How come you people never come visit? I’m only an hour from the freeway by way of a two-lane county road, roughly equidistant from Fargo, Sioux Falls, and Minneapolis, yet somehow no one ever happens to be passing through this remote rural town … until today. Jim Moore took a little detour from his road trip from Victoria, BC to Oklahoma to pop by lovely Morris, Minnesota and say hello. Now we expect the rest of you to come on by.
In case you don’t know who Jim Moor is, he maintains this web page, a critique of the Aquatic Ape “Theory”. This “theory” (really, it doesn’t deserve the promotion) is often taken as quite reasonable at first glance — hey, whales have reduced body hair and are aquatic, humans have reduced body hair so maybe they also went through an aquatic stage in their evolution — but once you dig just a tiny bit deeper, the inconsistencies within the hypothesis and the contradictions with reality loom larger and larger, and you really should realize that it’s utter nonsense. But weirdly, there are a number of people who have gotten quite obsessed with the idea and who have written reams of papers to rationalize the baloney. Back in the 20th century wrangles over the Aquatic Ape nonsense would spontaneously emerge on usenet all the time (here’s one example) because its proponents had to be completely refractory to contradicting evidence. Good times.
One interesting twist to it all is that it’s an odd variant of denialism. These people aren’t rejecting an established scientific conclusion, such as that HIV causes AIDS or that human activities contribute to global warming — they are pushing beyond reason for a conclusion that science denies. I suppose you could say they’re denying the evidence that shoots down their favored beliefs, but at least they actually have a positive (but bogus!) hypothesis that they aren’t afraid to recite at you, which puts them several notches above the Intelligent Design creationists.
Anyway, Moore has a tremendous amount of useful information rebutting the Aquatic Ape Speculation — it’s well worth a browse, and also amusing to read some of the crackpot defenses (one of my favorites is the claim that Neandertals had large noses that they used as snorkels). And I’m not just saying that because he was nice enough to stop by Morris!