May 7, 2010

"Some humans are 4% Neanderthal."

Okay.

Would it trouble you to learn that you are part Neanderthal?
Yes! I'd be upset to know that I am not entirely human.
Not at all! It would be thrilling. I'd be proud and fascinated.
I am whatever I am and have always been. It would make no difference.
  
pollcode.com free polls

113 comments:

Scott said...

So we have their genes.
Did a Neanderthal dream
of becoming us?

ironrailsironweights said...

I've met a few people whom I'd guess were more like 74% Neanderthal.

Peter

Slow Joe said...

I have had this paranoid fascination with strange facial features such as my forehead, and ever since I was 6 and read Clan of the Cave Bears, which is basically porn, I wondered if I was part neanderthal.

And now this has me wanting to send a blood sample in.

Meade said...

Slow Joe was reading porn at age six.

backbackheyhey said...

This answers a lot of my questions about the cast of Jersey Shore.

Steven said...

Neanderthals, it might be noted, had slightly larger brains than Homo sapiens.

Brian Day said...

This answers a lot of my questions about the cast of Jersey Shore.
Throw in the Sopranos, and you start to wonder about the state of New Jersey. ;)

Synova said...

How does a six year old get hold of Clan of the Cave Bear? And yes, it is pretty darn explicit.

Anyhow, they've been making the Neanderthal models red haired or blond-ish lately. It wouldn't bother me at all.

What I really wish is that we'd find the right sort of DNA to clone Neanderthals. More than one intelligent race on the planet would be Way. Too. Cool.

Irene said...

Well, that explains my behavior this week.

Andrea said...

"How does a six year old get hold of Clan of the Cave Bear?"

Well, my parents had several novels of 60s and 70s-era erotica just sitting in their bookshelf, next to the Readers Digest Condensed collections and old copies of Horizon. My parents believed in letting us kids read whatever we wanted. They had raised us to act properly and trusted us to be able to use our judgment at an early age. I'm not sure why a six year old shouldn't read Clan of the Cave Bear. So it had sexy scenes. If he was a normal six-year-old he'd have either giggled at them or skipped them out of boredom.

Lem said...

Folks .. this is why I'm here.. el rushbo.. from the university of conservative studies.

You see.. Neanderthals did not survive to the present day.. they did not survive for a reason..

.. now follow me on this.. its going to become clear to you..

Neanderthals did not survive because they were socialist creatures..
They could not hunt like the capitalists opposition, the homosapiens.

Up on a hard breake.

Meade said...

Young Lem has been studying well his lessons at The Institute.

A+!!!

Ron said...

If used cleverly...it would be a handy excuse for who one votes for for President...

edutcher said...

And not one of that 4% owns Geico insurance.

themightypuck said...

The notion that Neanderthals died out because they were too nice is entirely plausible (to me).

Ken said...

Just 4%? Aren't we 98% chimp?

Joe said...

Clan of the Cave Bear was boring as shit. I couldn't finish it, porn or not.

Chip Ahoy said...

I liked Clan of the Cave Bears a lot. I especially enjoyed reading about how Ayla mastered the sling shot then invented the Ayla-Thompson machine gun. How she invented the sewing needle and then improved on it to develop a sewing machine. I eagerly read how she discovered the secret to white dye is urine and then how she started her own fashion line of white leathers. The toothbrush, and then toothpaste that could be squeezed from a tube. All these inventions coming from one person. How I marveled. I stayed with it right up to her inventing satellite communications, preparing a dish and launching a satellite from the front of her cave. She's my heroine.

Synova said...

LOL, Chip.

Slow Joe said...

Chip, I'm afraid I missed that (probably missed a lot), but I have encountered that attitude in books before. It's one of my pet peeves and I usually don't finish a book that is clearly living out some kind of insecure fantasy.

My paradigmatic example of this is Not Without My Daughter. And while I guess I can understand why someone who went through that experience would feel an unnecessary need to compensate, there's no way her fesenjan (sp) was really that awesome.

As for how I got a hold of the book, it was on the shelf and no one noticed I was reading it. I frankly thought it was a lot like a low plot 'The Two Towers', another book I was too young to really understand and appreciate. The sex stuff I just understood was for adults and I was mostly annoyed it came up so often (if my memory is even that accurate... this was a long time ago). I mostly just realized that people and "flat heads" had sex and wondered if that was why my head was so freakishly shaped. There's some scene where Ayla and her forced marriage husband, who I think wasn't a homo sapien, mate, producing some kind of Slow Joe Jr. Forgive me if this didn't actually occur in the book. I was surprised at how badly my memory jacked up The Two Towers, too.

I also read the encyclopedia, which filled me with trivia that convinced everyone I was some kind of supergenius when I was really just a kid who had nothing better to do than read the Funk and Wagnalls. My childhood was too unbelievable to bother trying to convince anyone about anonymously. Strange kid I was, though. Strange enough to wonder if I was Not Quite Human (one of my favorite books from when I was really young).

Synova said...

Slow Joe Jr was in the book. She gave birth on her own and then snuck the baby back to some other cave woman who she figured would take care of him even though he was going to be weaker than other babies, but she figured he'd probably be smarter.

I suppose that's why people would be upset if someone said they were part Neanderthal. The assumption has always been that they were "sub-human", a lower life form. Not smart. Like in Clan of the Cave Bear; dumb and rather animal-like. But I don't think that is the current thinking.

Christy said...

Chip, you nailed exactly what made me want to throw Clan... against the wall.

How did the smaller brain out-compete?

Slow Joe said...

It would be hilarious if we managed to pull a litter of neanderthals out of a test tube and quickly realized they were much more intelligent than we were, and perhaps hostile towards us.

I can imagine if chimps pulled us out of their test tubes, we wouldn't really appreciate being in their zoo.

I'm sure it wouldn't lead to a repeat of round 1, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were not compatible with our social conventions and morality. There may be a reason we were unable to coexist. They are less like people than chimps (ok, that's probably not accurate, but the article had numbers and stuff).

Ben said...

It's kind of a silly statement, considering the set of common ancestors for all humans today occurred well after Neanderthals were gone (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Identical_ancestors_point). So saying that some people are "more" neanderthal than others is kind of like saying that some people look more like mommy than daddy.

D. B. Light said...

For anyone who is interested in a serious discussion of the meaning of these studies check out John Hawks' blog -- he's one of the top experts in the field of paleo-anthropology.

http://johnhawks.net/weblog/

Doug Wright said...

It always struck me when so-called knowledgeable folk declared that it was impossible for
Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals to interbreed. I mean, who'd want to associate with that class of beings. Well, my guess always has been that given a scarcity of the opposite sex or maybe just given the opportunity, interbreeding would occur.

Just proves another old point that we often discussed in the old USA about certain people and their proclivities. Of course, we'd have to be there to properly understand the issue.

Expat(ish) said...

Awesome, we need to re-do the census, setup a title-IX type program, have some juicy set-asides in government contracting, change some admissions policies around at the Iveys, and we'll need to sue the heck out of GEICO for being racist.

Dude, I am SO getting a blood test.

-XC

rhhardin said...

Neanderthals make good figher pilots owing to the short thick neck.

traditionalguy said...

