Richard G. Petty, MD

The Neanderthal Question

There is an extremely interesting new study about the links between modern humans and Neanderthals. Unfortunately “Neanderthal” has come to be used as a term of abuse. Yet Neanderthal people were probably the first to bury their dead and there is a great deal of evidence that they had a highly sophisticated culture. These people lived across Europe and parts of west and central Asia from approximately 230,000 to 29,000 years ago. It is unclear what factors led to their demise, but climate change and competition from modern humans may have played a role.

Svante Pääbo and his group at the Max Planck Institute in Germany have isolated the long segments of genetic material from a 45,000-year-old Neanderthal fossil from Croatia. The work reveals how closely related the Neanderthal species was to modern humans, Homo sapiens. I have had the opportunity to visit the Vindija Cave outside Zagreb, Croatia, where the 45,000-year-old male Neanderthal was found, and whose DNA is now being studied.

I was particularly interested in this apparently esoteric research because of a series of books that are not as well known as they should be. They were written by a psychologist named Stan Gooch who made a strong argument that we – modern human beings – are a hybrid of sun worshipping Cro-Magnons and moon worshipping Neanderthals. Stan has many other interesting ideas, that were a factor in considering the importance of the cerebellum in human cognition.

Preliminary analysis has shown that Neanderthal Y chromosomes are very different from modern human and chimpanzee Y-chromosomes; more so than for the other chromosomes in the genome. This might suggest that little interbreeding occurred between our own species and the Neanderthals.

This is a great example of the way in which good quality science can be used to check out almost any kind of idea.

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About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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