Thursday, September 14, 2006

Our Friend, Global Climate Change

Our distant cousin, Homo neanderthalensis, has been much in the news lately. First came reports from a DNA study that concluded that, based on comparisons to the other great apes, it was our old pal Neander who was in the genetic mainstream of primate evolution, and we tall, skinny, and big-headed Sapiens who were the oddball mutations. Somehow I find this thought strangely pleasing.

Then yesterday, the BBC ran this article, which is apparently based on this other article in Nature magazine, which concludes that H. neanderthalensis survived much later than previously thought, and that it was a global climate change some 30,000 years ago which finally wiped them out and made room for our ancestors.

Cultures are unstable; nations are unstable; species are unstable. Science fiction writers who write of recognizably Western liberal human cultures 50,000 years in the future are suffering from a failure of imagination.

Just like poor old Cousin Neander.