Monday, May 21, 2012

A New Affirmation!

I am very excited by this woman. She is Elaine Morgan. She is 92 and she is shocking, offensive, stubborn, curious, obstinant, and brilliant. She may also be completely wrong, and I don't even care.

Born in 1920, Elaine started out as a writer, then became a playwright, then a journalist, then a scientific writer, then a nuisance.

Elaine believes that humans evolved from apes. A lot of people do, so that's not earth shaking, although it is contentious to a lot of folks, some in my own household.

But Elaine also believes humans evolved from AQUATIC APES. She is driving her fellow scientists absolutely nuts. This woman will not shut up.

This is why she believes it (in her own words):

1. All other non-human mammals which have lost all or most of their fur are either swimmers like whales and dolphins and walruses and manatees, or wallowers like hippopotamuses and pigs and tapirs. One general conclusion seems undeniable from an overall survey of mammalian species: that while a coat of fur provides the best insulation for land mammals the best insulation in water is not fur, but a layer of fat.

2. Humans are by far the fattest primates; we have ten times as many fat cells in our bodies as would be expected in an animal of our size. In land mammals fat tends to be stored internally, especially around the kidneys and intestines; in aquatic mammals and in humans a higher proportion is deposited under the skin. When an anatomist skins a cat or rabbit or chimpanzee, any superficial fat deposits remain attached to the underlying tissues. In the case of humans, the fat comes away with the skin, just as it does in aquatic species like dolphins, seals, hippos and manatees.

3. The only animal which has ever evolved a pelvis like ours, suitable for bipedalism, was the long-extinct _Oreopithecus_, known as the swamp ape. Only two other primates when on the ground stand and walk erect more readily than most other species. One, the proboscis monkey, lives in the mangrove swamps of Borneo. The other is the bonobo or pygmy chimpanzee; its habitat includes a large tract of seasonally flooded forest.

4. We have conscious control of our breathing. In land mammals these actions are involuntary, like the heart beat or the processes of digestion.Voluntary breath control appears to be an aquatic adaptation because, apart from ourselves, it is found only in aquatic mammals like seals and dolphins.

5. We have millions of sebaceous glands which exude oil over head, face and torso, and in young adults often causes acne. The chimpanzee's sebaceous glands are described as "vestigial" whereas ours are described as "enormous". Their purpose is obscure. In other animals the only known function of sebum is that of waterproofing the skin or the fur.

6. We have the largest brains of all the apes. The building of brain tissue, unlike other body tissues, is dependent on an adequate supply of Omega-3 fatty acids, which are abundant in the marine food chain but relatively scarce in the land food chain.

7. The oldest pre-human fossils (including the best known one, "Lucy") are called australopithecus afarensis because their bones were discovered in the afar triangle, an area of low lying land near the Red Sea, which was completely flooded about 7 million years ago. The ape population living there at the time would have found themselves living in a radically changed habitat. Some may have been marooned on off-shore islands - the present day Danakil Alps were once surrounded by water. Others may have lived in flooded forests, salt marshes, mangrove swamps, lagoons or on the shores of the new sea, and they would all have had to adapt or die. The first and most famous austrilopithicus discovery, an individual dubbed "Lucy" was found lying among crocodile and turtle eggs and crab claws at the edge of a flood plain near what would then have been the coast of Africa.

I don't know if she's right. Neither does she, although she's getting enough flak from the scientific community to suggest that she's on to something. Nobody likes change, not even scientists.

And this is why I love thinking about her, and her theory, and her persistence. I love it because it is what I value so much - an inquisitive and interested mind, ready to take on the established and turn it on its head. I love that she was a writer, then a playwright, then a journalist, then a scientist. It makes me wonder what she will be next.

And it makes me wonder what I will be next. Can I keep that crisp and brave mindset that hungers to learn, learn, learn? Can I risk the joy and disappointment of redesigning myself as the years go by? Can I be heroic enough to not be finished, to be ever in process, to be perhaps at time irritatingly right, or ridiculously wrong? Can I keep going?

I want that. Not just for myself, but for the ripples my life will make. I want the stones I throw to be wave-makers. I won't throw them at others, but I want to keep throwing them again and again into the well of my own self, to see how the ripples and splashes will intersect, will make new and ever changing patterns on the surface, and ultimately keep the waters of my life ever fresh, ever moving, ever disturbed.

People hike to find waterfalls. People rush to the ocean's edge. People throw inner tubes into rivers and ride them, to see where the river will take them.

It's important that the water moves.

It's important that the water of my life keeps moving, even if I'm the one who has to break the surface again and again. Please Lord, let me never shut up.

I want to be aquatic, whether or not I came from an aquatic ape.


  1. Aunt Karen, your blog kicks some serious ass. . ..

  2. You have a gift with words.
    You should be a writer,