Not sure if we can talk about evolution here, but I think this is fascinating.
It’s a book by a neck and head surgeon and lecturer at the University of Birmingham, Peter Rhys-Evans, titled The Waterside Ape.
His thesis is that human beings evolved in close proximity to water, rivers, lakes and oceans, – in another words, in an aquatic lifestyle, which accounts for many of the traits we have such as lack of body hair, stream-lined body shape, a layer of fat underlying the skin, and others. This theory is in contradiction to the generally held theory of evolution on the savannah, which doesn’t account for those traits. So he theorizes that we started out on the path taken by seals, dolphins, and other aquatic mammals.
if we had continued in an aquatic lifestyle. we might be mermaids now.
The days of the ban on discussions about evolution are finally over. (For better or worse)
The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis as it’s better known has been around for quite some time, and I always thought that it explained man’s unique physiology far better than the savanna theory does. But its advocates seem to be in the minority for some reason, so I presume that anthropologists/evolutionists have a logical explanation for dismissing it. But I don’t know what it is.
Then again, I think that they have the evolution of human intelligence wrong as well. But hey, whaddo I know.
I can think of one way in which humans are poorly adapted to aquatic life. We can swim only with training. Most four-legged land animals can swim with no training at all (because, for them, swimming uses the same leg movements as walking). Is there any aquatic animal that is born not knowing how to swim?
The theory doesn’t suggest that we evolved as swimmers per se, but mainly as waders with the ability to hold our breath, an ability that we share with other aquatic mammals. This gave us the ability to exploit coastal resources. A resource that other primates were less adapted to utilize.
This ability to hold our breath is one of the things that makes our intricate speech possible. So no, we didn’t evolve to be fish. But our unique physiology suggests that we did evolve to exploit an aquatic environment, but not spend our entire life in the water.
If loss of body hair is a major factor in leading Evans to propose the “Waterside Ape”, there is a perfectly good savanah-based explanation too. That is endurance hunting - something only possible without a body covered with hair. Even today there are primitive tribes that hunt this way in hot dry climates. They find a prey animal, like a gazelle, and start chasing it. At first the gazelle is much faster than the humans and can simply dash away. But the humans keep after it, forcing it to continue to run in the hot sun. The humans can do this because their bodies are cooled by perspiration evaporating from the naked skin. However the gazelle, covered with hair, must rest for much longer to dissipate the build-up of heat from the burst of running. But he has no chance because the humans are there before he can cool down. After some time the gazelle simply collapses from heat stroke and the humans can easily finish him off with a sharp stick.
This is true, but many savanna predators such as hyenas use the same tactic of running down prey, without the advantage of sweat glands or a lack of hair/fur. Now it’s true that humans and hyenas would have taken different evolutionary paths to achieve the same strategy, but then the question becomes…how did this strategy evolve in humans?
In other words did humans begin by simply chasing animals for a short distance, and then slowly evolve to chase their prey further and further. If so, then what were the intermediate steps? Because each step needs to be successful. You can’t just go from having hair, to chasing prey over long distances without a number of intermediate steps. But what were those steps?
Such an evolutionary path may be perfectly reasonable, but I’m just wondering what the intermediate steps were, and whether the aquatic ape theory offers a simpler explanation.
This is always a difficult in evolutionary hypotheses. We are unable to imagine the intermediate steps that occurred. But that does not mean no such intermediate steps occurred. It just means we are limited in our imagination.
And the fact that there are other evolutionary solutions to the same problems is to be expected. It does not mean that either of the strategies are incorrect.
All of this is absolutely correct as far as I can tell. But the question still remains, what were the steps? And would the steps have been simpler in an aquatic environment?
For example, did humans begin by chasing slow lumbering animals, and then transition to chasing more mobile animals as the slow animals disappeared? That seems unlikely to me. I don’t see the obvious catalyst for evolution. Or were they simply following migratory animals across the hot savanna, such that humans slowly evolved heat tolerant adaptations? And it’s that heat tolerance that then allowed them to employ the chase until they dropped strategy. That seems like a more likely scenario. Begin by following migratory animals across the savanna, picking off the weak and injured, all the while slowly evolving heat tolerance, such that you can then employ the more offensive strategy of chasing your prey. So it’s a matter of humans evolving, and as they evolved, their strategies evolved.
Now that makes more sense to me.
The Aquatic Ape theory offers a different scenario. Forage for close in coastal resources. Slowly evolving certain physical adaptations which allow you to more efficiently exploit those resources, and exploit even harder to reach aquatic resources. It’s advantage comes in the abundance of coastal resources, which are high in certain types of protein, and still allows access to plants that would also exist in aquatic environments. Thus a more diverse, richer, and easier to exploit diet.
Problem: would such an environment lead to the human ability to run long distances? Answer: almost certainly not.
Does this mean that the savanna theory is better? Well that depends upon whether you consider it to be an either or proposition. But is it? Or do humans exhibit characteristics that are better explained by a combination of the two? Just as we still exhibit characteristics that evolved in an arboreal environment, we may actually carry evolutionary adaptations from an arboreal environment, a savanna environment, and an aquatic environment. Perhaps it’s the combination of all three that makes us so unique, and why we survived and became intelligent while other primate lineages didn’t.
I’m just considering the possibilities.
(I hate when spell checker doesn’t agree with me on how to spell something. Like savannah)
I don’t think we are required to take the Genesis account literally. God is capable of breathing a soul into a creature who descended from older forms.
In fact, as Jesus said, he is able to raise up children for Abraham out of these stones.
Barring the endless rabbit holing of “How Long Is The Day in Genesis?”, of which we’re free to take it literally if we opt to… (for, it’s rather superficial to the account of ramifications of the Fall - especially that concerning Original Sin and its Call for the Redeemer Jesus,
Scriptures support and Catholicism Teaches
that Adam and Eve are indeed the first persons of Humanity.