Talk:Aquatic ape hypothesis

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This article is horribly dated and biased. The AAT of today is far different than what Hardy presented or what Elaine Morgan promoted. As there remains such controversy on the subject I would like to suggest the following solution:

Establish 2 pages, one Anti AAT and one Pro AAT. Allow the two sides to separately present their evidence and arguments in a thoughtful and respectful manner. As for the current article, it could either be deleted or used as the anti view. (talk) 18:01, 7 June 2015 (UTC)GCJ

Two articles won't be happening per our WP:POVFORK guideline. --NeilN talk to me 18:04, 7 June 2015 (UTC)

Not surprising to hear that. Sad that dialogue is being discouraged. BTW, Neil, are you a WIKI Administrator? (talk) 19:38, 7 June 2015 (UTC)GCJ

Articles aren't forums for dialogues. Administrators don't have any special say in article content (they follow Wikipedia's policies and guidelines like everyone else) but if I was answering this question in about an hour instead of now, I would say yes. --NeilN talk to me 19:50, 7 June 2015 (UTC)

Suggestion - new subsection - anthropological consensus on human evolution[edit]

I'm still trying to do something about this hopeless, negatively biased article. I propose to lead the section about the actual hypothesis/ses by summarizing the contemporary consensus on human evolution, as expressed by the scientific field of anthropology. This is to illustrate the background for Elaine Morgan's AAH, since she based her work on what she perceived as shortcomings to parts of that consensus, straw man arguments and whatnot. Whether we then further detail her challenging of this consensus in the following sections is for a different discussion. If you skeptics really desire an optimal, non-POV article detailing what the hell all this boohah is about, let's start with this, since it should contain the fewest controversies (unless creationists are also hanging out in here, which is not bloody unlikely the way things have been going).

signing (with falsified date to match the original conclusion of this discussion) for archiver. -- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 06:05, 3 November 2013‎ (UTC)

This article makes me so sad[edit]

It's so sad because there is no opportunity for AAT supporters to really explain the theory properly. Most of the scepticism comes from not fully understanding the idea, and there is no hope for us to change this article to what we really think when there are people out there wishing to paint us as Nazis. I couldn't even add a link to wiki's own page on the dive reflex. I can only imagine that this must have been the sorrow once faced by Darwin, when the theory of evolution was first met with so much resistance. It leaves a little glimmer of hope that as the outdated references quotes in the article start to gather dust along with their writers, more open-minded people willing to listen to reason rather than positing their opinions as fact will one day be listened to. Wikipaedia editors themselves clearly are interested in this topic - since they featured it on their home page no less than three times! Maybe this was the mistake, because it only drew the article to the attention of fierce opponents who so vehemently believe that this is a "Just So" story? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Aquapess (talkcontribs) 20:43, 15 May 2015

