Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Autistics linked to Neanderthals by archaeologist, and of course the spin is all negative

I've just noticed a February story in New Scientist that might interest, or have interested, enthusiasts of the Neanderthal theory of autism. Archaeologist April Nowell has argued that the more rapid growth pattern and  relative lack of discovered "symbolic material culture" of the Neanderthal race compared with those attributed to "early humans" indicates that the European race was lacking something in the mind and had less childhood play than the standard model of humans, whatever that might be. Nowell then went on to compare Neanderthals with autistics. What Nowell didn't do was explain what is so fabulous or important about statues and paintings of creatures that are half-human and half-animal, or figurines carved with geometrical patterns. The fact is, we cannot assume that there was anything at all inferior about the Neanderthal race, simply based upon the fact that they are now extinct, because archaeologists still have no clear idea why they were replaced by a different stream of humanity. There are many competing theories, and there is also much debate about whether or not we should regard the Neanderthals as extinct, given the fact that some of their genetic material survives in live people with European ancestry. To offer a post hoc analysis that the Neanderthals must have been inferior because they are now thought to be extinct is the same kind of argument that indigenous peoples such as the Tasmanian Australian Aborigines must have been mentally deficient in some important way because as a racial and cultural group they have been decimated and pretty-much destroyed by other races. I think that kind of argument no longer flies in polite company, but I think what matters more is that it doesn't hold water logically. It's racism, plain and simple, just as much of the writing about the Neanderthal race and also much of the writing about autistic people is more prejudice than science. 

All work and no play: Why Neanderthals were no Picasso.
by April Nowell
New Scientist. 27 February 2013 Magazine issue 2905. p.28-29.


Paul Levinson said...

Points very well taken. For more speculation on Neanderthal - modern human connections, see The Silk Code

Lili Marlene said...

I see your novel won a Locus Award, and reader reviews are quite polarized. Interesting. I believe the theme of living Neanderthals has a long history in the science fiction genre.