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We Are All Mermaids and Mermen
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2016 10:41 pm    Post subject: We Are All Mermaids and Mermen Reply with quote

In the wake of the Second World War, popular books on evolution gave aggression central billing in the human story. Far from deploring it, the likes of Lionel Tiger and Robert Ardrey appeared to get their rocks off by visualising how Rambo prototypes tore tender gazelles to pieces and devoured their hearts.

There was an obvious problem with the idea that man came down from the trees, picked up a spear and became a mighty hunter. No other predatory animal on the savannah lost its body fur and began to walk on two legs. It would have advertised vulnerability if it had.

Great apes in Africa lived in the most landlocked environment there is. The genetic separation between chimps and bonobos only needed a river to come between them. It was widely believed that primates were non swimmers, and if a chimp fell into a pond, it would panic and drown.

As a child I saw divers on TV, their bodies slim and streamlined. I wondered aloud, ''Why is it that chimps are scared of water but man can swim?'' My adoptive father put in, ''Man has learnt to swim'', which was true but stating the obvious.

Now we know that not all primates are scared of water. Japanese macaques will wade into the water just to clean the dirt off their potatoes. In the 40s, Alistair Hardy came up with the idea that the differences between ourselves and our closest cousins can be explained by living on the shoreline and going for a dip regularly.

It would explain why we lost our fur but gained a layer of fat under the skin analogous to blubber. The necessity to wade with our heads above water would explain the bipedal gait of humans.

Hardy feared ridicule. When he did publicise his hypothesis in the 60s, he was ridiculed. A nonsensical story went around that he had said humans were descended from dolphins.

Desmond Morris took him seriously, but gave him only a brief mention in 'The Naked Ape.' It was Elaine Morgan, a screen writer from Pontypridd who took up the baton and ran with it.

The early 70s coincided with the second wave of feminism. Elaine Morgan was annoyed with the Tarzanist model of the origin of man the mighty hunter.

Women were mentioned only in the chapter on sex. The idea was that they had to suck up to Tarzan to get a bit of meat. No pun intended.

This was certainly a travesty. I can remember a Jackie article from the 70s which stated seriously that it was natural for men to be dominant. In prehistory, women would have been busy cleaning and tidying their caves, and running a clothes brush over the family's leopard skins.

It was not for another decade that women's role in gathering vegetable food was acknowledged, and the phrase 'hunter gatherer' became standard in text books. Elaine Morgan can take some credit for this.

I still often use traditional language where 'he' embraces 'she', out of sheer laziness, though I used to dislike the usage. In the early 70s, people were only just beginning to object to constructions such as 'Man is a mammal which means that he suckles his young with his breasts.'

I remember feeling left out in the cold by this sort of language as a child. Elaine Morgan thought it was positively misleading as it gave a false image of the human race.

If you can just remember that there are two sexes, you will get a much more realistic impression of how our primeval ancestors lived. If you imagine them gathering mussels and eating catfish, it will be far less exciting than Tarzan. But real life is not much like boys' comics.

One criticism I read of Elaine Morgan's 'The Descent of Woman' was not even a straw man argument. It was based on puerile confusion. The male objector said that 'if women have a layer of fat under the skin because they went back to the sea, I must be a woman too!''

But Elaine Morgan had never claimed that men did not also go back to the sea. In his skeptoid series, Brian Dunning debunks conspiracy theories and pseudo science. I often agree with him.

But I think he is wrong that religion is not especially predictive of war and genocide, and that male circumcision for cultural reasons is cool. He has dismissed the 'aquatic ape' hypothesis partly on the grounds that Morgan was not a professional scientist.

This is a poor argument. I was a little concerned myself that Morgan said she 'believed' the hypothesis, for this does not sound scientific. It's considered bad to be optimistic about your hypotheses in scientific circles.

Dafydd phoned me the other morning to say David Attenborough was on Radio 4 expounding the shoreline ape idea. He had given Morgan a glowing tribute on her death in 2013, and was not fazed that the public had poured cold water on the watery origins story.

He says the hypothesis was once unfairly dismissed as pseudo science. But now it is at a tipping point and will soon go mainstream.

It now has predictive value. Baby seals are covered in vernix like human babies. The savannah idea of human origins has to go, as there was no savannah at the relevant time.

Some humans have webbed fingers and toes. Chimps never do. We protect our nostrils with a hooded nose instead of having flat holes on the face. We can shed tears. Contrary to popular opinion, this is not unique to humans. Sea birds, sea crocodiles and mammals like seals can do this too.

This is not a scientific observation, but going to the beach as a young human does make one feel peculiarly happy. It is like going home.

Elaine Morgan had a chapter on female orgasm in humans. She noted it was rare enough for some societies to be unaware of it.

She speculated that evolutionary changes had made it harder for women to achieve vaginal orgasm. Instead of being automatic, it was now a 'learnt response', which was unlikely to occur before the age of about 30, and then only in a minority of women.

In the 'harsh conditions of prehistory', a woman would be 'lucky to live more than 29 years' anyway. Clitoral orgasm is the obvious substitute.

But remember the woman teacher who created a scandal by demonstrating masturbation in a sex education film in 1971? The kids' parents subsequently went up to the teachers and said, ''So what is this thing called a clitoris anyway?''

In the late 90s, old women appeared on programmes about the social history of sex to say they didn't know where their clitorises were. I remember discussing the orgasm chapter of 'The Descent of Woman' with my friend Liz Jones when I was 19.

