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Did Humans Get Their Big Brains From Neanderthals? 579

Posted by samzenpus
from the atook-do-calculus-then-zug-zug-lana dept.
MCTFB writes, "According to CNN, human beings may have acquired a gene for developing bigger brains from Neanderthal man. Apparently, 70% of the world's population has a variant of a gene regulating brain size, with this variant being most common in people of European descent (where Neanderthal man lived alongside ancient humans), and least common in people of African descent (where Neanderthal man was non-existent). While modern day eugenicists might all too eagerly read into these findings to draw their own politically biased conclusions, people such as myself, who happen to be of northern European ancestry, may find it fascinating that somewhere in our lineage ancient humans and Neanderthals decided to make love and not war on the ancient plains of Eurasia."
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Did Humans Get Their Big Brains From Neanderthals?

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  • No surprise (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @08:42PM (#16778215)
    What's so surprising about this result? People will fuck anything and everything.
  • by not already in use (972294) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @08:45PM (#16778241)
    I don't know if it's at all related, but some people have a bump on the back of their head, and I've read before that those with the bump are generally more intelligent than those without. It has a name, can't remember, but I think it was some German word. I'm sure some slashdotter out there will be able to expand on this...
  • by Lord Kano (13027) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @08:45PM (#16778247) Homepage Journal
    While modern day eugenicists might all too eagerly read into these findings to draw their own politically biased conclusions...

    Eugeneticists may use this information to claim the superiority of Europeans, a counterpoint can be made that these people can't be superior because were having sex with sub-humans.

    LK
  • Harvard (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sqwubbsy (723014) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @08:47PM (#16778259) Homepage Journal
    People have been fired from Harvard for saying less than this.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @08:47PM (#16778267)
    Were right all along
  • And they... (Score:5, Funny)

    by rabryan21 (1024373) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @08:48PM (#16778273)
    And the Neanderthals got their big brain from Homo Erectus who traded a mule for it.
  • the bell curve (Score:3, Insightful)

    by User 956 (568564) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @08:49PM (#16778281) Homepage
    Apparently, 70% of the world's population has a variant of a gene regulating brain size, with the variant of this gene being most common in people of European descent (where Neanderthal man lived alongside ancient humans), and least common in people of African descent (where Neanderthal man was non-existent).

    Oh, great. You just know some wingnut wackjob is going to latch onto this nugget of information and try and use it as "evidence" of racial superiority. Then you'll get the 24-hour news networks milking it for all the ratings as they can.
  • by Svenne (117693)
    But what if it's true? Should it be withheld on the basis of it being (inherently) racist?

    In Sweden where we have laws against "hate speech", such as expressing racist opinions, I wonder what would happen if this turns out to be correct. Would we then not be allowed to discuss it?
  • by nacnud75 (963443) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @08:49PM (#16778289)
    According to a study [bbc.co.uk] of Neanderthal mtDNA by Svante Pääbo et al Neanderthals and modern humans had a common ancestor 500 thousand years ago, this means Neanderthals and modern humans didn't interbreed.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @08:49PM (#16778293)
    You ever seen Neanderthals? I propose that the invention of Beer and thus Beer Goggles would be needed before this interbreeding occured!
  • Re:Harvard (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Aadain2001 (684036) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @08:50PM (#16778311) Journal
    All that shows is that the leadership at Harvard are a bunch of gutless, spineless panderers and should be mocked, not emulated.
  • by erbbysam (964606) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @08:51PM (#16778313) Homepage
    "decided to make love and not war on the ancient plains of Eurasia" you know how these sorta things start out... they knew each other from somebody else... met at a party and after alot of drinking let there hormones get the best of there barely separated genes and they mixed back together.
  • Do they realize that they are implicitly suggesting that Europeans have bigger brains than Africans? Even if this is true (and I will not comment one way or another), I think they can kiss your careers goodbye.
  • by sammy baby (14909) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @08:51PM (#16778325) Journal
    Oh, yeah, definitely. Know how I know? My wife.

