Monday, February 11, 2019

Racism in Tim Flannery's latest book

Tim Flannery is a great bloke, fighting hard to save the world. The last person anyone, including himself, would suspect of racism. But we all want to think well of ourselves, and this very easily extends unconsciously to wanting to think well of groups that we belong to, compared to others.

For Europeans this now embraces Neanderthals, and the hybrids that are descended from them. So in Tim Flannery's book "Europe, A Natural History" we see on page 6 at the end of the Introduction the assertion that the rise of culture resulted from the "hybrid vigour" of the combination of humans from Africa with European Neanderthals. I will easily disprove that hybrid vigour could have anything to do with it. Which shows how tempting such ideas must be to get past the guard of an expert like Tim Flannery.

I have previously written about the genetic advantage of culture ( If the genes for culture arose in hybrid populations in Europe, the question arises of how it then appeared in Africa? An easy answer comes along: parallel evolution. This, we remember, was the explanation the Chinese (and others) had for the rise of Homo Sapiens in multiple places. But it was easily disproved by genetic analysis. And even before that, the people who understand evolution know that there is no such thing as parallel evolution. If some substantial and complicated evolutionary change occurs in multiple places at roughly the same time it is because it is all descended from a single point. We can be certain that this is the case with culture. It arose in pure African homo sapiens. It might have taken a slightly different path after hybridization. It is a tempting fancy for us hybrids to regard that slightly different path as superior. If it was a harmless fancy we could let it pass. But it isn't, and we have to reject it.

1 comment:

  1. In it is claimed that Neanderthals created cave art in Spain 65,000 years ago. Since the Neanderthals had been in Europe for 250,000 years, how likely is it that they suddenly started producing art just before modern humans arrived. There are obvious alternatives. One is that it is misdated. It is very easy for layers to get mixed. Another is that there were temporarily modern humans in Spain who had come across from Africa at the Strait of Gibralter. These might have disappeared when the Ice Age really got going, or they might have been supplanted by the humans with some Neanderthal genes who arrived from the Levant 20,000 years later.
    It is the new racism to believe that Neanderthal genes make Europeans superior, and this is being supported by dodgy claims like this.