Actually, from personal experience (I have a degree in anthropology), I think that most of the scepticism comes from understanding the 'theory' well enough - and from recognising just how vague and unfalsifiable it has been. Anyway, I suggest that you read up on Wikipedia policy before editing the article further - we need 'sources for claims regarding scientific acceptance of the hypothesis, not just vague assertions, and endorsements from TV broadcasters... AndyTheGrump (talk) 22:08, 15 May 2015 (UTC)
Keep your chin up! Darwinism was not accepted over-night. There appears to be more sense in the AAT origins, than the sort-cut hypothesis that our ancestors went from swinging in trees to the prairies (and then, eons later, take up a sedentary life style so they could edit Wikipedia and face book etc., all day). One only has to watch little kids on the beach. The first time a wave throws them bottom-over-elbow they may well cry – but after a time, they can't wait to get into the water again. It is as if being at home on a sea-edge environment is hard-wired into their genes. Unfortunately, the rise in sea level since these times means that evidence of these coastal communities may never be found. Keep plugging away until the old hypothesis fade away.--Aspro (talk) 22:55, 15 May 2015 (UTC)
One also only has to watch a child with a skateboard. The first time they try it they go base over apex, and run off to mummy/daddy in tears. Within a few days though, they are whizzing around without a care in the world. Evidently, our ancestors once had wheels, and the ability to make use of them is still in our genes. Sadly, the process of erosion/sea level rise/trampling by herds of wildebeest has removed all traces of our ancestral skateboard park hunting grounds... 00:24, 16 May 2015 (UTC)
Good reply.. but knock the sarcasm off. Look at the difference between a skate-board park and a sea shore. To-day skateboarders (miles form the coast) have all their food provided by their parents. Compare them to kids on the sea shore. On the sea shore, they soon become interested in things like cockles, mussels, laver,whelks, crabs, etc. Those, they discover are food (unless perhaps one lives in a westernized country like the US, were people won't eat anything unless it has been prepared and cooked for them by others). Don't you think (or see) that skate-board parks are a modern substitute for the thrill of being in the sea? If you don't mind me saying so: Don't you think you have got the cart before the horse, based on autocentric and limited experience and not the bigger picture? The higher availability of protein (from the shores) allowed our guts to shrink, and our craniums to expand – until we became the modern homo sapiens.--Aspro (talk) 01:14, 16 May 2015 (UTC)
"Don't you think (or see) that skate-board parks are a modern substitute for the thrill of being in the sea?" No. I am a rational human being (with a large and well-fed cranium). I have better things to think about. Like Wikipedia policy, and its applicability to article talk pages. And in particular, policy on not using article talk pages as a forum for facile debates with people who think that science consists of making complete bollocks up, and then expecting other people to swallow it whole. 01:34, 16 May 2015 (UTC)
I have reverted your changes as you were clearly pushing a view. For example, you used a Daily Mail article (hardly a sterling source) to highlight support for the theory but failed to include any criticism mentioned in the same article. Why? Cherry picking material is not acceptable. --NeilN talk to me 14:04, 16 May 2015 (UTC)
This story is absolutely brilliant, I love it. What better example could we give than skateboards vs swimming. If we are going along the lines of an argument that swimming is what separated us from a shared common ancestor with chimps, then let's have a look at a comparison between the two. Chimps are perfectly capable of skating. Not only skating, but they are also able to rollerblade, ice-skate and do all manner of things that a few unfortunate individuals have been forced to do by their human owners. So clearly skating is not a factor that separates us from our nearest cousins.
Take a look at chimps swimming and we have another story. Water moats have been traditionally used to keep chimps within their enclosures at zoos. A few individuals who have been encouraged by humans to swim have actually succeeded at this, although their locomotion is quite similar to arboreal movements.
The real eye-opener is watching them dive. There have been a few reports of chimps diving, and in all the examples seen, the chimps are grabbing at their face in order to submerge themselves. It is quite clear that unless they have a mask or assistance to prevent water entering their nose, they risk drowning from water entering the nose. In all the cases, the chimp in question is seen blocking the nostrils with one hand, severely limiting the amount that can be achieved through the use of hands. They can carry fewer things with only one hand, and may not be able to complete some tasks requiring two hands, such as opening a jar for example, or more close to real life, opening a mollusc or moving rocks in order to retrieve something. Moreover, they would not be able to carry a tool and direct themselves through the propulsion of their other free arm.
Humans on the other hand are the only great ape with a protruding nose, which directs water away from or around the nostrils. It allows forward swimming without water entering the nose and risking drowning. It is clear that chimps would never be able to do free-diving hunting like this: both from a physiological standpoint of being able to hold their breath, as well as having hands free for direction, propulsion and carrying
— Preceding unsigned comment added by Aquapess (talkcontribs) 18:08, 24 May 2015 (UTC)
Please see WP:NOR and WP:NOTFORUM. --NeilN talk to me 20:12, 24 May 2015 (UTC)

A wiki page about the Aquatic Ape theory that doesn't allow any valid Aquatic Ape Theory information or valid references seems strange. What would be the harm in allowing a few real references and adding description of the opposing theories? After the theory is proven fact, then more rigorous requirements could be used before allowing editing.
My following sample needs a complete rewrite, but something like:
Aquatic Ape Theory pseudoscience: When Pan and Humans split, Pan stayed in the jungle but humans moved to edges of rivers, lakes, and oceans. Humans adapted to waterside life and many humans still live near bodies of water.
Savanna Proven Fact science: When Pan and Humans split, Pan stayed in the jungle but humans moved to the savanna. Humans adapted to savanna life but later lost most of the adaptations so do not often live on savannas. Humans only recently moved to be near bodies of water in the last few years with no adaptations. Somitcw (talk) 19:10, 16 May 2015 (UTC)

