Recently, President Biden criticized states such as Texas and Mississippi for lifting Covid-19 restrictions, saying that we are on the cusp of being able to change the nature of the disease and that “the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime everything’s fine.”
While Biden was attacked by Republicans and others for his statement, because they want to get back to “normal” as soon as possible, I would like to object to his statement as one disparaging Neanderthals. I write this as a researcher and author on several books on Neanderthals, including The Return of the Neanderthals, about what might happen if they were brought back by DNA cloning, grow up as children, and become adults in modern society.
First of all, “Neanderthal thinking” is a misleading term, because the Neanderthals lived very successfully for over 200,000 years with millions of them spread throughout Europe, the U.K. and much of the Middle East, before they went extinct in the face of attacks by Homo sapiens. Additionally, most of us have 1-4% Neanderthal genes, which probably includes President Biden. So this statement would be a dig at any of the many millions of people alive today who have a Neanderthal ancestry.
Additionally, given Biden’s concern with treating everyone equally, including different minority and disability groups and immigrants to the U.S., this remark inappropriately disparages a particular group.
One of the points made in my book is that, if and when the Neanderthal’s are brought back – and the DNA and cloning technology used to bring back extinct species makes this very possible — they would likely be discriminated against as a disadvantaged minority group.
They might initially be grouped with individuals who are retarded with the mental ability of a five or six year old, although with new biotechnologies, their brain power could be markedly increased. Then, too, they are believed to have had very superior vision and strength, making them especially suited to perform other jobs, where these qualities are highly valued.
In sum, I think the Neanderthals are due an apology for this comment disparaging and demeaning them. It may well be that in the near future, a new generation of Neanderthals will live among us, and like any group, in the spirit of equality for all, they should be treated with dignity and respect.
Gini Graham Scott, Ph.D., J.D.
Author of The Return of the Neanderthals, Who Are the Neanderthals Really?
and other books about Neanderthals