Recently, I read that geneticists discovered Neanderthal genes present in the modern human genome. Does this mean that we might also carry some of the same behavioral characteristics of our ancient relatives? Clinging to traditional practices to solve problems in a rapidly changing world doomed an entire species of human. Will Americans fall into the same trap?

A report, A Draft Sequence of the Neandertal Genome, published in Science Magazine compared the DNA found in Neanderthal bone fragments with the DNA of modern day subjects. The results were surprising. “The data suggest that between 1 and 4% of the genomes of people in Eurasia are derived from Neandertals.” p. 721. This means that many Americans carry remnants from a distant past, a time when human civilization lived for 400,000 years by passing specific tool making techniques and survival behavior to younger generations. The legacy of patterned behavior was adhered to for a million generations.

At some point in humanity’s past, however, the world began to change rapidly and the old ways were no longer good enough. Homo sapien had emerged with the gift of creative thought and abstract reasoning. In a relatively short period of time, the old ways collapsed, Neanderthal vanished and modern civilization was born.

Many Americans, called homo sapien americanderthal, exhibit behavior similar to that of the Neanderthal, holding tightly to the past . . . to the way it was, relying on tried and tested tools and familiar paradigms to solve problems. We’ve all heard someone say, “Well, we’ve always done it this way . . . it’s our tradition, our history, our legacy. It’s how we do things and our way has always worked for us in the past.” This philosophy works wonderfully as long as the entire paradigm is stable. The modern world, however, is changing rapidly with daily advances in technology, communication, and our understanding of the natural world around us. Why use old approaches to new problems?

Another segment of the American population, called homo sapien creatus is willing to seek creative solutions to current problems . . . to try something new, to be a little different. Led by an enhanced sense of reality, sapien creatus are light on their feet and able to adapt quickly and effectively. Their non-traditional approach is a threat to sapien americanderthal.

Different approaches create different outcomes. Which approach do you usually take? Do you:

Adhere to tradition or create new tradition?

Avoid risk or embrace risk?

Think it won’t work or think it might work?

Do things the same way or try something different?

Color between the lines or draw new lines?

Think there’s only one right answer or think there might be many right answers?

In order to survive, habitual routines of Americanderthal must give way to experimentation, creativity, and innovation. As hard as we try, we can’t go back to the way it was . . . ever. The world is changing too rapidly and we must change with it.

With the courage to change, Americans can enter a new renaissance without having to first endure a catastrophic event. Remember that it was the Black Plague that killed half of the European population and in the process decimated long standing beliefs. The bacteria cleared the way for a rebirth of human culture, economics and a re-birth of civilization.

Can Americans stretch out and become proactive or will we follow the example set by our Neanderthal ancestors defending to the death our old tools and well established behavior? Will Americanderthal change too slowly to survive?


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