GO IN DEPTH

Ch. 8: Nice to Meet You, Neanderthal Teacher Sheet

Ch. 8: Nice to Meet You, Neanderthal Teacher Sheet

Introduction

The "Nice to Meet You, Neanderthal" chapter introduces the possibility of one day resurrecting our closest relative, the Neanderthal. This chapter further explores the concept of hyperobjects and the relationship prehistoric and modern humans have with nature. This teacher sheet provides background information and answers to the questions on the student sheet.


There are many key terms introduced in this chapter that students may not be familiar with. If there are any terms missing on this sheet that you think the students should know, please add them. Use the resources provided to familiarize yourself with this chapter and the concepts presented. The takeaway points of this chapter include:

  • This chapter continues the talk about de-extinction and introduces our closest relative, the Neanderthal, and the possibility of resurrecting them. The first step is collecting and analyzing their DNA.
  • Some background information is given on the Neanderthal and how the discovery of one of their tools, Levallois core, hinted that they were more intelligent than once believed.
  • The talk by Svante Pääbo goes into how the Neanderthals and human ancestors could have come into contact with one another and how many of us have some Neanderthal DNA in our genome.
  • This chapter also reflects on the idea of how prehistoric humans lacked the concept of wilderness, thus there was not a separation of human kind and nature as there is today. 
  • The term hyperobjects is mentioned in this chapter. This may be confusing for the students at first, but basically it is a term to define an object that can’t be defined. Hyperobjects are so vast and stretch so far into the future that we can’t quite grasp or fully understand them in real time. Modern advancements in technology and research allow us to gather data to understand part of them, but still they are so complex and big that it is not enough to define them. Examples of hyperobjects are extinction and global warming. This chapter starts to touch on philosophical arguments, which may be hard to follow. You can see what students make of these arguments and if they have their own opinions. The philosopher Morton argues that nature is an object created by us that we try to manipulate and decide what has value or not. This idea of nature does more harm than good even if our intentions are to save and preserve it.

Key Terms

  • Neanderthal – closest relative to modern humans that lived during the Ice Age
  • Mitochondrial DNA – organelles within our cells called mitochondria contain their own DNA and embryos receive this from their mothers since the egg is a cell.
  • Genetic engineering – manipulating DNA for the purpose of modifying an organism’s genome
  • Levallois core – a tool engineered by Neanderthals; this discovery proved that they were more intelligent than originally believed
  • Ice Age – glacial time period when the Neanderthals lived
  • Interbreeding – mating between two different species—in this case, between Neanderthals and humans
  • Cro-Magnons – human ancestors that may have been in direct competition with Neanderthals for resources
  • De-extinction – resurrecting extinct organisms
  • Cambrian explosion – a time during the Cambrian period in which most of the major animal phyla appeared in a relatively short period of time; this was indicated by fossil records
  • Hyperobjects – entities that cannot fit into any definition of what an object is and span so far into the future you cannot see the end of them; examples are global warming, evolution, and nuclear radiation.

Qjuestions

1. In your own words, explain the dilemma in this chapter.
Answers may vary. Encourage your students to explain their answers.

2. What was the most interesting thing you discovered in this chapter?
Answers may vary. Encourage your students to explain their answers.

3. What was confusing?
Answers may vary. Encourage your students to explain their answers.

4. What is a Neanderthal and how is it related to the modern human?
A Neanderthal is a prehistoric relative of humans that lived during the Ice Age. They are distant cousins to the modern human, a different species.

5. What is a Levallois core? What did this discovery reveal about Neanderthals?
The Levallois core is a tool they made. How they made it took some engineering and revealed they may have been more intelligent than previously thought. 

6. What are some causes that drive extinction? Which one do you think is the major cause?
Extinction is mainly human caused and can be cultural, political, economic, and biological. Answers will vary with what they students think is the major cause.

7. Do you agree with the statement, “Prehistoric humans lacked the concept of a wilderness to escape or a civilization to seek”? Explain.
Answers may vary. Encourage students to explain their answers.

8. What is the concept of hyperobjects? Give one example and explain in your own words what makes it a hyperobject.
Hyperobjects are entities that cannot fit into any definition of what an object is and span so far into the future you cannot see the end of them; examples are global warming, evolution, and nuclear radiation.

9. Research any additional information out there on current de-extinction projects. Will Neanderthals be brought back to life anytime soon?
Modern humans have a small percentage of Neanderthal DNA, suggesting these populations mixed at one point in time. More recently, a higher quality full genome sequence was recovered from a Neanderthal bone from the Altai Mountains. 

This teacher sheet is a part of the Resurrection Science lesson.

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