Warning: We Neanderthals are still clinging to our religion and our weapons. Approaching us with respect will work, but presuming that we are ignorant has been groups only there for the killing and stealing of our goods is Progressives' delusional thinking. It is a popular offshoot of the Nazi's Aryans delusion. How did that work out for the Germans?

Paco Wové said...

"I also read the encyclopedia, which filled me with trivia that convinced everyone I was some kind of supergenius when I was really just a kid who had nothing better to do than read the Funk and Wagnalls."

Mon frère!

Fred4Pres said...

As shown in the commericals, it is mean not to consider Neaderthals "human."

And Chip, you forgot that Alya also invented Sigfried and Roy's act and managed not to get eaten by her cave tiger (don't remember if he was a white one, however).

Steve said...

"I am what I am," said Popeye. For an extended view of the topic, read "This Simian World," by Clarence Day.

Michael McNeil said...

What I really wish is that we'd find the right sort of DNA to clone Neanderthals.

It isn't that we're not finding “the right sort of DNA,” it's that so far all we have is a rough draft of the complete Neanderthal genome. However, that will be refined better and better until it's essentially complete, at which point cloning will likely become technically feasible.

Resurrecting the Neanderthals — a being as or almost as intelligent as Homo sapiens — likely wouldn't present major ethical difficulties; however, Homo erectus (which had a substantially smaller brain and survived in southeast Asia until about 50,000 years ago, and whose DNA might perhaps thus also be recoverable) would likely be a different matter in my view.

Peano said...

"Would it trouble you to learn that you are part Neanderthal?"

Which part?

Ann Althouse said...

You know which part, Peano.

Kevin Walsh said...

I guess they did the research...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVvBXBZEhkw

Skyler said...

I'm not a geneticist and there's a ton I don't understand about it.

For instance, they say they've "mapped" the human genome, but what does that mean? It sounds important. But if everyone has different genes and their DNA is unique (at least to some degree) then how can it be mapped?

I think there is a lot of hubris in the claims of mapping genes and being able to tell if Neanderthal's mated with homo sapiens. I don't find it unbelievable or even undesirable to be true, I just remain unconvinced that we can know such things.

We should forever be quite skeptical of claims made by scientists that seek to be published in popular news media. They make lots of claims that later turn out to be incorrect, either because of mistake or fraud. I see no reason to accept their conclusions about interbreeding with Neanderthals until they can come up with a more acceptable way to explain their research that doesn't leave me wondering about big holes in their explanations.

swampleg said...

Is it racist to say that "I'v met a few people whom I'd guess were more like 74% Neanderthal." Other posts also evidence an anti-Neanderthal bias.

Supporting this is the fact that there are no poll options suggesting that being part Neanderthal is a good thing

Prejudgement and bias on the basis of race certainly supports the notion that there are racists feelings against Neanderthals. While there is not enough room to prescribe a full government program to remedy this vital problem at the very least the government will require a change in the poll to help assess the full scope of the problem.

A poll option of "I'd be proud to be 4% Neanderthal. I wish it was greater." should be added.

Meade said...

"How did that work out for the Germans?"

Well, pretty damn close, I'd say, tradguy.
Like way too close. As in, one or two mis-delivered emails in 1941 that otherwise would've revealed the errors in what was then thought to be "settled" climate change science and, arguably, Hitler might have just hunkered down in the west and left the Neanderthals to the east well-enough alone.

Michael McNeil said...

The notion that Neanderthals died out because they were too nice is entirely plausible (to me).

It isn't plausible to me. The neanderthals hunted big game animals like mammoths using stabbing spears at close range. Both men and women neanderthals suffered injuries as a result at rates comparable to those of modern-day rodeo riders (see this chart for a comparison of neanderthal injuries with those of rodeo riders). Despite how “nice” many of today's rodeo riders no doubt are, one doesn't engage in that kind of behavior by being overly timid or unassertive.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

The differences are miniscule, Skyler. It's like two cars of the same make and model, and one happens to utilize a slightly different style of screw in one place or a different bolt here or there. Or PE plastic as opposed to PS plastic on one part of the interior.

Michael McNeil said...

Just 4%? Aren't we 98% chimp?

Modern humans are an order of magnitude more closely related to neanderthals than we are to chimpanzees. The 1% to 4% figure relating specifically non-Africans to neanderthals refers to the relatively few genes that are distinctly different between neanderthals and modern humans (excepting non-Africans concerning those particular genes).

This chart from the journal Nature from an earlier article regarding the neanderthal genome decipherment project quantifies the triple relationship between humans, neanderthals, and chimps. Note that the raw neanderthal DNA had been heavily damaged over the past 39,000 years by breakage and chemical alteration, and thus had to be corrected (by comparison with multiple readings of corresponding stretches of DNA), so only the figures labeled as “corrected” in the graph are meaningful.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I've always felt that there had to have been some melding of genes between homo sapiens and neanderthals....both of which are "human" Somewhere on the sliding scale of anthropoids to humanity. It is just our own overblown impression of ourselves that puts homo sapiens at the high end of the scale.

It would be surprising if there hadn't been interbreeding since this is how species change over time.

I let my daughter read The Color Purple when she was 8 years old for a free choice book report. The teacher was appalled. Like Joe's parents I felt she could read anything she wanted as long as we would discuss the book together. I was a voracious reader as a child, reading fiction, biographies, historical and scientific books. Why would I not encourage this in my daughter?

ricpic said...

Neanderthals were gentle giants
That everyone purports to love;
But when it came down to survival
H. Sapiens gave them the shove.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

Just like with chimps, our DNA is very similar to that of Neanderthals.

With very similar species, or even within species, one finds the differences either in regions of DNA that do not code for genes (which is the vast majority of the genome) or in parts of genes that do not affect the crucial functions of the protein it encodes.

Changes (i.e. "mutations") can pile up there much more quickly, and at a predictable rate. This is what allows biologists to time the chronology of when two different species or subspecies (clades) diverged from one another.

The misperception that most of the genome is functional is a common one. We even have bits of ancient retroviral DNA that got stuck in there millenia ago and never got out, but have been "silenced" and made nonfunctional, just like the majority of the code we've collected in us over time.

Skyler said...

Ritmo, the two answers are not yet reconciled.

Either there is relative uniqueness among billions and billions of all humans that have ever lived, or the differences between us all are minuscule.

I don't believe that we could have uniqueness if the differences were so minuscule.

Maybe we could, maybe we couldn't. I have no dog in the hunt, but as a disinterested observer, I see nothing to convince me that the genome "mapping" is much more than a lot of hype. I'm sure something was done to create this mapping, but I suspect that we have little understanding of what we've mapped.

I also think that it's pretty likely that something has been missed since they could not have sampled the billions necessary to get a full analysis of the unique examples that live or have lived in the past tens of thousands of years.

I think it's a lot of hubris or just outright meaningless bragging. It's like someone saying they've drawn a map of the world in 1492 that shows the Earth as a globe. Well, sure, it's a globe, but they had no idea as to the existence of lands or what was in those lands. Knowing it is a globe is surely an important step but not too terribly informative beyond that fact.

Michael McNeil said...

I'm not a geneticist and there's a ton I don't understand about it. For instance, they say they've “mapped” the human genome, but what does that mean? It sounds important. But if everyone has different genes and their DNA is unique (at least to some degree) then how can it be mapped? I think there is a lot of hubris in the claims of mapping genes and being able to tell if Neanderthal's mated with homo sapiens. I don't find it unbelievable or even undesirable to be true, I just remain unconvinced that we can know such things.

