Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Only some races are modern humans

I complained that the NY Times was using the term "modern human" to mean ancient African. Now it has reversed itself, and its writer Carl Zimmer's latest article says Africans do not qualify as modern:
The ancestors of modern humans interbred with Neanderthals and another extinct line of humans known as the Denisovans at least four times in the course of prehistory, according to an analysis of global genomes published Thursday in the journal Science.

The interbreeding may have given modern humans genes that bolstered immunity to pathogens, the authors concluded. ...

The researchers found that all of the non-Africans in their study had Neanderthal DNA, while the Africans had very little or none. That finding supported previous studies.

But when Dr. Akey and his colleagues compared DNA from modern Europeans, East Asians and Melanesians, they found that each population carried its own distinctive mix of Neanderthal genes.

The best explanation for these patterns, the scientists concluded, was that the ancestors of modern humans acquired Neanderthal DNA on three occasions.

The first encounter happened when the common ancestor of all non-Africans interbred with Neanderthals.
Here the term "modern human" means non-African. Ie, it means a European or Asian of today.

It is only the non-Africans who have Neanderthal DNA, so only they have ancestors who were either Neanderthal or hominids who interbred with Neanderthals.

Those Neanderthals and other hominids were descended from Africans, but did not go back to Africa.

There used to be a consensus that there were three major races of humans: Caucasians, Orientals, and Negroes. Sometimes Pacific islanders and Amerindians are added. Now, no one wants to use these terms anymore, and leftist scientists and professors like Massimo Pigliucci deny that there is any such thing as race.

However the above research requires dividing humans into races, as the divisions are written into our DNA.

My guess is that Zimmer is trying to be politically correct and avoid race by using the term "modern human". But when he uses the term to mean a subset of the major races to the exclusion of other humans, he is being extremely inflammatory.

Or maybe he is just trying to copy the research paper, which starts:
Although Neandertal sequences that persist in the genomes of modern humans have been identified in Eurasians, ...
What it means is: Although Neandertal sequences have been identified to persist in the genomes of Eurasians, ...

Those sequences have not been found in Africans.

(There are rare exceptions to these generalities, of course. White South Africans presumably have the Neanderhal genes.)

Razib Khan also thinks it is strange for Zimmer to call the Neanderthals "hominims", rather than humans. This has been a point of contention between evolutionists and creationists. The mainstream evolutionists have usually said that the Neanderthals were not human, and were wiped out by humans. The creationists usually said the Neanderthals were humans. Khan argues that now that we know that today's Europeans are descended from Neanderthals (and others), then the Neanderthals are human under any reasonable definition.

Update: Massimo Pigliucci responds by repeating his denial of human races.

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