Further to “Ginning up dangers of Neanderthal genes,” from The Scientist:
“They’ve looked at huge databases of medical records to see if there are traits that correlate with the presence of particular genes from Neanderthals and have found a number of them,” said anthropologist John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin who was not involved in the study. “The take-away is that these genes that we have from these ancient people have effects on our phenotypes, and that’s pretty cool. They are not just shadows that are not doing anything, they are actually participating in our biology.”
Sure, but to what extent? Beyond the influence of environment and epigenetics?
Hawks also noted that “the [observed] associations are really, really small,” meaning that while the links between Neanderthal alleles and certain medical traits were statistically significant, they only represented a tiny percentage of the risk—1 percent to 2 percent in the case of depression, for example. More.
Is this really statistically significant?
We also learn,
Together with the findings that depression, mood disorders and tobacco use were individually associated with Neanderthal SNPs, this suggested to the researchers that the brains of modern humans have been particularly influenced by Neanderthal DNA. And this might overturn notions of Neanderthals as not-so-bright, said Hawks. “If you had the hypothesis that Neanderthals [died out] because they were stupid,” he said, “you have to explain why their genes are here doing stuff in our brains.”
Okay, we’re past the idea that Neanderthals were stupid. But it is not clear that the findings are statistically significant.
Anyway, why do they sound like a checklist from a family doctor’s office about stuff people might worry about? It might seem more significant if our Neanderthal ancestors gave us something we had not realized before.
There is no shortage of reasons out there why people drink, smoke, or get down in the dumps. These days, just about everything gets blamed except personal choices.
Well, let’s keep the file open.
See also: Ginning up dangers of Neanderthal genes: Increased risk of depression, addiction. But are 2% and 1.4% statistically significant increased risks? Wouldn’t we expect at least around 5%?
Neanderthal Man: The long-lost relative turns up again, this time with documents
A deep and abiding need for Neanderthals to be stupid. Why?
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