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Do extinct Neanderthals control human gene expression?


From Andy Coghlan at New Scientist:

A study has now revealed how this genetic legacy is still controlling how some people’s genes work, with possible consequences for their health.

But note this:

Tellingly, the Neanderthal influence has waned fastest in parts of the body that evolved most rapidly around that time, especially the brain. It suggests that once our direct human ancestors had evolved the equipment for sophisticated language and problem-solving, mating with Neanderthals – and the DNA that came with it – rapidly fell out of fashion.

That’s a vast speculation based on minimal evidence about a subject on which we know very little, charitably put. The most reasonable explanation for what happened to the Neanderthals is that they were assimilated, mostly into the much more numerous western European population. But Darwinian evolution theory has always needed subhumans and so will always find them. If not in nature, then in speculation.

Popular Darwinism has always needed extermination stories too because that’s the philosophy. But assimilation is not necessarily forcible. The underlying problem is arithmetic: Members of the minority group enjoy a wider choice of partners if they assimilate than if they don’t. Time does most of the rest.

But Neanderthal control of human genes endures, some of it positive and some negative. Evidence comes from an in-depth analysis of DNA from 214 people in the US, focusing on individuals of European ancestry. By comparing their modern DNA with that from Neanderthals -– whose genome was sequenced in 2008 -– a team led by Joshua Akey at the University of Washington in Seattle was able to identify which Neanderthal gene fragments had survived and were still active in 52 different types of human tissue.

“Strikingly, we find that Neanderthal sequences present in living individuals are not silent remnants of hybridisation that occurred over 50,000 years ago, but have ongoing, widespread and measurable impacts on gene activity,” says Akey. More.

We have hardly begun to clear away the nonsense produced by previous generations of Darwinian thinking, upended by genetic studies. But the things we really learn might be quite valuable.

See also: New York Times: Why did we get the Neanderthals so wrong?

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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