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Getting Better and Better

July 21, 2006

My name is George Nathaniel Curzon I am a very superior person My chin is smooth, my hair is sleek I dine at Blenheim once a week And indeed, although this s c u r r i l o u s rhyme was pinned on his door in 1875 when Curzon was still up at Oxford, he did in fact turn out to be a very superior person. Universally regarded as a cold fish, he nevertheless had an extraordinary ability to reconcile warring factions. Twice appointed governor of India, always involved in affairs of state, he died in 1925, loaded with every honor a grateful sovereign could bestow.

So where did he spring from? And Julius Caesar, da Vinci, Shakespeare, Einstein and a hundred others? I have an answer, based on the fact that most were born of a difficult labor, and their issue was sterile.

Somewhere between 45 and 75,000 years ago, the Cro-Magnon people, aka Homo sapiens, the prototype of modern man, probably impelled by continuing drought, stormed north out of Africa and subsequently spread throughout the world, supplanting the many species of hominid they encountered.

Perhaps the most advanced of these were the Neanderthals, who had dominated Europe for 200,000 years. Although physically less robust than the Neanderthals, and in spite of a slightly smaller skull, H. sapiens had one incomparable advantage: a more complex brain, giving him better social organization, better hunting strategies and better tools.

There is evidence that the two peoples coexisted for several thousand years and, other things being equal, one would have expected H. sapiens’ advantages to be gradually conveyed by intermarriage into the genetic stock of the Neanderthals. But in fact they were different species that produced either nonviable or sterile offspring.

We can only imagine the Neanderthals’ dismay as their ancestral hunting and fishing grounds were usurped by a people better able to use them. Actually, it took several thousand years before the Neanderthals, cold, hungry and demoralized by their increasingly marginal existence, lost even their reproductive capacity and eventually disappeared from the face of the earth.

Very tragic, but there is nothing surprising about it. We see it all around us as the giant panda, the Bengal tiger and dozens of other species, many not yet even catalogued, fail to cope with a changing world and disappear forever.

But evolution does not stand still. In our own experience, it is not hard to spot, in our universities and the corporate world, the bright stars outshining all those around them. These are H. sapientissimo, the New People, preparing for mastery of the universe. But take heart; even as we in our own fashion care for the poor and indigent, so we shall be taken care of by the New People, and the process of our extinction will be so slow we shall scarcely notice it.

Meanwhile, how about checking who these people mate with and the viability of their offspring? I’ll bet that except when they go with one of their own, they won’t have any grandchildren.

 

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