It was about a year later that I converted Dafydd to the merman hypothesis. I've never had any success with anyone else. My partner does accept it, but came to this conclusion independently.

He says Elaine Morgan is pooh poohed in Wales but is highly thought of in the USA. She was a prophetess in her own country.

Her orgasm chapter had predictive value for me. Clitoral orgasms were an almost complete dead loss for me as my so called organ could politely be described as recessed. I often wondered if it was really there at all.

But from the age of 33, I've had super duper vaginal orgasms, not to mention coccyxal orgasms. I can tell that anal orgasms are also within my range, but I'm much too dainty to do anything like that. In fact, I'm now blase about orgasms.

Elaine Morgan said it was a mystery why vaginal orgasm favoured some women, and passed the majority by, although they were not less worthy nor less loved. Perhaps skene glands also known as the female prostate has something to do with it. Apparently some women are born without them.

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 17, 2016 1:01 am    Post subject: nanee nanee poo poo Reply with quote

Professor Alice Roberts is highly critical of Radio 4 for broadcasting David Attenborough's championing of what she calls an 'implausible theory' based on 'wishful thinking', when they could be indulging in 'more interesting' ideas about human origins.

David Attenborough declined to comment. The Guardian article which quoted Roberts, published without comment pictures of chimps wading upright in water.
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 23, 2016 11:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Radio 4 feedback: loads of Tarzanists whingeing "How dare BBC broadcast a show about anything other than Tarzanism? Butthurt. Fatwah etc"
They would etc
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 2016 5:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote


I do not have much to say about this at the moment ... except to report that when I was doing some work up in Pontygwaith I was invited over for tea by Elaine who was very nice ... Her personal evolution as a writer is very interesting and if I can find it there was a radio biography about this ...


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-23291733 - Leading writer and feminist Elaine Morgan dies aged 92


https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=O4G95mcW8mg - BBC documentary about Elaine's promotion of The Aquatic Ape theory ...

... there is quite a bit around about that - but very little about Elaine's scriptwriting and literary career which unfortunately misprepresents her career : in old age she became a journalist for The Western Mail : one of Wales' greatest Modernists.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 27, 2016 1:52 am    Post subject: elaine morgan Reply with quote

I envy you that you were ever Elaine Morgan's guest, even briefly. Dafydd and I will never get to meet her now as she is dead. I would have expected her to be very nice.

It was right, I think, that she had intellectual courage but was personally somewhat lacking in confidence. At school she wrote stories but no one was very interested.

She was mortified to be left a wallflower at school dances. She believed herself to be unattractive and was even ashamed of sprouting breasts, for the flappers of the 20s had made flat chests fashionable. She particularly hated the song, 'Keep young and beautiful if you want to be loved'. She thought this an unreasonable demand.

In the Depression years, her father wondered why he had a number of skills but still couldn't find a job. I'm not sure if it was she or someone else who was told at Oxford that she would have to get rid of 'that boring Welsh accent.'

After her father's death, her mother resorted to all sorts of stratagems to keep her at Oxford. I do remember with fondness her TV series on Lloyd George.

She said gamely that he was on the side of the angels but didn't pull any punches about what a bully he was to his first wife, something confirmed by Ffion Hague, or what a fluent and shameless liar he was.

In a perverse way you could admire him for being such a chancer, but although I wanted to like him, I couldn't manage it.

She had a good series based quite accurately on the scribblings of Anne Frank who comes across as a rather annoying teenager rather than a sickly sweet icon. It was pretty accurate and a great improvement on Lillian Hellman's much better known play, which I have always thought was absolute garbage.

After her three sons had grown up in a quite remote and primitive farmhouse, Elaine Morgan continued to live near her birthplace. Latterly, she wrote the 'Pensioner' column for the Western Mail.

She echoed my thoughts on Julian Assange. She thought he was a bit like the Scarlet Pimpernel. She wanted to believe in him as a brave exponent of freedom, but his histrionics made him look more like a narcissist or a drama king.

David Attenborough said how sad it was that Elaine Morgan had died a few years ago. I'm sad she died of a stroke instead of painlessly in her sleep, but let's not feel too down.

She was 92, an excellent innings, and she had recently outlived one of her sons which can't have been easy for her. She may have been ready to go.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 27, 2016 2:14 am    Post subject: a fishy idea Reply with quote

I've only appreciated recently how much ridicule Elaine Morgan had to endure for championing the shoreline ape hypothesis. She was big enough to take it, but it must have been exasperating.

Even I'm beginning to feel wound up when I hear that one piece of garbled gossip was, ''That woman's mad. She says we evolved from fish!''

This is of course not what she said. But if she had, she would have been right anyway! The individual who pathologised her was too ignorant to have a right to an opinion.

In his book for kids, 'The Magic of Reality', Richard Dawkins asks his readers to imagine what their 185 million greats grandfather was like, a Victorian paterfamlias smoking a pipe? A caveman? No, he was a fish!

Although I knew we had fishy ancestors before, his wording did put me off kippers for breakfast. I thought 'Yeaugh! I'm eating Grandpa! We can't have Tadcu for breakfast! This is cannibalism!'

This is why Hardy and Morgan spoke of going back to the sea, not going to the sea for the first time. Life began in the sea in the first place. All land based vertebrates are descended from fish.

