Wednesday, 5 November 2008

The Aquatic Ape Mystery

It's a mystery to many people why the Aquatic Ape Theory hasn't received full acceptance from the scientific establishment as yet. This has been commented on, not only by Aquatic Ape advocates like Elaine Morgan (1) and Algis Kuliukas,(2) but also by people who are sceptical about the theory, such as John Hawks.(3)

Elaine Morgan suggests the problem is simply stubbornness,(4) while Algis Kuluikas thinks that scientists misunderstand what AAT, (Aquatic Ape Theory) really is.(5) Personally, I think the resistance to AAT is not scientific and has more to do with political ideology and how science is financed, as I will explain later.

The whole point about the Aquatic Ape Theory is that it explains so many things about human evolution. Because we spent so much time in and around water during our evolutionary past, it has shaped us as animals in a way that is unique in the ape family. (6)

It explains why humans walk on two legs. We do this because our ape ancestors found it easy to obtain foods like shellfish and seaweed from shallow water. They would spend many hours a day collecting this marine food from the water. Wading upright would be the sensible way to do this. An ape can move deeper into the water standing on two legs, and can use its hands to pick up the food. Over long periods of time, foraging in this way had a permanent effect on the apes' posture and they began to walk upright even out of the water. Once the shallows became overfished, wading apes would be forced to duck their heads below the surface to find food in even deeper water. As time went by, they became able to swim underwater to find food, thus extending the range of their foraging even more.

The theory explains why we are hairless, and why, unlike any other ape, we have subcutaneous fat around our bodies. It's because wet fur doesn't keep a person warm in the water, (a problem even in tropical waters). Also, fur slows you down when swimming, and even wading. It's a wonderful insulator for land mammals, light and adaptable to changing temperatures, but in the water, it is a handicap. Evolution favoured wading and swimming apes with less fur and more fat around their bodies, as these fatter apes could spend a longer time in the water, without getting too cold. Eventually we became largely hairless and had a permanent layer of subcutaneous fat. Like the blubber of most marine mammals, it keeps us warm in the water.

The Aquatic Ape Theory also explains why we have far larger brains than any other ape. The biggest brains on the planet belong to marine mammals like dolphins and whales, who have brains proportionately larger than humans. A seafood diet promotes brain growth, because it contains substantial amounts of vital nutrients such as Omega-3 fatty acids and iodine. These are not plentiful on land, but are abundant in marine food, which is one reason why land animals have smaller brains. We ate marine food for much of our history so we have gained an advantage in brain size.

AAT explains why we are able to talk. It's a complex subject, but it may be that learning to hold our breath underwater has given us breath control and a descended larynx which is vital in being able to speak.

These, in a nutshell, are the main points of The Aquatic Ape Theory. There are many minor things explained by AAT, like the shape of our nose, the diving reflex, large sweat glands, large kidneys to filter salt water, our ability to cry, a small mouth with weak biting muscles, poor sense of smell, late puberty, large flat feet and flat face compared with other apes, reinforce its central premise. (7)

There's not much dispute about the arguments I've just outlined. Opponents of the Aquatic Ape Theory criticise very little of the science, though some do point out that if we lost our hair and gained subcutaneous fat through becoming aquatic, why hasn't this happened to otters? (8) (This ignores the fact that other aquatic mammals like seals and dolphins did lose their hair and gained fat when they become aquatic). The answer is simple. The otter is considerably smaller than a human being. If the otter had the same thickness of subcutaneous fat, to keep it warm in the water, as we do, it would be a very bulky animal. On land, the weight of the extra fat would greatly restrict its movements, making it easy prey for predators. For the otter, waxy fur is a better solution, since fur is far lighter than fat, with better insulation qualities. This is also true for fur seals, the smallest species of seals, and sea lions.