    See, she was an anthropology major in college. Back before we got married, we were hanging out in the living room, post-movie-watching, and having one of those shmoopy "gazing into each other's eyes" moments. She reached up to stroke my hair, then looked startled.

    "Hey. Did you hit your head?"

    Her hand was on the back of my head, right above the neck.

    "Huh? No. Oh, that bump? I've had that forever."

    She laughed. "That's an occipital bun [wikipedia.org]." When I looked puzzled, she explained what it meant. Then her eyes widened. "And you... you have a supra-orbital ridge [wikipedia.org]!" I knew what that one was, but I wasn't expecting what she said next.

    As if she'd discovered something either fantastic or fantastically gross, she leaned in and whispered, her voice full of wonder: "You're a Neanderthal!

    All you geeks can thank me for your big brains. Preferably with cash.
  • I can already see the racists all over the planet rejoice, after all now it's clear that the white man has to be superior, having the bigger brain.

    Food for thought: The largest brain ever measured belonged to an imbecile. Probably one of the "superior" guys...
  • Phrenology [wikipedia.org]

    Popular in the 19th century, but is now thought to be as scientific as tarot card reading (not really that bad, but close).
  • by User 956 (568564) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @08:52PM (#16778339) Homepage
    somewhere in our lineage ancient humans and neanderthals decided to make love and not war on the ancient plains of Eurasia.

    Oceania has never been at war with Eurasia. Everyone knows that.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @08:53PM (#16778345)
    While modern day eugenicists might all too eagerly read into these findings to draw their own politically biased conclusions, people such as myself, who happen to be of northern European ancestry, may find it fascinating that somewhere in our lineage ancient humans and neanderthals decided to make love and not war on the ancient plains of Eurasia."

    I have a hard time believing that these ancient humans and neanderthals "made love". I would say it's all the more likely that one group forcibly intermingled with the other.
  • itsatrap? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Quantam (870027) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @08:54PM (#16778361) Homepage
    What is this, some kind of government sting to catch racists that reply?
  • The conclusion... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by misleb (129952) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @08:56PM (#16778387)
    "The D alleles may not even change brain size; they may only make the brain a bit more efficient if it indeed affects brain function," Lahn said.


    Err, so I guess this doesn't necessarily have anything to do with brain size OR intelligence. The only really significant result of the finding so far is that Homo Sapien and Neaderthal may have interbread. We don't even know what this "brain gene" does.... just that some people have it. It could make people more prone to schizophrenia for all we know. That is, until somebody actually tests for measurable, statistically significant differences between the 30% with and 70% without...

    -matthew
  • by delong (125205) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @08:57PM (#16778393)
    Making love and war are not mutually exclusive. Throughout most of history, you made war on your neighbors and stole their women.
  • I guess the solution is to repeal the first amendment so we can systematically censor any research that might be controversial.
  • competition? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by JeffSh (71237) <jeffslashdot@@@m0m0...org> on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @09:00PM (#16778449)
    I'm no scientist, but from my lay-person perspective it seems far more likely that larger brained homo-sapiens would fair better competing against a rival homonid, and therefore persist on, while dumber homo-sapiens would die out.

    that would make far more sense to me than a larger brain resulting from inter-breeding with an obviously inferior sub-specie. /shrug what do i know.
  • love? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by krotkruton (967718) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @09:01PM (#16778467)
    ancient humans and neanderthals decided to make love and not war on the ancient plains of Eurasia

    Nice dream, but assuming that this theory is true, it probably happened when a group of neanderthals met a group of humans, killed most of them, and then raped the women (or humans doing it to neanderthals). Romeo was not a neanderthal searching for his human Juliet.
  • by mochan_s (536939) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @09:02PM (#16778471)

    What does bigger brain really mean anyway?

    Sort of as a crude example, does a bigger CPU in terms of size mean anything? It might mean more memory, or more pipelines or maybe just old technology when the fabrication needed to be a little more coarse.