That is categorically false. It is, however, true to say that it does not allow invalid information. This is by design. Guy (Help!) 17:11, 19 May 2015 (UTC)

Guy, please be clearer on what you guess is "That is categorically false.".
Is it that negative people twist the Aquatic Ape Theory into invalid weirdness just to be able to dispute the weirdness that they invented?
Is it that "Aquatic Ape Theory pseudoscience" is only pseudoscience because people with a negative point of view rewrite it to make it appear to be pseudoscience?
Is it that "Savanna Proven Fact science" has no relation with science?
Is the fix to let people that understand AAT delete the hateful AAT article and rewrite from scratch using valid facts about what the theory is?
So many questions to your one incomplete comment. Sorry.
Somitcw (talk) 19:49, 3 June 2015 (UTC)

What is categorically false is the posters' understanding and presentation of what Wikipedia articles are / should be. -- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 19:39, 7 June 2015 (UTC)

Sorry TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom. I had assumed that Wikipedia articles should contain some truth instead being all distorted information and negative innuendos. My bad.
I wonder why Guy didn't answer?
Somitcw (talk) 20:47, 7 June 2015 (UTC)

Posteditwar discussion[edit]

Aquapess is attempting to insert this: {{cquote|Despite this, the central idea of this theory has recently received more attention, and has even gained support from Sir David Attenborough at a recent conference at the Royal Marsden Hospital ("Human Evolution Past, Present and Future - Anthropological, Medical and Nutritional Considerations", 2013).[1][2]

Let's discuss what to do with this text. I think the 2013 conference should probably be mentioned in the article, but it was of course organized by AAH proponents and did not have any significant participation by mainstream paleoanthropologists, and the 2011 book to my knowledge has only received one negative review by Langdon, who was also the only opponent of the theory present at the conference. We would need some third party coverage of the conference to assess its general reception, and we would also need to include Langdon's counter arguments. I am unsure about what relevance Attenborough's support has, if we start including namedropping then to avoid giving it undue prominence we would probably need a list of similar people opposing the theory - which would of course be longer. ·maunus · snunɐɯ· 19:02, 16 May 2015 (UTC)

Attenborough was pretty well dismissed. [1], [2], [3] --NeilN talk to me 19:25, 16 May 2015 (UTC)

Two of the references you added do not include the words "David Attenborough", so I'm not sure how they are relevant. Granted, one of them gives links to a Guardian piece on the topic [3], which is actually a well-balanced article attempting to show facts without taking sides.
One of the references you used was a personal piece written by a Nature editor who clearly just wanted to advertise his book, and another one was a blog. It's quite easy to find a blog that agrees with whatever stance you have, so I'm also not clear how that is substantial support for the aquatic ape theory being "wrong".
Lastly, your use of "International Business Times" as a reference is very interesting indeed, especially since one of the criticisms of the AAT is that "only non-specialists" support it. I didn't realise that IBT was a specialist in Palaeoanthropology. I agree, the Daily Mail does peddle some garbage, but at least I was only using it as a national news source to report a factual event, and not as a means to either prove or disprove the theory. Having said that, at least IBT correctly reported that:

Conference chairman Professor Rhys Evans, a surgeon at the Royal Marsden Hospital, said: "We are trying to discuss the pros and cons of the theory. But many of the things which are unique to humans - such as a descended larynx, walking upright, fat beneath the skin, and most obviously an extremely large brain - it seems can best be accounted for as adaptations to extended periods in an aquatic environment."