Instead of arguing about the theory itself, critics liken the Aquatic Ape Theory to ridiculous notions like Erich von Däniken's 'aliens from space' ideas (9) or claim that the theory is pseudoscience or Lamarckism. (10) It's a common reaction to new ideas in science and amounts to name-calling, rather than a serious argument against it.

The Aquatic Ape Theory is not new; it has been around for a long time. As far back as 1930, marine biologist Sir Alistair Hardy (11) first came up with the idea, when he noticed that the blubber around marine animals like seals, dolphins and whales was similar to the subcutaneous fat around human beings. But he kept quiet, claiming that the theory could ruin his scientific career. He wasn't the first marine biologist to think like this; there were others, but like him, they also mostly kept quiet about it. The exception to this was German scientist Max Westenhöfer, (12) who published the first book on AAT in 1942. (During a world war is not the best time to put forward a new scientific theory).

Scientists' fear of proposing AAT to the wider world is a bit of a mystery in itself, because science is supposed to be about assessing an unbiased view of empirical facts. It should mean that any scientist can propose a reasonable scientific theory and receive a fair hearing. He shouldn't have to worry whether the theory will damage his career. The fact that Hardy knew his ideas would upset the scientific establishment, suggests there was more going on than an impartial assessment of the facts. So what was Hardy worried about?

One of the difficulties was that Hardy was a marine scientist. If he was to write a scientific paper on human evolution, he would be muscling in on someone else's territory. Scientists, generally, do not welcome suggestions from other scientific disciplines, but it has happened so many times in science, it shouldn't be an insuperable problem. It was something Hardy could have overcome. However, the problem was much deeper than that, and takes us back to when the theory of evolution was first proposed by Charles Darwin. (13)

When Elaine Morgan had her book, "The Descent of Woman", (14) published in 1972, the title itself made an ironic comment on Darwin's famous book "The Descent of Man". (15) The point she was making was that in evolutionary theory, women are hardly mentioned at all. There is a good reason for this. Back in the 19th century there were virtually no female scientists, and women were largely seen as irrelevant to the human story, so the theory of evolution was created from a completely masculine point of view. In many scientific disciplines, like astronomy or physics, this wouldn't be much of a problem, because the sex of the scientist is not going to make a big difference to the direction of scientific enquiry. But in evolutionary theory, the role of the sexes is very important. When the point of view of only one sex is represented, you are inevitably going to get huge distortions in the way the theory is interpreted and presented.

Darwin put forward the concept of "the survival of the fittest". 'Fittest' means "organisms best adapted to their environment and able to leave the largest number of offspring". (16) Unfortunately it was interpreted in a masculine way as "Nature, red in tooth and claw". (17) The emphasis was on violent competition. This was also true when human evolution was being described. The emphasis was placed on 'man the mighty hunter'. The role of the female and mother was hardly mentioned.

Unfortunately, this short-sighted concept soon created a political ideology called "Social Darwinism", (18) which used the idea of "the survival of the fittest" in politics, business and warfare. In its more extreme form, it became Fascism, as Hitler and the Nazi party strongly advocated Social Darwinism. (19) It also led to the foundation of Eugenics. (20) Those people perceived as 'unfit' were to be discouraged from breeding. In its more extreme forms, mass sterilisation was suggested and even tried,(21) while the Nazis used it to justify the genocide of millions of people.(22)

This 'macho' form of Darwinism was also the foundation of what became known as the Savannah Theory. (23) Briefly, the theory suggests that at the time when the forests of Africa were being destroyed by changing weather conditions, some of the apes related to today's chimpanzees (24) and bonobos (25) came down from the trees and lived on the open plains. In this very challenging environment, man (women are never mentioned in this theory), learnt how to stand upright, (to see over the tall savannah grasses), to speak, (to communicate hunting strategies with other men), lost his hair, (to keep cooler running after game), and developed a larger brain, (so he could outfox predators and find better methods of hunting, like the invention of hunting weapons and tools). Man then became a killer ape, (26) and a top predator on the African plains.

