CHARLES DARWIN believed that human beings shared a common ancestor with the surviving
Genetic evidence has confirmed that suggestion, and it forms the basis of modern
There is far less agreement about the reasons why we differ so widely from the other
apes in so many respects.
IN 1960 PROFESSOR ALISTER HARDY published his idea that several of these differences
would be much easier to explain if our ancestors had lived not on the open grasslands
but at the water's edge. His reasons for suggesting it were based on comparative
anatomy. For example, a naked skin lined with a layer of fat is unknown in other
land mammals, but relatively common in aquatic mammals. He also reasoned that wading
would have provided a strong incentive for walking upright on two legs. Most scientists
at the time treated the idea as part of science's lunatic fringe, on a par with UFOs
and the Yeti, and many of them still hold that view.
Charles Darwin FRS
Sir Alister Hardy FRS
OPPOSITION TO Hardy's idea was based on the firm belief that the first bipeds evolved
on the savannah, and that torrid habitat was said to explain why humans evolved along
different lines from the other apes.This belief was shown to be mistaken by the
palaeontologists themselves more than twenty years ago, after Hardy's death. But
they have not yet put forward an alternative explanation of why humans are different.
HARDY NEVER fulfilled his intention of writing a book about his idea. I first heard
of it in 1972 and have been promoting it ever since. This was done with Hardy's consent
and approval and he wrote a preface to my second book.
A rather more detailed account (about a 10 minute read) of the current situation
can be read here, or you can DOWNLOAD a copy of the latest book, The Naked Darwinist,
which provides a full account.