The issue here isn't whether people agree or disagree with people like David Attenborough or Professor Rhys Evans, but rather that the statement at the end of the opening paragraph is now out of date:

popularity of the idea with non-experts

and a later derogatory comment

The AAH is thought by some anthropologists to be accepted readily by popular audiences, students and non-specialist scholars because of its simplicity

Langdon may have thought this in 1997 (the reference used to support these statement), it is now 2015, and more and more educated people are coming to the conclusion that water likely played a significant part in human evolution, including high ranking medical professors and someone who, yes, may be a broadcaster, but has had lifelong contributions as presenter in the service of science, has first hand experience with, chimps, gorillas and orangutans as well as aquatic mammals throughout his long-spanning career, as well as others in the palaoanthropology field, such as Chris Stringer. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Aquapess (talkcontribs)

"written by a Nature editor who clearly just wanted to advertise his book" - you have a reliable source stating this?
"another one was a blog" - see WP:NEWSBLOG. Scientific American is a respected source, unlike your Medical Hypotheses.
Attenborough and Evans are not experts. --NeilN talk to me 17:49, 24 May 2015 (UTC)
  • There has been presented zero evidence that the view is gaining popularity. The fact that the proponents themselves claim this is entirely irrelevant. The hypothesis is not mentioned in mainstream journals. It is not mentioned in human evolution textbooks. When it starts being mentioned in contexts that is not either conferences organized by proponents, or news coverage of those conferences, then that would mean something. Namedropping means nothing at all.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 17:57, 24 May 2015 (UTC)
- your reference, where he shamelessly plugs his book mid-article

"As I discuss (with tongue firmly in cheek) in my forthcoming book The Accidental Species,"

Aquapess (talk) 17:47, 3 June 2015 (UTC)
Ah, yes, that whole column was written just to insert that one sentence. Since you work at a university, I wonder what professors would say if you came up to them and said they were only teaching classes so they could shamelessly advertise their books? --NeilN talk to me 20:14, 3 June 2015 (UTC)
I'm terribly sorry, I've just realised what's happened. I work at a university, and I've made the mistake of thinking that Wikipedia uses the same standards of referencing. You see, our students are not allowed to use blogs as references, and any student found to be doing so will automatically be marked down (after a brief chuckle from whoever is the marker). But I can see that Wikipedia has different rules, so you're quite right, your reference to the SA blog is acceptable in this case.
I'm afraid that we only accept references from peer-reviewed journals or published books for students' coursework as referencing, especially in science. This is how science progresses. Medical Hypotheses is a peer-reviewed journal, with an impact factor of 1.152. Granted, this is quite low, but it would be perfectly respectable for a masters student, and most PhD students don't tend to publish in journals with an impact factor higher than 3 - 5. Most professors or leaders in their field can only hope to publish a handful of times, if ever, in the big journals (Nature, Scientific American, etc, impact factor 20 - 30+), in their entire career. This is mainly because they are non-specialist journals, a bit "jack of all trades", covering everything from quantum physics to genome sequencing, which means that the entire scientific community of the world is in competition to publish in it.
The other peer-reviewed reference I added (and was subsequently deleted from the article) was from Evolutionary Anthropology (journal) [4] This is a specialist journal, and has an impact factor of 4.53, making it a fairly respectable journal in its field. The article was also co-written by respected palaoanthropologist Robert Foley. As I tried to explain on Neil's talk page, he is so well-known that he has his own Wikipedia page. He is an expert in this field, yet it seems you were happy to delete his paper without a passing comment, and only Attenborough piqued your interest. I'm honestly baffled about this obsession with Attenborough, and I've yet to hear any reasons why a reference from an expert was rejected. The David Attenborough insert was perhaps the least important change that I was hoping to make on the page.
I think one of the issues might be that you guys don't have access to these journals, so you can't comment on something which you have not read. I'm happy to send you some articles if you like, so that you can be more well-read on this issue. In the mean time, you can also look at this article from Rae and Koppe (2014) [5], because even the abstract which you can read mentions David Attenborough:

"The idea that people went through an aquatic phase at some time in their evolutionary past is currently undergoing a popular resurgence (see Foley & Lahr[1]). This idea has even started to gain some traction in more learned circles; the late paleoanthropologist Phillip Tobias wrote in support of aspects of it in an edited e-book[2] and a conference on the topic held recently in London was endorsed by celebrities such as the television presenter Sir David Attenborough.[3] Despite (or perhaps because of) the lack of interest within the academic community, advocates of the concept continue to fill the media with challenges to the “savannah hypothesis” of the origins of people and to bemoan the fact that their views are not taken seriously by mainstream academia."

