A zoologist asks why we need to see Neanderthal man as dumb: Talking about a recent paper discussing differences in skull shape, he notes,
In the Pleistocene world of rapidly changing ecological scenarios luck had everything to do with success or failure. It was all about being in the right place at the right time, something that natural selection – with its restriction of acting in the present on templates from the past – could not respond to fast enough. And so we have consistently mistaken survival and extinction with biological superiority or inferiority. That is why we have incessantly sought differences to explain our observations. We are here and they are not and so we must seek differences to explain the data. Of course, part of the problem is that we are participants trying to explain a story in which we are actors and that will inevitably lead to bias in our favour. Having given the Neanderthals a name, we immediately conditioned ourselves to seeing them as something else… Denigrating the Neanderthals has been part of that process of exalting our own. In a recent BBC television documentary I was asked if I would like to meet a Neanderthal today. Clive Finlayson, “Viewpoint: Why we still underestimate the Neanderthals” at BBC News
He decided he wouldn’t like to on the grounds that it might not be good for the Neanderthal.
Oddly, it’s not strictly true that we exalt our species, as he claims. We are constantly hearing that humans are not special. The belief that Neanderthals were somehow inferior and we killed them off is meant to exalt not us but Darwinian evolution. And it’s all the more curious that Dr. Finlayson omits to sing its praises.
See also: Was Neanderthal man fully human? The role racism played in assessing the evidence
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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