Monday, January 23, 2017

Racist inquiries about Neanderthals

The NY Times reports:
Geneticists tell us that somewhere between 1 and 5 percent of the genome of modern Europeans and Asians consists of DNA inherited from Neanderthals, our prehistoric cousins.

At Vanderbilt University, John Anthony Capra, an evolutionary genomics professor, has been combining high-powered computation and a medical records databank to learn what a Neanderthal heritage — even a fractional one — might mean for people today. ...

What we’ve been finding is that Neanderthal DNA has a subtle influence on risk for disease. It affects our immune system and how we respond to different immune challenges. It affects our skin. ...

Was there ever an upside to having Neanderthal DNA?

It probably helped our ancestors survive in prehistoric Europe. ...

Maybe those of us of European heritage should be thinking, “Let’s improve their standing in the popular imagination. They’re our ancestors, too.’”
So research by Capra and others has shown that Neanderthals were human ancestors and Europeans today have traits associated with Neanderthal genes.

This is perfect material for the NY Times, as its editors have said that they most like stories that challenge our beliefs about what it means to be human.

But then the interview gets weird:
What has been the response to your Neanderthal research since you published it last year in the journal Science?

Some of it’s very touching. People are interested in learning about where they came from. Some of it is a little silly. “I have a lot of hair on my legs — is that from Neanderthals?”

But I received racist inquiries, too. I got calls from all over the world from people who thought that since Africans didn’t interbreed with Neanderthals, this somehow justified their ideas of white superiority.

It was illogical. Actually, Neanderthal DNA is mostly bad for us — though that didn’t bother them.
He does research on how Africans differ from Neanderthals and other humans, and he is offended that ppl ask questions about his research?

It appears that they just wanted the facts about the diffences, since they were not bothered by whether the differences were good or bad. That is completely normal curiosity about what it means to be human.

It appears to me that any genetic or anthropological research in this field must badmouth the white race in order to be politically acceptable. Articles always refer to Africans as modern humans, and Neanderthals as backward and inferior, even tho Neanderthals were human and Neanderthal genes may have been crucial to the development of civilization.

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