This is a genuine peer-reviewed article, from a journal that is specialist in the palaoanthropology field. This article is in fact against AAT, but doesn't pretend that AAT isn't undergoing a "popular resurgence" just because they don't agree. This abstract illustrates that mentioning David Attenborough has nothing to do with "name-dropping" and everything to do with bringing AAT discussion to the fore, and the repercussions that his comments have had within the palaeoanthropology community.
In conclusion, you have deleted two of my peer-reviewed references, whilst attempting to back up your own comments with non-peer-reviewed sources. Please tell me again how AAT is "unscientific" and how you justify the retention of unsubstantiated and factually incorrect comments such as "The AAH does not appear to have passed the peer review process" Aquapess (talk) 17:47, 3 June 2015 (UTC)
As I alluded to before, at least one of your peer-reviewed references, Medical Hypotheses, has a dubious reputation. Even the publisher states, "Medical Hypotheses was therefore launched, and still exists today, to give novel, radical new ideas and speculations in medicine open-minded consideration, opening the field to radical hypotheses which would be rejected by most conventional journals." [4] So, a publisher of fringe theories. --NeilN talk to me 20:28, 3 June 2015 (UTC)
That is indeed to put it mildly. It is a notorious publisher of fringe science and is not reliable source for anything other than to note that a given fringe idea exists.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 02:03, 4 June 2015 (UTC)
Again, no mention of the Evolutionary Anthropology paper that i have referenced even though it fits all the criteria requested:
  1. a specialist peer-reviewed journal, edited by experts in the field
  2. an article written by opponents of AAT
  3. not from a conference
  4. a recent article

Seems like you guys want to brush Rae and Koppe (2014) under the carpetAquapess (talk) 12:44, 25 June 2015 (UTC)

I had not noted your reference to Rae and Koppe. I found it now and also read Foley and Mirazon in the same issue of EA. Both of those articles are excellent, and deal damaging blows to the scientific status of the AAH. Rae and Koppe demonstrate that the sinus could not have had any relation to flotation. And Foley and Mirazon demonstrates that the watered down lacustrine AAH does not account for any aspects of evolution that has not already been better accounted for by non aquatic hypotheses. They conclude that the AAH has been around for 50 years and no significant evidence in favor has accumulated, and that today no open questions require recourse to an aquatic hypothesis. Both papers should of course be included, but not cited for the en passant mention that Attenborough has supported the hypothesis, but for the substantial argument which is a rejection of AAH.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 14:12, 25 June 2015 (UTC)
Hi Maunus, many thanks for taking the time to look up those two papers, that is most appreciated. In defence against the Rae and Koppe paper, the sinus is not considered to be very strongly linked to aquatic living by most AAT supporters (myself included) precisely because there is a very dubious link between the two. I suspect this is why they picked this one feature to focus on, since it is so easy to pick apart, rather than, say the deposition of subcutaneous fat and loss of body hair (widespread in aquatic mammals, and unheard of in other great apes). Even Langdon admitted that "11 out of 26 traits to be possible aquatic adaptations consistent with the AAH" [6], yet they chose not to pick one of these features. I find it quite pointed that Rae and Koppe shy away from critiquing more complex issues such as subcutaneous fat or the dive reflex in infants, and rather aim at easy targets such as the sinus. It seems to me that the recent resurgence in AAT support has been received as some kind of threat, and this paper is a hasty defence to prevent changing the status quo, and they also use the support of Attenborough dismissively, but this is going off topic. Fact of the matter remains that even they acknowledge that at least the AAT has "gained traction" in recent years, hence my inclusion, rather than any name dropping.
On another matter, since pieces from Scientific American seem to be popular amongst Wikipaedia editors, I thought you all might enjoy reading this: "Wikipedia Editors Woo Scientists to Improve Content Quality"[7] Very much looking forward to a time when academics will be more involved with editing such pages, and even get a chance to correct comments about themselves. Aquapess (talk) 10:08, 9 September 2015 (UTC)


