morgan's chapter on fat.
He makes his usual accusations of twisting quotes and data to fit her preconceived ideas of what the evidence should be but then, as usual, does the same thing himself.

He concedes that Morgan's statement "about humans having ten times as many adipocytes (fat cells) as would be expected in an average mammal of similar size..." was actually from Caroline Pond's 1987 article (Pond 1987:63) but then, in the same sentence, twists it to look like a misrepresentation. He continues by explaining that Pond's article "...points out that this feature of relatively small and numerous adipocytes, is common to humans, fin whales, hedgehogs, monkeys, and badgers, and not rats." Notice that? The first part of the sentence is only about the number of adipocytes - where humans have distinctly more than would be predicted in top carnivores or any primates -  but the second part subtly, with deft of hand, introduces the secondary point of the size of the adipocytes themselves, where both primates and humans do, according to Pond, both have relatively small ones unlike rats.
Moore often jumps on Morgan for doing anything like this, but here we see his double standards at work. This type of thing  is surely a symptom of of a reviewer who can find nothing but fault.
It is the fact that humans are, so much fatter than would be expected for an animal of our size, (in Caroline Pond's own words "homo is clearly the odd man out" Pond 1987:63) which needs explaining and Morgan has speculated that it might be due to the aquatic factors of both increased insulation and added buoyancy.
Moore, like Pond, selects the first part of that speculation for their criticisms but, interestingly, ignores the second part.
Morgan tried to highlight this by writing "I find it hard to understand why she described the insulation hypothesis as 'a major tenet of the Aquatic Ape Theory'. [My emphasis] It was, as we have seen, equally a tenet of the savannah theory that hominids lapped themselves in a coat of fat to keep them warm at night. As for the AAT, if buoyancy is included as an auxiliary function of the fat layer, that can only be good news. Water is the only habitat in which it would be relevant" (Morgan 1997:97.)
Moore only cited the first (italicised) part of that point, however, showing that he too is capable of using 'The Creationist Style'. Ignoring the buoyancy part of the argument is what Morgan was complaining about and Moore continues the tradition in his critique yet again. Added to another case of double standards it hardly makes for a good scientific treatment of a very plausible hypothesis.

In Moore's next point, that Morgan was "trying to kill the idea that human fat distribution is a sexually selected trait by pointing out that babies are fat", he quotes her argument that "epigamic adornments appear at puberty"  but conveniently misses the next, winning, part: "No feature which has evolved purely as a sexual attraction is found at its highest peak of development in young infants of both sexes" (Morgan 1997:100).
He calls 'ad hoc' Morgan's argument that perhaps the explanation for the differences between the sexes both in fat content and hairlessness lies in female human ancestors being more aquatic than males. Perhaps it is. But this is no more ad hoc than the argument that the differences in fat between humans is caused by sexual selection whilst the high infant fat content is caused by 'long postpartum developmental time' in humans.

To end this section Moore takes another shot at misrepresenting Morgan's position, actually using those very words himself: "To end this chapter, Morgan takes another shot at misrepresenting Pond's position." On what basis? Seemingly a guess that her citation of Pond's summation of the subject was a creationist Darwin-quoting type misrepresentation. He'd not checked to see if it was, but hey, never mind that. The lynch mob have obviously seen enough already.

Chapter 10 - Sweat and Tears
In this section Moore is rather ungenerous in claiming that Morgan "tries to salvage her claims that sweat and tears are aquatic adaptations." He ignores her admission that "I made the suggestion [In Scars of Evolution] that both the tears and the sweat might have been at one time more concentrated than they are now, and evolved originally for the excretion of salt. I was almost certainly wrong about that..." but, presumably, wants us to focus on her caveat that "It is important to bear one thing in mind: concluding that the evolution of human sweat and tears has nothing to do with salt excretion is not the same as concluding that it has nothing to do with water" Morgan (1997:102)

Moore had an opportunity here to show fair handedness by praising Morgan for admitting past errors but rather than do that he prefers to refer once again to his arguments already laid out in over 10,000 words on the web site.