An argument from incredulity based on ignorance is supposed to be meaningful and convincing? Please don't be overly dense. We map the genome and discover how closely humans are related to each other by deciphering the exact DNA sequence for a number of different individuals (a large number by now) from all over the globe, then tallying which genes vary and by how much.

We relate that human diversity to that of neanderthals, chimpanzees, and other species around the biosphere by doing likewise with them, then comparing and quantifying those differences with that of humanity.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

The chimp/Neanderthal-98%/4% issue also is easily resolved. Just because our DNA is 98% similar to chimps, doesn't mean that it is 98% identical to chimps. You have to go to the non-coding regions to map out the history of those regions of DNA. OTOH, we can conclude that 4% of our DNA (at least in the non-African populations studied) is derived from Neanderthals because of markers in those regions that show a fingerprint matching an ancestral population that doesn't match any H. sapiens populations, but rather matches those from H. neanerthalensis or whatever the current nomenclature calls them.

Coding vs. non-coding regions represent an important and often overlooked distinction when it comes to understanding the uses of mapping for determining ancestry vs. medical applications.

Michael McNeil said...

It would be surprising if there hadn't been interbreeding since this is how species change over time.

I agree that it would have been surprising to learn that neanderthals and humans never ever interbred (as indeed appearances were for some time till the latest data), however interbreeding per se between divergent groups is not “how species change over time.” Accumulating mutations filtered by natural selection among groups that have been reproductively isolated from each other is how species change over time and new species come into existence.

Skyler said...

They also claim we're 98% the same as Chimps. I don't care if we are or we aren't, but seeing as how the number of chromosomes are different and are in bits and pieces reassembled differently than ours, it would seem that there is already more than a 98% difference just in structure.

They have no idea what most genes even do, and occasionally we'll read of someone discovering a previously unknown purpose for a gene.

I think geneticists just think they're cool and like to put out press releases. It's easy to do because no one can really know if their claims are correct or not. We don't have any way to empirically test a live Neanderthal, and if we could we still wouldn't know what most of the genes are for. Therefore, it's easy to put out a press release with some dramatic claim and quote somebody disagreeing on paragraph 26 and then dismiss the disagreement as unprovable.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

Either there is relative uniqueness among billions and billions of all humans that have ever lived, or the differences between us all are minuscule.

I think, again, you have to go back to the coding/non-coding distinction when attempting to "quantify" distinctions.

Maybe we could, maybe we couldn't. I have no dog in the hunt, but as a disinterested observer, I see nothing to convince me that the genome "mapping" is much more than a lot of hype.

Mapping has been incredibly helpful to determining the location, and therefore, the identity of genes that are involved in disease. Determining the location, and later the structure, of the CFTR (Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Receptor), for instance, has allowed us to progress to the point where we may be coming close to treating the actual dysfunction.

I'm sure something was done to create this mapping, but I suspect that we have little understanding of what we've mapped.

Here you seem to use the term "mapping" in a general sense. It originally referred to finding the location in the genome of a gene. With the advent of more powerful technology, the lay press now uses the word to mean "sequencing". Sequencing is done routinely. And whether it is interesting to you, I suppose, depends on whether you find the medical applications appealing (they are surely useful), or whether you find the migration patterns of ancient human populations interesting - which is another large application.

I also think that it's pretty likely that something has been missed since they could not have sampled the billions necessary to get a full analysis of the unique examples that live or have lived in the past tens of thousands of years.

That's where statistics comes into play.

I think it's a lot of hubris or just outright meaningless bragging. It's like someone saying they've drawn a map of the world in 1492 that shows the Earth as a globe. Well, sure, it's a globe, but they had no idea as to the existence of lands or what was in those lands. Knowing it is a globe is surely an important step but not too terribly informative beyond that fact.

I guess you and I will have to differ on how heavily the knowledge that earth is a globe and the age of discovery impacted our understanding of geography.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

They also claim we're 98% the same as Chimps.

Whether you "care" about this or not aside (you're certainly interested in bringing it up), you seem to be hitting upon a paradoxical truism of modern human genetics. There is often more diversity within a population than between two different populations.

Skyler said...

McNeil: An argument from incredulity based on ignorance is supposed to be meaningful and convincing?

Um, yes.

I'm the one the geneticists hope to convince with their press releases. It's their job to be convincing, it's not mine to believe everything they say if it's not convincing.

If they put out a press release claiming that genes prove that nematodes evolved from horny toads and their gene studies prove it, should I simply believe them because they say so? No. The role of science is to explain their findings, not just to each other, but to the audience they are addressing. If they choose to bring their findings to the general public, they'd better be more convincing.

Otherwise, I'm inclined to put them in the same category as the scientists that planted lynx hairs on traps, climatologists that lie about their data, or people who think that space aliens inserted a secret chamber below the Sphinx.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

Anyone who wants more information on how the lineage of populations is resolved, GOOGLE what you can on "molecular clocks". It's what shows you were certain segments of DNA were derived from, and relies on the code, but but without the emphasis on "similarity/dissimilarity" Here's a link I found, for starters.

Michael McNeil said...

Skyler: It isn't necessary to know what all genes do in order to compare the raw DNA ordering, which is what the 98% relationship estimates refer to. As for the differing number of chromosomes between chimps and humans, once again examining the DNA coding clearly shows that chimp chromosomes 2A and 2B fused (with no genes being lost and some 150,000 base pairs added) to form human chromosome number 2.

Be skeptical all you like, but you're just thrashing around revealing your ignorance and prejudicial anti-scientific bias here, not making significant points.

David said...

To Michael and others with more knowledge about this that me:

The fact that Neanderthals and Humans could mate means they had a common ancestor, right? What implications does this have?

Can we tell if the N. genes came from Neanderthal men or women? If Humans were truly dominant, would these genes not more likely come from women captured in battle? Or is it possible that there was one small population where there was free voluntary interbreeding (whatever "voluntary" meant in those days/")

Could Humans have held particularly attractive Neanderthal women as sex slaves? Perhaps (like Nubians) the Neanderthal women were particularly beautiful.

What would the immediate offspring of a h-n child have been like? It must not have been grotesque to humans, as they would not have survived if they were.

Pure Africans have no Neanderthal blood? What do the geniuses as Harvard Law School make of that?

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

The fact that Neanderthals and Humans could mate means they had a common ancestor, right? What implications does this have?

It makes that likely and conforms with the biological understanding that all forms of life have a common ancestor at some point, but it's not conclusive nor does it reveal anything we didn't assume already.

Can we tell if the N. genes came from Neanderthal men or women?

Again, these don't have to be "genes". DNA contains genes. It isn't comprised solely of genes.

If Humans were truly dominant, would these genes not more likely come from women captured in battle? Or is it possible that there was one small population where there was free voluntary interbreeding (whatever "voluntary" meant in those days/")

These social questions are best left to those who would prefer to speculate on behavioral characteristics of inter-species conflict or cooperation, etc.

Could Humans have held particularly attractive Neanderthal women as sex slaves? Perhaps (like Nubians) the Neanderthal women were particularly beautiful.

