Watery apes and small-minded columnists

Blog skull mediumI wrote Watermark partly because I love crime fiction and wanted to have a go at it myself, and partly because I have an interest in human evolution. I admit in the book that I’m not completely convinced by the whole argument in the aquatic ape hypothesis, but that there are some interesting and thought-provoking questions that the theory postulates answers for. On the 9th and 10th May this year there was a conference at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, attended by professional scientists who are undertaking research into human evolution. The conference was about anthropological, medical and nutritional aspects of human evolution, and concentrated particularly on the role of water and how we may have been influenced by it as a species. There were pro and con views of the extent to which water played a part, of course, which is what you expect in balanced scientific debate.

And then I came across an article in the Guardian by the editor of Nature, Henry Gee, and my heart sank. It’s sarcastic, dismissive and really demonstrates the worst excesses of “smarty-pants” scientists. Oh, and at the end of the article he plugs his own book that’s coming out in October! As he seems to be a fan of Occam’s Razor (the simplest explanations are often the right ones – OK massively paraphrased but you get the gist!) perhaps I could apply the razor to his article and shave away the bigotry to reveal a shameless bit of self-promotion? Perish the thought! We all have to promote our books Henry, but not at the expense of rubbishing the commitment and hard work of others.

If your interest is piqued, try reading some of Elaine Morgan’s books on the subject. She is now very elderly and quite poorly, but has spent a large part of her life in well-informed and very able pursuit of a fair hearing for alternative theories of human evolution. Henry Gee doesn’t name her at all, but lumps together all protagonists of the AAH as unqualified people whose opinion is worth nothing. To caricature such a modest, generous and hard-working woman in this way when she is now too ill to respond, is appalling. She was very kind and supportive of me when I was writing Watermark, and I will always have a great fondness for her.

See BBC “Great Welsh Writers” series.

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