Aquatic Ape Hardcover – Nov 1982
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Argues that the physical differences between humans and apes can be accounted for by assuming that, at one point, our evolutionary ancestors returned to the sea.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
If you want this for it's place in feminist history, or the history of the AAT, then go ahead and buy it.
Otherwise, I suggest you buy "the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis" by the same author. While it is of no notable feminist import, it is considerably more up to date for the AAT/AAH, better written, better researched (25 years more research went into it), with more evidence, better references, and so on and so forth. Also see "the Descent of the Child", and "the Scars of Evolution", again by the same author.
Be warned that this is the only significantly feminist work by THIS Elaine Morgan. There is a DIFFERENT Elaine Morgan who has written such books as "Women and Society".
Biology textbooks often offer the "just so" story of human evolution: driven from the forests by drought, survival on the savanna by group hunting and scavenging that required language development and promoted tool use─all centering on the man as hunter. "Wrong!" shouts Elaine Morgan, who champions Professor Alister Hardy's aquatic ape theory, a theory that "explains" our unusual hair patterns, our plump babies, our upright stance, even our primordial fears of spider and snake-like critters (crabs and eels?).
"Descent of Woman" is an earlier version, and slightly "heavier-handed." "The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis" was written several decades after this book and incorporates even more data. This intermediate version includes the "diving reflex" of marine mammals that is also found in humans, but is less rigorous, less detailed. Rigor and detail are essential if you are going to debate in the expert science arena; but for popular understanding "Aquatic Ape" is an initial alternative "just so" story for high school students to ponder.
There are additional books espousing the importance of understanding females to understand modern human traits that are based on softer sciences. Some argue that "culture as a symbolic system resulted from an immense social, sexual, and political revolution initiated by women" and that "Culture became established when evolving human females began to assert collective control over their own sexuality, refusing sex to all males except those who came to them with provisions." It is difficult for science teachers in public schools to detail the "sex strike" as a means by which women motivated men to hunt, but this too provides a female-based alternative to the alpha male on the savanna. In comparison, "Aquatic Ape" should allow a teacher to encourage discussion of the role of women in human evolution by remaining in the realm of biology without treading into dangerous sex ed territory.