December 17, 2011

What is the etiquette for expressing pride in Neanderthal ancestry?

It's very interesting to know that human beings alive today have some Neanderthal ancestry, but wouldn't you like to know exactly what proportion of Neanderthal you are, as an individual?
The result is a rough-and-ready numerical estimate of your Neandertal ancestry fraction. For me it's 2.5 percent. Gretchen is 3 percent, and she's been lording it over me all day.
Is it wrong to express feelings of superiority based on the Neanderthal (or -tal) proportion of your genes? I imagine that in the future there will be individuals claiming to be significantly more Neanderthal than others. Will this be always only the subject for fun, lightweight teasing, or could it cross the line into something too much like racism? And let's say some young person found out he was even more Neanderthal than Gretchen. He's 10%, the highest yet recorded. If he put that on his law school application, would the law school regard it as a diversity "plus factor" on the theory that "'classroom discussion is livelier, more spirited, and simply more enlightening and interesting' when the students have 'the greatest possible variety of backgrounds'"?

ADDED: There's also the possibility that Neanderthal will be taken as a mark of inferiority: "Brian, your words are hurtful."

66 comments:

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

A true Neanderthal never begins a sentence with, "Is it wrong to...?"

DaveW said...

...being more of a neanderthal is a good thing now?

garage mahal said...

Is it wrong to express feelings of superiority based on the Neanderthal (or -tal) proportion of your genes?

Conservatives always had an inflated sense of self worth.

Tim said...

"...would the law school regard it as a diversity "plus factor" on the theory that "'classroom discussion is livelier, more spirited, and simply more enlightening and interesting' when the students have 'the greatest possible variety of backgrounds'"?"

Of course it will, unless Neanderthal ancestry correlates to "White" more so than all the other racial boxes the race baiters want us to fill out.

bagoh20 said...

My percentage has often been estimated at near 100%.

I'd like to see what % is in Andre the giant.

John M Auston said...

Gog Pride?

bagoh20 said...

There use to be a guy in my neighborhood who walked past my house everyday. He looked exactly like the classic Neanderthal in pictures, but wearing modern clothes. He even had the hunched over walk.

Tim said...

Warren Buffet's GEICO ads suggest Neanderthals were sensitive weenies.

Which would explain why they aren't here anymore. If you can't keep up with big boys, it's time for extinction.

They needed a union, and progressive income taxes, to protect and subsidize their DNA from evolutionary failure.

Hagar said...

The "classic Neanderthal" was pretty much a European variety, so yes, it would translate to more "White."

Tim said...

Hagar said...

"The "classic Neanderthal" was pretty much a European variety, so yes, it would translate to more "White.""

Well, that ices that as another affirmative action wedge to Candy Mountain.

Let's try "Cannibal" instead. That'll do the trick, for sure!

The Crack Emcee said...

I don't know about all that:

One of the things I loved about going to Europe was discovering the racists had it all wrong - our mongrelization puts us light years ahead of the rest, evolutionarily-speaking.

I'd see things there - the extended brows, sloping foreheads, flattened skulls, or humongous jaws - that made me have to resist staring.

We are so lucky,...

The Crack Emcee said...

Tim,

Of course it will, unless Neanderthal ancestry correlates to "White" more so than all the other racial boxes the race baiters want us to fill out.

I don't know what that means, exactly, but I included Africans in my descriptions above.

DADvocate said...

Will this be always only the subject for fun, lightweight teasing, or could it cross the line into something too much like racism?

Garage answered this question on first try.

Mary Beth said...

Being called Neanderthal used to be an insult. (Or maybe inslut, in some cases.)

Back when the news was about humans other than those in Africa breeding with Neanderthal, it seemed it was a new tool to "prove" European and Asian superiority. I I thought it was odd that what had been an insult was becoming a point of pride.

The only kind of diversity that a higher percentage of Neanderthal ancestry would be is genetic which would be good if you are enrolling them as breeding stock. I don't see how something that happened outside the memories of the person or their parents/grandparents/great-grandparents... could affect their classroom discussions.

(Although, if my percentage were high, I would be looking for a minority scholarship. I don't have to believe in a difference to take advantage of those who do.)

MayBee said...

Althouse- have you seen "Cave of Forgotten Dreams"?

Mutnodjmet said...

This would explain the actions of certain New York bureaucrats: If CA is Hell, NY is Hell’s Toilet

Tim said...

"I don't know what that means, exactly, but I included Africans in my descriptions above."

Crack, only that if "Neanderthal", as an affirmative action category, disproportionately inures to the benefit of "Whites" by correlation, it would not be deployed.

