It may be our Neanderthal genes that are behind virtually all human progress. New DNA data reveals that many of us are carrying Neanderthal genes. And not only that, but evidence is mounting that when those genes are activated in you, they can cause you to become incredibly resourceful, pioneering, creative... and utterly out of control.
Scientists used to like to think that we come exclusively from a branch of human evolution called "Modern Humans." The thought that modern humans may have interbred with another species entirely -- the Neanderthals -- was viewed as unsavory heresy. That is until yesterday.
But besides the recent genome discovery which only says that we're carrying some Neanderthal genes -- we have yet to recognize that it is likely that those very Neanderthal genes are the cause of the development of human civilization as we know it.
Did Neanderthal Genes Cause the Advancement of Human Civilization?
Let's look at the facts: modern humans made basically zero progress for over 163,000 years. They didn't invent much. They didn't develop any significant societies. They didn't build much of anything. They were basically hunter-gatherers that did not make any technological progress for 163,000 years. To put that in perspective, virtually all of human progress has been made over the last 37,000 years.
The traits of modern humans could be summed up as very traditional, stable, with a low capacity/tolerance for risk, innovation, change and progress. In short, they were temperamentally too stable and too disinclined towards free thought or creativity to make any recognizable progress over the first 163,000 years of their existence on this planet.
Modern humans were also trapped mostly in Africa because their rivals -- the Neanderthals -- occupied Europe and Asia and could basically kick the living crap out of them if they ever dared to venture into this Neanderthal territory, because Neanderthals were extremely combative, powerful, and skillful warriors. In fact, Neanderthals were the total opposite temperament of modern humans. Neanderthals were wild and relentlessly creative to a fault. They were innovative, but because they couldn't stop innovating, battling, and moving on to the next new thing they could not maintain any progress. Think of a tribe that was 100% ADHD and bipolar -- no stability -- complete and utter madness. Without any stability their abundant creations, breakthroughs and innovations would be short-lived and forgotten by subsequent generations. Their attention could not be held for long enough to create a lasting legacy. Neanderthals were Uprisers -- radical change agents who couldn't stop changing.
Just as easily as they would rise up against other tribes -- they probably rose up against each other at the expense of their own progress.
Were Neanderthals the Original Rebel Visionaries?
Neanderthals were thrill-seekers -- sensation junkies. (Much like some of our beloved trailblazing heroes of today.) They loved battle, and music, and had a propensity for inciting chaos. They were the original rebel rock stars. Neanderthals are seen as a warlike species; but what we overlook is that they were just happy to fight. They were the original fight club. They were the original musicians, singers and poets. Archaeological evidence demonstrates that Neanderthals made musical instruments. The book "Neanderthals Sing" explores their amazing propensity for singing -- even above language. So even though they may have had a bellicose nature -- they also may had a much deeper, more beautiful and tender way of communing with each other through song. The curiously empathic Neanderthals were tapped into the symphony of nature.
The Neanderthals were so random and so creative that they could not create any kind of society because all their inspiration, ideas and creations ended up dying off in the chaos. On the other hand, the modern humans were just too fragile and too uncreative to compete with the Neanderthals or make any progress on their own. So the wild maniacal Neanderthals held all of Europe and Asia and the modern humans were stuck in Africa.
Neanderthals & Modern Humans Collide: Technology Explodes.
Then something miraculous happened. About 37,000 years ago Neanderthals likely intermingled with modern humans, because boom - all of a sudden there's a new gene in the human genome, the DRD4 7R gene -- which has been a prime suspect for originating from Neanderthals for some time now. This gene is associated with risk-taking, sensation-seeking and novelty-seeking, and correlated with openness to new experiences, intolerance to monotony, and exploratory behavior -- you know... Neanderthal stuff. (According to the human genome the DRD4 7R gene suddenly showed up about 37,000 years ago, spread due to natural selection and is unlikely to be of modern human origin, due to the "highly unlikely recombination mutation events required" to generate the 7R version from the modern human 4R version of the gene according to a recent Yale School of Medicine publication.)
This miraculous combination created a new kind of "super" human hybrid tribe: part Neanderthal, part modern human -- and they DOMINATED. They had the battle skills and ingenuity of Neanderthals and the stability of modern humans working together to sustain their growth, progress and eventual dominion. Suddenly Earth was transformed -- virtually overnight evolutionarily speaking. Within the cosmic blink of an eye, mankind was creating and sustaining large civilizations fueled by innovations in language, agriculture, technology and culture. And this DRD4 7R gene is likely the cause.
The reason this works is that some people in the population have the activated DRD4 7R gene (about 10%), some are just carriers (about 20%) and some don't have it at all (the vast majority -- 80%). If you've got the active DRD4 7R gene - you're going to be risk-taking, creative, innovative and very hard to reign in - much like the Neanderthals. Let's call these people the UprisersSM. If you don't have it, you're going to be more stable and traditional -- much like the modern humans. Let's call these people the Stabilizers. So right now -- worldwide -- 10% of people are Uprisers, 90% are stabilizers.
