Amphibious Ape Hypothesis

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Norman K. McPhail

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Oct 30, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/30/98
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It occurs to me that the cluster of ideas and evidence we've been
calling the "Aquatic Ape Theory" is something of a misnomer.
"Amphibious" is a word that keeps popping into my head when ever I
consider this problem. Here is what my dictionary says about this word:

Amphibious adj. 1. living or able to live both on land and in water:
belonging to both land and water. 2. Also, amphibian. capable of
operating on both land and water: amphibious vehicles. 3. of a two fold
nature.... <greek amphibios = living a double life.>

Of course, any change now could initially cause some confusion. Still,
this might be eventually offset by having a name that more closely
matches what we have been able to glean so far about this aspect of our
kind's evolutionary history.

In addition, I've seen some posters here refer to AAT as a hypothesis
rather than a theory (AAH). This might also be more accurate. For it
seems to me that it's something of a stretch to call our current
understanding of our forebears' watery ways a "theory."

On the negative side, there are too many syllables in "The Amphibious
Ape Hypothesis" for my liking. Maybe some of the other paritcipants in
this news group can come up with a more eloquent handle. Perhaps there
are some suggestions for names that would more accurately reflect this
fascinating and important aspect of our forebears' evolutionary
history.

Marc Verhaegen

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Oct 31, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/31/98
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Norman K. McPhail heeft geschreven in bericht
<363A0E...@socal.wanet.com>...

>It occurs to me that the cluster of ideas and evidence we've been
>calling the "Aquatic Ape Theory" is something of a misnomer.
>"Amphibious" is a word that keeps popping into my head when ever I
>consider this problem. Here is what my dictionary says about this word:
>
Yes, I think almost everybody (including Elaine, who has "created" the term
"aquatic ape", in analogy to "naked ape", I believe) agrees that aquatic ape
theory is something of a misnomer & seems to deter a lot of people.
Nevertheless, we're accustomed to the term "AAT" & everybody knows what it
is about.

>Amphibious adj. 1. living or able to live both on land and in water:
>belonging to both land and water. 2. Also, amphibian. capable of
>operating on both land and water: amphibious vehicles. 3. of a two fold
>nature.... <greek amphibios = living a double life.>
>

A frog is an amphiby. At birth it has to live in the water, later it has to
live outside the water. The difference with human ancestors is perhaps that
they could find food on land (cf. our vitamin C needs, eg, in fruits) &
diving in the water (esp. shelfish, cf. stone use, thick enamel, breath hold
etc.). IOW, human ancestors could +- live a double life, but frogs can not,
as adults they have to find their food (insects) outside the water. Perhaps
the term "amphibious" is somewhat misleading too?


>Of course, any change now could initially cause some confusion. Still,
>this might be eventually offset by having a name that more closely
>matches what we have been able to glean so far about this aspect of our
>kind's evolutionary history.
>
>In addition, I've seen some posters here refer to AAT as a hypothesis
>rather than a theory (AAH). This might also be more accurate. For it
>seems to me that it's something of a stretch to call our current
>understanding of our forebears' watery ways a "theory."
>

Nobody (except fanatics like LLL) believes that somebody tries to explain
everything in human evolution by an aquatic theory. That some watery
environment played an important role in our evolution is more than a theory
IMO, it's a fact to everyone who is a bit sensible, so I think using "AAH"
instead of "AAT" would be unnecessarily confusing.

>On the negative side, there are too many syllables in "The Amphibious

>Ape Hypothesis" for my liking. Maybe some of the other participants in


>this news group can come up with a more eloquent handle. Perhaps there
>are some suggestions for names that would more accurately reflect this
>fascinating and important aspect of our forebears' evolutionary
>history.

I suggest we still use AAT, whether the first A means amphibious or aquatic,
& whether the second A means ape or ancestors (amphibious ancestors theory).
I don't see any reason to change "theory" into "hypothesis".

Marc

Norman K. McPhail

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Oct 31, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/31/98
to

You're right of course. However, my point attempts to consider the fact
that aside from you and Elaine and a relatively small handfull of
others, most of the rest of world's population isn't even aware of AAT.
And most of this latter group, if they are interested enough, will
sooner or later come across something about these ideas. When they do,
they will mostly be inclined to make up their own minds. In this
process, they will look at the AAT evidence and ideas and compare it
with their own experiences and understandings as well as the ideas and
conclusions of others.