Otherwise, I think the dairy cow had something right, but not in the way she thought: an inflated sense of self-worth is what leads to risk taking necessary for progress; that Cro-Magnons were able to take the risks necessary to develop the species whereas the Neanderthals were not deflates the point she thought she was making, but it wouldn't be the first time, eh?

Don't Tread 2012 said...

"Is it wrong to express feelings of superiority based on the Neanderthal (or -tal) proportion of your genes?"

Wouldn't there be instances when having more neanderthal % would be a plus???

I can think of some. But times were different, then.

Imagine a governing neanderthal decree that fire stick length must be reduced to 40 flea from 100 due to a shortage of gatherable wood.

It really could have happened.

edutcher said...

Obviously, the Neanderthals died out, they were so ugly, they wouldn't have sex with each other.

And my Neanderthality ought to be fairly high, as I'm mostly Dutch on my father's side (Neandertal is in the Netherlands).

EDH said...

The way to tell the caveman bloodline of a person is by how he or she pronouces and spells the word itself.

If the person pronounces and spells the word "Neandertal," with the "h" either silent or dropped, as in the linked article, he or she is pretentious phoney. Like the "Indians" that make millions from the casinos.

As you can tell from the Geico commercial, the real McCoys pronouce the "h" in Neanderthal.

I'd note our lovely and talented host is in the latter group, the marker of a true Neandertal.

Doh!

Hagar said...

"The species is named after the Neander valley, located about 12 km (7.5 mi) east of Düsseldorf, Germany. This ravine formed by the river Düssel, widened out by mining, was named Neanderthal in the early 19th century to honour the clergyman and hymn writer Joachim Neander: "Tal" (spelled "Thal" until the German spelling reform of 1901) is the German word for valley.

Wikipedia

I don't think there is anything that can be properly called a valley in the Netherlands. The Holy Roman Emperor once laid claim to the Low Countriesn on the grounds that they just consisted of mud eroded from his lands and brought to the seahore by his rivers.

Jason (the commenter) said...

I know someone who occasionally says "yabba dabba doo" and I always point out that that's racist against cave men.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

"I know someone who occasionally says "yabba dabba doo" and I always point out that that's racist against cave men."

'Yabba dabba doo' may have been a congratulatory salute back in the day.

What would be the one 'special' word that would paint you a neanderthal 'racist'?

'Rocker'?

Quaestor said...

I wouldn't get too exercised about this Neanderthal ancestry meme. To begin with current models of human ancestry are very conjectural, particularly the evolution of Modern Man (Homo sapiens sapiens). The cladistics tend be to either very bushy with many dotted lines connecting oddball fossils which have cropped up lately in Southern Europe and the Caucasus to the main branch, or suspiciously reedy depending on the scientist who drew the diagram. Orthodoxy says Homo sp. sp. appeared in Africa arising from a Homo erectus ancestor. However, there is an element of fashionable Afro-geocentricism operating here. Long before our species appeared Homo ertectus had colonized much of the Old World. There is no good reason to dismiss the possibility that we had our origins elsewhere, in fact there's a good reason to suspect the Afro-centric hypothesis. Evolutionary pressures are generally magnified in small isolated populations, witness the classic case of the Galapagos finches. A small group of proto-modern humans in Africa would have to be lucky to avoid being absorbed and diluted into the vast Homo erectus majority, while an evolving group isolated out on the fringes of the “Erectus colonial empire” might stand a better change of flourishing. The truth is the whole Afro-centric hypothesis rests on the fact of the earliest Homo sapiens fossils were discovered in East Africa, which may be related to the fact that the majority of paleo-anthropologists choose to dig there.

If the evolution of Modern Man is built on shaky foundations, the Neanderthal evolution has feet of Jell-O. Where did they come from and when? Who were their ancestors? Are they one species or two, or even four? Is Homo neanthalensis even real? Before we start trying to wedge the Neanderthals into our lineage we'd better get a firmer grip on who these people were. We may indeed share a few genes with the Neanderthals. So what? We also share genes with the rutabagas. How did we get them is the question. Directly from the Neanderthals via some kind of paleolithic date rape? Or, more likely, via a common ancestor(s)?

So is right to boast of (or bemoan) one's Neanderthal ancestry? I guess that depends on the scientific literacy of one's audience. If National Geographic Channel programming is your idea of a rigorously edited science publication, then by all means boast away!

