Thursday, July 28, 2011

Modern Humans 10, Neandertals 1 - ScienceNOW

Modern Humans 10, Neandertals 1 - ScienceNOW

"This town ain't big enough for the both of us," says ranch foreman Nick Grindell to lawman Tim Barrett in the 1932 film The Western Code. Biologists know the principle well: Two animal species can rarely occupy the same niche. The same, it seems, goes for human populations. A new study of Neandertal and modern human sites in the south of France concludes that the moderns so greatly outnumbered their evolutionary cousins that Neandertals had little choice but to go extinct.

For more than 100,000 years, Neandertals had Europe all to themselves. Then, beginning roughly 40,000 years ago, modern humans—Homo sapiens—began migrating into the continent from Africa. Although researchers debate how long the Neandertals hung around, these ancient humans probably did not survive much longer than 5000 years. Just why they disappeared is also a matter of contention, but most experts agree that H. sapiens was able to outgun its rival in either direct or indirect competition for food and other resources.

Some genetic studies, based on both modern and ancient DNA sequences, have suggested that modern human population growth quickly outstripped that of Neandertals, but estimating population levels from these kinds of data is very difficult and inexact. So Paul Mellars and Jennifer French, archaeologists at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, decided to look directly at the archaeological evidence for the presence of both groups in the region where the most excavations have taken place: southwestern France, including the lush Dordogne region, as well known for its prehistoric sites as for its wine and foie gras.

Mellars and French tapped into a comprehensive database of all Neandertal and H. sapiens sites in a 75,000-square-kilometer region that Pierre-Yves Demars of the University of Bordeaux had previously compiled. They looked at three prehistoric cultures and time periods: the Late Mousterian, from 55,000 to 44,000 years ago, associated with Neandertals; the Châtelperronian, from 44,000 to 40,250 years ago and also associated with Neandertals; and the Aurignacian, from 40,250 to 35,000 years ago and associated with modern humans.

Christian Apologetics: The Kingdom of this World - Defending Christian Cultural Status and Political Space NOT faith

D'Souza's Christianist Crusade - Andrew Sullivan

Andrew Marantz reports on Dinesh D'Souza's new role as president of King's College, a small evangelical school located in the Empire State Building. Money quote:

"We are living, for perhaps the first time in history, in a society whose basic assumptions are secular," D'Souza told the 36 ­members of the King's class of 2011. "Some Christians hope to change this through bottom-up, grassroots techniques. But I'm skeptical about that approach. Consider minority groups like Jews and gays, groups whose influence far outweighs their relatively small numbers. How do they do it?

By focusing on strategic institutions—finance, media, law. At the King's College, our mission is to prepare you to go into that world. It's, frankly, an elitist mission, which says that culture is formed from the top down. I can only hope we have given you the tools to complete that mission, the tools to be dangerous Christians."

Sounds like Opus Dei's pitch to me. But there is dissension in the ranks:

[S]igns suggest that the King's community may find D'Souza more divisive than galvanizing. Some King's professors are considering resignation next fall rather than pledging allegiance to their new president. "I mean, I'm a conservative," one tells me. "I didn't vote for Obama. But I don't hate him.”

Rynn Reed, a rising sophomore from Dallas with blonde hair and a nose ring, identifies herself as a progressive. "The students and most of the professors are totally smart and open to argument," she says, but D’Souza can be too strident. "I would hate to see King’s written off as a right-wing breeding ground, but there's definitely potential for that with him."