This is too off-topic for me to address. If Michael wants to,...

What would the immediate offspring of a h-n child have been like?

No one knows.

It must not have been grotesque to humans, as they would not have survived if they were.

That's plausible.

Pure Africans have no Neanderthal blood? What do the geniuses as Harvard Law School make of that?

You mean that Harvard Law student this week who posted some bullshit about race and intelligence yet again?

Michael McNeil said...

Um, yes.

I'm the one the geneticists hope to convince with their press releases. It's their job to be convincing, it's not mine to believe everything they say if it's not convincing.


Um, no. Why should they care if folks like you — who don't even bother trying to find out what's going on but merely spout off — remain unconvinced?

Nor are the researchers operating by “press release” — rather they're publishing in the scientific journals (e.g., here) for other scientists to take and run with.

Meanwhile, they and those who popularize their work will be happy to reach those who are willing to learn (and indeed are fascinated by) the latest results.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Accumulating mutations filtered by natural selection among groups that have been reproductively isolated from each other is how species change over time and new species come into existence.

Yes. I know this is how species change. Darwin's finches and all that.

I suppose we can say this is how species "disappear". By no longer being isolated and then interbreeding with other isolated groups who have also developed specialized mutations. When the isolating factors are removed and IF the species can interbreed to create fertile offspring that can also breed then the species will gradually change: absorb each other or become something new.

The species as a distinct entity is no longer....but did it really "disappear" since some of the genetic material and characteristics may be shown in the new, combined group.

Species can interbreed and not create fertile offspring and this creates a dead end. Up until this recent discovery that Neatherthal genes exist in modern humans, that was the thought.

PROOF of NEANDERTHAL'S GENES in MODERN MAN

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

I'm the one the geneticists hope to convince with their press releases. It's their job to be convincing, it's not mine to believe everything they say if it's not convincing.

Skyler, exactly how ignorant an audience are scientists supposed to anticipate when putting out a press release?

I mean this in all seriousness, and not to mock you.

The majority of the audience for the NYT will either know enough of genetics or understand enough of what they are told to not commit themselves to the basic misunderstandings you are demonstrating.

Repeat after me: Genes =/= DNA. "Genetic code" has become a catch-all phrase that obscures the fact that DNA is a code that contains the instructions for making genes (in a miniscule part). Concepts of similarity insofar as they address personal identity are social and humanities questions. You are assuming these are questions for science to answer.

Skyler said...

Be skeptical all you like, but you're just thrashing around revealing your ignorance and prejudicial anti-scientific bias here, not making significant points.

No. It's not my job to believe what they say. It is their job to convince the world of the truth of their conclusions.

I don't doubt that there is something to what they say. I doubt that they can make the sweeping conclusions with such confidence.

And I certainly don't accept statistics as proof of anything when the base of understanding is so limited by their own admissions.

It's still a new science and I applaud its growth and development, but they have a long way to go before I'll accept all their claims unquestioningly. I am not prejudicially anti-science. I am precisely pro-science. I just think these people have yet to convince me of the accuracy of their science.

Especially with the attempt by scientists to defraud the world with fake claims of understanding the climate and attempts to affect government policy by faking lynx hairs and claiming spotted owls have a northern subspecies, I demand scientists to be much more convincing.

Here they are making pretty big claims that can be expected to influence culture and deep rooted religious beliefs (not mine, of course). I think they bear a responsibility to fill the big holes in their claims a bit better than they have to date.

Moira Breen said...

Ben: It's kind of a silly statement, considering the set of common ancestors for all humans today occurred well after Neanderthals were gone...

Dude, follow the link. (Or the one D.B. Light provided.)

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

No. It's not my job to believe what they say. It is their job to convince the world of the truth of their conclusions.

Alas. And most of the world either is or will be. Whether you see it as your "job" to understand why the basis for your objections might have or lack validity before making them, is unclear. But you seem unconcerned by that, for some reason. Scientists, OTOH, wouldn't be.

As for climate, there are much more unknown variables than simply noting a series of letters that are passed down or change from generation to generation. The code is right there, and certainly there are things we will still find out about how it gets there. But it's a bit more "source-based" than climate science.

Especially with the attempt by scientists to defraud the world with fake claims of understanding the climate and attempts to affect government policy by faking lynx hairs and claiming spotted owls have a northern subspecies, I demand scientists to be much more convincing.

I didn't know anthropologists and human geneticists had to answer for whatever bugbear of yours you're berating today.

The breakthroughs achieved by our understanding of molecular biology seem much more powerful and profound to many people than the agitation borne by your personal problems and the faults you selectively seek in the world of science would lead you to believe.

Moira Breen said...

Skyler - it's a bad sign when Ritmo's making more sense, in fewer words, than you are.

Michael McNeil said...

The fact that Neanderthals and Humans could mate means they had a common ancestor, right?

Yes, but not a common single ancestor (a la Adam and Eve) but a common group of (thousands of) ancestors that shared genes over many tens and even hundreds of millennia, but then (mostly) ceased to do so as one group split off from another (likely by migrating elsewhere).

Later on, some gene transfer occurred again, most likely as modern humans themselves began migrating out of Africa and encountered the now-distinct neanderthals in the Middle East.

What implications does this have? Can we tell if the N. genes came from Neanderthal men or women? If Humans were truly dominant, would these genes not more likely come from women captured in battle? Or is it possible that there was one small population where there was free voluntary interbreeding (whatever "voluntary" meant in those days/")

Well, for one thing, present data indicates that neanderthals contributed genes to modern humans, but there's no indication among the now-deciphered neanderthal genome that anatomically modern humans contributed genes to them. That may have occurred, but the three neanderthal individuals (all females) whose genomes we now have extensive details of don't show it.

What does this mean? Perhaps that neanderthals had sex with human females who then rejoined the human community to have their babies, or perhaps a group of neanderthals joined a human community — but the reverse (pace “Quest for Fire”) apparently did not occur.

All three neanderthals whose genomes have been deciphered thus far were female, so we haven't yet gotten the Y chromosome of a male neanderthal deciphered to compare with.

Michael McNeil said...

(Continuing…)

Could Humans have held particularly attractive Neanderthal women as sex slaves? Perhaps (like Nubians) the Neanderthal women were particularly beautiful.

It's possible, but note that neanderthal women (like their men) were probably considerably stronger in general than anatomically modern humans, so keeping neanderthal females as slaves might well have been problematic.

What would the immediate offspring of a h-n child have been like? It must not have been grotesque to humans, as they would not have survived if they were.

Neanderthals were not distinct enough from humans to have presented much in the way of difficulties in this regard, I think.

Pure Africans have no Neanderthal blood? What do the geniuses as Harvard Law School make of that?

(Grin!) I don't know what Harvard Law School would make of that, but what anthropologists make of it is that it was humans already in the process of migrating out of Africa (passing through the Middle East where neanderthals already resided) who proceeded to share genes with neanderthals, while those humans who remained behind in Africa did not participate in the renewed interchange.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

As long as Skyler's going to spout off on "exposing" something without any basis for taking issue with its soundness, let me address his 98% versus 4% claim in a much simpler way.

If 4% of the 3 billion base pairs in a human population is shared by Neanderthals, that doesn't mean that the 4% in question is completely different from the non-Neanderthal derived code. It might only be different around certain predictable markers (that are, curiously, never found in any other human populations. Just in Neanderthals).