P.S.
The source blog, the Spittoon, contains a few inaccuracies and one mighty whopper:

Humans and Neanderthals share a common ancestor with chimpanzees — our next closest mammalian relative — that goes back between five and seven million years.

This is true but trivial. Humans and Neanderthals share many common ancestors but one as distant as five million years back is not important. The most recent ancestor lived a scant 300,000 years ago, and his identity is still a matter of conjecture.

Carnifex said...

That's true in my book. Mongrels have always been stronger than pure breds.

Ps, My ancestry has every race to come to America in it, literally, so what box on the census do I check?

The biggest minority group ever consist of the individual.

And yes, strictly adhering to liberal group think, you should have set asides for neanderthals.

Maybe we can establish breeding programs and repopulate the Earth with them, kill ourselves off, and then all will be right with Gaia. After all, its all this homo erectus bigotry and thinking that's polluting the world.

ironrailsironweights said...

I don't think there is anything that can be properly called a valley in the Netherlands. The Holy Roman Emperor once laid claim to the Low Countriesn on the grounds that they just consisted of mud eroded from his land

Actually, the Netherlands has a mountain that's almost 3,000 feet high. Mount Scenery, on the island of Saba in the Caribbean, which is legally a full part of the Netherlands in the same sense that Hawaii or Alaska is a part of the United States.

Peter

Dante said...

As a long dead Neanderthal, we must make the genocide of Neanderthals whole, if it is possible.

At first when they came, they were few and weak. They didn't know how to live, and we taught them. Then, they raped our women, treating them like cattle, stole our lands, expecting us to make a living off rocks.

From my dying bones, Neanderthals should get back all of Europe. It's not enough to give college funds, and pretend to be compassionate. We want what is rightfully ours, and that's all of it.

Sorun said...

All I want for Christmas is for those GEICO ads to disappear.

Hagar said...

A 3,000 ft. high "mountain" is still just a tallish hill.

Joe Schmoe said...

Warren Buffet's GEICO ads suggest Neanderthals were sensitive weenies.

LOL. Those ads could also just be Gore Vidal-type historical fiction viewed through modern progessive sensibilities.

Or, the ads show Neanderthals' abilities to quickly adapt. In the GEICO ads they know how to bowl, drive motorcycles, and take girls on dates. Maybe the weeniness is something they've quickly adopted from watching major network TV shows.

Jose_K said...

Nobody has neanderthal genes. They were a different species. But for political correction , some non scientist like Stephen Gould , say that Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens intrebreeded. He even said that thinkings that there were two separates species and only one survived would be dangerous. So they make fraudulent claims. Homo sapiens is a different spcies and like a mule an offspring of both would be unfertile.
The "classic Neanderthal" was pretty much a European variety.. and was hunted to death by the superior African homo sapiens

Jose_K said...

Imagine a governing neanderthal decree that fire stick length must be reduced ? Neandertals were bigger so they lost more heat than Homo sapiens , that was one of the many reason they were unable to cope with the Ice age

PaulV said...

Cro-Magnons surely killed the Neanderthal men and raped their women. That is why that gentle peace loving race died out with only a few chromosones surviving. The common ancestor of the human race has been traced to someone who had a dozen wives and raped hundreds of womyn.

traditionalguy said...

The Neandertals were the losers.

I would like to know how many Mongolian genes I share with Ghengis Khan? Now there was a winner.

Many northern Europeans descended from tribes trapped behind the Norwegian glaciers during the Little Ice Age, until they became the Vikings erupting all over the place during the Middle Age Warming.

Now there are some pure bred guys and gals who had nothing much to do besides make love. They can be seen in the Celtic Women redheads singing songs to us. They are in concert at Atlanta Symphony on Tuesday.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Neandertals were bigger so they lost more heat than Homo sapiens , that was one of the many reason they were unable to cope with the Ice age


/facepalm

Jason (the commenter) said...

Carnifex: Mongrels have always been stronger than pure breds.

What if the purebred has been bred for strength?

Purebred pit bull vs. pit bull-golden retriever mix--I know which one I'd put my money on.

Quaestor said...

Joe_K wrote:
Homo sapiens is a different spcies and like a mule an offspring of both would be unfertile.

This is a gross generalization of the definition of species, and in the particular case of possible interbreeding between H. sapiens and H. neanderthalensis is unlikely untrue.

A horse can breed with a donkey and produce a mule (or a hinny if the sire is a horse) and most but not all (some jennys are fertile) of the resulting offspring are infertile, but not strictly because the horse (Equus ferus caballus) and the donkey (Equus africanus asinus) are different species. The infertility arises from the mismatch of chromosome pairs. The horse has 32 chromosome pairs while the donkey has 31. The mule foal has 63 chromosomes in 31 pairs plus an unpaired chromosome which screws up subsequent gametogenesis.

