Monday, 27 May 2013

On Why the Neanderthals became extinct and lessons for our modern world

The Neanderthals are generally considered to have lost the competition with Homo sapiens because of their inability to compete with “modern man”.  Neanderthals get bad press, they are portrayed as “lowbrows” and of being a coarser strain. 
But what if that wasn’t the case, what if the truth is that Homo sapiens was just nastier.  There is plenty of evidence to support this contention.  Indeed the history of intercultural competition is filled with vivid examples of the nastiest prevailing over the good and the clever.  Prince Vlad the Impaler anyone?
 Maybe it wasn’t that Homo sapiens was smarter than other hominids , maybe it was because H.sapiens had developed a greater tendency for psychopathology.    Even within the different cultures there are varying propensities for psychopathology.  Hunter gatherer and nomadic people tend to have high levels of social cohesion and non-aggressive interactions because the group needs to be cooperative rather than competitive to survive. 
A good example of the vulnerability of a population with low tendency to psychopathology to one of a high level of psychopathy is illustrated by the fate of the Moriori who inhabited Rekohu now known as the Chatham Islands.  The Moriori lived on a  small island and chose birth control and infanticide over warfare as their means of living peacefully within the sustainable limits of their small world.  All was good until they were invaded by the most psychopathic of invaders a warrior party of Maori from mainland New Zealand who promptly ate most of them and enslaved the rest.  The conquerors were not superior in any way to the conquered other than that they were more violent.
Was it simply that the Neanderthal were too peaceful?  The fact that they had bigger brains on average suggests that they certainly were unlikely to be less intelligent.
It is an interesting observation that psychopaths for all of their lack of empathy seem to cluster and bond tightly with like-minded others.  Hitler and his band of brotehrs is a great example of how eveil clusters as is Stalin.  They have their trademark view that the majority of the population are prey upon which they have a right to live - but they need henchmen and have little trouble finding them.   Odd also that company CEO’s and high fliers in the banking industry are often considered to display strongly psychopathic traits.  Maybe that explains why the world seems to be forever doomed to progress in destructive lurches.  When psychopaths gain too much power the good and the meek, that is the rest of us, face increased risk going the way of the Neanderthal.   
Are we seeing this happening now with ever more power being concentrated in the hands of the greedy and unscrupulous?
And then there is the paradox that without the psychopaths unreasoned greed we might all still be living caves as hunter gatherers.


  1. Hi darkhorse. Honestly, I'm struggling to work out what the lesson referred to in the title of the post is.
    Clearly it's not just that CEOs are psychopaths. Some of my favourite people are or have been a CEO, and I can only think of one (an uncle by marriage) who might be psychopathic.
    Is it that we have as a society developed to a point where the psychopathy is more of a hindrance than a help? I'd agree with that. A question then is "what do we do about it?".
    Recently I read a comment on another blog, in praise of Thatcher. I can't provide the reference. However, the thrust of the comment was that Thatcher's great achievement was recognising that there were a group of people who were, essentially, surplus to requirements and the beat thing to do with them was to pay them a minimal amount to do nothing. North Sea oil got the credit for the economic changes in the 1980s.
    That might be part of the solution. I've never applied for a role as a CEO, bit I expect the appointment process includes a raft of psychological testing and this would, if it works, identify psychopaths. Rather than appoint them to the role, it right be better for us all to pay them a token amount to do nothing at all.

  2. They'd no be satisfied with your tokens, AC. It's not their way. They deserve more. Than anyone else. I think, darkhorse, the answer is to support any hunter-gatherer who might have a manageable nasty side. If you could find such a person and steer him in the right direction, much could be gained.

  3. you missed dthe point entirely AC

    the comment was about neanderthals and the potential for the bad and stupid but cohesive group to triumph over the good intelligent but indivudual


    I am sure would attest to this as he endures it (inflicts it upon himself) for the greater good

    and the bad have a far more focussed purpose than the good - maggie thatcher being a good example of the monomaniac in action.