This became the accepted view of how man evolved from the other apes. The trouble is that it's not a very good theory. The long grasses on the savannah don't last very long. They are soon eaten by vast herds of wildebeests and other grass-eating animals. This means our human ancestors hardly ever needed to stand upright, to see above the long grass. As for losing their hair to keep cool; there are animals on the savannah, like cheetahs and antelopes that can run much faster than we can, and they didn't lose their hair because running made them too hot. The idea that man had to learn to speak and develop a large brain to be an effective hunter is disproved, as soon as you look at the lioness. Like men, lionesses cannot run as fast as most of their prey and so the pride has to work together to ambush their quarry. (27) But they didn't develop large brains or the ability to speak to do this. Recent research has shown this is also true of chimpanzees. Groups of male chimpanzees have been observed hunting small monkeys. (28) They can do this perfectly successfully without needing to learn to speak or have large brains, like humans.

In spite of its manifold problems, male scientists still clung to the Savannah Theory, so when Sir Alistair Hardy made the Aquatic Ape Theory public in 1960, (29) it was rejected completely by the scientific community. Hardy wrote one paper on it for "New Scientist", (30) then backed out and kept quiet about it. It was briefly mentioned in Desmond Morris's book, "The Naked Ape", (31) but AAT would have died if it hadn't been taken up by Elaine Morgan. Her book, "The Descent of Women", wasn't primarily about the Aquatic Ape Theory; it was more a feminist attack on the Savannah Theory. She asked probing questions like: while men were busy hunting game, what were the women and children doing? A human baby is the most helpless newborn in the animal kingdom, so how did a female ape, carrying a child, survive on the African savannah? Male scientists would like to claim that the males protected them, but, except for a male Gorilla, no ape would be a match for large carnivores like lions, leopards or hyenas. Apes are also not fast runners; they can't outrun large predators. Without a nearby tree to climb to safety, a group of apes on the open plain would be quickly wiped out. It is true that one primate, the baboon, (32) does live on the African plains, but the males have very large canine teeth and can sprint far faster than any ape. Human males never developed teeth like this, and run far slower on two legs, than any Savannah animal can on four. (33)

Having demolished the dubious Savannah Theory, Elaine Morgan proposed a better one, - AAT. Because of this, she soon found herself embroiled in a forty year war with the scientific establishment. It's a war she seems to have won, mostly because the Savannah Theory has fallen into disrepute. Its premises are not supported by the fossil evidence. When the Savannah Theory was first proposed, it was believed that humans evolved from apes less than a million years ago. More recent discoveries have turned up fossils of early humans four million years old, (34) when there were more forests in Africa than today. Our early ancestors were not forced to come down from the trees to live on the Savannah; there were plenty of trees for them to live in. (35) As a result of these finds, even Professor Philip Tobias, one of the main advocates of the Savannah Theory, said that it needs to be scrapped. (36) In spite of this, the Savannah Theory still lives on. (37) Why is this?

It's possible that the main reason for not ditching the Savannah Theory completely and accepting AAT, is that we would have to accept women's role in human evolution. Darwin and his ilk never seriously considered the part women played. They saw men as the driving force changing our species. But if we look more closely, it's obvious that the role of the mother is vital to the survival of any species. It's the mother who gives birth to the next generation, which can only reach breeding age if the mother cares for them successfully. In the case of humans, this involves a long period of dependency until a child is able to fend for itself. Good mothers are crucial to our survival. This is because a mother who is not very capable of caring for her children, would be far less likely to pass on her genes to the next generation, than a mother who is very good at doing this. The welfare of children doesn't have to be a problem for males, providing he impregnates a female who is a very good mother, and she is capable of bringing up the children he fathered on her own. The role of this type of man, in evolutionary terms, is only that of a sperm carrier.