Remember, there are ONLY 4 base pairs in eukaryotes. You only have so many options when it comes to how to alter a base pair.

So again, Skyler fails to either understand or appreciate the distinction between whether the part of a code is the same and whether it differs in every respect - with every word, letter and piece of punctuation being completely novel as opposed to only some of them.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

Skyler - it's a bad sign

Maybe for you and Skyler it is. You should look into that - more often.

Skyler said...

As long as Skyler's going to spout off on "exposing"

I'm not exposing anything. I'm simply predicting that in about ten years or less there will be another breakthrough claiming that everything claimed here was wrong. Such is the state of the art.

Just like nutrition and the ever changing list of things that people claim cause cancer, the cause of the dinosaur extinctions, and so many other things that are at one time ballyhooed as the newest lastest finalist answer to life's oldest questions that are later quietly shuffled to the dust heap and forgotten. Too often scientists come out with claims that are later poo pooed and noted to have been misguided or misapplied.

I'm saying that there is certainly evidence of the same kinds of genes being in Neanderthal and homo sapiens and that perhaps there was interbreeding, but that the conclusion that there was should be met with more skepticism that is seen here.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

4% of something is different from 4% of something else =/= that 4% is 100% different from it.

But if we are talking 4% of a 3 billion-base pair code, we are talking a 30 million letter length of code. It doesn't take many of those letters to be different (in the exact same places) for it to be statistically impossible for them to be derived from one source as opposed to another - (in which the sequence is much more similar or identical).

Skyler, you were trained as an engineer and claim expertise in statistics. How did you miss this?

Further, why did you use this nonsense as the initial basis of your objection to molecular anthropology as a scapegoat for ALL science?

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

I'm not exposing anything. I'm simply predicting that in about ten years or less there will be another breakthrough claiming that everything claimed here was wrong. Such is the state of the art.

Why are conservatives so obsessed lately with science's inability to be an understanding of everything for all time? It is only a better approximation of what we know (empirically) than what we knew before. That can lead to powerful advances, as long as we take account of the caveats. I just think you are making more of the caveats than you need to.

The advances always come from the caveats - often unexplained caveats. You are right about that. However, it always seems to be other scientists who find them and improve upon them. That's not to say that someone untrained in science couldn't do so. But that person does have to have evidence and an appreciation for what is known and what concepts are understood, first, wouldn't you say?

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

Sorry, make that a 120 million letter length of code, (rather than 30 million), in the 11:48 post. I'm not perfect (nor are scientists) and was just doing calculations on-the-fly. But the point stands.

Michael McNeil said...

I'm not exposing anything. I'm simply predicting that in about ten years or less there will be another breakthrough claiming that everything claimed here was wrong. Such is the state of the art.

I'd be glad to make you a little wager in this regard….

Yes, no doubt extensions to what's been revealed this week will occur, but having the bulk — much less “everything claimed here” — be wrong? Hardly.

Look at the what's taken place during the last ten years since the initial rough-draft decipherment of the human genome, for instance, that was released back in 2000. There have been extensions to our knowledge — such as the release of the complete human genome in 2003, the decipherment of a great many human individual genomes and those of a large variety of other creatures, along with the commencement of the neanderthal decipherment project four years ago — but nothing in the way of a wholesale overturning or anything like it of what had been thought to be knowledge has occurred.

So, I say put your money where your mouth is, Skyler! I'll be more than happy to take your cash.

Skyler said...

Skyler, you were trained as an engineer and claim expertise in statistics.

I have never claimed expertise in voodoo math.

And I am certainly no conservative.

Michael McNeil said...

Why are conservatives so obsessed lately with science's inability to be an understanding of everything for all time? It is only a better approximation of what we know (empirically) than what we knew before.

Stop bringing politics into this, Ritmo. We differ on many things politically — though I'm more a (non-dogmatic) libertarian than “conservative” — but I certainly “obsess” over nothing of the kind with regard to science.

(But at least you've ceased maligning my home state of Montana by (ab)using it as part of your pseudonym….)

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

The fact that you are more worried by my using the place-name of Montana in my profile than the politics of intelligent design, among a few other things (but that's as fitting an example as any of the mindset I note), says something, Michael.

I'd say it's defenders of intelligent design, climate change denialism and the alleged personhood of the zygote who have more to answer to than I do for merely referring to them. But perhaps you have a more personal stake in that (given the willingness of libertarians to ally themselves with conservatives) than me. Apologies for reminding you of it. I can tell it must have been a touchy issue - especially given the brevity of my remark and the two paragraphs you produced in order to pounce on it.

Revenant said...

Pure Africans have no Neanderthal blood? What do the geniuses as Harvard Law School make of that?

The witch hunt at Harvard centered around the question of whether certain groups had a genetic disadvantage in intelligence. Since we don't know how smart Neanderthals were compared to us, and don't know if the genes they contributed had an impact on intelligence, this latest revelation doesn't really contribute to the Harvard debate.

Revenant said...

defenders of intelligent design, climate change denialism and the alleged personhood of the zygote

Interesting mix of topics. You have intelligent design, which denies a widely confirmed scientific theory. You have anthropogenic climate change, which is a relatively well-reasoned but untestable theory. Finally, you have "the personhood of the zygote"... which has nothing to do with science at all. Whether or not an entity counts as human for moral purposes is a moral argument, not a scientific one.

Scientifically speaking, humans are just another kind of animal. There is no *scientific* reason why it is, for example, ok to fumigate your house for termites but unacceptable to herd Jews into gas chambers. The arguments for allowing one and not the other are moral arguments -- they aren't testable theories.

Michael McNeil said...

The fact that you are more worried by my using the place-name of Montana in my profile than the politics of intelligent design, among a few other things (but that's as fitting an example as any of the mindset I note), says something, Michael.

Yes, it says you're an idiot. You've never seen me defend intelligent design (which is far from being the topic of this thread, one might note, not having been raised at all), and moreover I've spent a great many discussions, using paragraphs far longer than the three lines you count as being two paragraphs, debunking it — and doing a much better job in doing so, I might add, than you.

mariner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ritmo Brasileiro said...

No, it says something about you, Michael. You objected to the injection of politics into this. So call me names all you want to. You are obviously troubled by illegitimate stances on scientific matters whose only defense in the political arena comes from the libertarians' allies.

And your ease with rebutting what they say only leads me to believe that you are more familiar with whatever mindset would bother entertaining such bunk.

It took me a few posts to figure out that Skyler wasn't distinguishing between the quantification of total similarity and the quantification of the amount of identical tracts of DNA derived from one common ancestor. This effectively rebutted his primary objection in the first place.

You, OTOH, didn't even have a clue. I suppose I should apologize for taking a while to understand the mindset behind erroneous claims, but I won't. Ultimately I did what science and science education required, and you just made a silly bet and called him ignorant.

I hope that makes you feel good about yourself, because it did nothing to address Skyler's error. But maybe that wasn't your aim.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

Finally, you have "the personhood of the zygote"... which has nothing to do with science at all. Whether or not an entity counts as human for moral purposes is a moral argument, not a scientific one.

Oh... bullshit! You might as well argue whether or not a grain of sand counts as a human "for moral purposes".

