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How Neanderthal disappeared
Paleontology proposes that either Man or climate change caused the extinction of the Neanderthals. We argue that only intrinsic agents such as aging can explain the disappearance of a single species.
The reasons offered by the 'experts' for the extinction of Neanderthal border on the ridiculous. The paleontologists know a lot about bones, but the conclusions that they draw from the fossil record are, frankly, pathetic. The simple fact that the 'experts' propose such radically different explanations for extinction from the same evidence should certainly make you question whether a bone expert automatically translates into an extinction expert.
Chris Stringer from the Natural History Museum in London continues to attempt to convince his skeptical peers that the Neanderthal died when a gust of unusually cold wind swept Europe (Fig 1). It was the weather that did the clans in. Fortunately for us, this lucky break paved the way for our ancestors to migrate into the abandoned kraals and expand at the expense of this inferior race.
One troubling aspect of this theory is that it doesn't explain why the Woollies and other large animals that Neanderthal hunted outlived him. And Neanderthal had learned to control fire! Neanderthal was as adapted to cold climates as the animals he hunted, but if the going got rough, you would think that the rough would get going. Neanderthals could have migrated as the unbearable snows crept up on them. Indeed, the Neanderthals apparently made their last stand in sunny Spain! The Neanderthal population was already in decline 30,000 years ago, more or less 2,000 years before the last one walked the Earth.
Ian Tattersall from Yale University claims, instead, that CroMagnon wiped out Neanderthal in an excruciating war in which our ancestors had a decisive technological advantage (Fig. 2). The Neanderthals hunted at close range. They used their spears as Macedonian sarissas, puncturing the sides of a Woolly while a circus clown distracted the animal. Our smarter forefathers used the spears as javelins, casting them from far away. It was missles against pikes.
Fig. 2 The Great Neanderthal-CroMagnon War (40,000 - 30,000 BC)
The first thing that needs to be pointed out is that there is no concrete evidence that the two species ever met. But if by chance they did here and there, the encounter would not have progressed beyond a skirmish. One thing a lesser animal learns to do in the wild is avoid unnecessary injury. A cheetah doesn't fight a hyena to preserve its catch because it understands that in the best of cases the struggle will likely end up in a Pyrrhic victory. A wounded cheetah is a dead cheetah.
More significantly, Hunter/Gatherers don't usually band in armies. The Neanderthals were organized in clans, more like a pack of wolves than a herd of buffalo. All out war between two species such as lions and tigers is not so much inconceivable as it is belly-aching funny.
And even the suggestion that early humans gradually displaced the Neanderthals as they migrated into their lands has to raise an eyebrow. The Neanderthals and their contemporaries on the human side were wild animals who probably marked their territories. Encroachment does occur, but it hardly results in annihilation. Despite ruling the plains for thousands of years, the mighty lions have yet to shake off pesky hyenas, cheetahs, jackals, buzzards and other weaker competitors from their catches.
Tattersall theorizes, as an alternative, that the CroMagnon could have brought with them unknown diseases that decimated the Neanderthal (Fig. 3). Our ancestors did not throw spears at the clansmen. They coughed at them.
The first thing this argument confirms is that the alleged experts are pulling at straws. They know as much about the causes of extinction as the next guy. There are no experts on the subject of extinction, which means that you're just going to have to make up your own mind.
One problem with the 'disease' argument is that mass diseases require substantial population densities achievable only with the advent of agriculture and husbandry. Mass diseases are bred in corrals, coops and pens. What disease can we imagine that CroMagnon had that could have wiped out the Neanderthals? Wouldn't some Neanderthals have survived and passed on their natural defenses to their offspring? Why weren't other species affected?
Erik Trinkaus, renown paleontologist from the University of Washington, has a more 'attractive' theory. The CroMagnon did not spread disease or come to do war. They came to make love. A Neanderthal male slept with a CroMagnon female and had a hybrid (Fig. 4). Gradually, over the centuries, the Neanderthal genes went into remission and that's why they are no longer around. We are their descendants.
The evidence has piled up against Trinkaus's 'admixture' theory. At least three mtDNA analyses have shown that our genealogical trees branched out about 600,000 years ago. For comparison tigers and lions diverged about four million years ago. Their hybrid offspring, bred in captivity and known as tigons and ligers, are generally unhealthy and sterile.
In spite of this and having no other explanation to background extinctions, the influential admixture lobby insists that the Neanderthals must have disappeared through marriage because the fanatics who belong to this crowd can't think of any other cause. A study by Svante Paabo concludes that Neanderthals may have contributed anywhere between 1% to 4% to the genomes of non-African humans. Ergo, the admixture lobby extrapolates this to reach the amusing conclusion that the Neanderthals vanished though interbreeding.
