Re: Modern Neanderthals?

Domingo Martinez-Castilla (
Wed, 30 Oct 96 04:04:33 GMT

The cavalry arrived!

In article <01bbc446$f4f25e60$LocalHost@dan-pc>, "Rohinton Collins"
<> wrote:
>I don't believe that Domingo was implying any deliberate racist 'plot'
>Racism mixed with ignorance and short-sightedness is all that's necessary.
>Take a racist white westerner for example (and don't harp on, we are all
>racist to some degree). He would far rather believe that his ancestors were
>Neanderthals who evolved around southern Europe (despite the evidence) than
>that they were Homo sapiens who came from Africa - after all, they might
>have actually been black ( ;-) ). Failing this, if he actually concedes
>that Homo sapiens evolved (in Africa) before
>the Neanderthals, and therefore that the former couldn't have evolved from
>the latter, then at least some interbreeding went on to dilute this
>'African' breed?

Thanks. First a couple of things. The three postings assessing my "paranoia"
or my "conspiracy theory" about racism by Neandertal descendants are a
reaction to the following question (actually I put forward several plausible
explanations, but this is the one that really irked some people) after
mentioning my amusement to the recurring theme (3-4 times a year, at last
count: not a conspiracy) of Neandertal features in some people:

>Or may it be a strong desire to be descended from something not African?

That is it. I accept that it was a somewhat rhetorical-sounding question, but
it is very legitimate if it is addressing postings based on the "I-believe"
type of "reasoning". I never suggested a racist conspiracy (the conspirators
would be really lousy, you know). Perhaps only some genetic, and clearly
individual, wishful-thinking. That's for the record.

I still find it amusing, because it goes... backwards! I do not understand
it. Really. I repeat: one person's perception of having some unusual (repeat:
unusual) features in modern humans cannot be the starting point to any
inference about such major things as cross-breeding between Neandertals and
modern humans. We have to talk about populations. One trait does not make a
Neandertal gene. Period. There is something called atavism, too, by which
some "forgotten" traits show up in rare (repeat: rare) occasions. That would
be the sensible explanation to chinless faces and such.

If one wants to believe something, that is OK (perhaps we should pursue
alt.religion.neanderthal --with the "h" there). But do not try to "support"
the multi-regional hypothesis arguments (which should be considered when
accompanied by serious research and evidence) with "I have this pimple here"
kind of statements.

There is no evidence, as far as I know, that modern humans and Neandertals
interbred systematically as to leave a distinct population (which, by the law
of averages, anyway, would have been big-headed, not too smart --I'd love to
see a Neandertal taking an IQ test--, very strong, and rather ugly for any
modern human standards of beauty). Even more: there is no evidence that two
mammals of two species/sub-species crossbreed regularly in the wild. People
tend to make the leap from the circumstancial "they can produce fertile
offspring" to the generic "they interbred". The fact is that lions and
tigers do prefer to mate with lionesses and tigresses, respectively, in spite
of having the ability to produce fertile offspring. The same applies to
several species of Canis, Lama, other Felis, etc.

I say all that because I am sure somebody is ready to throw the "scientific"
argument that "there is not proof that they did not interbreed either".
That is an old line. It does not work because the burden of proof is on the
shoulders of whoever is proposing the unusual hypothesis. And the unusual
hypothesis here is that two distinct [species/subspecies] happily mated each
other for thousands of years.

That is why, in my post, I also asked (but nobody saw any paranoia or
conspiracy in this question), also semi-rhetorically:

> Why not, as I proposed in
>this very newsgroup several months ago, carrying out a true study on
>anatomical characteristics of people in areas where Neandertals have been
>found (I mean, dead ones)? Why nobody, even a little seriously, attempts

The answer to this question is, I believe, Because there is not yet evidence
that the Neandertal traits are alive (discounting the proverbial Yeti or
something in that league). I know that one Neandertal in a business suit may
only raise an eyebrow or two, and then be left alone, but just think about a
whole office of Neandertals in business suits, or classrooms. I would go ape!

And of course, we have this newsgroup to speculate, but also to learn, aren't



Domingo Martinez Castilla