It’s late, and I’m tired. I have some things to say, but I don’t have the energy to organize them and provide supporting data at the moment. I’ll break the whole mess into smaller, easy-to-digest nuggets later, and will even provide APA- or MLA-formatted references so that you may comfort yourself by dint of the “authority” of such references, and feel safe to use the nuggets at parties to wow your friends with your edgy, unconventional ideas. Yeah, I’m in a mood.
So let’s just get right to it, shall we? Cro-Magnon may have interbred with Neanderthals, but it is more important to recognize that Cro-Magnon (and it isn’t Cro-Magnon anymore. It’s Early Modern Human, but everyone knows the term Cro-Magnon) IS the hybrid offspring of Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals, and they may have originated either in the Levant or in Central Asia, where the two species’ ranges overlapped during the last interglacial period. This hasn’t been asserted in many places, if any at all, as far as I know. What do I know? I know that the facts make this an inevitable explanation, and each moment that passes between my assertion and the publishing of an “authoritative” theory which agrees is sweeter than the one before it.
If you want to know what a modern human looks like who doesn’t have any Neanderthal DNA, then look at the Sub-Saharan Africans. Everyone else is carrying between 1% and 5% Neanderthal DNA. This is a fact, and you’ll just have to find a way to deal with it. In fact, Europeans appear to be more closely related to Neanderthals in some portions of their genome than they are to modern Sub-Saharan Africans! In my communications with others on this topic, I keep encountering “authoritative” statements that “there probably wasn’t much genetic material exchanged… insignificant, really.” Don’t believe it, folks. We have also learned that genes which are correlated with Downs’ Syndrome, Autism, schizophrenia, and some metabolic disorders are among the package of genes we’ve inherited from Neanderthals. Now, you’ll have to pardon me for asking how it is that we hybrids have won the planet in terms of sexual fertility over our pure Homo Sapiens cousins in Africa and our extinct Neanderthal cousins, despite the fact that this very heritage comes with debilitating diseases of the mind and body?
Nevermind, I have the answer. It turns out that there has been an effort – unconnected to the Neanderthal inquiry – by modern forensic psychologists to offer mental health diagnoses on historical figures using what ever data is available. Guess what? It turns out that the likes of Sir Isaac Newton, Mozart, and Einstein all appear to have likely been on the Autism spectrum of disorders. What I am telling you, dear reader, is that genius is the product of having a hybrid cognitive architecture. It isn’t because Neanderthal was a super genius. No way. He may have had a great memory and an innately superior “visual sketch pad”, but subtle humor would be lost on him, as well as wordplay and any complex cognitive task requiring lots of working memory. And Homo Sapiens? Well, just look at Sub-Saharan Africa and you tell me. (And, as an aside, isn’t this why this research is scaring away the progressives and the liberals? Isn’t this why we aren’t really exploring this topic in a more open and mainstream way? I think it is, but that will have to wait for another post.)
The point is that it was the fusion of two different kinds of minds which forced genius upon us. Walk with me on this, and I promise you will get it in just a moment. When we were either pure Neanderthal or pure Homo Sapiens, our social organization was based upon similar evolutionary pressures and steady adaptation, and we relied heavily on non-conscious cues. When we were mixed, not only did we inherit the cognitive features of two different species, but also conflicting social cues. The explosion of material culture and the new suite of behaviors constituting the “Human Revolution” of the Upper Paleolithic was due to the fact that we, as hybrid humans, found it necessary to create external signs and signals to compensate for the loss of social and cognitive functions which had been hitherto undisclosed to consciousness. For example, a scepter or “magic stick” might have been an external symbol denoting leadership among a group who could no longer rely on smell or other non-visible cues. Adornment and symbols of status and role were only made necessary by virtue of the fact that the non-conscious social cues failed us – resulting in a “Tower of Babel” effect which needed a fix.
One must consider that it took quite some time before any viable hybrid offspring would emerge who could enjoy reproductive success among Homo Sapiens, and thus the archeological record indicates that the earliest Cro-Magnons emerged in Central Asia or the Levant, then pushed westward and northward to the Iberian peninsula, then into Northern Europe. They moved into Neanderthal country. Probably because there weren’t any Homo Sapiens there. I think that by the time the Cro-Magnons had developed the social mechanisms for inclusion of different cognitive styles, they had become quite aware that they were different and were very much aware of why they had not only survived but had begun to flourish. It was their inventiveness and their ability to communicate new skills and concepts to one another and upcoming generations of children. Again, it came with a price. Autism, schizophrenia, and the rest of it. We grew stronger in spite of the genetic drawbacks. Why? Because they forced us to adapt.
Now let’s stitch this together in blunt language. We hybrids dominate the planet, and have outpaced our pure cousins because changes in the D-allele makes our brain function more efficient somehow, and because the genetic mismatch resulting in Asperger’s and related “diseases” also tends to produce highly analytical minds whose processes are more decoupled from functions which relate to social integration. The stereotype of the high school nerd who grows up to become the jock’s boss comes to mind. A brain which is not dedicated full-time to monkey concerns of status and shifting social alliances is freed up to invent a new kind of spear head, etc..
Okay, I’m out of gas. I’ll come back later and spank it some more…