It is not clear to me that emotional tears can have much to do with a more aquatic past but the link with sweating seems obvious. Throwing away precious water in order to gain a few minutes of slightly cooler skin would seem profligate in the extreme for any creature that could not guarantee to replace it at will but Moore does not go there. Instead he chooses to pick out three "major problems" to highlight.

First, he argues that eccrine sweating is adaptive to !Kung hunters allowing them to hunt down giraffes because their sweat glands "keep going  and going." Moore forgets that as they keep going, they keep losing water and fails to consider where such an adaptation might have most likely evolved.

Next Moore argues that "On pages 115-116 Morgan tries again, despite the long-established facts of basic physiology, to have sweat be a salt excretor." Giving him the benefit of the doubt, Moore has clearly misunderstood Morgan's argument here or not even bothered to read the chapter properly. She thought, as she made clear at the beginning of the chapter, "it may be of interest to recapitulate the course of the debate to clarify the issues involved." She introduces this argument "My first approach was..." and "I mooted the idea..." Afterwards she wrote "the excretion theory was speculative and controversial, but there seemed little danger that the factual basis for this speculation would begin to unravel." but then "Nevertheless, unravel it did." (Morgan 1997:116.)
This is hardly making the case that sweat is a salt excretor, it is admitting that she was wrong to hold that view. Anyone reading that chapter would see that Morgan is conceding ground but Moore has, at best, misunderstood it. At worst he is misrepresenting her work, again, in some bitter attempt at a character assassination.
Moore tries to justify his attack again by claiming that Morgan misrepresented the facts that were all known at the time of her original work. He suggests that we might go and review his web pages on this to check it out. But, as we have seen, even these 'major problems' turn out to be minor errors exaggerated by Moore to shock.

Moore's final parting shot on this chapter is  this: "On page 119 she says that "The credibility of the AAT would indeed be weakened if..." and goes on to offer several things that would do so; the second and third are "...or if it had not been based on scientific data that had appeared valid at the time; or if I had continued to believe in it when the balance of the accumulating evidence clearly swung against it;..." Both these things are true, and the evidence on salt, which she distorted from the start, is just one of the examples of that fact."
Putting to one side the clear case of double standards again - what was that about the creationist style of Darwin quoting? - (he takes the bits of the paragraph he wants to twist to support his argument leaving out the bits which he'd find harder to refute) what, exactly, is Moore saying here?
Firstly, the arguments Morgan had used did appear valid at the time. Moore tries to suggest that Morgan had misrepresented those facts but careful examination of his allegations reveals them to be only minor errors.
Secondly, Morgan clearly has withdrawn her support for this idea. She makes it clear several times in this book but Moore cannot bring himself to openly admit it. Even here, he is implying that she is being dishonest in this regard.

Considering the fact that Moore has spent so much time attacking the salt excretion AAH argument one can understand his reluctance to let it go. But the salt excretion theory was never a major reason for supporting the AAH in any case.

Chapter 11 - The Larynx and Speech
Moore's only comment here is a single facile point: He claims that the AAH argument that infant fat is an aquatic adaptation but that the larynx does not descend until the child is 2-5 years old is ad hoc. On the face of it is might seem that way. But if one considers it a little more deeply one would realise that infant fat would be an ideal adaptation for a relatively helpless individual in water providing its parents with precious extra seconds to rescue the child from water, whereas a descended larynx might help older, more independent individuals gulp large breaths of air through their mouths to help them swim and dive better.

Chapter 12 - Why Apes Can't Talk
In this section Moore firstly claims that the reason for apes not being able to control their breathing like humans is due to their quadrupedal nature. It is not clear to me, however, whether terrestrial bipeds such as turkeys, chickens and kangaroos have any more breath control than, say, polar bears, or otters.
He then takes Morgan (1997:139 - not 138) to task for daring to claim that diving mammals increase the amount of air they breath in in anticipation of the dive they are about to make. She doesn't cite the Elsner & Gooden (1983) paper this time but Moore doesn't let this stop him accusing her of misrepresenting their data. But as we saw earlier (see this link) this was a slight error that hardly changed the essence of the argument. What? Is Moore arguing that a diving animal does not adjust the amount of air it breathes in in anticipation of the dive it is about to make?
Moore has scanned the book for 'swimming baby alerts' and finds one on page 144. Shock-horror! What can this be? Moore doesn't say. The actual quote: "To the layman the most striking demonstration of this [that panic in water is not an innate response] t in recent years has been the films and photographs of young babies moving freely and fearlessly under the water, clearly enjoying the experience of immersion"  (Morgan 1997:144.) Does Moore deny it? Anyone who has ever watched the BBC program 'Tomorrow's World" will understand Morgan's valid point.