    The brain controls all sorts of things in all sorts of region. If one region is bigger, it might be for sensory recpetion in your leg. So, you tickle worse or something.

    It's like that picture of Homer with a small brain. If his brain was like that, he wouldn't be able to walk or speak.

    So, big FU to MCTFB, you little Hitler.

  • This reminds me of something a certain #$$# in the 30's, who was also of European heritage would have said to justify "political" ideas. Don't worry there's nothing dangerous here in spreading the idea that certain types of humans are better than others.

    No no, rest assured, the man to which we attribute the transistor was batshit crazy for the idea too [wikipedia.org], and that was decades later.

  • by dan828 (753380)
    Unless those sub-humans were, like, really hot.
  • I have always felt that the blending of the two humanoid Races is what created modern humans, but it's my feeling the one race brought the ability to organize/socialized and coordinate large groups while the other Neanderthal man, brought tool building and artistic abilities.

    Each one on there own wasn't nearly as capable as the hybrid Modern Humans that came forth.

    It would stand the reason, that based on current social behavior, that the mixed race groups that blended in physical appearance with the "so ca
  • Nothing to see here folks.
  • by angrytuna (599871) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @09:09PM (#16778551)

    There was a Times article [ucla.edu] awhile back that involved the mating habits of Neanderthals and humans. It made that assumption from the analysis of the skeleton of a boy found in Portugal that had hybrid characteristics of the two groups.
    From the article:

    "This skeleton demonstrates that early modern humans and Neanderthals are not all that different," said Dr. Erik Trinkaus, a paleoanthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis. "They intermixed, interbred and produced offspring."

  • ...might not be the most intelligent insult you can use.
  • by megaditto (982598)
    Better in what way?

    Hawkings understands quantum physics better than I.
    Kasparov plays chess better than I.
    Bush is a better leader than I.
    Mother Theresa had a better personality than I.
    Jenna Jamesson has better breasts than I.

    Do some of these deserve to live more than I?
  • by Woldry (928749)
    Or take the example of the Theban Band [worldwideschool.org], who made love with each other and war on their neighbors.
  • Honestly, it doesn't add that much to their arguement because it's already been known that the brains in most white people are larger than those in most black people. I thnk it's a bit rash to look down at research like this, they're just stating the facts, not looking for fodder for racists -- the fact that some people might misinterpret the results (brain size has little to do with intelligence) doesn't mean that it isn't good research.
  • The logic used in the summary is terrible. They argue that simply because Neanderthals had big brains, and some subset of Europeans have a gene for big brains, that the cause for big brains is uniform and was derived from intermingling. Furthermore, we could just as easily posit that Europeans derived whiter/lighter skin, compared to their African counterparts, through intermixing with Neanderthals. But that doesn't seem very likely, does it? It amazes me that this kind of thinking gets anywhere at all.

  • Well, the worst thing you can do is constant inbreeding, that's for sure. Actually, mixing "outside" genes into the genetic makeup of an organism can have very beneficial effects, even when done with an "inferior" species. For example, it has been common practice in agriculture for ages to put "cultivated" sprouts of trees on "wild" roots because the wild variants are more resistant against certain diseases, while the "cultivated" promised a larger harvest.

    It's hard to classify an organism as "inferior", be
  • by Carewolf (581105)
    I've heard suggested that men have bigger brains than women. I wonder who many have been fired for that idea...
  • As if she'd discovered something either fantastic or fantastically gross, she leaned in and whispered, her voice full of wonder: "You're a Neanderthal!

    Is that the point where you bashed her over the head with your club, ripped off your loincloth, and dragged her by the hair to your cave?

  • Well, ya know, crop cultivation wasn't such a big thing back then and ergot was more common, so...
  • I could kiss you man, or your wife anyway! I've always wondered what that lump at the back of my skull was. Nobody I've ever asked about it ever had a clue or had known of someone else with one. And I've got a supra-dupra ridge thing too! I'm a frikkin neanderthal! Wow, I knew I'd learn something if I stuck around here long enough..
  • by Teun (17872)
    You must be American (and/or not have read TFA) to equate bigger with better.

