Chris Mooney reviews the book, Our Political Nature: The Evolutionary Origins of What Divides Us by Avi Tuschman, in an article in Washington Monthly: “The Origin of Ideology”.
Some writers seem highly invested in the idea that political beliefs are affected by genetics. I am very skeptical of this genetic determinism. Usually an appeal to genetics serves as a convenient way to demonize critics.
At any rate, I point to the review because it enlists the Neandertals as pawns in the grand scheme of the evolutionary history of political nature:
The more you think about it, the more mind-boggling it is that this cross-species mating actually occurred. Imagine how strange it must have been, as a member of Homo sapiens, to encounter another being so closely related to us (much more closely than chimpanzees), and yet still so different. J. R. R. Tolkien buffs can probably visualize it the best, because it would indeed have been something like humans encountering dwarves. Neanderthals were shorter and stronger, with outjutting brows. There is some evidence suggesting that they had high-pitched voices and red hair.
Knowing how prevalent racism and xenophobia are today among members of the same human species, we can assume that many of our ancestors would have behaved even worse toward Neanderthals. And yet some Homo sapiens bred with them, produced offspring with them, and (presumably) cared for those offspring. Which ones were the lovers, not the haters?
The answer, hints Tuschman in Our Political Nature, is that it may have been the liberals.
That’s right. Lyndon Johnson of the Pleistocene, sexing it up with thick-browed women.
Then there’s Bill Clinton…well let’s let him speak for himself:
“We learned in the last few months, because of the Human Genome Project, which I spent a lot of your tax money on to finish, that . . . between 1 and 4 percent of your genome comes from our pre-human ancestors the Neanderthals. Now it didn’t surprise my wife and daughter to learn that I was part Neanderthal.”
Oh, Bill, you ain’t nothing but a hound dog. It’s a good think Hillary’s politics allowed her to mate outside her group!