This new hybrid "super" human tribe became successful because it had the best of both worlds -- the Uprisers (those with the Neanderthal disposition) who would rebel, innovate, pioneer and lead change -- and the Stabilizers (those with the modern human disposition) who would stabilize and institutionalize all the positive innovation and changes trail-blazed by the Uprisers, which would have been doomed to collapse under its own disorder if it weren't for the steady hands of the Stabilizers.
Establishing and sustaining human progress is like building a skyscraper. You need Uprisers to rise up and bring the tower to a higher level, and you also need Stabilizers to hold that tower in place. If there were no Uprisers there would be no tower -- the structure would stay at ground level and there would be no progress. If there were no Stabilizers, the tower would collapse and topple, because nothing keeps it together.
Understanding this principle and recognizing people's inherent gifts as UprisersTM or Stablizers can go a long way in minimizing conflict and misunderstanding between these two temperaments. Unfortunately, because Uprisers are surrounded by a vast majority of Stabilizers, who not only don't understand them at all, but tend to actively distrust and dislike their disposition, Uprisers tend to suffer.
If a typical Neanderthal lived in our society today they would most likely be labeled with ADHD, bipolar, Asperger's or autism. They would have addictive personalities causing them to go way over the top with whatever caught their passion. They would be seen as troublemakers in school and would quickly assume the role of misfit or rebel. So it is with those who still carry their genes.
Even in their day the Neanderthals must have recognized how the inherent ADHD of their disposition, while great for innovation and battle, really hampered their ability to sustain a stable life, because at their burial sites we've found ephedrine -- which is a drug similar in effect to Ritalin, Adderall and Concerta -- which stabilizes the brain thus reducing the symptoms of ADHD and bipolar suffered by less inhibited brains.
The DRD4 7R gene makes you think like a Neanderthal. If you've got this Neanderthal gene activated, you become sensation-seeking, risk-taking, impulsive, and highly creative. You don't think like modern humans, you "think differently." Welcome to the tribe. We're ADHD, bipolar, addictive personalities.
One might wonder are these people mad or genius? And the answer is yes. We are. We are mad and genius. We love to ride that fine line between genius and insanity. We bring that double-edged sword to the table. America is a melting pot of this risk-taking temperament, because at one time or another just about every population of Uprisers (those with the active Neanderthal DRD4 7R gene) were drawn to taking the risk of leaving their homeland to pursue the American dream just like their nomadic Neanderthal ancestors. The rest of the world thinks we're mad -- because we are -- but we're also crazy smart and innovative. By the way, this higher incidence of the DRD4 7R gene in America has already been revealed.
Stabilizers, to this day, tend to be very uncomfortable and feel threatened by Neanderthal traits. Those possessing Neanderthal traits (the Uprisers) are often rebuked, shamed and marginalized because they violate the norm. The tragic thing is that there seems to be something deep in the modern human psyche that abhors the Neanderthal genome -- literally an instinctive desire to genocide our Neanderthal lineage. In the past we've scapegoated, witch hunted, crucified, and martyred those with Neanderthal traits. Today we are labeling these Upriser Neanderthal traits with psychological disorder diagnoses like ADHD and bipolar and then drugging those traits out of our collective experience. Finally, as these Upriser traits are increasingly discovered to be ancient genetic relics from modern human's brief tryst with the Neanderthals, will a neo-genocide occur through quiet but selective genetic screening? Will expectant mothers soon hear, "Would you like Neanderthal gene contaminations removed from your embryo which would put your child at high risk for developing ADHD, bipolar disorder, Asperger's, autism and addictions?" What mother could resist, unless she knew that those very genes could very well also be the greatest gift to human progress?
Our opportunity as human beings to maximize progress is to instill great cooperation between the Uprisers and the Stabilizers. Stabilizers need to recognize and honor the gifts offered by young Uprisers and help stabilize the towers they can't help but erect, and Uprisers need to recognize and honor the gifts of stability and order Stabilizers are trying to offer them, to help their towers last and not come crashing down.
So, if you find you strongly relate to the wild and creative Neanderthal/Upriser temperament, realize that the key to your success will be finding a group of Stabilizers that can work with your innovativeness to build something great.
And if you find yourself somewhat repelled by people who act like Neanderthals, realize that these crazy, irrepressible, insufferable people are the key to progress; and if you can just tolerate their insanity well enough to work with them you will likely become the esteemed steward of a human breakthrough.
There's a lot more to this than I have the room in a single article to present. If you doubt what I am saying, please post a comment with your objection and there's a good chance I can address it.
Would you like to learn more about how the Neanderthal gene affects people's temperament?
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