  1. ^ Williams, Amanda (28 April 2013). "Early human ancestors were 'aquatic apes': Living in water helped us evolve big brains and walk upright, scientists say". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 16 May 2015. 
  2. ^ Mee, Benjamin (08 May 2013). "Did humans come from the seas instead of the trees? Much-derided theory of evolution about aquatic apes is debated in London". The Independent. Retrieved 16 May 2015.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. ^ McKie, Robin. "Big brains, no fur, sinuses … are these clues to our ancestors' lives as 'aquatic apes'?". Retrieved 24th May 2015.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  4. ^ Foley, Robert; Lahr, MM (2014). "The role of "the aquatic" in human evolution: constraining the aquatic ape hypothesis". Evolutionary Anthropology 23 (2): 56-59. doi:10.1002/evan.21405. 
  5. ^ Rae, Todd; Koppe, Thomas (20th April 2014). "Sinuses and flotation: Does the aquatic ape theory hold water?". Evolutionary Anthropology 23 (2): 60 - 64.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  6. ^ Kuliukas, Algis. "Langdon's Critique of the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis: It's Final Refutation or Just Another Misunderstanding?". Retrieved 9 September 2015.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ Hodson, Richard. "Wikipedia Editors Woo Scientists to Improve Content Quality". Scientific American. Retrieved 9 September 2015. 


I have uncited the word to word [5] duplication from BBC article.[6] Please research, there can be more. VandVictory (talk) 03:37, 17 May 2015 (UTC)

Another one, [7] was not different to [8] VandVictory (talk) 04:22, 17 May 2015 (UTC)

[9] not different to [10] VandVictory (talk) 09:50, 17 May 2015 (UTC)

The above user has been blocked as part of a prolific SOCK campaign. -- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 19:53, 7 June 2015 (UTC)

Occam's razor[edit]

The attractiveness of believing in simplistic single-cause explanations over the much more complex, but better-supported models with multiple causality has been cited as a primary reason for the popularity of the idea with non-experts.

Er, Occam's razor, anyone? Viriditas (talk) 22:04, 5 August 2015 (UTC)

The clue here is 'better supported'. An explanation which isn't supported by verifiable evidence may be simple - that doesn't make it right. Maybe the wording could do with tweaking though. AndyTheGrump (talk) 22:42, 5 August 2015 (UTC)
The source is also 18 years old. Viriditas (talk) 22:59, 5 August 2015 (UTC)
Very much enjoy it when anti-AATers say "better supported" and then offer no examples. Yet to find any evidence that "better supports" why humans are the only great apes with deposition of significant subcutaneous fat and loss of hair cover, more common in our aquatic mammal distant cousins — Preceding unsigned comment added by Aquapess (talkcontribs) 10:11, 9 September 2015 Aquapess (talk) 10:21, 9 September 2015 (UTC)
On a further note Andy, one of your favourite comments is that AAT can't be true because there's a general consensus at the moment - that doesn't make it wrong either. Copernicus and Heliocentricism anyone? How about Semmelweis and hand washing? It was his own fellow doctors that insisted he was wrong and millions of people died as a result, and he died peniless in a mental assylum. Think how also contentious it was only 20 years ago to believe that birds evolved from dinosaurs. Revolutions are made by thinking outside the box, not going along with the status quo. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Aquapess (talkcontribs) 9 September 2015‎
Firstly, I have never stated that "AAT can't be true because there's a general consensus", and secondly, comparisons with Copernicus are ten-a-penny on Wikipedia article talk pages. Every other purveyor of snake-oil, perpetual-motion-machines and 'new physics to prove Einstein wrong' claims to be Copernicus reincarnated. They can't all be right, and accordingly Wikipedia has to stick with the tried and tested method of waiting for the revolution, and then reporting what is in orbit around where. And frankly, as 'revolutions' go, one that merely overturns the scientific consensus on how wet our distant ancestors got doesn't seem that revolutionary. Maybe though that is merely a jaded perspective of one who once actually believed in changing the future, rather than the past (not that I succeeded in either). AndyTheGrump (talk) 12:31, 9 September 2015 (UTC)

Is there a specific edit to the article someone wishes to propose? Otherwise this appears clearly to be WP:NOTFORUM and should be closed. -- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 12:55, 9 September 2015 (UTC)