There are many examples of closely related species, especially in birds, which have identical chromosome pairings and the results of crossbreeding are fertile. Generally the only things which prevent these close species from interbreeding and merging into one species or engendering a third species is distinctive appearance (i.e. plumage), distinctive breeding behavior, and geographic separation -- any combination of these distinctions may suffice to maintain species integrity.

Though a full genome of H. neanderthalensis is unlikely what is clear is that they had 46 chromosomes in 23 pairs just like in modern humans, and consequently the offspring of a hypothetical mating would likely be fertile.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Pure bred is the polite way of saying "inbred" just so everyone knows.

Quaestor said...

Joe_K wrote:
Neandertals were bigger so they lost more heat than Homo sapiens , that was one of the many reason they were unable to cope with the Ice age.

This is exactly backwards. Neanderthals were stockier than the more gracile H. sapiens newcomers, which likely gave them an advantage in the cold climate due to thermal inertia.
Furthermore, the Neanderthals coped very nicely with the Ice Ages, and in their more distant past they did just fine in the preceding global warm periods (all of them warmer than today, so take that AGW Gore-worshipers!) Whatever did in the Neanderthals (assuming they are extinct) it wasn't the Ice Age or the end of the Ice Age. They were probably killed off by a combination of competition with a more numerous invader species (us) with superior technology and the depredation of diseases the invader brought with him from Asia and Africa (emphasis on diseases).

somefeller said...

Boy, either you're a great internet performance artist or there's a whole lot of fail in your comments there, Jose K, starting with your inability to use the right term for political correctness (that term has been a cultural cliche long enough to get it right) and ending with the musings about Neanderthals and body heat. Either way, an impressive sight.

PaulV said...

Neantherthals survived the Ice Age better beause being compact made them more energy efficient just like compact flourescent light bulbs

edutcher said...

Hagar said...

"The species is named after the Neander valley, located about 12 km (7.5 mi) east of Düsseldorf, Germany. This ravine formed by the river Düssel, widened out by mining, was named Neanderthal in the early 19th century to honour the clergyman and hymn writer Joachim Neander: "Tal" (spelled "Thal" until the German spelling reform of 1901) is the German word for valley.

Wikipedia

I don't think there is anything that can be properly called a valley in the Netherlands. The Holy Roman Emperor once laid claim to the Low Countriesn on the grounds that they just consisted of mud eroded from his lands and brought to the seahore by his rivers.


Hmmm,

I remember as a kid some TV show pointing to the Netherlands as the place where the Neanderthal Man was found.

So, given that Wiki can be unreliable on occasion, I guess I'll take the Neander Valley under advisement.

jimspice said...

Don't forget the Denisovans. Like Neandertal, genetic traces of this close relative are entirely absent in those of strictly African descent, but can be found in proportions even higher than Neanderthal in some Pacific island groups.

ricpic said...

The pretty Cro-Magnon killed the ugly Neanderthals. An early example of an enduring human trait: the murderous rage that rises spontaneously in the attractive at the mere sight of the ugly. All papered over of course with much humanistic bullshit. But there nonetheless and a great determinant of who lives where and gets what and doesn't get what in life.

Hagar said...

Until about 30,000 years ago, the tool kits and apparent lifestyles of the Neanderthals and Modern Man were largely indistinguishable.

As for different species, it may depend on whether you are a "splitter" or a "lumper." We probable were not any farther apart than, say, bobcats and lynxes.

John Hawks said...

Thanks! Gretchen is gonna squee when she sees herself on the Althouse front page!

Meanwhile, there is a serious side to all this. When I first started writing about genetics and ancestry, one of my themes was how poor genetic tests were for discovering anything you didn't already know. Among my most vocal critics were white supremacists, who were hoping to have tests that would confirm European ancestry.


Anyway, what we will be able to do next with these Neandertal genes is some pretty cool biology.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

"The "classic Neanderthal" was pretty much a European variety.. and was hunted to death by the superior African homo sapiens"

I think Carl Weathers and Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in a movie together about that.

Ann Althouse said...

"Thanks! Gretchen is gonna squee when she sees herself on the Althouse front page!"

Ha ha. I don't know Gretchen, but I have a hilarious mental picture of a cave-lady squeeing.

