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January 14, 2007



"and racist cranks who are even willing to believe in Neandertal ancestors rather than accept that their genes are more than just a mere subset of those of "lesser" races ..."


I love the thought of African ancestors (I really do!) but if Lahn is to be believed, we all got a little Neandertal in us too. I don't see how one theory (the basic African-origin one) precludes the possibility that 37,000 years ago, Neandertals introduced some genes into the human mix that were advantageous. What's the problem with that?


The problem with Lahn's hypothesis is that it isn't actually supported by the slightest shred of evidence, while there's tons of contradictory evidence both before and after he made his proposition. See, for instance, the report on recent progress by the team led by Svante Paabo, which has so far managed to reconstruct 1 million base-pairs of Neandertal genome sequence.

The word from Paabo's lab is that absolutely *no* genetic sequence has been found which is shared between Neandertals and Europeans without the rest of humanity having it as well. Why then should we believe Lahn, when the overwhelming weight of the evidence contradicts his wild claims?

Lahn definitely has an eye for provocative claims which catch the media's attention, but the substance to them is often less than ... substantial. Common sense alone ought to have told people that Lahn's claim for Neandertal brain genes would be most unlikely to be true, seeing as the Neandertals who supposedly carried such genes were the ones who went extinct, not the humans who didn't. That so many people should have swallowed wholesale a hypothesis that a markedly less intelligent, extinct species gave brain genes to a more intelligent and flourishing one, somehow making it smarter in the process, is precisely what tells me that lots of folks will believe anything that can somehow set them apart from Africans.

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