Farmers have always known the value of the female animal. The important role of the female, means that it is the male animals which are generally killed before they reach full maturity. Only a few males are allowed to continue into adulthood, to fertilize the females. It's all the farmer needs. It's also true in the wild. If most of the males of a species were to die, it would cause few problems, because one male can fertilize large numbers of females. However, the same is not true for females. A species would be in real trouble if large numbers of females died, because the remaining ones would be limited in how many young they could produce. It's true that small animals, like rabbits or rats, who produce large litters, could overcome this problem, but it's a different story with humans, who give birth to one child a year at best. In evolutionary terms, men are expendable. It's the survival of women that keeps the species going. Changes to our bodies and to the way we live over time will only be retained if they allow breeding females and children to thrive. We seem to have forgotten this, when we choose to look only at men when considering our evolution.

If we no longer accept 'man the mighty hunter' in evolutionary theory, because the Savannah Theory has been abandoned, what role did men play in our evolution? Unfortunately, the Aquatic Ape Theory doesn't give men an important role at all. Along with women, they foraged for food in lakes, rivers and seashores and their bodies adapted to this new environment. They lost their fur, acquired subcutaneous fat and eventually learned how to dive and swim. It's not a glamorous and dramatic role, like being, 'man the mighty hunter' which suggests that the scientific community is very unlikely to accept AAT as long as male scientists continue to dominate science.

Another reason why the Aquatic Ape Theory is unacceptable, stems from the politics of Social Darwinism, which didn't die with the defeat of the Nazis in 1945 and the discrediting of the Eugenics movement. Its ideas still influence the minds of politicians, businessmen and military leaders. It has reappeared in a new version called Objectivism (38) which was created by the intellectual Ayn Rand. (39) Although she was a woman, she promoted a very masculine view of the world. She and her supporters claim her ideas have nothing to do with Darwin's evolutionary theory. (40) But as far as her critics are concerned, it is simply Social Darwinism under a new name, (41) with the words, "survival of the fittest" changed to "pyramid of ability". The rich and powerful are at the top of the pyramid, because they have more ability than the poor. (42) This movement is very influential, because Ayn Rand had so many friends in high places. (43)

The Wall St protesters currently occupying part of New York point out that only 1% of the population owns about 50% of the wealth of the USA. (44) This isn't just a problem for the poor and powerless, it is also one for rich people as well. Many of them feel guilty that they have so much wealth and power while millions live in poverty. Social Darwinism and Objectivism answer their concerns, because they talk about "the survival of the fittest". The rich are rich because they are 'fitter' or have more ability than the 'unfit' poor. This is not only a big compliment to the rich, which gives their egos a nice little boost, it's also a justification for why there is a big gap between rich and poor. The poor are poor because they are 'unfit'. In the savage fight which is human society, they have lost and the rich have won. If they starve to death, or die because of unhygienic conditions and the lack of proper health care, it might be a good thing. Their defective genes will be eliminated from the gene pool.

Objectivism also claims that the rich have a perfect right to exploit the poor, because they clearly have inferior abilities compared with the superior abilities of the rich. Again, Objectivism is very complimentary to the rich and justifies the gap between rich and poor. (45) It is no wonder that the writings of Ayn Rand are very popular and influential within the ruling class. This is a case where, "flattery will get you everywhere", because creating a philosophy that will appeal to people with wealth and power, is the way to get their support. Unfortunately, although these ideas are a help to the rich, they have had a devastating effect on the lower and middle classes in more recent times. Politicians and economists influenced by these ideas, have created a world where the gap between rich and poor has been growing constantly over the last forty years. (46)

