So, can we now add Neanderthals to the “victim class” catalogue?
Turns out anthropology may have done a serious disservice to pop culture’s favorite band of alleged primitives. That caricatured image of beetle-browed, semi-simian brutes rocking chain-saw-sized clubs and dragging their women by the hair? Not nearly the whole picture — not if new findings from England’s University of York are to be credited.
A group of researchers, studying Neanderthal burial practices, have concluded the hominids were, in fact, unexpectedly sensitive. They cared for their sick and injured and were fine parents; similar, in fact, to modern human hunter-gatherers.
The implications of the York analysis are explosive in ways parts of the science community likely would prefer we overlook: here we have ideas which, for generations, were staples of paleontological orthodoxy, the received wisdom domineeringly shaping our concepts of ancient history and human development. And suddenly? They’re being frontally challenged, perhaps upended altogether. Everyone’s number one cave-man might not have been quite the loutish lug we’ve long been assured — yet that concession is drawing comparatively scant notice.
Just one more area “the experts” apparently have gotten it wrong for some time. You know, the kinds of lab-coated deep thinkers we’re told, with increasing frequency, we ought to trust unquestioningly. Those who possess the key to unlocking all the answers to the conundrums of existence.
Granted, they maybe missed it with Neanderthal. But really, it’s no biggee; nothing much to see here, folks, keep moving along.
This on the heels of an even more stellar — literally — bombshell: mere weeks ago, cosmologists discovered “gravitational waves … miniature ripples in the fabric of space” which they trace to “cosmic inflation theory”, more regularly known as the “Big Bang”; that primeval eruption they insist birthed the universe approximately 14 billion years ago. USA Today has reported, the cosmos “underwent a fast and incomprehensibly massive growth spurt in its earliest infancy” — resulting in these previously elusive, now recently detected space eddies.
“[W]hat exactly happened at the start of the universe has been unconfirmed until now,” PBS.org’s Rebecca Jacobson explains. “With a radio telescope at the South Pole, scientists … found the first direct evidence of the universe’s rapid expansion immediately following the Big Bang …the first concrete evidence of gravitational waves”.
Whoa. Back that up.
While champagne corks are popping in observatories the world-over, I guess I’ll be the skunk at this stargazers’ garden party. The universe’s earliest shake-and-bake were “unconfirmed until now”? It’s “the first direct … concrete evidence” of the Big Bang? Pardon me, but for most of my fifty-three years, anytime I (or my fellow skeptics) hazarded the possibility the Big Bang theory was, at best, a “theory”, I was scolded that the debate was long closed. The Big Bang is fact, you dolt — it explains everything. Period.
You can imagine, then, my perplexity upon reading about the sky-watching community’s jubilation that — finally — they had some Big Bang proof.
So, it really was only a theory, after all? At least until this jackpot disclosure?
Might I further inquire: exactly what ‘s been proven? That the elemental, material stuff of the universe came into being instantaneously — from essentially nothing to everything in a trillionth of a trillionth of a second?
Sounds teasingly familiar to me. Truth be told, to everyone who’s read the Hebrew/Christian Scriptures and bothered paying attention, that’s been the rough understanding for millenia. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1); and “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth” (Ps 33:6).
A contemporary pulpiteer or two has put it a bit more waggishly: “Sure, I believe in the ‘Big Bang’. In the beginning, God spoke — and BANG, everything was created!”
Admittedly folksy — yet basically confirmed by what the telescope-squinting set stumbled across a few months back.
Then along comes the latest in the ceaseless parade of apocalyptic “climate reports” haranguing fossil-fuel-burning society – this one, mind you , an 800 page tome carrying the not inconsequential cachet of White house approval. Problem is, it introduces yet another term for today’s “man-made environmental crisis.” “Global warming'”, it seems, wasn’t quite living up to its billing, so “climate change” briefly became the preferred term of art. But hold on! The weather wizards behind the Obama administration’s assessment du jour are currently opting for “climate disruption”.
Arguably then, our scientific priesthood has gotten a key element of Neanderthal temperament wrong. They’re throwing a party over newly unearthed evidence supporting a colossally existential occurrence the Bible sketched out in page one, paragraph one several thousand years ago: They additionally appear unable to settle on specifically what’s going on with the weather, making nailing down a title for it embarrassingly tricky.
Time to reconsider, I’d say, our habit of melting before every trendy pronouncement that appeals to conversation-stopping “scientific authority”. Indeed, tomorrow’s academic revelation might come wrapped in techno-jargon and cite a sheaf of supporting studies – that’s no reason to go all weak-kneed in our critical-thinking.
A handful of other, recent, egg-on-your-face scientific assertions:
— Ethanol is the answer: Except many of the corn-based fuel’s formerly dewy-eyed enthusiasts are admitting meaningful second-thoughts about its usefulness.
— Saturated fats linked to heart disease: Unless they’re not – and cutting-edge scholarship indicates as much.
— Native New England “Monster Fish” Extinct: Then again, the seven-foot Atlantic Sturgeon washed up days ago on the Connecticut River’s banks might have sunk that conclusion.
– A “gay gene” determines homosexuality: Too bad for this propaganda the vanguard research doesn’t sustain it.
None of this should actually surprise any of us – not if we remember: Scientists? Scholars? Still human beings. They’re helpful, certainly, but come complete with their biases, blind spots and brokenness, as well.
Columnist Charley Reese, paraphrasing 16th-century essayist Montaigne, once wrote: “No matter how high the stack of credentials, the expert still stis on his arse.”
You can believe that. It’s science!
Image: Courtesy of: http://www.jjcabeleireiros.com.br/labels/maquiagem.html