Carl Zimmer has a review of Svante Paabo’s new book, Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes, up at The New York Times. All of Carl’s stuff is good, and as someone who doesn’t have the time to read Paabo’s new book I do appreciate reviews. But this last chunk concerned me: Neither Paabo nor any other scientist can yet clearly link our mutations to our human nature. I don’t think this is Carl inventing an issue out of whole-cloth, Paabo has mooted the general idea before, to my consternation. I’m not alone here. John Hawks and Graham Coop, scientists looking at the same questions from divergent methodological traditions, have little use for fixing upon specific genes which might illuminate distinctive aspect of our humanity. It seems to me that a model of ensoulment is best left to religion. Science has more profitably dethroned man from the center of cosmos. Becoming human as we understand it is more likely an evolutionary process than a miraculous moment.*
* I am also on record as stating that “human rights” or “personhood” should not be the privilege of the lineage of H. sapiens. Genuine artificial intelligence, or non-human oraganisms which have been “uplifted”, should have the same rights that natural born humans do.