If in the name we apply to these notions, we attempt to elevate this
body of knowledge to a status that seems to compare it to the Theory of
Relativity for example, those people will immidately see that AAT is
much more subject to interpretation and much less certain. Of course,
we are well aware that in the field of the evolutionary history of our
forebears, things are rarely as certain as is normally found in simple
macro physics.

But, as we witness in this news group, most non scientists as well as
most scientists of all stripes demand a very high standard of certainty
when it comes to anything that claims to be scientific. In other words,
their expectations with respect to the level of certainty is invariably
higher than what is now possible in the areas we are working on. So
immiadately the usual reaction is that AAT is not scientific and is not
as certain as it claims to be. Thus, they are much more apt to dismiss
the entire body of knowledge. They see the glass as half empty instead
of half full.

All I'm suggesting is that a less pretentious name might lower
expectations and encourage newcomers to fully consider the possibilities
in the context of the available evidence rather than in the context of
the degree of certainty that a scientific theory implies. At some
unknown point in the future, when thousands of respected scientists have
had a chance to weigh the ideas and the evidence as well as add
refinements and confirmations of their own, there may be an overwhelming
concensus about the validity of this aspect of our heritage.

At that time, the scientific and academic communities as well as the
public at large may see fit to consider these ideas worthy of the
mantel. But that is for them to decide. I think we muddle and slow the
process if we attempt to speed it up or overstate the implications of
the available evidence. What do you think?


[snip]

Lorenzo L. Love

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Nov 1, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/1/98
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Norman K. McPhail wrote:

Lets all start calling it the Hypothesis of an Aquatic Human Ancestor.

Lorenzo

Marc Verhaegen

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Nov 1, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/1/98
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Norman K. McPhail

Yes, it's a dilemma between keeping a well-known term that does not fit
well, or creating a more realistic new term. Who finds a more correct & more
appealing term?
(For the moment we could advise to read AAT as amphibious ancestors theory?)
.......


>I think we muddle and slow the
>process if we attempt to speed it up or overstate the implications of
>the available evidence. What do you think?


Must we "forget" part of the evidence because that sounds far-fetched at
first sight for people who haven't heard yet of the AAT?
One problem is that several facts are not easy to understand if they're not
seen together with the other available evidence. But several facts are new
to many people & don't fit in their minds.
I try to speed up the process of course, but I never tried to overstate the
implications & only used the available evidence. There's a difference
between what may be accepted without doubt (eg, that ancestors of ours spent
a lot of time wading, swimming or diving), & what are mental exercisises
(eg, that some ancestors could have floated on their backs to open
shellfish).

Marc


Norman K. McPhail

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Nov 1, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/1/98
to
Marc Verhaegen wrote:
>
> Norman K. McPhail
>
> Yes, it's a dilemma between keeping a well-known term that does not fit
> well, or creating a more realistic new term. Who finds a more correct & more
> appealing term?
> (For the moment we could advise to read AAT as amphibious ancestors theory?)
> .......
> >I think we muddle and slow the
> >process if we attempt to speed it up or overstate the implications of
> >the available evidence. What do you think?
>
> Must we "forget" part of the evidence because that sounds far-fetched at
> first sight for people who haven't heard yet of the AAT?

Of course not. My idea is that by changing the name, the far-fetched
sounding evidence is less likely to get rejected without a fair and full
hearing.


> One problem is that several facts are not easy to understand if they're not
> seen together with the other available evidence.

This is one of the central difficulties with understanding AAT. One
needs to take all the ideas and evidence in context. The individual
parts can easily be interpreted in a variety of ways. This is a systems
question which must be viewed from many perspectives as a family of
relationships in order to be understood.

It is what is called a complex system. In other words, there are
several simple systems that are not derivable from each other that
interact and relate to one another in a variety of ways. More
important, there is no mechanistic simple umbrella system that we can
use as a model to explain the properties of the modeling relations in
this complex system.

On the surface, AAT can look like it flies in the face of scientific
principles. This is why some traditional scientists have so much
trouble with it. In addition, most laymen who expect science to be
objective and either true or false can't make much sense of it either.
But AAT makes perfect sense to someone who is familiar with systems
sciences, complex systems and the modeling relation.