However, Trinkaus's mere suggestion that evolution advances through intermarriages with long lost cousins is simply ridiculous. Did Neanderthal also 'do it' with Antecessor and/or Heidelberg? Did Homo erectus disappear when he mated with Homo habilis? Or were these lesser species also wiped out through war and disease and sudden climate change?
Outwitting the competition
Richard Klein, anthropologist from Stanford University, believes rather that our forefathers were smarter and had more children. Neanderthals had lower cognitive abilities and this gave our ancestors a decisive advantage in the wild (Fig. 5).
Some people may admire all these 'experts' for their creativity, but I take the opposite view. Their proposals are the first things that come to mind, the first causes people brainstorm. These theories show no creativity at all! What they do is clutter the journals so that genuine explanations that challenge such nonsense have no chance to be published. Extinction has been a thorn in the side of Paleontology for over a century now. There is a more subtle mechanism at work here and, unfortunately, most people feel at home with superficial theories. They embrace the first explanation that comes around.
The problem with Klein's proposal is that he, like most of his colleagues, is unfamiliar with the Scientific Method. Klein proposes no theory, no mechanism of extinction. Klein looks at a bone or a skull and draws sweeping conclusions regarding the intellectual abilities the owner must have had. He proposes no step by step explanation for how intellectual ability translates into extinction, for example, chronologically. He let's you fill in the blanks on your own.
A genuine scientific theory shows how the Neanderthals disappeared. Klein could explain that humans became more numerous and developed superior weapons in the early Upper Paleolithic (about 40,000 years ago). As they hunted more game and expanded, the Neanderthal world contracted.
So? Is this what he is saying? Is he saying that it is not that humans hunted Neanderthals as Tattersall suggests, but that they competed for the same game and crowded them out of the market? Is he insinuating that the Neanderthals gradually starved to death, that they had fewer children because the clansmen couldn't feed them?
When a paleontologist such as Klein talks so vaguely, leaving it to his audience to figure out what he is actually proposing, he has not visualized his own theory. Klein has not yet made a movie of his explanation. The day he gives specific causes -- mark my words -- his peers will ostracize him. So he's safe in their midst as long as he doesn't clarify how brain size or intellectual ability results in extinction.
Can Klein predict whether lions are going to outlive hyenas as a result of their respective cognitive abilities? If the roaches outlive humans, should a visiting extraterrestrial conclude in retrospect that the bugs were smarter? Is extinction an issue of survival of the fittest?
Variations on Klein's theme confirm that the paleontologists are still grasping at straws. Environmental economist Richard Horan proposes that humans were better barterers (Fig. 6). Our trade savvy ancestors cheated the Neanderthal brutes out of their money. Anthropologists Steven Kuhn and Mary Stiner from the University of Arizona blame the demise of the Neanderthals on division of labor. Human males ordered their females to stay at home and be proper housewives whereas a macho Neanderthal took the old lady along with him to the hunt. Karen Steudel of the University of Wisconsin suggests instead that Neanderthals had shorter limbs and were unable to catch up to humans, who were built for long distance running. Clive Finlayson of the University of Toronto blends Tattersall's 'cold front' with Steudel's 'physical shortcomings' and synthesizes that the Neanderthals were unable to adapt to harsh climates.
Are all these people for real? Do they come up with these amusing theories to sound interesting? Or maybe its just that they want to be the first to get their names on the books so that people will identify them with a theory and reference them in an article? Is that what Science is about? Getting your name in lights? How is it possible that editors claim that they don't have space in their journals for scientific articles, but then turn around and have no compunction when publishing such rubbish?
The cause of a background extinction
The primary issue that a researcher needs to resolve when investigating the causes of extinction is selectivity. Unless a theorist can tell you how Mother Nature targets one species (background extinction) or a family of species (mass extinction) without troubling its contemporaries, he has not discovered the cause of extinction. This rule of thumb applies to plants as well as animals.
So what could possibly justify the selective demise of the Neanderthals if not our species? Did an asteroid strike our planet 30,000 years ago? Was there lava flowing into Europe from the Deccan Traps in India? Civil war among the clans? Salmonella in the snakes they ate?
A background extinction of a species such as the Neanderthals can only be justified with intrinsic mechanisms. An external source has no way of pinpointing a given species. There is no reason for Man to stop at the panda. He can just as well continue with the gorilla, the whale, the lion, after he finishes off the mastodon, the dodo bird, and the passenger pigeon.