I was exclaiming to my partner impatiently that there was no excuse for not knowing this. He said, ''The world is full of idiots, darling.'' I truly believe he thought this was a comforting speech.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 27, 2016 10:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have always found The Aquatic Ape theory to be more convincing than the idea that we somehow survived and evolved on some open savannah into savage meat eating monkeys ... OK - some chimpanzees are meat eating - even cannibalistic - savages ... but as small bipeds our chances of bringing down even a magnificently poorly wilderbeast with our rotten teeth and closely bitten finger nails is utterly incredible ... mice perhaps ... how were we supposed to be able to do this armed with only the sorts of found tools that chimpanzees have now e.g. they occasionally pick up a bigger stick to thrash around with because somebody stole their littler stick which they were using to get mermites out of a tound with ... where exactly were these proto-humans going to find any kind of a sticky thingy if they were living in the middle of hundreds of miles of grass lands ? ... Elaine Morgan's first book " The Descent of Woman " was apparently a ripost to Jacob Brownowski's " The Ascent of Man " and arguably they both suffer from the same defect : projection of these author's personal belief systems onto past events whose factuality can not be ascertained ...

... In other words both of their arguments will continue to fail the Karl Popper's Falsification Test until somebody devises a means to test them : basically both are thinking in the same way that Marxists think - and so The Glorious Dawn of The Evolution can never occur because you can raid history for any convenient " fact " because no history contains any actual events but only opinions about imagined events ... Homo Sapiens constantly fails The Falsification Test : we can not prove that our species either has existed, does exist or will exist - we can only formulate our opinions upon this and many other matters and then try to justify them to others by a variety of methods ... Elaine Morgan was arguing for a gynocentric view of our species built upon co-operation to discern the facts involved in order to come to a reasonable conclusion ... but Jacob Bronowski refused to listen let alone co-operate, sweeping the facts off the table and bellowing over it and beating his chest as if he were more ape than man - and then he unsteadily staggered off to bury his head for an hour in the toilet bowl ... academic debates are of course often like this - historically ... take Devolution for example ...


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 04, 2016 12:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Falsification is currently not available.

Aquaticism versus Tarzanism is judged by Occam's Razor.

Humans have no fur.
Humans have subcutaneous fat
Humans weep salt tears.
Humans are bipedal.
Humans fuck face to face like Bononobo monkeys and totally unlike other monkeys.
Regular monkeys fuck doggy fashion. Even dogs don't fuck doggy fashion.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 04, 2016 9:03 am    Post subject: false Reply with quote

David Attenborough would say that falsification is now available as it was predicted that baby seals would have vernix like baby humans, and, lo and behold, they do.

Somebody said that at his university,Elaine Morgan was laughingly referred to by lecturers as 'that crazy woman who was here last week.'But he has come round to thinking that the merman hypothesis is quite feasible. He is not totally convinced but has made some videos on the subject.

People on message boards say that they were set essays at university in which they had to expound that the merman hypothesis is pseudo science. So there was no objectivity there.The conclusion had been decided in advance.

So people will repeat the mantra: Humans are no more covered in subcutaneous fat than are chimps; water based mammals are not furless; our larynxes are no different than those of chimps.

I have little knowledge of science but I can make some observations. Chimps never get really fat. You never see an obese chimp hardly able to move like some unfortunate humans; chimps' babies are not programmed to be chubby like human babies. Lady chimps suckle their babies with nipples on a flat chest. The baby holds on to the fur. They do not have breasts as women do.

Here is an interesting fact. A truly far gone anorexic student who had terrible emotional problems had paranoid delusions about me when I was an undergraduate. Unfortunately people in authority who should have known better, believed her implicitly and persecuted me.

I have naturally never been able to forget her although I would love to. You must understand that she was not borderline anorexic. She did it properly; she looked like something out of Belsen.

She had no discernible subcutaneous fat. She had no bottom, and had to take cushions into lecture theatres to make up for this. She had a totally flat chest - and it was covered in fur! People noted during the Irish famine that some of the victims had begun to sprout fur too.

No water based mammals are furless? What about dolphins, whales, hippopotomi, rhinoceroses, sea lions and of course elephants? Elaine Morgan postulated that elephants had a watery phase and then did a U turn - and this is now standard in text books.

I'm not completely sure about all primates but chimps are our closest relatives, and they don't have spoken language as far as we know. It's not for lack of intelligence.

They can be taught sign language as can gorillas. They can also learn to recognise Arabic numbers. They can do sums or some of them can. Apparently, they have a concept of zero, which is more than can be said for ancient Romans.

But dolphins and whales are linguists in a vocal way. So are elephants.

Alice Roberts thinks the merman hypothesis is not interesting, and she is not the only one. This is not a scientific objection. She may not find it interesting, but some of us do.

It reminds me of the New Scientist saying that there was no point in thinking about Pluto. It was a waste of time. This is not a scientific statement either.

A lecturer in a video available on the net was talking about something a bit different ie how religion was an off shoot of evolution. He mentioned the remains of a poor hominid woman, suffering from an overdose of vitamin A which finally killed her.

This video was made a few years ago. He remarked how it would be difficult for her to survive on the savannah in that state, but some kind hominids must have been feeding her, as she had bone growth from after the time that vitamin A incapacitated her.