    Oh yeah, the guy you're referring to was called Göring (or with an incomplete font Goering).

  • Real Article (Score:5, Informative)

    by GrumpySimon (707671) <.email. .at. .simon.net.nz.> on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @09:21PM (#16778703) Homepage
    Rather than a crappy overview from CNN, here's the original article's abstract [pnas.org]. In fact, it looks like it's in PNASes open access section, so you can all download the PDF for free.

    They're basically studying a haplogroup of the microcephalin gene [wikipedia.org], and show that this gene probably entered the human lineage before 37KYA. The other haplogroups have coalescent times of circa 100KYA (which is around when Homo sapiens arose).

    They then use some statistical magic to show that the early coalescence time for the D haplogroup was probably a result of introgression into the population - i.e. it came from another population. Note that they don't stress that it was Neanderthals, it could have been any archaic Homo lineage.

    I'm not sure what to make of this yet, as far as I'm aware there's some very strong evidence AGAINST interbreeding between Neanderthals and Humans (e.g. Svante Paabo's work etc)
  • Reports indicate that it is infact - all of history, including present-day history. I'd go so far as to say the two are nearly mutually inclusive, depending on how you define war...
  • by mochan_s (536939)
    Nice dream, but assuming that this theory is true, it probably happened when a group of neanderthals met a group of humans, killed most of them, and then raped the women (or humans doing it to neanderthals). Romeo was not a neanderthal searching for his human Juliet.

    Or even more dramatic, a virus got a piece of DNA from a neanderthal and was transmitted to a human which got into the human gene pool.

    Just like modern genetic engineering.

  • False assumptions? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MickLinux (579158) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @09:26PM (#16778777) Journal
    For the first false assumption: I doubt that any offspring of human/neanderthal -- if such offspring was possible at all -- would have been able to reproduce.

    However, that doesn't stop gene transfer between -- for example -- humans and their dogs, or humans and their cats, or humans and their birds.

    There's something called viral gene transfer, and if I understand correctly it works partially through retroviruses. I expect that if there is human/neanderthal gene mixing, it is more likely to have been through viruses that the mixing occurred.

    Another possibly false assumpt ion that was not made outright, but implied, is that there is merit to a larger brain. I'm not so sure that's correct. Yes, it stands to reason... if your reason inclines in the direction of "more is better". But there are other factors in intelligence, including bistability, instability, speed, and so on and so forth.

       
  • by malsdavis (542216) *
    Why is that food for thought?

    The brain you talk about (albeit without any citation) was obviously abnormal and so it's not surprising it didn't work properly, that doesn't mean people with larger than average brains are not more intelligent, most studies have shown that they are (Jensen and Johnson 1994, Gignac et al. 2003, etc.).

    It the same with most/all bodily organs, e.g. lungs; larger lungs obviously allow for enhanced athletic activity, abnormally large lungs however will most probably prevent any athl
  • by dan828 (753380)
    No, it means that none of their mitochondrial DNA survives in modern humans. Like with the mitochondrial Eve study, people misinterpret these results. mtDNA passes down from mother to children, so specific matralineal lines can die out, yet still contribute genes to the population-- a male hybrid whose mother was Neanderthal and whose father was human (H sapiens sapeins) would pass on is genomic DNA to his offspring, but not his Neanderthal mtDNA, and a female hybrid who's mother was a human and whose fat
  • Given that even today, there are documented instances of men and women having sex with sheep, horses, and donkeys, and human proclivities for rape, the common genes do not necessarily mean love. One party could have simply violated the other.

    END COMMUNICATION
  • intelligence != brain size

    in humans or any other creatures

    there people/ animals with small brains that could be deemed quite intelligent. there are also people/ animals with large brains that could be deemed quite stupid

    so to think that brain size correlates with intelligence is... stupid
  • I don't know if it's at all related, but some people have a bump on the back of their head, and I've read before that those with the bump are generally more intelligent than those without. It has a name, can't remember, but I think it was some German word. I'm sure some slashdotter out there will be able to expand on this...

