Some of you have expressed disbelief about my claim that when I first heard the news of our Neanderthal DNA, I was able to reconcile fifty years of mystery into ten seconds of comprehension. However impossible it sounds, it is true. I have been sorting through that ten seconds for the last two years, one idea at a time. It's a lot of thinking to work my way through.
One of the things that struck me instantly was the association between insomnia, nearsightedness and higher IQs.
My mind solved all three problems in a few milliseconds. This is how it went for me :
1. Neanderthal was not a "night hunter." The orthodoxy had gotten it all wrong. Nobody goes hunting at night in subzero temperatures with wind chill factors that will freeze a man solid in a couple of seconds. The Neanderthal had been a watchman. In cold weather, all the big predators move in to take their prey at sundown. It is the dominant hunting strategy. A sabre tooth would shadow a herd of deer all day long and when the night was coming, the deer would be exhausted and with darkness closing in they would be an easy meal. The only way a hominid and his family could survive in this weather is if one of them kept vigilant until way past midnight. The Neanderthal would take up his place by the mouth of the cave, stoke the fire and lean on his spear while his children slept. His body would be keyed to release ATP into his bloodstream at sundown and increase his core metabolic temperature to bring him to maximum alertness when Homo Sapien's body is cooling and his brain is releasing neurotransmitters to make him sleepy. Neanderthal fathers were required to keep the watch until very late at night and thus would be a polyphasic sleeper, making it up with a nap during the following day. Sapiens is a monophasic sleeper - he goes to sleep when the sun goes down and gets up when it comes up, staying awake all day. A half a million years later, you could predict the far flung descendants of Neanderthals would have a wide myriad of sleep disorders from a biological rest cycle that they have not had sufficient time to adjust to.
Even when I was 2% body fat, my core temperature would rise so high at midnight in my teenage years you could have cooked an egg on my forehead. I didn't understand why other people didn't have this problem at night time. Was it something in my diet? The adults around me didn't notice any of this of course. I had a medical exam when I was 16 and the doctor noticed my temperature was always elevated. If he'd been any good he would have realized something weird was happening there. A resting pulse of 30 and a temperature of 99 around the clock? Those two things don't go together. That is very odd physiology. Perfect for the arctic, though.
2. The anthropologists had guessed that Neanderthal's large orbits and muscular sockets were an adjustment to help him see a larger visual field at night time. They were right about this. It is exactly what you would expect of somebody assigned to be night guard duty for a couple hundred thousand years. Of course, a half a million years later, his progeny are not focusing their powerful eye muscles into the darkness looking for sabre tooth tigers. For the past couple of centuries, they stay up and read or write. Their round sockets are contracting close up every night for six hours before bedtime. This happens during their most important formative years in adolescence, freezing their eyeballs at a short focal length. Nearsightedness.
3. All the computer nerds, scientists, thinkers, dreamers and geniuses you know are Neanderthal genes only. Homo Sapiens goes to bed. The children of Esau stay up late at night, their minds humming at peak performance waiting and watching for sabre tooth tigers that never come. This insomnia stimulates more nerve endings and pathways in the brain when the rest of the world is slumbering. Of course they end up with higher IQs at maturity, for reasons both genetic and behavioural.