AAH Critiques

Over 55 years have passed since Alister Hardy’s (1960) New Scientist article “Was Man More Aquatic in the Past?” was published. Considering the so-called “aquatic ape hypothesis” (AAH) has been largely rejected by mainstream anthropologists, you’d expect the idea to have been properly critiqued and pulled apart somewhere in the scientific literature by now. Surprisingly, the critical literature is sparse and weak.

This section documents all the major published critiques of the AAH and offers counter-critiques in response.

Roede et al (1990) – Aquatic Ape: Fact of Fiction: Proceedings from the Valkenburg Conference

FoF_CoverThe first critical (and balanced) look at the so-called “aquatic ape hypothesis” was the proceedings of the Valkenburg conference, which specifically looked at the theory. The debate was quite polarised with about 11 proponents pitched against 11 opponents, rather like a football match. The key summarising chapter by Vernon Reynolds does give a fair overall rejection of what might be argued as quite an extreme form of the idea whilst at the same time, in my view, seems to endorse a fairly modest and “watered down” form.

For a detailed review of Roede et al., click here.

 Langdon (1997) Umbrella hypotheses and parsimony in human evolution: a critique of the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis

John Langdon’s critique of the so-called “Aquatic Ape Hypothesis” was, in 1997, the first paper to be published about it in a first class journal of anthropology (The Journal of Human Evolution). It was mainly based on Elaine Morgan’s early books on the subject as it was published too late to take into her 1998 book “The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis”.

Read the abstract here.

I published a counter-critique in the “pro-AAH” scholarly volume by Vaneechoutte et al (2011).


The best known “Aquatic Ape Hypothesis” critique is also the least scholarly and the most journalistic: Jim Moore’s web site.

Everyone interested in the idea should read at least some of it but, please, if you do, for balance read my counter-critique.

Henry Gee’s (An editor at Nature) Outburst

An ignorant web post trying to equate the so-called “aquatic ape” hypothesis with creationism wouldn’t normally be worth replying to but when it’s written by one of the most respected gatekeepers of the scientific literature, one can’t ignore it. I didn’t.

Algis Kuliukas

Perth, February 2015

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