    Disproof by anecdote: I have a bump on the back of my head but I don't know what it's called.
  • Unless of course, the original Aryans were Homo Neanderthalis.

    Now THAT is a scary thought. Has anybody ever found a well preserved Neanderthal era corpse with the hair intact?
  • by radtea (464814)
    What does bigger brain really mean anyway?

    Nothing.

    Recent fMRI developmental studies indicate that "smarter" people (usually as measured by grades, IIRC) tend to have thinner cortexes. The handwaving explanation is that we are better organized, internally if not externally--my desk at the moment includes a stack of unlabelled blank CDs, a dead monitor, a rock, sheafs of loose paper going back almost a year, and a cat.
  • But did it all start with a red paperclip?
  • It's also worth pointing out that elephants have larger brains than humans. Sure, you can make lots of good arguments about how 20% of your metabolism (or something like that) is devoted to powering your supercooled cpus, but the point is that brain size is an imperfect indicator of intelligence. Also, men have larger brains than women - but smaller brains proportional to mass. And if you find these arguments unconvincing, then I'll just ask you to trust me - I'm an elephant and I've got a larger brain than
  • by topham (32406)

    The inferiority which would explain it? Lack of aggression.

    Now, I'm not saying either way on the topic, but a lack of aggression would explain Neanderthals decline, without actually being an inherently bad trait.
    You can considering it an inferiority, or not, but I'm not of the mind to think that aggression is generally an asset.
  • So are you saying that by merely suggesting that race or sex has anything to do with intelligence or behavioral traits they are a racist? Most scientists don't believe the blank slate theory anymore, I suggest you move into the 21st century.
  • ...or finds the burial of a Homo neanderthalensis with a Homo sapien, a marriage certificate, and two or more offspring.

    It be interesting to see what exactly is affect if the gene does make the brain larger. I doubt it'd mean higher intelligence, I lean more towards support something basic like using the extra brain tissue as insulation against the cold/blows to the head or maybe simply as a desirable trait.

    "Hey babe, check out the size this head! They say these kinds of thing corellate to elsewhere..."
  • FTFA: Preliminary analysis shows the bundle of DNA responsible for maleness in the Neanderthal - its Y chromosome - is very different from modern human ... this might suggest that little interbreeding occurred between our own species and the Neanderthals.

    How do you get from that statement to your statement that Modern Humans and Neanderthal didn't interbreed?
  • by Perseid (660451) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @09:43PM (#16778941)
    Neanderthals, eh? I think I dated one of those once...
  • by Associate (317603)
    Neanderthals weren't subspecies of homo sapiens. They were a different branch of evolution. And while the split of a species from a main branch or otherwise divergent evolution may be thought of as distinct separation, the time involved and the interaction between species makes the 'tree' rather un-tree-like in having many small diverging and converging 'twigs' forming much larger branches.
  • by mikael (484)
    Is is the inion? [www.gtec.at]
    There's also the Occipital bone.

    BTW, the picture is of an EEG cap used for medical research, rather than some super-geeky helmet that lights up acoording to which parts of your brain are in use.
  • by wall0159 (881759)
    Hmm. Well since there's no demonstrated correlation between brain size and intelligence (within a species), I don't see how this could be used by Eugenicists.

    Furthermore, the amount of migration that has occured in the last 70000 years probably makes it moot anyway.