It is now established that hominids did not live on the savannah as it did not then exist. This was not the only hominid body to have succumbed to death from a vitamin A overdose. Incidentally, fish are an excellent source of vitamin A. You would be most likely to overdose on it if it was a staple in your diet.

Elaine Morgan said in a TED talk in 2009 that the savanna hypothesis had gone with the wind. Textbooks and lecturers don't even mention that we are naked apes, let alone attempt to explain why.

They don't go for the merman hypothesis. Instead of countering it with Tarzanism, they now counter it with nothing.

Elaine Morgan did have a feminist agenda. She wanted women to have parity of esteem.

She referred in 'The Descent of Woman' to masculinists whingeing at the time of writing that equal pay was an attempt by women to emasculate the men in their lives. This was a time when men were still encouraged to behave as cave men were imagined to have behaved.

Of course, the ideological agenda may have undermined her objectivity. Yet it is an objective fact that naked bipedal primate females without spears on the savanna would have been sitting ducks for predators.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so hominids in that environment would be headed for extinction.

Some crazies on message boards have savaged Elaine Morgan for being a 'feminazi.' This is not an objective or scientific observation either. Morgan's later books on the subject leave out the feminist angle, and they are still coherent.

One of her later books was called 'The Descent of the Child.' Apart from forgetting about women, armchair evolutionists forgot about children. The once popular linear illustration of our primate ancestors marching along always had an adult male as the culminating point. For some reason he was always white with a short back and sides haircut!

Centuries before the Christian era, some Greek writer commented on the long childhood of humans, how they probably grew up near water in the early days of human existence. It would have been the safest environment for such vulnerable creatures.

How can this be? We've heard of kids being swept out to sea from beaches. Parents are advised to fill in any ponds in their gardens if they have toddlers. Children a few years old have been known to drown in a few inches of water.

And yet it is true that tiny babies can swim automatically, even under water long before they can walk. They don't need to be taught. You don't see other primate babies doing that!

I forgot to mention on the Savita thread that one of the things that makes reproduction dangerous and difficult and inordinately painful for human mothers is that human babies have such big heads. But maybe, if you give birth in shallow water, it is painless. Women now swear by water births.

I must also mention that penguins are adapted for swimming. Stephen Fry says they spend only 25% of their time out of the water. On the ice they shuffle along with upright gait.

In short, I'd be very surprised if there really was no truth in the merman hypothesis. We imagine Victorian ladies turning up their noses at working outside the home; it would be so unladylike.

But pictures from that era taken in my mother's native village show Amazonian if weather beaten women who made a living by collecting shellfish, then tramping thirty miles each way to sell them in Carmarthenshire. My mother and her sister had a go at gathering shellfish aged about eight and ten.

It might be hard work, but it is not difficult or dangerous as it would be for a child of that age to rival leopards and lions on their own patch as mighty hunters. A child that gathers shellfish is much more likely to live to grow up and pass on their genes.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 04, 2016 9:35 am    Post subject: ascent Reply with quote

I remember one moment in 'The Ascent of Man' which illustrated nicely how even intelligent people can be misled by forgetting that women exist. The guy said proudly he had an object from prehistory that he treasured.

He impressively showed us a stick from an early human settlement. It had 29 vertical lines carved into it. Obviously, this was an early calendar. The man who carved the notches was obviously keenly interested in the movements of the moon.

I'm sure people spent a lot of time gazing upwards at the stars and the moon before artificial lighting, especially if they slept outdoors.

The moon used to be much closer to the earth than it is, and it may be that lunation would have taken a shorter time once. It could never have taken a longer time. We can assume confidently that throughout human history, it has taken 28 days, not 29.

It is much more likely that the carver had been gazing not upwards at the moon but downwards between her own thighs. The stick was almost certainly a menstrual diary.

Lunation is regular. You can expect it to be reliably 28 days. But menstruation could well occur after an interval of 29 days.

I'm afraid it will look as if I'm obsessed with squelchy parts; I've mentioned them so often. But it's a point worth making in this context.

Is the stick such a treasure? It shows a kind of numeracy but in such a mundane context! I'm afraid the notches were not the handiwork of a proto-astronomer motivated by pure and detached intellectual curiosity!
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 04, 2016 10:56 am    Post subject: Lucy in the sky with Diamonds Reply with quote

Making videos on the net expounding the aquatic ape hypothesis can sure be a disheartening and frustrating experience. This is because of the infinite stupidity of humans.

Under one of David Attenborough's early merman hypothesis videos - for he's been on the case for decades - he was ridiculed not by the scientific establishment but by a creationist. This dipstick jeered that it was surprising he referenced Lucy the hominid.

The creationist laughed that we all know that Lucy was a hoax that has long been exploded. I thought, ''What? Lucy! A hoax? Have you confused her with the Piltdown Man hoax or are you just nuts?''

Is this slander now common in creationist circles? By the way, a scientist called - I think - Jerry Coyne has an internet video on how the majority of Americans refuse to believe in evolution. They are the second worst country in the world for rejecting evolution. They are down there with Islamic theocracies.

He says that, although a First World country, the USA is a place without equitable health care or social security and with a high rate of violence. The Scandinavian countries are great for accepting evolution. They have a tremendous standard of living, great equality and the best ever social safety net.

