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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

steepholm steepholm
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What Big Eyes They Had...
Neanderthals had larger eyes and sockets than we do, and therefore less brain-room with which to perform "higher" cognitive functions. This, it is suggested, is why they died out.

There seems to be a term missing from this argument - namely the bit that explains why higher cognitive function is a more advantageous adaptation than good vision in low-level light. The northern latitudes (with their attendant dark winters) that were said to have encouraged the latter didn't go away, so why did gloaming-vision and the ability to carry out crepuscular hunts suddenly not count for much - as compared with the ability to decorate cave walls? There may be a good explanation, but on the face of it this seems like evolutionary parochialism and a circular argument: "Anything that resembles us is more likely to have survived than anything that doesn't - since, after all, we're still here."

We pique ourselves on our intelligence, but that doesn't make it an evolutionary trump card. The most successful species - sharks, ants, horseshoe crabs, etc. - aren't known for their smarts.

I hope that scientist has been a victim of bad reporting and that the actual study was not as rubbish as the article implies it was.

First the researcher thought up a rather fantastical theory about eye size and brain function, then looked at a very small number of skulls and found a very small difference, then pronounced the theory proven.

Actually I thought the latest view was that the Neanderthals didn't so much die out as interbreed with later waves of Homo Sapiens. They were at least partially assimilated and are thus still here. Apparently Western Europeans carry some Neanderthal DNA and Africans don't.

Edited at 2013-03-14 08:44 am (UTC)

That was my understanding as well. I suppose it's not as sexy to suggest that there may have been - gasp - more than one factor at work...