    I vote we kill the eugenicists - they're ruining the gene-pool! ;-)
  • by Ant P. (974313)
    Because as we all know, brain size is _completely_ proportional to a species' intelligence.
  • It's also worth pointing out that even if this did have something to do with brain size, elephants have larger brains [brynmawr.edu] than humans. Sure, you can make lots of good arguments about how 20% of your metabolism (or something like that) is devoted to powering your supercooled cpus, but the point is that brain size is an imperfect indicator of intelligence. Also, men have larger brains than women - but smaller brains proportional to mass. And if you find these arguments unconvincing, then I'll just ask you to trus

  • by sentientbrendan (316150) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @09:56PM (#16779063)
    This summary and article, which I list complaints about below, is symptomatic of the sparse and incredibly poor science reporting that has been coming out of slashdot. This "news for nerds site" has better coverage of battlestar galactica, and whatever RMS and linus torvalds has for breakfast this morning than anything substantive about the sciences. I for one would like to see some effort to improve on the part of the editorial staff. If you are with me on this and would like slashdot to become a more informative and less glitzy news site, please post replies outlining problems you've seen and possible solutions.

    The article mentions that more neanderthals lived in europe than africa, and that distribution of this gene that may or may not have come from neanderthals corresponds to that. However, the article also mentions that *70% of the human population* has this gene. If the gene's presence in africa is lower, they don't say how much lower. The data mentioned in the article gives no indication whether the gene is present in a majority or a minority of africans.

    Given all of these qualifications present in the article, the submitter was obviously trying to spice up his submission to get it posted by playing up the race element and drawing a strong connection between this gene and race *that the original article doesn't actually show*.

    Personally, I would be curious to see more of the data that these people collected; maybe even see the actual distribution of this gene by geographic location. However, lately a lot of incredibly poor science reporting has been posted on slashdot. By poor science reporting, I mean articles that include a lot of fantastic speculation (often primarily in the summary...) but no hard data.

    This is a site for news for nerds! We want numbers graphs and PI charts! Not some f*cking cnn article with incredibly vague details about research the submitter obviously doesn't understand. Let's see some positive change hear.
  • Just a few thoughts...

    Smaller brains have less storage to work with so they probably work more efficiently than big bloated brains (quicker recall). However, the downside being that the smaller brain doesn't have much for backup storage to compensate should it take damage to a vital area.

    Larger brains have that extra (redundant) storage space that can compensate for any damage taken but are so spread out that they aren't as efficient with recalling information.

    So basically what I am saying is both
  • Funny, I would have thought it would have belonged to a whale.
  • by drox (18559)
    The fact remains, however, that in the end, they lost the race, and that would point towards some sort of ultimate inferiority.

    Indeed. In fact, I wonder if the Neanderthals' "inferiority" is something that would probably be thought of as "superiority" today, i.e. their large, muscular bodies. Sure, they're great for enduring long migrations, clobbering one's rivals or lobbing spears at wooly mammoths, but in times of famine they're a detriment. Those big Neanderthal bodies needed a lot more calories to k
  • by AusIV (950840)
    I realize you're simply speculating on potential responses to this news, but Subhuman? Neanderthals weren't built for some environmental changes that occurred, but I was always under the impression that they were - by most standards - about on par with humans. I think it's about comparable to Horses reproducing with Donkeys and creating mules - one species isn't necessarily inferior to the other, and since offspring are created, it's not the same as sex between species that can't reproduce.

    The problem I se

  • by Associate (317603)
    Everybody knows that it's surface area where all the grey matter is that matters, not the overall size. Think of it this way. You could have a 10 inch dick half an inch across and a girl would laugh at you. OR you could have one 6 inches long, two inches wide and she'd be pleased.
  • Ah, Wisconsin...where the men are men.

    And so are the women.
  • somewhere in our lineage ancient humans and Neanderthals decided to make love and not war

    Isn't it just as likely that they decided to make love and war? Even now war and mass rape go together more often than not.
  • Is that the new euphemism for "racist"?
  • by Ch_Omega (532549)
    Eugeneticists may use this information to claim the superiority of Europeans, a counterpoint can be made that these people can't be superior because were having sex with sub-humans.

    First, I just want to say that I personally don't think Europeans are superior, this is not about European superiority or not.

    With that out of the way, just wondering about your argumentation. In what way was the Neanthertals "sub-humans"? We don't know anything about the level of intelligence in Neanderthals, exept that t
  • No it is not a trap.