He says it's when people's lives are hard, insecure and scary that they turn to simple minded religion for comfort. If you are guaranteed a worthwhile life on earth, you are not going to have the same need for pie in the sky when you die.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 04, 2016 6:26 pm    Post subject: piltdown Reply with quote

The Piltdown Man hoax was launched on an unsuspecting world in 1912. My parents had an encyclopaedia from the 30s which said, 'It is indeed a treasure.'

It wasn't rumbled definitively until the early 50s although people were getting uneasy about it as it contradicted so many recent discoveries. It misdirected us for long enough.

We even dismissed hominid fossil evidence in Africa as we wanted to go on believing that the first man was an Englishman. Twenty years after the hoax was exposed, we were quite confident of the 'Out of Africa' story.

In recent months, investigators think they know who the culprit was, Charles Dawson who uncovered a lot of other prehistoric remains at Piltdown. None were found after his death, and they have all now been exposed as fakes. He was really taking the mickey when he presented the public with a fossilised cricket bat!

Conan Doyle was once in the frame, but he has apparently been exonerated. There is a minority opinion that the hoaxer was Teilhard de Chardin.

It has been suggested that he knew Dawson was a fraud, and wanted to show him up with a gurt big ludicrous fraud which could not go unnoticed, and would be blamed on Dawson himself.

But the plan backfired badly. Everyone took it seriously, and Dawson became quite a hero.

Unlike Dawson who was safely dead by the 50s, Teilhard de Chardin lived long enough to be interrogated. The interviewer thought he looked shifty. Nothing he said, rang true.

But the person decided to give him the benefit of the doubt because he was a Roman Catholic priest! Catholic priests don't tell porkies? Tell that to the boys at Ampleforth College!

Teilhard de Chardin undoubtedly came out with a lot of junk including incoherent bilge about 'the Eternal Feminine.' It is possible that his motive, if he was the malefactor, was to discredit the whole concept of evolution in the minds of the ignorant.

If so, he's succeeded. For instance, the rightist wingnut in the US,Ann Coulter, opened one of her terrible books by stating in the first chapter that the Piltdown Man hoax had brought the credibility of evolution crashing down.

Jeremy Paxman forced himself to read the first chapter. He asked her wearily on Newsnight if the book got any better.

Unlike creationism, science is self correcting. Scientists will usually come to accept empirical evidence - eventually.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 04, 2016 7:31 pm    Post subject: Saartjie Reply with quote

Elaine Morgan thought a woman's vagina is not flush with the surface as a chimp's is, that it retreated somewhat into the body cavity as a protection against abrasive sand and the like.

She thought men developed bigger male organs than other primates in response to this, and adopted face to face sex, because it was getting difficult to do it from the back.

Morgan noted that the Bushmen of the Kalahari desert now lived in one of the driest places on earth. But she suspected that some of their distinctive physical traits were originally adaptations to a waterside life.

Their baby boys are born with semi-erections which they maintain until they die, except for the times that they are fully erect. They are never flaccid.

Bushwomen have orange loosely attached nipples, and often have steatopygia, a great accumulation of fat in the posterior which often extends so far that it is 'possible to balance a wine glass on it.'

A good number of us could not understand why labia minora are so called. They were not minor in our cases, but hung noticeably below the vulva. It's never an accurate term when it comes to Bushwomen.

From puberty, the labia grow and hang down pendulously between the thighs. Elaine Morgan probably saw this as protection from sand and stinging sea creatures.

Bushwomen often tuck their labia inside to be out of the way. But they did traditionally expose them in erotic dances.

I may sound prurient and disrespectful as if I thought these people were freaks. But I don't mean to.

I accept that Bushmen are modern human beings like everyone else. They have certain unusual attributes which are interesting from an evolutionary point of view, but these are otherwise of no significance.

But this was not what outsiders thought in the early nineteenth century. Hottentots, as they were then called, were considered the lowest of the low. I think Afrikaners used to hunt them.

Spare a thought for poor Saartjie Baartman. She had adopted an Afrikaans name or had one foisted on her, but she was a Bushwoman who was exhibited around the UK in a cage.

She was billed as 'the Hottentot Venus.' Punters could stare at her unfeasibly curvaceous bottom and - though they would not have admitted it - her long labia, known as 'the Hottentot apron.'

I don't know if her body is still preserved in a London museum or it it has belatedly been decently interred. Certain individuals in her own time had awful racist things to say about her appearance. But as the geneticist, Steve Jones said, to an unprejudiced eye, she was far from unattractive.

Steve Jones gave a lecture to a class of South African Bantus during apartheid. He expounded the idea, then quite new, that race was a myth. Most of them were heartened to hear that they did not differ in any important way from the Afrikaners who so despised them.

But there's always one. Some rent-a-gob in the audience started exclaiming in disgust, ''But you can't mean that Bushmen are the same as everyone else! Errr...eough! Aw, that's disgusting!''

Steve Jones said he was quite depressed by that.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 04, 2016 9:15 pm    Post subject: cagot Reply with quote

When I was expounding the merman hypothesis in Marcus' flat, Liz spread out her hands to show that her fingers were webbed. Roger knew a girl who had webbed toes. He thought she must have been bullied about it something awful by other kids, as she was bitterly ashamed of it.

It would be nice to think only kids behaved like this. But it would be inaccurate.

The Cagots were perfectly ordinary French Catholics, persecuted by other Catholics. They had no heretical beliefs and spoke the same language as everyone else.

According to a site called 'The Bad News about Christianity', these 'pestiferous people' were persecuted for no better reason than that it was traditional to treat them like dirt. It had gone on as long as anyone could remember.