A grain of sand and a single cell are not humans. From scientific arguments. "For moral purposes" is a bullshit way of obfuscating what something actually is.

Scientifically speaking, humans are just another kind of animal. There is no *scientific* reason why it is, for example, ok to fumigate your house for termites but unacceptable to herd Jews into gas chambers. The arguments for allowing one and not the other are moral arguments -- they aren't testable theories.

I suppose that the typical Althousian's contempt for and ignorance of human civilization allows him to reduce such comparisons to the realm of abstract philosophy.

Maybe if less of you had such contempt for other people and such disinterest in human civilization you wouldn't make such Herculean efforts to remove our moral sentiments from the realm of simple, and empirical, personal affect. Over-rationalization is for the empirically challenged.

mariner said...

Ritmo:

Thank you for your contributions to the discussion (up to the last few comments).

***

Perhaps now people will refer to "Neanderthals and other humans.

"Neanderthals are people too."

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

No problem, Mariner. I try to respond topically to remarks that aren't trying to avoid a topical answer.

Cedarford said...

Friday a black pal had to call and remind me of the discovery.

1. I had to remind him that as light-skinned, he was part Neandethal too.

2. I told him that scientists were also looking into exactly how friendly the Africans who never left Africa got with the local chimps and gorillas. And if Africans may lack Neanderthal, but make up for it with more gorilla and chimp in their DNA.
Response: Not funny!!

Doug Wright said...

So, Cro-Magnons got their start in Africa, eh? But what do we know about Neanderthals other than that they existed and there was interbreeding between Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals? We know some Ns lived in parts of Europe however did any live in Asia or Australia?

My point is that we have little significant data upon which to base much more than the "action" between two branches of Homonid species.

There must be so much more to discover about our ancestors that we will be surprised so maybe some of the mass hysteria should wait.

Realize that Aliens are coming here in one form or another. In fact that aspect of our history is more interesting than some of the mush and pap discussed in this thread.

Michael McNeil said...

Africans may lack Neanderthal, but make up for it with more gorilla and chimp in their DNA.

Taking your joke seriously for a moment, animals as closely related as humans, chimps, and gorillas typically would be able to reproduce together, but the fusion of two of the great apes' 24 pairs distinct chromosomes into 23 far back in the evolution of the human lineage makes such efforts since that time pretty unlikely to be successful.

Michael McNeil said...

But what do we know about Neanderthals other than that they existed and there was interbreeding between Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals? We know some Ns lived in parts of Europe however did any live in Asia or Australia?

Neanderthal remains have been found as far south as the Middle East and as far east as Central Asia, but there's no evidence for their having lived in East Asia much less Australia.

Since all non-African modern humans appear to share the same minor admixture of neanderthal ancestry, it appears that the crossbreeding between humans and neanderthals occurred just as anatomically modern humans were first migrating out of Africa and passing through the Middle East (where neanderthals also lived), but before humans had continued on to occupy Europe, East Asia, and New Guinea/Australia.


Realize that Aliens are coming here in one form or another. In fact that aspect of our history is more interesting than some of the mush and pap discussed in this thread.

Unlike the plentiful evidence for the existence of neanderthals and other ancient hominids, there is no even halfway decent evidence that extraterrestrial intelligences have ever visited the Earth.

Indeed, as the former head of MUFON, James Carrion recently wrote:

“What I discovered was that the phenomenon is based in deception — of the human kind — and that there is no way ANYONE will understand the real truth unless they are willing to first accept that. No, I am not talking about some grandiose cover-up of alien visitation, but instead the documented manipulation of people and information for purposes that I can only speculate on….

“I decided to examine the data collection and investigative practices in Ufology, and after poring over thousands of historical case files from MUFON, NICAP and APRO investigators in the MUFON archives, what I found, was inconsistent investigation with a total lack of evidentiary standards. I also found a paper trail of disinformation and misinformation that has kept Ufology in check through infighting and red herrings, rabbit holes and elaborate deception operations….

“All of this has led me to where I am at today — squarely outside of Ufology — away from the polarized beliefs, the three ring circus of sideshows and illusion acts that has created nothing but a hall of mirrors and dead ends and which has produced no definite answers despite 60 years of accumulated investigation….

“That in a nutshell is the sad state of Ufology today, humans deceiving humans. If there is a real phenomenon, I have yet to see any evidence of it that would stand under scientific scrutiny. Outside of Ufology, I will pursue peeling away these layers of human deception and exposing them for what they are. If a real phenomenon lies at its core remains to be seen.”

wv: probi

Doug Wright said...

It seems that jumping to conclusions on this thread is more common than usual.

Let me correct MM about aliens. No one mentioned intelligent aliens but there is evidence of bacterial alien life arriving, comets or meteors likely sources. In fact there's been discussion about life arriving on Earth from those extraterrestrial sources, yet to be determined or whether that was in addition to native sources.

So, MM, you and your relative in kind, RB, need to stop your posturing and pay freaking attention. Or, alternatively, STFU.

Cheers everyone!

Michael McNeil said...

Let me correct MM about aliens. No one mentioned intelligent aliens but there is evidence of bacterial alien life arriving, comets or meteors likely sources. In fact there's been discussion about life arriving on Earth from those extraterrestrial sources, yet to be determined or whether that was in addition to native sources.

So, MM, you and your relative in kind, RB, need to stop your posturing and pay freaking attention. Or, alternatively, STFU.


When people speak about capital-A “Aliens” — and they're not referring to folk crossing human frontiers — they're typically talking about UFO's and extraterrestrial intelligences. Since you failed to clarify just what you were talking about, there was nothing further anyone could “pay freaking attention” to — so you're an (arrogant) idiot right there alone.

Beyond that, there's also little to no evidence for extraterrestrial life ever having traveled across space to Earth — while genetically, there's a vast amount of evidence showing that all life on this planet is extremely closely interrelated, indicating that not only has no alien life from elsewhere ever taken root here alongside Earthly life (other than, perhaps, as the original source of all of Earth's life itself, some four billion years ago), but also that life on Earth originated only once not multiple times.

Thus, your grand lecturing about “Realize that Aliens are coming here in one form or another. In fact that aspect of our history is more interesting than some of the mush and pap discussed in this thread” — not to speak of your peremptorily commanding others to STFU — is completely off base scientifically.

If you deny it, then point to an article in a reputable scientific journal such as Science or Nature affirming your position in anything like the certain tones with which you speak.

Doug Wright said...

My, my, are you the royal prig! Excuse me all to hell for not following your fucking rules and concepts of reality. You and RB do deserve each other. But you could take your fucking stupid arguments to a joint blog where you and RB could insult each other without distrubing the rest of us.

Now go sit the corner and write a 100 hundred times: "Michael is a fricking priggish asshole!"

Methadras said...

So leftards still bitterly cling to their ancestry.

Methadras said...

Steven said...

Neanderthals, it might be noted, had slightly larger brains than Homo sapiens.


Yes, but I believe they didn't have the convolutions that Homo Sapiens Sapiens have.

Methadras said...

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

a single cell are not humans.


A single cell encoded with human DNA is a human being. A grain of sand can't manifest into a human being. A single fish cell can only produce a particular species of fish, same for dogs, cats, chimps, amoeba, etc. Now, it isn't a fully expounded or realized human being, but can only become one if allowed to maturate properly and there are 6.25 billion human beings as proof that your theory on this subject is wrong.