The only intrinsic mechanism we can imagine is aging. There is no question that all individuals age. The question is whether a species can age. By species, we mean 'interbreeders'.
Let's look at the species for which we have collected the most demographic data... our very own human race. Our population was more or less stable at a very low level for over 100,000 years. The hunter/gathering phase is characterized by very low density. It wasn't until the agricultural period that the human population increased notably. Demographers have estimated that the global population ranged anywhere between 1 and 10 million individuals at the start of the Christian Era 2000 years ago. The human population increased gradually until reaching the 1 billion mark in 1820, the era in which we switched from agriculture to manufacturing. At that point, the population increased exponentially due to better living and health conditions, including the discovery of vaccines. In just 200 years, the population multiplied six-fold (Fig. 7).
However, since 1963, the global growth rate has been steadily declining. It stood at 2.3 that year, reached 1.2 in 2010, and is expected to reach 0 (i.e., Zero Population Growth - ZPG) sometime in mid 21st Century (Fig. 8).
Thus, the exponential phase lasted 200 years and was due to improvements in health. In spite of these improvements, we are now in a declining growth phase as a result that fewer children are being born. The reason for this decline is not due to one-child per family program in China or to family education programs as claimed by the UN and self-interested NGOs. All species, whether of plants or animals, are bound by the 'First Law of Life': density dependent birth rates. The reason women have stopped having children and will not have any more children today, whether in Africa or Asia, is that farmers are moving to the cities. A country that is still in a labor-intensive agricultural mode will continue to have a high birth rate. Once the population shifts to the cities where densities are much higher, population miraculously stops growing... and the population pyramid of that country NECESSARILY overturns! Today, the population in ALL developed countries is old and getting older, and the new generations are not having children. In fact, the new breeds are not even getting married. We have traded reproductive for recreational sex.
If both Malthus and Darwin are correct, a species reproduces exponentially unless limited by resources. That is clearly not the case with the Neanderthals. The Neanderthals of the Lower and Middle Paleolithic were nomadic hunters, migrating throughout Europe. They never ventured much beyond these boundaries (Fig. 9). They never populated the world as 'predicted' by Malthus and Darwin. What stopped them?
Fig. 9 The Neanderthal Empire
It is when the Neanderthals became sedentary in the Upper Paleolithic that they ran into trouble. They settled down and became more or less adapted to endemic diseases. Nothing killed them anymore after 500,000 years of adapting to the local, same-old, same-old diseases which in turn mutated in response to them! There was abundant game (as evidenced by Man's later incursion into Europe), and they were certainly made for arctic weather. In this sense, the Neanderthals were no different than polar bears! In fact, what many laymen don't know is that Captain Fitz Roy (of Darwin's famous Beagle trip) documented that 'Fueguinos', the natives of Tierra del Fuego, dived nude into the freezing waters of the Magellan Straits to catch fish. Cooks expedition logged a similar experience in New Zealand. If humans can live nude in freezing temperatures, the Neanderthals, who had much more fat under their skin, would definitely have been immune to the harshest earthly weathers! Climate change never killed a single species on Earth!
The population pyramid of the Neanderthals began to overturn as fewer children were born and the species as a whole became older (Fig. 10). We find evidence of this in at least one important study conducted by Caspari and Lee:
"Adult longevity increased with human evolution, from a ratio of old to young adults of about 0.12 to 0.4 for Neanderthal fossils, with a particularly dramatic increase in Paleolithic societies to more than two older adults for each younger adult."
Fig. 10 Inversion of the population pyramid
The Neanderthals, who had been around for 500 to 600,000 years, had become an old species. A species becomes old when it settles down, conquers its last invisible enemies -- the viruses and bacteria that limit its expansion -- and as a result of increased density (with respect to either local resources or space) has fewer offspring. The Neanderthals became extinct when their population pyramid overturned. Psychologist John Calhoun reproduced this mechanism with his Utopian Universe experiment.
Humans are now undergoing a similar process today. The global population pyramid is overturning and there is nothing we can do about it. We live longer and have fewer children. This trend results in a background extinction, a phenomenon all species undergo. It is axiomatic that we would end up succumbing to a background extinction if it weren't for the fact that this process will be preempted by a mass extinction (We are the last humans! Part IV -- Video # 17).
Paper presented at the
International Conference on Biology, Environment and Chemistry
(ICBEC 2010, Hong Kong, China):
Paper presented at the
Apocalypse Conference, Oxford University
May 8, 2016, Prague, Czech Republic
The Extinction Series...
How Neanderthal disappeared