Chapter 13 - Infrequently Asked Questions
'A grab bag of goodies' Moore calls it.
He starts with another 'Creationist Darwin Quoting Style' reference. He says "On pg. 151 Morgan informs us (falsely) that hymens are 'common among aquatic mammals'" when actually Morgan wrote "common among aquatic animals and a variety of terrestrial ones" - a bit different that. One can only imagine how Moore would have reacted to such a dissecting out of a sentence if Morgan had done it. The hymen argument is at best a peripheral one.

Next Moore condescendingly attacks Morgan  and her "muses about the menstrual cycle" concluding "I'm struck by the irony of being male and having to explain menstruation to a woman." Morgan cites Chris Knight's work about female menstrual synchrony and the speculation that, on average, its periodicy corresponds, almost exactly with the lunar cycle of 29.5 days (Morgan 1997:152).
What's Moore's counter-argument? Merely a citation showing that women can have irregular cycles and a claim that "Well, it's the same as the oestrus cycle of chimps."
Well, it's not, Jim. The most basic research reveals that the chimpanzee menstrual cycle appears to average around 35 days and rather than synchronise, chimpanzee females appear to do almost the opposite. Their tumescence (inflammation of the genitalia) seems to be staggered to  maximise the chances of impregnation by the alpha male.
It should be noted however that there is great variation in women and the average menstrual cycle, for what it is worth, is both less than chimpanzees and less than the 29.5 day lunar cycle. (Treolar et al 1967).

Next Moore pulls Morgan up for claiming that "Sebum is an oily fluid whose only known function in mammals is waterproofing the hair and skin" (Morgan 1997:153-4) whereas it does seem to also have a function in producing sexual attractants in some species too.
Morgan speculates that perhaps humans' undisputed increase in the occurrence of sebaceous glands might be due to some ancestral, perhaps pre-naked, state where it acted to waterproof our fur rather like it does in some semi-aquatic mammals. But Moore makes the very strong counter-argument that as sebaceous glands  only appear to become activated in humans around puberty they are more likely to be involved in sexual selection. It's a good point.

Moore then picks out a reference to a speculation first made by Hardy, that the orientation of body hairs on the chest may help reduce drag whilst doing the breast stroke. He points out that the head (and particularly a bearded man) would also be at least partly in the water and that the arms would not be held down by the sides. The beard is indeed a problem for this argument but perhaps, as with many an awkward fact, can be explained away by sexual selection invoking Zahavi & Zahavi's handicap principle.

Next, Moore suggests that the evidence that ear exostoses (bony growths in the auditory meatus) associated with divers is a counter-argument to the AAH rather than an argument in favour of it because one would expect that, if our ancestors were "adapted to an aquatic existence" this problem would have been selected out.
Here, again, Moore misunderstands what the AAH is arguing for. If hominids lived by the water's edge but swam and dived regularly then it is likely that such conditions would not have been a great impairment to their lives, not sufficient to be selected against.

