How did you counter their criticisms?
“I started reading books. And then I would look in the references in the back and send out for some of the books they were referring to and look at what they were referring to, so I sort of educated myself until I found a book to answer their objections. And I had had three years at Oxford. Whatever subject you’re reading there, it shows you how to find your way around it and how to teach yourself. It teaches you how to do research, how to check your facts, how to find out what books to read.”
Were you a feminist? Are you a feminist?
“The first book I wrote was sort of with an old version of feminism, because as I said, I thought it was condescending and demeaning as well as being wrong. But then, as I went on, I got more and more absorbed in the science of it, found more and more evidence pointing to the idea that Hardy was right. And then as I went along, there was less and less feminism and more and more science.”
Some scientists say there’s no fossil evidence for the aquatic ape theory.
“The fossil evidence is used by everybody. It’s just interpreted differently. There is no fossil evidence that says this proves it was wrong anymore than I can produce evidence that proves it was right. It’s just the balance of evidence and the balance of belief. … They had 20 or 30 years when they were saying, We’ve found this fossil or skull or piece of a torso or something on the savanna; therefore, they must have been on the savanna. Then they found that they were on the savanna, but the place where they were was not savanna then. Because they were walking on two legs before there even was a savanna. So they had fossil evidence, but they were totally misinterpreting it.
“Some things are getting clearer. For instance, they can now give the dates right. And they can now tell us with certainty, This fossil was living not on a savanna, but where there were trees. Well, there could be trees near the water. In fact, there’s nearly always water in forests because trees need such a lot of water; there are usually rivers there.”
What will happen if Darwin’s theory and Hardy’s merge? Will we find answers? Will the answer be: We were surrounded by water?
“Darwin asked a question; he said, Our species changed because something in the environment and the conditions of life changed. He didn’t supply an answer to what had changed in our case. He left that to the people who came after him. And I think Hardy had a good answer to it. And I think nobody has produced an answer that accounts for more of our differences than Hardy did. I’ve got no commitment at all about where it started or how it started; I only know it must have had something to do with water.”
After speaking with Elaine Morgan, Jonathan Maas felt the sudden urge to go for a swim.
Photo: Nick Richards via Flickr