Humans now appear to officially have been able to a) have “relations” with Neanderthals; and b) have “issue” from those relations. Science Magazine is to be praised for offering the full study to the public for free.
Some of the articles about the landmark study sequencing the Neanderthal genome are biased and ridiculous. After briefly discussing study methods, that article discusses the author’s belief of how the study will “disturb” people who believe that the earth is less than 10,000 years old for religious reasons. I don’t know – there’s a little bit more evidence than this out there, isn’t there?
What do I see in this news, other than the interesting confirmation of what many people suspected or believed based on other evidence, is that people are no more or less “special” than any other living creature. So much scientific endeavor and thought has been tied up into preserving pre-conceived notions. Maybe it’s a little bit like exploring a cave, looking for diamonds, and ignoring gorgeous cave animals and large veins of gold because you “weren’t looking for them.”
A lot of information about genetic “leaps” that can influence evolution and survivability was revealed by the study. The Neanderthal DNA was obtained from three 40,000 year-old female Neanderthal skeletons found in a Croatian cave, but both human and Neanderthal DNA was sequenced, compared and studied. According to the Business Week report, “The scientists identified 212 regions with these types of variations including 20 where the evidence was strongest. Among them are three genes that, when mutated, affect cognitive development and have been linked to autism, schizophrenia and Down syndrome, the team reported.”
This indicates some validity for my basic sense that what many call “negative” genetic traits do have some positive benefit. We may not be fully-aware of that benefit, just as we may have been very rigid in our previous views of Neanderthals as “primitive” and even genetically incompatible with humans. The 1 to 4 percent “Neanderthal” DNA match found in Asian and Caucasian humans does not mean that people with the match are “1 to 4 percent” Neanderthal. It means that approximately 45,000 years ago, there was interbreeding between homo sapiens coming out of Africa and Neanderthals in the Middle East, where Neanderthals had previously emigrated from Africa, a much longer time ago. Today, this DNA remains as evidence of the interbreeding in the ancestry of these people.
And that’s my cousin “Bob” above.