In fact, I feel certain that most systems scientists would look at AAT
as an excellant example of the power of the systems approach. This
approach is now starting to help scientists understand and deal with
questions and problems that are beyond the scope and range of the
traditional objective analytical empirical scientific principles and
methologies.

But several facts are new
> to many people & don't fit in their minds.

One of the main reasons the AAT models don't fit in many peoples' minds
is because most of them don't understand what the systems sciences are
all about. In addition, they don't have an understanding of how to use
systems sciences to understand complex systems such as life and living.
This field has been developing for the past 50 years. It is now fairly
well known in some areas of advanced biological systems sciences. As I
understand it, it is based on what is known as the modeling relation.


> I try to speed up the process of course, but I never tried to overstate the
> implications & only used the available evidence.

From what I've seen, I think you have been very careful not to overstate
the implications of the available evidence. I have never seen one of
your speculations that wasn't carefully labled or understood in context
as speculation or conjecture of one degree or another. Others have
regularly taken these speculations out of context and used them to try
to make you look silly.

This of course doesn't mean that all of your guesses are on the money.
We all make mistakes. That's one of the main ways we learn. And from
what I have seen, you happily admit to your errors and
misinterpretations of the evidence when further investigation and
contemplation shows them to be off the mark.

People who have trouble keeping an open mind or who can't seem to change
their minds in the face of overwhelming evidence are doomed to continue
to make the same mistakes over and over again. Thus, to me it always
seems better to err on the side of assuming that I know a lot less than
I want to think I know. Still, conjecture and speculation are vital to
the processes of learning and understanding.


There's a difference
> between what may be accepted without doubt (eg, that ancestors of ours spent
> a lot of time wading, swimming or diving), & what are mental exercisises
> (eg, that some ancestors could have floated on their backs to open
> shellfish).

And because there are so many variables and uncertainties in this
ongoing process, might not there be less thoughtless conflict and
rejection if everyone knew up front what the level of certainty was?


Also Marc, did you see my last post under the subject of "Speech & AAT."
I'm very interested in your comments on those ideas. I think the
scenario I speculate about is a good example of the value of using
complex systems and the modeling relation to understand how we got to be
the way we are.

Norm

Rich Travsky

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Nov 1, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/1/98
to
Marc Verhaegen wrote:
> Yes, it's a dilemma between keeping a well-known term that does not fit
> well, or creating a more realistic new term. Who finds a more correct & more
> appealing term?

The Moist Ape Hypothesis

The Wet Ape Hyothesis

The Don't-Go-In-The-Water-Til-An-Hour-After-You-Eat Ape Hypothesis

The Skinny Dipping Ape Hypothesis

The Beach Front Property Ape Hypothesis

The Looking-Cool-Around-the-Water-And-Checking-Out-The-Babes Ape
Hypothesis

> [...]

rich

Norman K. McPhail

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Nov 1, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/1/98
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Rich Travsky wrote:
>
> Marc Verhaegen wrote:
> > Yes, it's a dilemma between keeping a well-known term that does not fit
> > well, or creating a more realistic new term. Who finds a more correct & more
> > appealing term?
>

Rich Travsky wrote:


> The Moist Ape Hypothesis
>
> The Wet Ape Hyothesis
>
> The Don't-Go-In-The-Water-Til-An-Hour-After-You-Eat Ape Hypothesis
>
> The Skinny Dipping Ape Hypothesis
>
> The Beach Front Property Ape Hypothesis
>
> The Looking-Cool-Around-the-Water-And-Checking-Out-The-Babes Ape
> Hypothesis
>
> > [...]
>
> rich

Now we're getting somewhere. The last three on this list are my
favorites. But I can't decide which one I like best. Is there anyone
else out there who can top Rich's list? If not, I might have to vote
for LCATWACOTBAH even though it is a bit on the macho side.

NKM

Marc Verhaegen

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Nov 1, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/1/98
to
Norman K. McPhail

>>
>> Must we "forget" part of the evidence because that sounds far-fetched at
>> first sight for people who haven't heard yet of the AAT?
>
>Of course not. My idea is that by changing the name, the far-fetched
>sounding evidence is less likely to get rejected without a fair and full
>hearing.

Yes, but then the new name must be much better than the old one & not
confusing.

.......