The rich also rule the world of science, because all science is funded by governments, big business and the military. (47) And "he who pays the piper calls the tune" as the old saying goes. (48) It would be very difficult for any scientist to find funding for his or her research, if it didn't serve the needs of governments and wealthy people. Science has always been the plaything of wealthy individuals, businesses, the government and the military. (49) Back in the 19th and early 20th century astronomy depended on wealthy men funding bigger and better telescopes. Geologists likewise depend heavy on the oil and mining industries for finance, as they use geologists to find minerals and oil. Chemists rely on the chemical and drug industry for finance. The military has financed physics since it discovered that this branch of science could deliver nuclear weapons, and so it goes on. Zoology, anthropology, palaeontology and archaeology, are all branches of science involved in evolutionary theory but they don't make a profit for those who fund them. As a result, they are financed by governments and wealthy individuals who have their own hidden agendas. This means the direction of scientific research is not in the hands of scientists themselves but in the hands of those who pay the bills. This is why Sir Alistair Hardy knew that his Aquatic Ape theory would ruin his career if he pursued it. His funding would be cut off if he advocated any ideas not pleasing to those who held the purse strings.

The Savannah Theory is totally in line with Social Darwinism and Objectivism. It's about a killer ape (50) which became a top predator on the African plains. Its basic tenets not only justify competitiveness and aggressive capitalism, so businessmen can claim, "greed is good", it also justifies violence and warfare. Invading other countries is perfectly all right, because, after all, "the survival of the fittest" is what matters. The Savannah Theory also receives strong support from the military, who finance science and technology to the tune of billions of dollars. They may not know what it is, but its concept of 'might is right' and 'let the weakest go to the wall' perfectly sums up their philosophy. It's therefore not a good idea for any scientific establishment to upset the military if they want to keep their funding.

The Aquatic Ape Theory undermines the whole concept of Social Darwinism. It gives no role to a killer ape; far from it. It suggests that the driving force in human evolution is not men, but women. It has been accepted by anthropologists who have studied stone-age tribes which have survived up until the 19th and 20th centuries, that it is mostly men who hunt, while women gather food. The problem with the Aquatic Ape Theory is that it is all about foraging, which is what women do. There is nothing within this theory about hunting, so the role of men is very unclear. They were more than likely gatherers, (51) like the women. Apes and monkeys are also gatherers. It's true that male chimpanzees do a bit of hunting but the bulk of their food comes from foraging. So humans, evolutionarily speaking, were no different from any other foraging primate. Hunting with spears and bows and arrows probably came much later in our evolution, after we had become homo sapiens.

Gathering food on a beach or in the shallows of river estuaries would suit female apes, because it would give mothers with young some protection from predators, who would generally avoid venturing into water. Wading deeper into the shallows on two legs is a much safer way to escape from predators than climbing a tree burdened by a human child, who may be quite heavy before he becomes able to shin up a tree at speed. It is true that some carnivores can swim, but it's unusual behaviour for most African land predators. There's also some archaeological proof that this foraging did happen. Large shell-midden heaps the size of small hills have been found along the South African coast. Some of these shells date as far back as 70,000 years. (52)

Mangrove swamps could also be a safe haven for female apes. There is plentiful food (53) and no land predators. Some people may wonder about crocodiles preying on humans, but in fact mangrove swamps are salty and there are no salt-water crocodiles in Africa. (54) Males may have followed the females into these swamps, but they may also have continued to seek food on land, where they were better able to avoid predators than females burdened by infants. This would help explain why women have less hair and more subcutaneous fat than men, making them more aquatic. They spent more time in water than males. It would also explain why women have long thick hair on their heads. As female apes lost their body hair, their young would have less hair to cling to while their mothers gathered food in water. It would be a handicap for the females unless they had long hair on their heads, which the child could cling to and be held above the water. This favoured females with longer and thicker head hair and ensured the survival of their young.

It was the safety of females and their young that drove the evolution of the Aquatic Ape. It was the female who could see the opportunities in a different environment and adapt to it, who would be more likely to survive. There is no important and distinct role for male apes in this theory, and is probably the reason it hasn't become completely accepted. Males prefer to see themselves as crucial to evolution and the more important sex and no amount of evidence will shift them from this world-view.

