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Neanderthal Hypothesis

May 5, 2008

Although I do not think that the purpose of the Neanderthal hypothesis is to support a racist ideology. I still, aside from the possible use of the hypothesis by some persons to promote racist social constructions, have tremendous problems with it. For instance, I contend that it is, much like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, thoroughly untestable.

The problem is that the Neanderthal hypothesis identifies Neanderthals as more intelligent, more aspie, and mostly Caucasoid. For that reason, I suggest it could be used by white supremacists.

One of the basic elements of the hypothesis, as I understand it, is that Caucasoids are more intelligent than Negroids (by around 30 IQ points), since Neanderthal ancestry is most common among Caucasoids. Supposedly, the Neanderthal trait manifests as “aspieness.” Without the Neanderthal trait, Caucasoids and Negroids would, according to the hypothesis, have similar average IQ scores.

This is it:

Given that it is both untestable metaphysics (speculative philosophy) and racially charged, I would regard its continued exploration as, at a minimum, undesirable and, perhaps, highly dangerous.

Interesting article:

“Some opinions aver that the Neanderthals were slowly wiped out by the smarter H. sapiens in the competition for resources.
“Other contend that we and the Neanderthals were more than just kissing cousins. Interbreeding took place, which explains why the Neanderthal line died out, but implies that we could have Neanderthal inheritage in our genome today, goes this theory. “

Even if the interbreeding occurred, these Neanderthals were apparently not as bright as homo sapiens, which, if true, puts a hole in the Neanderthal hypothesis.

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 2, 2010 2:25 am

    Pardon me for saying it, but your analysis is a little flat. That is to say, your notions of what constitutes intelligence in regards to Neanderthals v Sapiens is a bit naive. The evidence supports that Neanderthal’s adaptations in the colder climes from Central Asia to Western Europe were biological rather than behavioral. This was a heavy investment, and it would either work it it wouldn’t. We now know that it did not work, as Neanderthals are gone and Sapiens remain. However, the science regarding human-Neanderthal interbreeding is in, and it is a foregone conclusion that most of us today, including yourself, are heirs to some of the biological distinctness arising from Neanderthal’s specific adaptations.

    Genes which are positively correlated with both autism and schizophrenia are among the subset of genes identified as being of Neanderthal origin. The d allele, too, is likely the residue of our common Neanderthal heritage. While it is true that Neanderthal’s relatively puny forebrain suggests that his capacity for wordplay, metaphor, and humor were probably limited, his outrageously well-developed occipital and parietal lobes might suggest a different brain architecture – one leading to eidetic memory and the ability to conceive of higher math and geometry in a way that few moderns can. Take a look at the gifts “idiot savants” such as Ken Peak (Rain Man) or those of others who have been retro-actively diagnosed as being on the high-functioning autism spectrum, such as Einstein.

    Sapiens were busy developing “working memory” in Africa, since this neural underpinning is crucial to highly social apes who need to keep track of dynamics such as deceptions, alliances, enmities, etc.. Neanderthal, living in much smaller groups, was developing raw cognitive horsepower for remembering where he found his last good meal in the desolate environments where he dwelled.

    Temple Grandin has said that without autistics, we would be having this conversation around a fire at the opening of some cave. I think that without Neanderthals, we would be doing the same, and perhaps because autism is itself a legacy of Neanderthal heritage. But I think that, without mixing with modern humans, Neanderthals would not be here at all.

    The social adaptations leading to the integration of different minds is the key component which has led to our advancement, and not any single cognitive blessing.

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