Big Man Theory of History ^n

I’m a big fan of this blog on genetics. And I admire Razib’s ambition with this post:

one has to observe that the vast majority of modern humans are not Michelangelo or a Bachs… Men such as Alexander, Napoleon, and Hitler, were possessed of peculiar charisma… As charismatic leaders they took collections of human beings, and turned them to there purpose. Individual humans became more than the sum of their parts, and for moments exhibited almost organismic levels of cohesion.

The model I have in mind then is one where the African humans faced up against their near relations, but not as one against one. Rather, under the guidance of charismatic leaders, Paleolithic megalomaniacs driven by fervid nightmares and irrational dreams, they ground through the many enemies who fought as sums of singulars as a cohesive social machine.

Interesting, I suppose. Don’t know much about this stuff, but I can’t really see why there shouldn’t be outstanding leaders among various animals.

Anyway, Razib’s real objective is to come up with some alternative to the idea that there is a clear genetic difference between Neanderthals and H. Sapiens. This was an interesting bit:

Backing up for a moment, why do we think there might be fixed differences between Neanderthals and modern humans? The argument, as outlined in books like The Dawn of Human Culture, is that H. sapiens sapiens is a very special lineage, whose protean cultural flexibility allowed it to sweep of the field of all other hominin sister lineages. The likelihood of some admixture from these “dead end” lineages aside, this rough model seems to stand the test of time. Consider that the Mousterian technology persisted for nearly 300,000 years, while the Oldowan persisted for 1 million! In contrast, our own species seems to switch and improve cultural styles much, much, faster. Behavioral modernity does point to a real phenomenon. The hypothesis of many scholars was that there was a genetic difference which allowed for modern humans to manifest language as we understand it in all its diversity and flexibility. The likelihood of this seems lower now that modern humans and Neanderthals have the same variants of FOXP2, the locus which seems to be correlated to elevated vocal and auditory capabilities across many vertebrate lineages. And, if it is correct that ~2.5% or so of modern human ancestry in Eurasia, and nearly ~10% in Papua, comes from “archaic” lineages, then I think that should reduce our estimates of how different these humans were from the Africans.

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