>In fact, I feel certain that most systems scientists would look at AAT

>as an excellent example of the power of the systems approach. This


>approach is now starting to help scientists understand and deal with
>questions and problems that are beyond the scope and range of the
>traditional objective analytical empirical scientific principles and
>methologies.
>
>>But several facts are new to many people & don't fit in their minds.
>
>One of the main reasons the AAT models don't fit in many peoples' minds
>is because most of them don't understand what the systems sciences are
>all about. In addition, they don't have an understanding of how to use
>systems sciences to understand complex systems such as life and living.
>This field has been developing for the past 50 years. It is now fairly
>well known in some areas of advanced biological systems sciences. As I
>understand it, it is based on what is known as the modeling relation.
>
>
>> I try to speed up the process of course, but I never tried to overstate
the
>> implications & only used the available evidence.
>
>From what I've seen, I think you have been very careful not to overstate
>the implications of the available evidence. I have never seen one of
>your speculations that wasn't carefully labled or understood in context
>as speculation or conjecture of one degree or another. Others have
>regularly taken these speculations out of context and used them to try
>to make you look silly.
>

Thank you, Norm.
I'm always afraid that one of my problems is the correct formulation of what
I'm saying. When you read my posts, you should always be aware that English
is not my native language.
And I know, of course, when I speak about, say, Neandertal snorkels, readers
(including pro-AAT-ers) may find this ridiculous because it's an unfamiliar
view. Then I think I should not have mentioned the possibility of human
ancestors floating on their backs to crack & eat shellfish, because it
deters many people. On the other hand, this snorkel hypothesis (to stay with
the same example) could explain other facts that are not well understood
until now (eg, our external nose, the "Pinocchio nose" of the Neandertals,
their protruding midface, their large para-nasal air sinuses, their heavy
occipital bone), so I use it as evidence, which brings me further upon
unstable ground...

(And you haven't even read my most ridiculous ideas...
And Roger Crinion, you know, the man who says our laryngeal descent has to
be compared with that of suction feeders, writes me the comparative data
suggest to him a very unexpected (read "ridiculous") view of human
evolution. He's trying to get it published. Since he's done a lot of
comparing with other mammals I'm sure his ideas will be very interesting, to
say the least.
The comparative data are an inexhaustible source of insight, & I think many
people who have done a lot of comparative work almost automatically get
"original" ideas.
I have in mind Marcel Williams http://www.flash.net/~hydra9/aquape.html who
started a new 'Primatology & Human Evolution' message board at
http://www.InsideTheWeb.com/mbs.cgi/mb195254 & who has published comparative
work on bipedalism & archosaur evolution. I don't know what to think about
it, but it certainly is interesting.)

The biggest problem for the AAT is of course that these ideas are opposite
to what anthropologists & laymen used to believe. I guess it was the same
problem when somebody stated that the earth was round, or that it turned
around the sun. Sooner or later they'll have to admit that our ancestors
once spent a lot of time in the water. But the exact reconstruction is, I'm
well aware, very speculative.
.......


>
>And because there are so many variables and uncertainties in this
>ongoing process, might not there be less thoughtless conflict and
>rejection if everyone knew up front what the level of certainty was?
>

The level of uncertainty is different for me as for you or as for somebody
else. And in the past I had "certainties" which eventually proved to be
wrong...
I'm sure (at this moment!) that human ancestors, at some period in the last
5 my, spent a lot of time in the water, diving, probably in the sea,
probably for shellfish.


>
>Also Marc, did you see my last post under the subject of "Speech & AAT."
>I'm very interested in your comments on those ideas. I think the
>scenario I speculate about is a good example of the value of using
>complex systems and the modeling relation to understand how we got to be
>the way we are.


Calvin's throwing hypothesis? You know I don't follow him in this. See
there.

Marc

Roger Taylor

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Nov 2, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/2/98
to
In article <363BFBCB...@thegrid.net>, "Lorenzo L. Love"
<lll...@thegrid.net> writes

>Lets all start calling it the Hypothesis of an Aquatic Human Ancestor.
>
>Lorenzo

Ha Ha!
At last something from Lorenzo which shows a glimmer of intellect!
There is hope for him yet.

