Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Link with the Past

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Link with the Past

Article excerpt

The latest news for Neanderthals has to do with brain development.

According to a recent issue of Science News, researchers from Oxford University and the National History Museum in London have concluded that a Neanderthal had larger eyes than a Homo sapiens and that more of the Neanderthal's brain was devoted to sight.

That's meant as a slur. More of the brain devoted to sight means less of the brain devoted to thinking.

I read that and said to myself, "Isn't that just like the Homo sapiens species? They hate the fact that Neanderthals had larger brains, so they come up with a theory to explain it away."

Ever since I learned that the occasional Neanderthal and Homo sapiens hooked up in the old days, I have been convinced that I have Neanderthals in the family tree. It would explain a lot of things. Like my inability to use tools. Neanderthals did not fiddle around with tools. They probably used stones to smash things, but they weren't into tools.

That is the sort of trait that skips generations, but it's there, deep in the DNA.

My father was an electrician and a general handyman. He could fix things. In fact, he repaired televisions as a side job. He worked on them in our basement. He could build things, too. He was a good carpenter.

He tried to teach me things, but my mind would glaze over. He'd be in the midst of trying to explain something to me, and then he'd stop. "Are you even listening?" he'd ask. It would take me a moment to realize he had asked me a question. "I just don't understand any of this, Dad," I'd say.

One of our neighbors did auto body work as a side job. My father volunteered me as an unpaid intern. I'd stand around feeling useless while the man pounded on a car with a mallet and used some kind of pliers-like device to straighten out the metal skin of the car. He allowed me to help as a favor to my father, but truth is, I didn't do much helping. I'd occasionally take a whack with the mallet, but I didn't have a sense of what I was trying to do.

Eventually, my father realized I just wasn't good at any of that stuff. I couldn't use tools.

When I got to high school, I did not do well in shop class. Everybody had to do a project. One of my friends made a birdhouse. …

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