Methadras said...

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

Why are conservatives so obsessed lately with science's inability to be an understanding of everything for all time?


They usually aren't, but most of the times it's your philosophical predilections that project this idea onto what you think conservatives are and what they think with respect to science, it's endeavors, and the discoveries that come with it. Since you aren't a conservative, nor have ever been one, to my knowledge, you wouldn't generally understand the sentiment you are putting forth. Many conservatives, myself included have no issue with science trying to try and answer the unknown. That is the pervue of science. Science has a place and a role in all of life. It is the discovery of all the majesty that the creator has provided. It is the scratching under the surface of reality to see how it works and reveling in it. Your characterization is false, if not ignorant, which is usually your modus operandi anyway.

Methadras said...

Michael McNeil said...

Beyond that, there's also little to no evidence for extraterrestrial life ever having traveled across space to Earth — while genetically, there's a vast amount of evidence showing that all life on this planet is extremely closely interrelated, indicating that not only has no alien life from elsewhere ever taken root here alongside Earthly life (other than, perhaps, as the original source of all of Earth's life itself, some four billion years ago), but also that life on Earth originated only once not multiple times.


This is absolutely true. There is zero proof that extraterrestrial life has ever intermingled with terrestrial life. However, there is one obvious fact that I have never seen discussed and that is the sheer advancement of human beings over any other life form on earth in such a short amount of time. Beyond our closest relatives, Bonobo chimpanzee's we are above and beyond them in every way. Why is that do you suppose? No other creature that has ever existed on earth has ever achieved what we have in such a short amount of time. Why? There have been multiples of species that have evolved over hundreds of millions of years and yet accomplished nothing other than possibly passing on enough genetic material to get to where we are today.

The argument of allelic shift variation (genetic drift) does not, in my opinion, answer the root cause of what the underlying mechanism for evolution/mutation is. I don't deny that evolution exists, but it's basic mechanics are not that well understood. I don't know what that is, but there is something there.

Revenant said...

Oh... bullshit! You might as well argue whether or not a grain of sand counts as a human "for moral purposes".

Yes, you might as well. And that, too, wouldn't be a question answerable by science.

Revenant said...

A grain of sand and a single cell are not humans. From scientific arguments.

What is the scientific argument for claiming that something with DNA that is 100% human is not human? What "scientific" definition of "human" are you using?

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

A single cell encoded with human DNA is a human being.

A single cell encoded with human DNA is not even an organism, let alone a human being. Go back to 9th grade biology.

A grain of sand can't manifest into a human being.

Neither can a single cell.

But if that grain of sand is manipulated chemically in a lab, we could turn it into your definition of a human being.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

What is the scientific argument for claiming that something with DNA that is 100% human is not human?

So what is human DNA, let alone "100%" human DNA?

I thought DNA was used by all eukaryotes.

But since you want science to give you a simple answer: By what logic do you claim that a cell in a woman's uterus is any more human than the billions of other cells her uterus expels every month? How human are they?

How human are the colon cells expelled from your anus every time you take a shit?

They all have, as you put it, "100% human" DNA.

What "scientific" definition of "human" are you using?

For this I think we have to go to Linnean taxonomy, which tends to rely on physical and social features for the purposes of classification. A bit limited, but all we have to go on in that scheme. Anyway, it gives a description of H. sapiens that doesn't seem to mention anything regarding "human DNA", let alone a cellular existence for housing it.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

The argument of allelic shift variation (genetic drift) does not, in my opinion, answer the root cause of what the underlying mechanism for evolution/mutation is. I don't deny that evolution exists, but it's basic mechanics are not that well understood. I don't know what that is, but there is something there.

Wouldn't you know it? They have a Wikipedia page on that too!

Also, try GOOGLING "DNA replication error rate".

In E. coli it's 1 error per 100,000 base pairs, and improved to 1 per 10 to the ninth (billion) with the help of repair enzymes.

1 per billion is not bad, but multiply this by each replication cycle (which in eukaryotes is numerous over the course of one's lifetime), the number of cells in the gonads that commit themselves to meiosis, and the number of organisms in that population, and it adds up.

Every individual who develops cancer has, by our current understanding of the disease, developed at least 5 or so mutations, just in the genes controlling growth and tumor suppression, and in one cell.

Cancer is diagnosed in just under 1 per every thousand individuals in the U.S. each year.

If that doesn't help resolve your confusion about mutation being ubiquitous enough to account for evolution, I'm not sure what will.

Life seems to select for just the right amount of "sloppiness" in the replication of DNA to allow for mutation and evolution.

Here's a powerpoint for engineers.

Michael McNeil said...

A single cell encoded with human DNA is not even an organism, let alone a human being. Go back to 9th grade biology.

What nonsense. A single fertilized egg cell most certainly is an organism — though it soon begins to divide into many cells, and thus doesn't remain single for long.

It's also worth noting that cells early on in the subsequent division of the egg retain the power of being teased away from the incipient embryo and thereupon grow into a complete, separate human being. When it happens naturally that's how identical twins, triplets, and the like form.

Moreover, certain so-called “pluripotent” and “totipotent” stem cells also retain the power of growing into a complete human being.

Michael McNeil said...

What is the scientific argument for claiming that something with DNA that is 100% human is not human? What “scientific” definition of “human” are you using?

We've discussed this before, Revenant, but clearly it's time to bring it up once again.

Scientifically and practically, a single-celled fertilized egg or even multi-celled embryo are very different from every human being that any of us have ever known, in that they (even though containing human DNA; note that even the unfertilized egg and sperm contain that) completely lack the essential basis for every characteristically “human” trait that distinguishes us from vegetables and dumb brutes — such as memory, feeling, emotion (love, hate, and so forth), personality, character, intelligence, and more — to wit, a brain and the mind that it hosts.

That is why the law now defines human death — the cessation of essential humanness — to be “brain death” (despite the fact that every still-living human cell in the still-functional human body continues to contain human DNA); and why in my view we should also define the start of essential humanity for every human being to lie in brain life — i.e., the initial development of an advanced brain: a brain that has grown beyond the purely autonomic and rudimentary functionality that merely keeps the heart beating and the like.

Note that there is not the shadowiest trace of a brain in the developing embryo until about the start of the fourth week of gestation, while the first neurons — the cellular wiring that serves as the basis for the brain's computations and functionality — come into existence around the beginning of the second month; and even then the newly created brain remains quite rudimentary for a long time.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

Moreover, certain so-called “pluripotent” and “totipotent” stem cells also retain the power of growing into a complete human being.

Yes. And just like a zygote, they are not human beings either.

The "argument from potential" has gotten old and tired. It's time to retire it.

Michael McNeil said...

Yes. And just like a zygote, they are not human beings either.

I didn't say they were human beings — I said that the fertilized egg is an organism — which it is, and which you flatly and absurdly denied.

The “argument from potential” has gotten old and tired. It's time to retire it.

Nor did I make any such argument. It is you who (as you typically do) argue not against what is said, but what you think you hear.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

"Yes. And just like a zygote, they are not human beings either."

I didn't say they were human beings — I said that the fertilized egg is an organism — which it is, and which you flatly and absurdly denied.


