In The Descent of Woman (1972), Morgan pronounced human beings the progeny of an aquatic ape in direct rebuttal to macho,...

READ REVIEW

THE AQUATIC APE: A Theory of Human Evolution

In The Descent of Woman (1972), Morgan pronounced human beings the progeny of an aquatic ape in direct rebuttal to macho, man-the-hunter schools of anthropology; here, muting the feminist message, she presents a succinct and updated version of Englishman Alistair Hardy's original speculations. As the argument goes, out hairlessness, fatty layer under-the-skin, straight spine, centrally-positioned skull, tears, belly-to-belly copulation, all bespeak an aquatic adaptation. We swam before we walked upright, and swimming--either horizontally or treading water--was preadative. Emphasis on hearing and deemphasis on smell, characteristics of a watery environment, also prefigure vocalization and the relative unimportance of scent in human beings. The big problem, of course, is that there are no watery fossils to shore up the speculation. Another problem is vagueness. An appendix includes statements of Hardy's in which he envisions our aquatic ancestors spending no more than five or six hours a day frolicking in the sea, using legs to swim frog-like and rather primitive hands to scrounge for shellfish or finned food; Morgan writes, however, as if she fancied the aquatic ape as dolphinesque--communicating and living a connubially blissful existence in water. And Hardy's own bemused statements about the lovely streamlining of the human figure (as compared to the gorilla) strike one as the epitome of anthropomorphism. Surely male or female curves are hot nearly as sea-adaptive as the shapes of whales or dolphins! Stimulating and eccentric, by turns.

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 1982

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Stein & Day

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1982