September 1, 2006 | David F. Coppedge

Express Your Inner Alley Oop

There’s a little Neanderthal in a lot of us, claims The Telegraph.  This is bad news and good news:

People who have large noses, a stocky build and a beetle brow may indeed be a little Neanderthal, according to a genetic study.  But the good news is that other research concludes that Neanderthals were much more like us than previously thought.

The claim is based on comparisons of linkage disequilibrium statistics in the genomes of humans from different continents, which cannot be explained by human ancestry without interbreeding from an archaic population.  The authors of a study in PLoS Genetics1 inferred a Neanderthal origin for the archaic lineage since West African genes do not appear likely candidates.  Another prop in the Telegraph’s good-news-bad-news joke is the finding that Neanderthals may have been more human-like than previously assumed.  The authors of both studies failed to state whether the concentration of Neanderthal characteristics reached a peak in the genes of female Olympic athletes in East Germany.
    Lost somewhere in the excitement of having an explanation for our tendency to grunt, scratch, and club each other were the upsets implicit in these findings.  Having Neanderthal genes argues against the popular “out of Africa” origins.  They also dispute the assumed genetic isolation of Neanderthals and modern humans.


1Plagnol and Wall, “Possible Ancestral Structure in Human Populations,” Public Library of Science Genetics, Volume 2 | Issue 7 | JULY 2006.

Don’t let the news media grant Pearl Jam fans license to club women and drag them into a cave (08/31/2006).  The inferences made by the researchers are way too speculative to provide confidence in any interpretation.  There is far more that we don’t know than we do know about human ancestral genetics.  (More proof of that can be found on News@Nature about a “newly discovered mystery gene may have helped build the modern human brain” about which a high-ranking scientist commented, “People are going to argue about it and be fascinated by this, because it takes us in a couple of directions we haven’t really been in before.”)  What’s more instructive is to watch reporters swallow anything a scientist says and regurgitate the bubbly vomit as building material for the growing Temple to Evolution.
    The potential for variability within the modern human population is probably far greater than realized.  The Old Testament talks about races of giant humans (the Rephaim and others) in isolated populations.  Racial and physical differences could quickly arise between populations segregated by language and then by locale after Babel, for instance.  If the “hobbits” of Indonesia become accepted as kinfolk, there’s tremendous physical variety between them and Goliath.  Even today, the range in human traits is quite remarkable, yet we are all interfertile, intelligent, communicative, and fully aware of a sense of right and wrong.
    None of genetic variability past or present implies that people have ever been anything less than fully human, with language and moral responsibility.  What anthropologists call “Neanderthal” could well have been a group of capable, smart, strong human beings, accustomed to life in harsh climates.  Perhaps they shunned cities and tended to remain strongly tribal, but left some genetic overlap with the rest of us.  The brutishness in the human lineage is not due to ape in our ancestry, but rather to sin (see Jude 10), as has been evident in all tribes, kingdoms, nations and peoples around the globe, regardless of average height, skin color, face shape and cultural preferences.

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Categories: Dumb Ideas, Early Man, Genetics

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