Gee-Are We Not Men

Gee-Are We Not Men - 106 IAMEs ALAN GARDNER trouble when I...

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Unformatted text preview: 106 IAMEs ALAN GARDNER trouble when I heard about supernovae. We had all those great theories about stellar collapse . . . then suddenly we found out novae were just the work of ET punks who liked blowing things up. The very next day one of our best astron— omy professors transferred into humanities. She still gives the same slide show she did in Astro 101, but now it’s called art history. “That was discouraging enough,” continued Dr. Washburn, “but the thing that broke my heart was those jelly people showing up to take credit for the Horsehead Nebula. I can still remember their words: ‘My God, from this angle it looks fizhulous!’ ” Dr. Washburn sighed. “I used to think it did too.” I Shaking his head sorrowfully, Dr. Washburn cleared his desk, left h office, and locked the door behind him. ’ Are We Not Men? HENRY GEE Henry Gee is a senior editor at Nature. As well as devising and editing the Futures cries, he is the author of several nonfiction books and innumerable articles. He lives 'n Cromer, Norfolk, England. After that they started popping up all over the place. Not that this was always advisable. Sometimes they were shot by loggers even before they could catch colds from Discovery Channel camera crews. Sometimes they ran into one another. A press conference given by a group of media—savvy pygmy indigenes from Northern Sulawesi was dis— rupted when a rival group of hitherto unknown hominids of enormous size ate the pygmies and ran off with the A/ V equipment. And sometimes they just tripped over their own feet. Like the centuries— old Alma Chieftain who admitted (on live, prime—time TV, and in rounded Oxford tones) how much he liked Tolkien, and went on to describe in tooth— some detail the sadomasochistic sexual cannibalism at the heart of Yeti reli— gion. Postmodernist chatterati were left in agonies of indecision about which solecism was worse. What was so remarkable was how soon the fuss died down. It was as if the hominids had been waiting for the right time to emerge from their fastnesses, a time when Homo sapiens wouldn’t automatically seek to destroy them. That af— ter our own sorrows—the abandonment of much of Africa in the 2020s due to AIDS and famine, and the hemorrhagic plagues that killed one in three people in the 2030s———we were now mature company for any self —respecting species on When the time came, they just settled down with us, side by side. Just ten years after the first Sasquatches came out of northern British Columbia in ’39 in search of whiskey, the hominids were everywhere, and nobody raised a * brow ridge. It would be commonplace to find (say) a Sumatran Pendek driv— ng your cab to work; your lunch cooked and served by a Malaysian Iive Monkey (and before you complain, that’s what they called themselves); and an 108 HENRY GEE eight-foot Kaptar from the Pamirs, pole—dancing to Earth, Wind, and Fire in a club after work (but only if you were into that kind of thing). But this acceptance came at a cost. Many of us continued to assume that we (or “We,” or “People,” or “HomSap”) were a breed apart. And so we were: just one among twenty or so species of hominid, and by far the most numer— _ ous. But what some of the remnants of religion could not stomach was that r we were no longer The Elect, The Chosen. These remnants were small, but vocal. But who were they? The Muslims had long since decreed that the, woes of mankind were the will of Allah, and that was that. The Catholics _' were, well, catholic, and in a famous encyclical, Undique humanims, Pope Eu— ' sebius decreed that all hominids were ensouled creatures of God. The Jew welcomed the opportunity for God to choose someone else for a change. The 7 last holdouts were sabbatarian enclaves in the United States and parts of Wes Africa who refused to countenance that the hominids were really human—“— the first for reasons of racial superiority, the second so as not to disturb the, bush—meat trade. It took one event to convince everybody. No, it wasn’t when Serumthrep Okk, an Alma from the Altai, was declared the next Incarnation of the Holy One. And not even when one Ijkaaa’Hthoj, millionaire scion of a lack- sonville rental car business, became the first Tibestian Sand-Druid to be Bar yr Mitzvah (maze! 201/). But it came from an echo of the past. There’s nothing new under the sun, you see, for we’d met hominids be— fore. Those fairy stories were firmly based in fact. When Ferdinand and Is- abella invaded the Kingdom of Granada in 1492, their pretext (it turned out) r was that the Emir had had “Devils” as bodyguards. When we finally got to the subcellars beneath the Alhambra, we found them—the great, hulking bones of classic Neanderthalers. And we could take their DNA. Once we thought that Neanderthals-weren’t closely related to Us. But the ‘ Neanderthals used in ancient—DNA studies were Ice Age examples from long ago. We had never seen DNA from Neanderthals living so recently. And all of a sudden it made sense—the reason why Clovis was Hairy; the big noses and brooding, beetling expressions of everyone from—say-—Leonardo to Einstein. After that they started popping up all over the place. Abraham Lincoln had been at least 35 percent Sasquatch. Most of the Khmer Rouge had been Malaysian Iive Monkeys. (I still can’t believe that name. But they’re a fun crowd.) The final knell came when it was announced that Charles DarWin had been more than 65 percent Neanderthal, a value that turned out to be Are We Not Men? 109 typical of British aristocracy, exceeded only by the immediate parentage of (you guessed it) His Holiness, Pope Eusebius, whose family had lived in southern Spain since time immemorial. With typical political aplomb, the Pope had been ahead of the game all the time. Now we’ll all have to get used to it. There are hominids in us all. ...
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This note was uploaded on 09/25/2011 for the course ANTHROPOLO 111 taught by Professor Scott during the Spring '11 term at Rutgers.

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Gee-Are We Not Men - 106 IAMEs ALAN GARDNER trouble when I...

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