Cagots supposedly had webbed feet, unusually shaped heads and ears of a shape that people found obscenely unacceptable. Today, 'Cagot ear' is a medical term for lobeless ears.

Perhaps intolerance for unconventional ears persisted in France until at least the time of the Nazi invasion.

In her wartime diary, a later feminist writer, Benoite Groult, noted that her parents objected to her boyfriend because his ear was fused to his cheek, which they said was a sign of degeneracy. The Groults all had decent lobes that could dance merrily on application of a vibrating finger.

Perhaps outsiders reacted to Cagots with the 'queasy inhumanity' of Jac o' the North because they saw them as deformed. It doesn't mean they were deformed.

Wasn't it Aristotle who thought femaleness was a deformity although one that regularly occurred? There was a danger a girl might result if the wind was blowing in the 'wrong' direction during conception.

Elaine Morgan thought that Tarzanist books ignored women because the writers still implicitly saw men as 'normal' and women as a deviation.

I had thought that perhaps Cagots did have a chromosomal problem. After all, Fragile X Syndrome, for instance, will give you an unusual appearance. I think it may include big ears.

But the site masters don't think so. They say that the Cagots were not incapacitated in any way. Medical examinations confirmed that they were medically 'normal' as people used to say.

Perhaps they were a once isolated population that retained webbed feet from our shoreline past. They had to use their own fonts in church, not those reserved for 'clean' Catholics. When a Cagot used the wrong font, his hand was cut off and nailed to the church door.

They had to come into church through their own doors, which were so low, they were forced to stoop, a visible symbol of their unworthiness. In the Pyrenees, at least 60 churches still have Cagot doorways.

Priests would throw communion bread at them 'as if they were dogs.' 'Nice' priests gingerly extended the bread to them on a long wooden spoon.

They were treated like untouchables in India. If they failed to comply with the apartheid rules, they might be burnt at the stake or have their feet pierced with red hot spikes.

Like Jews, Cathars and other minorities, Cagots were forced to wear humiliating identifying badges. In this case, the yellow badge featured a yellow or red duck's foot in allusion to their own supposedly webbed feet.

It would be interesting from the merman hypothesis point of view, to know if they really were more likely to have webbed feet than anyone else, or if they all had them. But I can't be confident of it.

After all, people also said they had green blood that oozed out of their navels on Good Friday, and that doesn't seem feasible at all. Predictably, outsiders also claimed they were bisexual, subnormal, sexually uncontrollable and diseased. And - surprise ! surprise ! - they were accused of cannibalism.

The legal disabilities inflicted on Cagots were abolished at the time of the Revolution. But when they moved out of their ghettos, their new neighbours were horrible to them. Most of them emigrated.

People can rarely be found to talk about the Cagots in France today. They are ashamed of how they treated them, and don't want to talk about it.

Those who suspect they are of Cagot descent will typically have internalised their oppression, and be chockful of self loathing. What a tale of woe!
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 04, 2016 11:14 pm    Post subject: melonie Reply with quote

Tarzanism was prevalent at a time when a good number of men found it difficult or impossible to think about women except in relation to sex. Young succulent female bodies were used to sell all sorts of products, in a way that would sound quite crude now.

TV shows often had a male compere accompanied by a pretty young female assistant who had almost nothing to say. Perhaps she would smile and show off her pretty dress by 'giving us a twirl.'

Long before the watershed, women in lacy lingerie would come on to our screens to whet the appetite of the viewers. It was not obscene but it was a bit undignified.

I knew it was supposed to be naughty and daring. I didn't understand why, as at that time I knew precisely nothing about sex.

In his spare time, Benny Hill did not require women to be physically perfect. For instance at the time of his death, he had a close relationship with a disabled woman.

But his persona on his TV show was something else. In a parody of 'Sale of the Century', he is condescendingly flirtatious with a young blonde with vacant blue eyes, and tits falling out of her dress. She is called Melonie.

TV ads directed at women were mostly about Flash for cleaning the kitchen floor or Fairy Liquid for washing up.

We heard complaints that women were just seen as sex objects. There was nothing necessarily malicious about this, but it did lead to misunderstandings.

I had an acquaintance who was a good amateur artist. A young woman in a pub took an interest in his work.

He said, ''If you want to come back to my flat for sex, you don't have to pretend to be interested in my art.'' She was disgusted.

This was the 90s but, as his tenant Imogen said, his attitude to women was 30 years out of date. It often got him into trouble.

Once he bought a bar of soap. He then took it into another shop, and went up to the soap counter to check that his bar really was cheaper than ordinary soap.

As he went towards the exit, he noticed a woman following him. He thought, ''She's obviously interested in me. She's an ugly old bag, but I'll give her one. You hear of these frustrated housewives.''

Every few seconds, he turned and winked at her. Then he stepped outside the shop and all hell broke loose.

As if from nowhere, policemen appeared and said, ''Did you take this bar of soap out of the shop?'' He said, ''Yes, but...''. ''No buts'', they said as they dragged him off to the cells.

If he hadn't been blinded by his ridiculous attitude to women, it would have been obvious to him that the woman who had been following him was the store detective.

Elaine Morgan would say that Tarzanists were misled in the same way. Any change in a female primate's physique was supposed to make her more attractive to the males of her own species, and also more available to them.

