Dr Beetle comments on Neanderthal
BBC's Wall to Wall Television 2000

I was enjoying this documentary, until! The film recreated Neanderthal life by following a tribe through its day to day activities. The tribe was caring for a female they had kidnapped some months earlier from another tribe. Neanderthals generally lived in small family units of six to maybe twenty. 'Kidnapping' was thought to be a common practice by Neanderthals as a means of broadening their access to mates and preventing inbreeding. The female had begun to socialize with the tribe, until one day while on a walk along a stream with two of them, she suddenly she fell and was swept into the rushing water. Not able to swim, she was in risk of drowning. Of course, the two on the bank ran downstream to try and save her. After several failed attempts, they finally caught her arm and managed to pull her upon the bank to safety. At this point, the film's narrator (Kenneth Cranham) boomed 'This rescue has a selfish motive. The clan needs the new female too much for her to die. Without them, she stands little chance of survival'.

Well, I nearly fell off my toadstool! The selfish genes had apparently even decided Neanderthal behavior down to the point of deciding whether they should save another or not! Once more I saw the farcical lengths the modern nature documentary will go to push the 'struggle to survive' line. Of course, Dr Beetle has another explanation. Perhaps the tribe had bonded to the new female, and liked her! Normal small day to day interactions between the female and tribe members would gradually produce certain interactive pleasures that each would remember. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I understand that similar events will sometimes even make humans bond together. The bonds that develop would provide all the motivation needed for one humanoid to try and save another. My further assessment of this film narrator's curious belief is that humans try to label reasonable behaviors in nature as selfish, because they themselves are miserable and weak at heart. They lack the strength needed to see good in anything outside their own control. (Posted May 2001)
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