Finally Moore criticises Karl-Erich Fichtelius, cited by Morgan,  for selectively giving evidence. He mentions the numbers for apes and humans but not for marine mammals. "Wonder why?" Moore muses. "Could it be because those numbers make the aquatic mammals seem just a little too different? For instance, about 60% higher percentage of haemoglobin for seals as opposed to humans."
Well no. Moore, again, seems to misunderstand what the AAH is proposing. It is not, remember, arguing that Man is aquatic today or even that our ancestors were, merely that they were more aquatic than the ancestors of our ape cousins. Seen in that light, one would predict that humans should have blood characteristics that were close to our ape cousins, but closer to those of aquatic mammals than theirs. This is what Fichtelius wrote and what Morgan was reporting.
Again Moore's approach is to whip up mistrust in the data provided by 'AATers' (yes, those people again.) He implies that there was something untrustworthy in Fichtelius' paper that he was, somehow, hiding the actual data from marine animals. But he cited his sources clearly enough and was only, after all, reporting on  the divergence in humans compared to African apes in the direction of marine mammals.

Chapter 14 - Beyond Belief
Moore attacks Morgan's single page summary chapter in his usual way. Float out an insult and then try to back it up with a misrepresented quotation based on further distortions of the hypothesis.

He starts by claiming that Morgan has made factual errors even in her single page summary. He writes "how could you say anything incorrect in that small space? Well, don't underestimate Morgan, she's a trouper."

So, what error does he cite? This: "The answers it [The AAH] offers are speculative, but no more so than those of any other available model." Clearly this is a matter of opinion, and not a matter of fact but it doesn't stop Moore criticising it.

"I beg to differ" he writes. "No matter what you call it -- theory, hypothesis, or model -- when it's built on "false facts" and has so many holes that a first reading can find as many as I have above, it's more than speculative. It's way past speculative and heading toward the realm of pseudoscience." But Moore's so called false facts are, as we have seen, at best a small collection of rather insignificant errors which do not affect the main arguments at all.

Moore admits that Morgan has reacted favourably to his, and fellow aquasceptics' criticisms. He writes "Having been privy to the arguments on sci.anthropology.paleo in the mid 90s, I can see that Morgan was reading and thinking about what was said. Many of the arguments she makes in The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis are reactions to critiques raised there -- even the title itself and giving page numbers for quotes." But he can't quite go that extra mile and concede that there is anything at all valid in her arguments. Instead he suggests that she "chose to just try to explain away some things, shovel over others, and offer many of the same old discredited arguments and "false facts" in a book which is superficially constructed to seem more scientific."

I think that assessment is grossly unfair and rather mean. Elaine Morgan has worked tirelessly with almost no official academic recognition (The Norwegian Academy of Sciences honoured her in 1999) for over thirty years. She was right to pick up on Hardy's hypothesis doing what paleoanthropologists have clearly failed to do, and ask whether there might be something in it.
It might be true that some of her earlier work lacked the high quality of citation that is expected of serious scientific publications and it could be argued that, perhaps, on occasions she accepted data as evidence in favour of the AAH too readily and too uncritically. However, one must remember that her work was always speculative and, like Hardy's original paper, intended to stimulate debate. In that regard she clearly succeeded where Hardy failed.

It seems to me that rather than trying to pick holes in every sentence Morgan has written, as Jim Moore has done, what is needed is an objective assessment of the generality of the argument. Could water have acted as an agency in our evolution? Clearly it could. Could it have done so in our past more than it did for the ancestors of the great apes? Neither Moore nor anyone has offered a single scrap of evidence to suggest that this could not be the case.

When seen in that light, the AAH or some moderate form of it appears to be quite reasonable, or, as Morgan puts it as a sub-title of her book, perhaps even "the most credible theory of human evolution."

Elsner, R & Gooden B (1983) Diving and Asphyxia. Cambridge University Press (1987)

Potts, Richard (1998). Environmental Hypotheses of Hominin Evolution. Yearbook of Physical Anthropology Vol:41 Pages:93-136.

Stewart, Kathlyn M (1994). Early hominid utilisation of fish resources and implications for seasonality and behaviour.. Journal of Human Evolution Vol:27 Pages:229-245

Tobias, Phillip V (2002). Some aspects of the multifaceted dependence of early humanity on water. Nutrition and Health Vol:16 Pages:13-17.

Treloar, Alan E, Boynton, Ruth E, Behn, Borghild G, Brown, Byron W (1967). Variation of the human menstrual cycle through reproductive life. International Journal of Fertility Vol:12 (1) Pages:77-126..