Thursday, April 26, 2018

So, Why Exactly Did We Beat Out The Neanderthals

There's all kinds of theories - and, of course, there may have been multiple factors. For one thing, it's theorized that Neanderthals had higher caloric needs, thanks to cold climate adaptation, than modern humans. This would have allowed modern humans to out breed the Neanderthals - whilst cheerfully stealing some of those cold climate adaptation genes through cross mating.

Scientists are now back to a debunked idea, though: Anatomically modern humans were smarter than Neanderthals. This had been pretty much declared moot, but better scans of the inside of the Neanderthal skull... Of course, without a brain to look at, saying they were not as smart - with the key aspects being language and socialization - is purely a theory.

But I had another interesting thought.

I was talking on another site about domestication. There is a solid theory in some quarters that Homo sapiens should, in fact, be considered a domesticated animal.

Although we don't show many of the signs of domestication syndrome - piebaldism is rare in humans and sometimes linked to disorders (If you want to know what a "piebald" human actually looks like, Rogue of the X-Men is in fact a piebald), and obviously we don't have a smaller forebrain - quite the opposite.

But we do have smaller ears, which might indicate the same cartilage shifts that give hounds their cute floppy ears.

And we definitely have a baby face - flat, smaller jaw and teeth - compared with other apes.

And...we also have one compared to Neanderthals. The Neanderthal face has a jutting jaw and heavier brows.

So, what if the key difference between Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalis is this:

Modern men are a domestic animal.
Neanderthals were a wild one.

You laugh, but here's some things about being domesticated:

1. It allows you to make interspecies friendships more easily. It's entirely possible that humans and dogs, at some level, domesticated each other. Merely tamed creatures such as hawks and ravens can make interspecies friendships, but they don't do it as naturally as dogs and horses. And humans, of all cultures, have an actual drive to form interspecies friendships. Hunter gatherers will sometimes pick up the young of animals they hunted and raise them. We want interspecies friendships. We genuinely love our horses, our dogs, our cats.

2. It mutes aggression and allows the formation of both larger social groups and temporary social groups. Wolf packs are typically 6 to 7 members (super packs, up to 15, are rare and likely unstable, existing only during periods of increased food). Take one look at a dog park and you may see 30 to 50 dogs and mostly they play nice. Zebra herds are typically 6 individuals. Mustang herds are usually 8, but domestic horses will readily spend time in a fairly small corral with 50, 75, 100 individuals without much in the way of fighting. And those dog park dogs are forming very temporary ties - they will play with strangers and then go home.

And that is what allows humans to build cities.

When we were competing with the Neanderthals, did that ability to form larger groups and dynamic groups help?

If so, then it brings up an interesting thought: Is a technologically advanced species always going to be self-domesticated?

Perhaps...