The problem with using the term "organism" is it confuses the only people with a stake in the public debate as it is currently framed: Those who consider a zygote (and, I suppose, stem cells) a human being.

Further, other than for naturalistic arguments, the organismal distinction between zygote and stem cell is pretty thin. Biologically, they are both undifferentiated, totipotent, diploid cells (in some other human's body).

"The 'argument from potential' has gotten old and tired. It's time to retire it."

Nor did I make any such argument. It is you who (as you typically do) argue not against what is said, but what you think you hear.


It would be easier to avoid doing this if you weren't so busy arguing out of both sides of your mouth depending on whether it is I or Revenant making the argument you wish to refute.

You are clearly not on the side of the Stem Cell Saviors and Zygote Saviors. Why not just come out and use the blunt, honest language that most effectively quashes the ignorance that furthers their arguments?

Michael McNeil said...

McNeil, already backtracking, wrote: Nobody claimed that it's “absolutely proven”

Actually, I think you did say that because you said that my skepticism was ignorant and baseless. Fess up. You tolerated no skepticism yesterday.


I did not say or imply that it was “proven.” No way I would ever claim that. What I said was that your total skepticism — not just to the present neanderthal-human finding but to the entire modern science of genomics, which you reiterated numerous times absurdly denying that we even can decipher genomes and tally up the gene frequencies — is not rationally based, but rather centered in an ignorant bias against the entire science of genomics; and I certainly stand by my conclusion that with a very high probability your position here is completely idiotic and false.

I'll stand by what I said yesterday, bolstered by even your comments now: We should not accept this as proven and we should be skeptical, and there will likely be new theories debunking much or all of this within the next ten years.

So you say, and I'll reiterate my offer of a wager with you that the next decade will not result in “everything claimed here” and in genomics as a whole being false as you insist, but rather that the bulk of it will be affirmed — with extensions to our knowledge but no wholesale overturning of it.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

Wrong thread, buddy. New Neanderthal news posted on Sunday's entries.

Revenant said...

So what is human DNA, let alone "100%" human DNA?

There is a recognized human genome consisting of 23 base pairs, although the exact configuration of genes naturally varies from human to human.

But since you want science to give you a simple answer: By what logic do you claim that a cell in a woman's uterus is any more human than the billions of other cells her uterus expels every month?

I didn't make that claim. I asked you for the scientific argument for claiming that a fertilized egg is not human. Are you able to answer that question?

What "scientific" definition of "human" are you using?

For this I think we have to go to Linnean taxonomy, which tends to rely on physical and social features for the purposes of classification.

There are three things wrong with that. First is that Linnean taxonomy doesn't take social features into account. Secondly, under Linnean taxonomy a fertilized egg is classified the same as a human is. Finally, Linnean taxonomy is about as scientifically up-to-date as phlogiston theory -- cladistics is the modern means of classification.

Next time you try to wing it by hastily Googling up some terms, read a little closer.

A bit limited, but all we have to go on in that scheme. Anyway, it gives a description of H. sapiens that doesn't seem to mention anything regarding "human DNA", let alone a cellular existence for housing it.

That's because it is 150 years out of date, Ritmo. :)

Revenant said...

[the fertilized egg lacks] the essential basis for every characteristically "human" trait that distinguishes us from vegetables and dumb brutes — such as memory, feeling, emotion (love, hate, and so forth), personality, character, intelligence, and more — to wit, a brain and the mind that it hosts

There are quite a few problems with that argument.

The first is that there is no basis for claiming that love, hate, or personality are uniquely human traits. Other animals certainly appear to possess them. We can't say for certain that they do -- but then, I can't say for certain that anybody but ME does.

The second is that those emotions aren't universal to humanity; all manner of physical and psychological ailments can limit or remove our ability to feel certain emotions.

The third is that while higher reasoning appears to be unique to humans, it isn't universal to humans. Infants are incapable of it, and are in all categories of reasoning less intelligent than a chimpanzee or a dog.

Michael McNeil said...

There are quite a few problems with that argument.

The first is that there is no basis for claiming that love, hate, or personality are uniquely human traits. Other animals certainly appear to possess them. We can't say for certain that they do — but then, I can't say for certain that anybody but ME does.


I didn't say that love et al. are uniquely human traits — but the totality of the human mental experience is uniquely human — and that is centered in the human brain, and lacking a brain none of it can exist at all: one is less than an animal, much less human.

The second is that those emotions aren't universal to humanity; all manner of physical and psychological ailments can limit or remove our ability to feel certain emotions.

Why do you just keep talking about emotions? Those (as my partial list indicates) are only part of what it means to be human — but all those other things are also centered in and cannot exist without the brain.

And yes, our medical experience over the last two centuries reveals quite clearly that damage to various areas of the brain will cause some or all of those human qualities to go away — but that simply reinforces my point. Thanks for backing me up!

The third is that while higher reasoning appears to be unique to humans, it isn't universal to humans. Infants are incapable of it, and are in all categories of reasoning less intelligent than a chimpanzee or a dog.

Yes infants haven't yet reached their full potential as human beings, but they (and prior to birth, for months earlier in the womb) still at that point possess an advanced brain and are capable of feeling. That puts them qualitatively in a class far far closer to adult humans and correspondingly almost infinitely beyond the pre-brain embryo, much less the fertilized ovum, which are no more “human” in that regard than a bacterium.

Roux said...

I am what I am.... Didn't Popeye say that?

Revenant said...

Why do you just keep talking about emotions? Those (as my partial list indicates) are only part of what it means to be human — but all those other things are also centered in and cannot exist without the brain.

There are humans without memory, humans lacking certain emotions, humans with no personality, humans without greater than animal intelligence, etc, etc.

those (as my partial list indicates) are only part of what it means to be human

Except, as I noted, there are people who are human but lack one or more of those things. If a person can be human in the absence of a trait, that trait cannot be essential to humanity.

And yes, our medical experience over the last two centuries reveals quite clearly that damage to various areas of the brain will cause some or all of those human qualities to go away — but that simply reinforces my point. Thanks for backing me up!

The the revelation that your claim was wrong serves to reinforce your point, one wonders what you would concede undermines your point. :)

Yes infants haven't yet reached their full potential as human beings, but they (and prior to birth, for months earlier in the womb) still at that point possess an advanced brain and are capable of feeling.

They possess a brain that is less "advanced" and less capable of feeling than that of many non-human animals. And if you want to play the "it just hasn't reached its full potential yet" card then you need to explain why a fertilized egg -- which has the same potential -- doesn't qualify.

It would appear that you're moving the goalposts, and saying that being human requires either a full set of "human" mental qualities OR a deficient set of "human" mental qualities as a result of disability OR a set of mental qualities far below that of a human, but still more than nothing, combined with the potential to develop the full set of "human" mental qualities later.

Which sounds an awful lot like special pleading.

That puts them qualitatively in a class far far closer to adult humans and correspondingly almost infinitely beyond the pre-brain embryo

I admire the precision of your use of "far far closer" and "almost infinitely beyond" to describe the development of the human brain. Clearly you've got a solid grasp of the science.

But here's the problem you're trying to avoid dealing with: infants don't have the minds you've described as essential to humanity. Ergo either infants aren't human or your definition of human is wrong. There is no third possibility.