    In the USA this a NewChristianConservative [AKA: Bushit Perverts] Government recruiting plan
    for their superior HomoSapientSapient (HSS) race/breed that will retake (with the force of god) this holy
    country from those damn peace-loving godless big-brained Neanderthals of the world.

    Oh, there are many HomoSapientPrescient (HSP) impure offspring of HomoSapientSapients and Neanderthals
    fornication that will be the first sent to the camps for exploitable labor and purification for the forthcomi
  • by swv3752 (187722)
    From all accounts, the only thing inferior about Neanderthals were that they were more peaceful, and less aggressive.
  • From the article:

    ...70 percent of all living humans have this type D variant of the gene.

    Um... isn't that far more than the percentage of living humans who are European-derived? So where is everyone else getting their D variant genes?

    Wouldn't it be more reasonable to conclude that the gene came from an ancestor common to both modern humans and Neanderthals?
  • Uhhh, success in modern society is based off the same thing that made early humans successful. And that's ability to take risks. That coupled with literally deadly competition got us where we are today, the top of the food chain. Organization did play a role, but it was hardly primary. CEO's and the ilk may not be smashing rocks on 'lesser' members of society, but if they can get a leg up by stepping on someone, they will.
  • Why was this modded up "5 insightful"? It's conflating different meanings of the word "superiority" (or maybe not, the poster never said what was meant by "superior") and there are countless ways to sharpen the meaning of "superior" so that the poster's implication doesn't follow. +5, funny, maybe.
  • OK, I'll risk a little karma. Are you so certain that there are absolutely no differences between people from different lineages that you're unwilling to accept any evidence, no matter how strong, to the contrary? In recent times, the theory that humans are so interbred that there can be no statistically significant differences among populations has become a religion. Any evidence to the contrary is immediately dismissed.

    Differences don't have to mean superiority or inferiority. Would you say that a coy
  • by DrWho520 (655973)
    I do not think Ug had a problem shuffling over to his Cro-Magnon counterpart, wonking her on the head and dragging her back to his cave. For that matter, neither did Ugina...
  • We don't even know what this "brain gene" does.... just that some people have it.

    Neanderthals had larger brains than modern humans. The people who have it tend to live in the regions where Neanderthals did. If this gene did indeed come from Neanderthals, it would probably result in a larger cranium. I think that's what the researchers were getting at.
  • by Guppy06 (410832)
    Not that those sorts of guys use logic or anything, but the only way this bigger brain thing happens is because somebody in your family tree did it with something from another species.
  • Neanderthal chick and ancient guy?

    Or ancient chick and neanderthal guy?

  • by 1u3hr (530656)
    "It proves the niggers have a smaller brain then the white man"

    If anyone cares about this, they can easily measure the current ratio. I'm sure it's been done. The genetic archaeology is not going to have any impact on this question, whatever your prejudices.

  • by rubycodez (864176) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @10:33PM (#16779427)
    Read Beals Et Al.'s study on brain size vs. climate termperature and infant nutrition. Bottom line, brain weight increases by lattitude regardless of race, and decreases also because of poor nutrition as an infant.

  • by arvindn (542080)
    That's a beautiful story. Thank you.
  • For example, one thing MAN seems to have in greater degree than almost any other creature is an ability to be flexible in many fronts. Humans, for example, may have been more aggressive. They may have been more flexible in terms of diet. They may are clearly flexible in their mating choices -- it seems not even other species are safe.

    Neanderthal may have been really great at getting along with each other and keeping house but too passive or not curious enough to survive against the more aggressive and cu
  • by dch24 (904899)
    Let's see some positive change hear.

    Hear, hear. Actually, does anyone know what it takes to become an editor on /.? Because it seems like they work really, really hard to get the job, and then immediately slack off. CowboyNeal, CmdrTaco, what incentives are in place for editors to post useful stories? Who moderates the editors?
  • by treeves (963993)
    You want a "PI chart"?

