look: our neanderthal ancestors took care of the sick and disabled so if ur post-apocalyptic scenario is an excuse for eugenics, u are a bad person and literally have less compassion than a caveman
Yes but they also when extinct which implies whatever they were doing at the time wasn’t fit for their environment.
So, it’s been awhile since I took a human evolution course, so some of this might be a little out of date, but
1) Whether or not Neanderthals went extinct is still kind of up for debate, and seems to hinge largely on whether you think that Neanderthals are a H. Sapiens subspecies or not, which often seems like a mildly pointless argument to me since it’s largely a fight about which definition of “species” to use
2) Even if we argue that Neanderthals are our direct ancestors and never went extinct, several Neanderthal *traits* (like their noses and their forheads) *have* left the population. Care for the disabled is not one of them.
Saying “Neanderthals cared for their sick and injured and are now extinct, therefore care for the disabled is maladaptive” is like saying “Dodos are extinct therefore beaks are a terrible idea”
Statements about “less compassion than a caveman” still stand.
I teach human evolution to college students, so in addition to that, here’s what we know. There’s some citations (and footnotes) behind the cut, if you’re interested.
So Neanderthals aren’t our direct ancestor- more like a branch of the family tree that didn’t lead to us. Close cousins- close enough to breed- but they evolved outside of Africa about 400kya, while our species evolved in Africa about 200kya*. This is important because it means that altruism can’t possibly be a Neanderthal trait that left the population during the evolution into modern humans; we didn’t evolve from them, so it’s not like we can say “well, this was maladaptive in our ancestors.” This is a behavior you see in two temporally coexisting species (or subspecies), and I do mean two, because it wasn’t just Neanderthals practicing altruism. We did it too.
We have really good evidence that early Homo sapiens sapiens (i.e., us, just old) also took care of their injured, elderly, and disabled. At Cro-Magnon in France, a few individuals clearly suffered from traumatic injury and illness during their lives. Cro-Magnon 1 had a nasty infection in his face; his bones are pitted from it. Cro-Magnon 2, a female, had a partially healed skull fracture, and several of the others had fused neck vertebrae that had fused as a result of healed trauma; this kind of injury would make it impossible to hunt and uncomfortable to move. This kind of injury can be hard to survive today, even with modern medical care; the fact that the individuals at Cro-Magnon survived long enough for the bones to remodel and heal indicate that somebody was taking care of them. At Xujiayao, in northern China, there’s evidence of healed skull fractures (which would have had a rather long recovery time and needed care);
This evidence of altruism extends past injured adults, as well. One of the most compelling cases is at Qafzeh, which is in Israel. Here we see evidence of long-term care for a developmentally disabled child (as well as a child who had hydrocephaly and survived). Qafzeh 11, a 12-13 year old at time of death, suffered severe brain damage as a child. Endocasts (basically making a model of the inside of the skull, where the brain would be) show that the volume of the brain was much smaller than expected; likely the result of a growth delay due to traumatic brain injury. The patterns of development suggest that this injury occurred between the ages of 4 and 6. They very likely suffered from serious neurological problems; the areas of the brain that were injured are known to control psychomotricity. This means that the kid may have had a hard time controlling their eye movements, general body movement, keeping visual attention, performing specific tasks, and managing uncertainty; in addition, Broca’s area might also have been damaged, which likely would have affected the kid’s ability to speak. Long and short of it, without help, this kid wouldn’t have survived to age 12-13.
But they did. They lived, and they were loved. When they died, they were given a funeral- we know this based on body position and funeral offerings. Mortuary behavior was common among both Neanderthals and archaic Homo sapiens, and this burial was particularly interesting. The body was placed on its back, its legs extended and the arms crossed over the chest. Deer antlers were laid on the upper part of the chest; in the archaeological context, they were in close contact with the palmar side of the hand bones, meaning it’s likely that they were placed in the hands before burial. This points to Qafzeh 11 being valued by the community- why go to the effort for somebody you don’t care about? Compassion is a very human trait, and to call it maladaptive is to ignore hundreds of thousands of years of human experience.
“Compassion is a very human trait, and to call it maladaptive is to ignore hundreds of thousands of years of human experience.”
Would you be alright with me borrowing your words when someone poses the above comments’ line of thought to me?
Of course! (And feel free to use anything else in my anthropology tag.)
Compassion is a very human trait, and to call it maladaptive is to ignore hundreds of thousands of years of human experience.