--
Roger Taylor

sjh...@hotmail.com

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Nov 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/8/98
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In article <363A0E...@socal.wanet.com>,

no...@socal.wanet.com wrote:
> It occurs to me that the cluster of ideas and evidence we've been
> calling the "Aquatic Ape Theory" is something of a misnomer.
> "Amphibious" is a word that keeps popping into my head when ever I
> consider this problem. Here is what my dictionary says about this word:
<Snip>

> In addition, I've seen some posters here refer to AAT as a hypothesis
> rather than a theory (AAH). This might also be more accurate. For it
> seems to me that it's something of a stretch to call our current
> understanding of our forebears' watery ways a "theory."
>
> On the negative side, there are too many syllables in "The Amphibious
> Ape Hypothesis" for my liking. Maybe some of the other paritcipants in

> this news group can come up with a more eloquent handle. Perhaps there
> are some suggestions for names that would more accurately reflect this
> fascinating and important aspect of our forebears' evolutionary
> history.

I agree but would like to suggest we go a bit further - how about replacing
"The Amphibious Ape Hypothesis" with the "Wading Ape Hypothesis"?

The following is an old posting of mine that later became an entry in my Web
site and explains what I mean.

*Aquatic Ape Theory of Human Origins*

I have taken an interest in the aquatic ape theory of human origins since it
first appeared without ever being really convinced. However, since some people
in sci.anthropology.paleo seem to be enjoying a bit of wild speculation, I
would like to add a thought.

I usually see the aquatic ape theory portrayed in terms of pre-humans taking
to the oceans or at least the African rivers and lakes like seals. That
always seemed unlikely for a couple of reasons. Crocodiles for one.

Most city living academics have no idea how dangerous it is to go near the
water anywhere where there is a healthy population of crocodiles.

Then there is the fact that the human form is a lousy design for an swimming
mammal. Even with mask, snorkel and swim fins we are barely viable in the
water.

What we are, is a superb wader design. Just check any wading bird against the
human design. Even now, wilderness survival is easiest along a shore, provided
you have a few basic skills.

This even ties in with the strange ability of human babies to float and swim.
The baby of a wading mother would have a strong motivation to evolve the
ability to float if dropped.

As to why a chimpanzee would try to become a heron; I can only guess that at
some time there was a big, empty ecological niche for a wading ape. This was
unlikely to have been along the African rivers because of the crocodiles.

I suspect that the ocean shore and salt lakes may have been that niche. No
crocodiles remember, and salt caking in fur would probably make salt lakes
miserable for animals with much hair or fur so no competition from hyenas.

Oh! And about a billion flamingos to eat.

Another interesting thought. During the Deep Sea Drilling Project, (1964-83)
the Glomar Challenger discovered that the Mediterranean had dried up several
times.

This would have produced a huge area of low desert, salt marsh and salt lakes.
Maybe, just the environment to tempt a bunch of jumped up chimps.

Oddly, wading adaptations (mostly bipedalism and reduced body hair) would be
quite useful on the savannas.

Of course, all this theorizing falls flat on its face if pre-humans never went
near water except to drink.

****************************************************************
Stephen Heyer, Queensland Australia
E-mail: sjh...@nospam.hotmail.com (remove “nospam” before sending)
Home Page: http://www.heyer.com.au

Love Truth; be tolerant; do good where practical.
Accept the sin when you must, or choose, to do evil.

****************************************************************

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Marc Verhaegen

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Nov 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/8/98
to

sjh...@hotmail.com

>how about replacing "The Amphibious Ape Hypothesis" with the "Wading Ape
Hypothesis"?


That would certainly not be wrong & I agree with what you write, but still
prefer "amphibious" because it's vaguer & it respects the well-know
abbreviation "AAT".
IMO our latest "aquatic" phase was a wading one (eg, beach combing? salmon
trek in rivers? only a few 100,000 years ago?), but there is enough evidence
I think for a (partially) diving phase before that (breathing at free will,
hyperventilation possibility, shellfish diving in different populations, see
E.Schagatay 1996 "The human diving response" Univ.Lund).

Marc http://www.flash.net/~hydra9/marcaat.html

alg...@my-dejanews.com

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Nov 11, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/11/98
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Lets all start calling it the Hypothesis of an Aquatic Human Ancestor.

That's a good joke. Have you got any more like that? Why don't you spell out
to everyone your theory of why humans began to walk and why we lost our hair.
That should be good for a laugh too.

Algis

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