With other animals, it is the males who are the airhead bimbos who have to attract a mate at all costs as with the flamboyant shameless peacock.

Male animals don't seem very fussy. A female warthog looks just fine to a male warthog.

Even with our primate cousins, you wouldn't expect a male gorilla to look at a female, and think, ''Oh, I don't think much of that one. I'd prefer one with a willowy waist and less fur. Oh, and two big lumps of fat on the chest wouldn't come amiss either.''

Elaine Morgan saw herself as generally a sweetly reasonable person, which she was. She thought that she could be allowed 'one hissy fit' in the early 70s.

Those for whom feminism is a dirty word, have been denouncing her as a 'feminazi' on message boards. According to the woman known to Dafydd's mother as 'normal Liz', to distinguish her from the rest of us, Elaine Morgan also incurred the wrath of those who identified as radical feminists.

Normal Liz said they went along to one of her talks to barrack her. They had not been impressed when they heard her described as 'a housewife from Mountain Ash.'

She was not just a housewife. She was a screen writer.

Her husband Morien Morgan had a certain glamour as he had fought in the Spanish Civil War. Elaine Morgan said that their marriage had required a great deal of tact and biting of lips. It looks as if they did irritate each other sometimes, but it was a fundamentally happy marriage.

Morien helped her with her writing. It was not as if they had no interests in common. I don't see that her lifestyle was anyone else's business.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 05, 2016 12:09 am    Post subject: howard Reply with quote

Those who run down Elaine Morgan, say she was only invited to tour America by default. The Book of the Month featured on US TV was going to be a biography of the reclusive millionaire Howard Hughes.

But the public found out that the writer had just made it all up. Elaine Morgan was asked to step in at the last minute.

Her critics laugh at how confused the American audiences were to see this nondescript Welshwoman they had never heard of. The tone sounds a bit racist, but perhaps I am being hypersensitive.

Elaine Morgan acknowledged cheerfully the chance nature of the invitation. But it was not like picking someone at random off the street.

'The Descent of Woman' had been a best seller as her publisher had predicted. Of course it deserved to be, but Morgan acknowledged that the timing couldn't have been better.

Germaine Greer's 'The Female Eunuch' had been published just before. I can't stand Germaine Greer, but if she was Elaine Morgan's John the Baptist, I'm not knocking that.

I admire the energy and pace of 'The Female Eunuch' but not much else. For instance, Greer labelled Mrs Barbara Castle MP as 'disgusting' for having a cup of tea with the underpaid female cleaners and caterers in the House of Commons who were on strike, and persuading them to go back to work.

Castle, as an MP, was effectively an honorary man so she had nothing to worry about. But it was Barbara Castle who brought in the Equal Pay Act!

Greer dedicated a later book, 'Sex and Destiny' to a friend who,she said, 'thinks she has asthma.' Greer thought she knew better. I wonder if she changed her mind on hearing that her friend had died of asthma?

Germaine Greer is belligerent and ignorantly opinionated. She has a lot of hostility.

Elaine Morgan was nothing like this. She gently disagreed with Kate Millet's 'Sexual Politics.'

I have no memory of reading Millet's work, and can't comment on it. But in 'The Descent of Woman', Morgan noted that Millet had expressed abhorrence for the attitude to women expressed by people like Norman Mailer. Apparently, he wanted to do horrible sex things to them without their consent.

The conclusion was 'Look! This is what they think of us! We do well to hate them.'

Elaine Morgan disagreed. It would be fairer not to hate men in the lump, but to think - say - ''Oh, that's the nice postman who was so helpful to us after the blizzard.''

She didn't think all men should be judged by Norman Mailer. And without having met him, she had some doubts that he would act out his fantasies in real life. If he did, he would be certifiable.

Elaine Morgan thought with Bertrand Russell that to hate is foolish;to love is wise. And for this, she gets branded a butch ,dungaree clad feminazi, wearing knuckle dusters! Maybe, people should actually consider reading her work instead of making instant judgements based on distorted hearsay.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 05, 2016 12:33 am    Post subject: growth Reply with quote

Elaine Morgan became used to being treated as a figure of fun, like a ufologist or someone who believed they had sighted a yeti. She was thankful when a local university took her seriously enough to name a library after her.

Morgan's wiki article has just been amended, and is now much more deferential in tone. It said that before 2000, the merman hypothesis was generally dismissed as tripe.

But it had now found 'significant acceptance.' The article cited David Attenborough's Radio 4 programme where he mentioned that bone growths had been found in the ears of hominids, which would be adaptive for diving and surfing, and could have no land based function.

In her Ted talk in 2009, Elaine Morgan said that, from her point of view, it would be good if acceptance came sooner rather than later. She was already at an age where you wouldn't even buy green bananas.

She did not live to hear of the evidence from bone growth in hominid ears or vernix on baby seals. That's sad.

But I live in hope that the merman hypothesis will cease to be a heresy and become the standard story if not in our lifetimes, then in those of our children.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 05, 2016 3:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh - I enjoyed that : and I have been missing you too ! ... and writing dangerously personal stuff ...