The role of women is therefore problematical for modern evolutionists such as Richard Dawkins. (55) In his book, "The Selfish Gene", Dawkins promoted the idea of genes which were only interested in passing themselves on to the next generation. Human behaviour is only relevant if it helps the genes transmit their information. Dawkins called his book, "The Selfish Gene", (56) but if he had been a woman writing from a feminine point of view she might have called it, "The Maternal Gene" using similar logic and the same data as Dawkins. This is because it's maternal instincts that drive female animals to care for their young, or to put it in Dawkins words, to pass on their genes. A woman would see the maternal instinct as being more important than males "sowing their wild oats" because the survival of the child ie the genes come from maternal care. Paternal care may well have existed, but if we look at the current problem of 'deadbeat dads', (57) it's clear that it's patchy. Most males rely on females to rear children and in the past, a supportive network of females would have been the clincher in deciding whether an infant survived to reproduce. Males could help if they chose to.

Women also care for children within their family group, which makes sense when you remember that their genes are also carried by blood relatives, but they also nurture children biologically unrelated to them, either as adoptive or step-parents (58) or in their work as teachers, nurses, doctors and so on.. Without this care, many children would not survive or thrive clearly, they haven't read 'The Selfish Gene' or they would ignore all children that are not biologically their own. In contrast, we see many men who fail to ensure that their children, ie their genes are safely looked after till adulthood when they can reproduce. They may ignore them, fail to provide for them, abuse them and in some cases, murder them. (59) In many cases men are doing a very poor job of protecting their own genes.

The less commitment men have to the welfare of their off spring, the less influence they have in shaping the course of evolution. The maternal instinct is what determines which 'genes' survive until the individual is old enough to reproduce and males are completely dependent on this. Dawkins may refer dismissively to females as merely 'bearers' of the gene, but they are the crucial tools of human evolution. Without their nurturing, intelligence and adaptiveness, our species would be extinct.

Social Darwinists who accept the Savannah Theory, interpret 'the survival of the fittest" only from a masculine point of view. They see it in terms of a stag or ram who gets to mate with a large harem of females because he is bigger and stronger than other males and sees off any competitors. (60) Only his genes will be passed on to the next generation. This narrow view of the complexity of natural selection then justifies selfish capitalism, the big gap between rich and poor and warfare. Successful men are seen as some sort of rampant boar who has acquired the right to behave with appalling selfishness and aggression because this is Nature's way. (61)

The problem is that human males don't act like stags or rams. Generally, the biggest and strongest man doesn't get a chance to fertilize a large harem of females. It 's true that sultans, warlords and emperors in the past did do this, but it only applied to a small number of rulers and certainly didn't have a big influence on the evolution of our species. (62) Rich men in our society don't usually get to father any more children than poor men. To counter this, male-centred evolutionists claim that in the past, the strongest, fittest males mated with multiple females and ensured that children had the best possible genes. There is no evidence for this. It's possible that when males were scarce because of disease, warfare or other factors, polygamy on a big scale existed, but as soon as the population stabilises, it largely disappears. Human history doesn't show a minority of men possessing a large number of wives, while the rest of men miss out on reproduction. We are not deer and sheep.

Times were hard for us at various points in our history, as it was for many similar species like 'Homo Erectus' or 'Homo Neanderthal'. (63) When we look at our genetic history, we see that we are descended from a tiny group of humans who managed to survive in Africa then spread out to colonise the rest of the world. The other proto humans went extinct. In the challenging conditions we faced, it was the survival of women that was more important than that of men, even if men contributed in some way. A poor mother or one who died young would fail to pass on her genes to the next generation because the child would die. A poor father might not be so crucial. If females survived and thrived, so did homo sapiens. Males could help and protect women, but large numbers of them were not necessary to our survival. Females were.

A male-dominated tribe, as portrayed by the Savannah theorists, would be less likely to survive than a tribe which respects the importance of women. When times are hard and there is not enough food to feed the whole tribe, it's important that females are kept alive. If the strongest males selfishly keep what food is available to themselves, most of the women, children and weaker males will die. Although the strongest males may survive, without females they cannot reproduce and the tribe will die out. But in a tribe where they respect, protect or even revere women, females and their children will get to feed first, or at least have a reasonable share of what food is available. Even if many men die, the tribe survives.