"Meanwhile, there is a serious side to all this. When I first started writing about genetics and ancestry, one of my themes was how poor genetic tests were for discovering anything you didn't already know. Among my most vocal critics were white supremacists, who were hoping to have tests that would confirm European ancestry. Anyway, what we will be able to do next with these Neandertal genes is some pretty cool biology."

New baby Neanderthals, right?

Ann Althouse said...

"A true Neanderthal never begins a sentence with, "Is it wrong to...?""

You make the Neanderthal sound like the honey badger. How do you know these folks didn't brood and agonize?

Synova said...

"The truth is the whole Afro-centric hypothesis rests on the fact of the earliest Homo sapiens fossils were discovered in East Africa, which may be related to the fact that the majority of paleo-anthropologists choose to dig there."

There's a pretty extensive rift area exposing very old layers of rock, so it's a practical place to go looking for evidence of ancient life.

I don't know if there are actually any other places on earth where a continent is pulling apart.

Synova said...

I'm curious, but not enough to pay money for the service to see how much they say I am. Doesn't sound like they do a gene sequence anyway, so why not just say what it is? Half my family looks like Lapplander trolls anyhow.

I'd never heard of Denisovians before. Though I have to say that Jason Momoa is pacific islander and looks the part. Which is to say, sexier than ought to be legal. ;-)

DADvocate said...

When I worked at a summer camp, the kids called me Troglodyte.

My theme songs:

What we're gonna do right here is go back, way back, back into time.
When the only people that existed were troglodytes... cave men...
Cave women... Neanderthal... troglodytes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VlRXQEA0yj0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEep67akIn4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sz6IpmmYSXA

Meade said...

"How do you know these folks didn't brood and agonize?"

Yeah - my uncle was a Neanderthal and he brooded and agonized.

Oh, I see Richard said no true Neanderthal.

Never mind.

Jason (the commenter) said...

What percentage Neanderthal does someone have to be before eating them isn't considered cannibalism?

mythusmage said...

Am I a Neanderthal

Quaestor said...

Correction: and in the particular case of possible interbreeding between H. sapiens and H. neanderthalensis is unlikely untrue. should read and in the particular case of possible interbreeding between H. sapiens and H. neanderthalensis is likely untrue.

How the hell did I come to write that? I tend to revise and reshape writings as I type, evidently I was weighing "unlikely" against the stronger "untrue" and wound up using both. When I write seriously I have to give myself at least a few hours away from the text in order to accurately proofread my work else I'm blind to my own mistakes.

Fen said...

For me it's 2.5 percent. Gretchen is 3 percent, and she's been lording it over me all day. I imagine that in the future there will be individuals claiming to be significantly more Neanderthal than others.

Trump Card: Being 5% Martian.

Like me.

Fen said...

And no, I'm not paying reparations for what my ancestors did to you in the Stone Age.

Get over it. Hell, we gave you the wheel.

Joe Schmoe said...

How do you know these folks didn't brood and agonize?

You mean like poultry brood or brood-brood? I just found out the difference yesterday.

Gretchen said...

While I may be 3 percent, I assure you I do not resemble a Gurche Neanderthal, let alone a Geico caveman. Betty Rubble, maybe... ;)

Meade said...

Oh! Neotenous?

Firehand said...

Once said to someone "No matter what you are, who you are, what you've done, where your family came from, there will be people who'll crap on you to make themselves feel better."

Nowadays I'd add "And will use whatever difference THEY have as a means of advancement("I get the scholarship, I get the job because I am a -!")

Craig said...

You can't really comprehend the dynamics and complexities of the relation between Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal gene pools without a firm grasp of the subtleties in the Asterix and Obelisk comics.

Ritmo Re-Animated said...

I imagine that in the future there will be individuals claiming to be significantly more Neanderthal than others. Will this be always only the subject for fun, lightweight teasing, or could it cross the line into something too much like racism?

I suppose it could, in the case of a moron who thinks extinction is a point of pride.

Good to see Quaestor show up and provide us his non-DNA-based theory of genetic inheritance.

Quaestor said...

Ritmo wrote:
Good to see Quaestor show up and provide us his non-DNA-based theory of genetic inheritance.

Care to elaborate on this typical piece of ritmo nonsense?

Ritmo Re-Animated said...

It's not just about rocks and initial site selection, Synova. Quaestor's skepticism relies on a rejection of the very same DNA-based cladistics that allows one to conclude that Neanderthals passed genetic material to us in the first place.

You can't believe that Neanderthal DNA lives on in Caucasians without accepting the methodology that allowed us to conclude that African populations are the older source from which other populations diverged. It's the same methodology.