... You know that I like Philip Pettit : I have just been watching this - have you ever seen him talk ? ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-0npvqsvBs - Conferencia. 1/7. Republicanismo cĂ­vico. Philip Pettit. 13/03/08

... If this business of my arguing " Republicans V Democrats " still bewilders you try some of these -

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFXuGIpsdE0 - Republic vs Democracy

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqlaFRevf5Q - Democracy Vs Republicanism

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQ0wNXzcZls - Republic vs Democracy - Very Happy
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2016 8:21 am    Post subject: What you want it to mean Reply with quote

Some of the trolls who have cluttered message boards with abuse of Elaine Morgan have denounced her as a crazy feminist ideologue who believed in this ridiculous story about an ancient matriarchy. Perhaps they have mistaken her for Margaret Murray or Matilda Joslyn Gage.

On the witchy thread, we discussed how the matriarchy idea can be neither proved nor disproved. In 'The Descent of Woman', Elaine Morgan did not express belief in an ancient matriarchy although certain other books of the time may have done so, such as 'The First Sex' published in 1971.

Elaine Morgan saw prehistory as a time that was roughly egalitarian, but over time, the phrase, 'Descent of Woman' took on a much more sinister light. Women did slowly descend into a condition no different from slavery.

I have an open mind on the existence of an ancient matriarchy. If I was forced to come down off the fence, I would probably say that, on balance, it's more likely that it didn't exist.

Perhaps the trolls want to think that women were always kept firmly in their place, and that's how it should be. That's how it always was until recent decades.

In fact, it is not a logical argument to say that because certain people have always been treated like dirt, this state of affairs must continue. We can take an existentialist approach here.

On the Ella Whelan thread, I have been defending feminism as an ideology that has been misunderstood. When 'Della' claimed to be a feminist, I thought she meant she approved of people like Emmeline Pankhurst and legislation like the Equal Pay Act.

I thought, ''Good! So do I. But why bother to mention the subject? Surely it would be more unusual if you didn't. And why bother to emphasise feminism in particular? Don't we believe that all oppressed people should be emancipated, whoever they are?''

I had misunderstood Della totally. She later fell under the spell of a conspiracy kook and extreme misogynist who used and abused women. He would say something rude and insulting to her.

The put down wasn't even witty. But she would trill with delighted laughter as if another scintillating one liner had just fallen from the lips of Oscar Wilde.

Because this guy was scared of me, she abandoned my company for his, and I had to accept the friendship was over. This is the same woman who once told me off for defending a male friend in conversation. She thought I should have taken her side on principle because she was a woman.

Once she had slated me for using the phrase 'Freudian slip.' She thought that on principle, we should call them 'Greerian slips' after Germaine Greer!
I thought, 'But Germaine Greer has no connection with Freudian slips, and I have no time for her anyway.'

Della refused to believe it when I said Germaine Greer had defended female genital mutilation both in writing and internet videos. She thought I was just raving insanely.

I have now spoken to some of Della's ex-lovers. They tell me that her idea of feminism is cadging off her male friends, depending on them, having wild brief flings with all manner of men, and then deserting them to have affairs with their greatest enemies, leaving them hurt and shell shocked.

She doesn't feel guilty as she sees this as feminism in action. It would be counterproductive to tell her how much she had hurt and offended you, and expect her to feel any remorse.

She would be delighted to hear it. It would be a case of, ''Another one bites the dust.'

Della is very attractive with a magnetic personality. It's easy for her to create havoc with these weapons.

It seems to me that this is the irresponsible way that women often behaved before they could vote or have careers, or when few decent options were open to them. Ninety years ago, she would have been designated a 'vamp.'

In 'Woman and Labour' Olive Shreiner looked forward to a time when women would enjoy the dignity of labour. They would no longer have to see 'love' as a way to earn their daily bread.

While they were working in the astronomer's tower or the merchant's office, love would come unsought but welcome. It would be more genuine.

There would be nothing calculating or mercenary about it . And it probably would not involve messing with people's heads out of spite.

Olive Shreiner's idea of feminism is the opposite of Della's. She would see Della as an unregenerate pre-feminist.

Of course, Della is like Humpty Dumpty in 'Alice Through the Looking Glass' here. It's a case of, 'When I use a word, it means what I want it to mean.''

I think now that when you hear someone claim to espouse an ideology, it can be a mistake to take them too seriously. Often, it is just something to say, and has no bearing on what they do.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2016 8:45 am    Post subject: deer Reply with quote

Elaine Morgan alluded in 'The Descent of Woman' to 'the unimaginable creature' that lumbered down some primeval beach and began to turn into a whale. She said we had no idea what it was like but it was probably quite small.

DNA analysis and newly unearthed fossils have allowed us to imagine what whales' land based ancestors looked like. They were unassuming hoofed mammals rather like small deer.

They fed on the land but timidly scurried into water to escape from predators. If anyone had been there to predict that their descendants would become as stream lined as fish, and that they would never leave the water unless by mistake, it would have sounded even more crazy than the aquatic ape hypothesis sounds to those who laugh at it.

Some whales are still born with atavistic hind limb bones. Presumably, the nostrils of whales and dolphins are fused shut. A schoolkid howler from an exam paper which found its way into popular culture was, 'A dolphin breathes through an arsehole on the top of its head.' Probably, air hole was the term the kid was looking for.

We are not descended from chimps but had a common ancestor with them. They are our cousins, not our ancestors. But chimps resemble our common ancestor more than we do.

Humans have enjoyed a period of accelerated evolution as it were. But whales and dolphins have had more accelerated evolution yet. In terms of time, they are closer to their deer like ancestors than we are to furry apes.
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