Evidence that ancient tribes did revere women can be seen in the large numbers of small female statues (64) found in excavations of early human sites, the most famous being the Venus of Willendorf, dated to between 20,000 to 30,000 years ago.. Very few statues of men have been discovered. Male scientists have tried to dismiss these female statues as simply Stone Age pornography or fertility symbols. But the most likely explanation for these statues is that Stone Age people greatly respected and revered women and their capacity to bear children, something which would greatly help the survival of their tribes.

This appreciation of women's generative powers is no longer the case. Whatever the reason, maybe an abundance of food after agriculture or the rise of large populations, human societies came to be dominated by men, who used their greater strength, size and aggression to oppress and devalue women. They could get away with this because women could still survive, even if they were now demoted to being second class citizens, because of the plentiful supply of food. The fact that women were essential to human survival was glossed over as unimportant and forgotten. Men were now the important sex and history was re- told in terms of their accomplishments and qualities.

How does the female role relate to Social Darwinism? If we look at the female role in evolution, and relate it to now, then the 'fittest' person wouldn't be a rich businessman, banker or tyrant like Adolf Hitler. (65) It would be a single mother successfully bringing up her children, in poverty, without the support of a man. If the human race was to suffer catastrophes like nuclear war or the worst effects of global warming, causing the end of civilization, the survival of the human race would depend on mothers who can keep their children alive in extremely difficult conditions. The 'fittest' men in these conditions would be those with strong paternal instincts, ready to support the mother and the children they've fathered. Irresponsible males who impregnate women then shuck off their responsibilities, would be far less likely to see their genes survive.

Female scientists are very unlikely to propose these ideas. Like men, they need their funding and the approval of their peers. So it was left to someone outside the scientific establishment to promote the Aquatic Ape Theory. Elaine Morgan is a successful TV screenwriter, so she wasn't dependant on funding from politicians, the military or big business. This left her totally free to say whatever she liked and even though she was derided by most scientists, over time her views have come to be accepted by a growing number of people.

The Aquatic Ape Theory v the Savannah Theory is not about a few scientists arguing over some obscure scientific viewpoint. It affects us all. Evolutionary theory, (66) influences the attitudes of politicians and wealthy businessmen, and shapes what ordinary people think, (67) even if it's to reject Evolution in favour of a Creator. When an Objectivist like Ayn Rand has her ideas taken up by the likes of Ronald Reagan, George W Bush and Alan Greenspan, there is an enormous effect on the world. (68) Rand claimed there was no need for economic regulation and praised selfishness, greed and laissez-faire capitalism. The 'fittest' would succeed if we left them alone and didn't hamper them with rules. As a result, banking was deregulated, leaving short-sighted and greedy individuals to their own devices for many years, chasing profit at all costs. We all know what that led to. Financial institutions failing spectacularly owing trillions of dollars and a world-wide Depression. (69) It's clear from this failed experiment that unchecked selfishness and greed does not make for a better world; quite the opposite.

If the concept of "The survival of the fittest" was reinterpreted to show that the 'fittest' are the most caring, intelligent and capable mothers, we would have to reassess ourselves as humans. It would become difficult to use the theory of evolution to justify warfare and poverty. We would no longer think it was natural for human beings to be selfish, brutal killer apes, but instead see them as intrinsically caring, loving and nurturing people. We would start from the position that war, oppression and injustice are not normal, but imposed on us by a few aggressive and selfish men who have brainwashed us over millennia into thinking theirs is the only way. If the Aquatic Ape theory was accepted, it would do more than allow that we spent some of our evolutionary history wading in water and foraging for marine food. It would make us rethink our male-dominated view of the world and consider that a world guided by the maternal instincts of women would be a far better place in which to live. (70)



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