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Elaine Morgan (born 1920) is a Welsh feminist writer, best known for her television work, including screenwriting most of the episodes of Dr. Finlay's Casebook. She is also the author of several books about the aquatic ape hypothesis, among them The Descent of Woman, The Aquatic Ape, The Scars of Evolution, The Descent of the Child, The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis and her latest The Naked Darwinist which discussed the reasons why there is so little discussion of aquatic scenarios in the academic literature. She also authored Falling Apart and Pinker's List. Morgan is generally described as more of a popularizer of science than a scientist.
In 2003 she started to write a weekly column for the Welsh National Daily, The Western Mail.
Aquatic ape hypothesis
Morgan first became drawn into scientific writing when reading popularizers of the savannah hypothesis of human evolution such as Desmond Morris. She described her reaction as one of irritation because the explanations were largely male-centered. For instance, if humans lost their hair because they needed to sweat while chasing game on the savannah that did not explain why women should also lose their hair as, according to the savannah hypothesis, they would be looking after the children. On re-reading Desmond Morris's The Naked Ape she encountered a reference to a hypothesis that humans had for a time gone through a water phase, the so-called aquatic ape hypothesis. She contacted Morris on this and he pointed her to Alister Hardy. Her first book The Descent of Woman (1972) was originally planned to pave the way for Hardy's more academic book, but Hardy was never to publish his book. In her later books she tried to write on more scientific basis or more "po-faced" as she herself described it. As an outsider and a non-scientist she claims to have encountered hostility from academics. Many of her books seem to be written as much to counter the many arguments put forth against the Aquatic Ape Theory as to advance its merits. Her position is summarised in her website .
Morgan has been accused of using sloppy and unscientific methods in her scientific writing - for instance, systematically distorting quotes to support her position . Nevertheless, her opinions are being received by a broader audience. The 1998 BBC documentary "The Aquatic Ape" chronicles the story of Morgan's quest to have the aquatic ape hypothesis taken seriously. And her hypotheses have reached academia. In 1999, for example, Morgan was invited to speak at Tufts University, Harvard University, and the University of Ghent, Belgium, at the "Symposium of Water and Human Evolution."
According to the website "world-science.net" in an article bylined October 18, 2007, newly found "evidence of the earliest known people with cultural trappings of modern human species" dating to about 164,000 years ago has been found at the edge of the Indian Ocean in Southern most South Africa. This finding moves behaviorally modern humans back about 70,000 years in time. More significantly to Elaine Morgan and the theories she has defended in her writings, this behavior includes features strongly tied to the oceanic environment, very early in human history. The report of the findings appears in the October 18, 2007 issue of the journal "Nature".
Her most recent book, Pinker's List, is a response to Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate, in which she rejects his claim to objectivity and argues that the "blank-slate" beliefs he caricatures have long been extinct.
Morgan's later books on the aquatic ape hypothesis are:
- The Aquatic Ape, 1982, Stein & Day Pub, ISBN 0-285-62509-8
- The Scars of Evolution, 1990, Souvenir Press, ISBN 0-285-62996-4
- The Descent of the Child, 1995, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-509895-1
- The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis, 1997, Souvenir Press, ISBN 0-285-63377-5
- The Naked Darwinist, 2008, Eildon Press, ISBN 0-9525620-30
Books on other topics:
- Falling Apart: The Rise and Decline of Urban Civilisation, 1976, Souvenir Press Ltd. ISBN 0-285-62234-X
- Pinker's List, 2005, Eildon Press, ISBN 0-9525620-2-2
- "Scars of Evolution", a BBC Radio 4 programme featuring Morgan. David Attenborough hosts the series that chronicles the rising evidence in support of an aquatic environment in human evolution.
- Elaine Morgan at the Internet Movie Database
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