    Here ya go:

              |
    3.14159...|   []
              |   []
              |   []
       0      |___[]___
  • by megaditto (982598)
    Smart guys don't do so well:

    Abel: dead (in his 20s), no surviving descendants
    Einstein: dead, no surviving descendants
    Mozart: dead, no surviving descendants
    Newton: dead, no surviving descendants
    Nietzsche: dead, no surviving descendants
    Curie couple: dead; their smart daugther (how also got a Nobel), also dead, niether have any currently surviving descendants
    Leibniz: dead, no surviving descendants
    Gregor Mendel: dead, no surviving descendants
    Oppenheimer and most of the MP scientists: dead, no surviving descenda
  • by Mad Marlin (96929)
    You know, Eurasia is an actual real place, not just a made-up place in that book, right?
  • by erroneus (253617)
    Sad but true I suppose. But that said, I still feel that human behavior and capacities vary by a variety of factors, some of which are genetically inherited. (Others will be influences of culture, family, the weather, diet and mental and emotional trauma and likely 100 other things I haven't even considered before.) But just as in other animals, humans have predispositions for certain behaviors. Further, I assert that different types of humans will have different sets of predispositions.

    As humans, we ha
  • I found your post interesting in that I too have an occipital bun. More interesting is that I come from the North of England which Wikipedia mentioned was one of the rare places where such features are found.

    However what is more surprising is that the article says that this is a trait common in Lancashire! As a Yorkshireman I'll never live this one down. Mind you it does make the old rhyme, which was probably written by Lancastrian, somewhat ironic: "Yorkshire born and Yorkshire bred, strong in the arm and
  • No, that's not what it means at all. It means the ancestors of Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals *began* to diverge around 500 thousand years ago -- it does not mean they didn't interbreed. While different species often can't interbreed with similar species, it often depends on how much genetic drift has occurred. It's not like a mutation happens and a switch is thrown and suddenly you can't breed with your neighbors. It's a gradual process that happens over generations with the mutation winning out over multip
  • by Darthmalt (775250) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @10:55PM (#16779619)
    Obviously we inherited our brains from those on the B-ark. Which is why we always have such impeccably clean phones.
  • by KJSwartz (254652) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @12:16AM (#16780283)
    Morg like food

    Morg need mate

    Morg mod WOW

    Now Morg happy
  • Misread (Score:3, Funny)

    by floki (48060) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @02:20AM (#16781069)
    I read it as "Did Humans Get Their Big Brains From Netherlands?" :-)
  • by sacrilicious (316896) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @09:04AM (#16783443) Homepage
    Slashdot headline:

    (a) Did Humans Get Their Big Brains From Neanderthals?

    Article says:

    (b) The gene microcephalin (MCPH1) regulates brain size during development

    (emphasis mine). Doesn't look like the article claims bigger brains for any group overall. Article further says:

    (c) it is not yet clear what advantage the D allele gives the human brain

    And both the slashdot summary and the article highlight the notion that the genetic difference in question is prevalent in Europe and not in Africa. So just to put this all out on the line here: do Europeans have bigger brains than Africans? Slashdot headline implies this, but article does not say this. Do Europeans have bigger brains during temporary stages of development? Article implies this with (b), but does not actually say this. Does this gene confer an advantage? It's implied by all of this coverage, but (c) disavows any evidence of such.

    So this whole angle (from the slashdot header) of "modern day eugenicists might all too eagerly read into these findings to draw their own politically biased conclusions" would seem to be just a baseless, inflammatory statement injected for sensationalism... or am I missing something here?

  • by mlewan (747328) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @05:37PM (#16788931) Homepage Journal
    What I do not understand is why any science article from CNN, BBC or other mainstream media ever makes it to Slashdot. If something they write is really interesting news, it is because a real article has been published in a peer reviewed journal. So give us the original! Not that filtered and distorted thing that has gone through the keyboard of a journalist who never is a specialist anyhow.

    I like reading popular science because it often is entertaining and quick. But I would never use it as basis for any serious discussion.

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