Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Mystery humans spiced up ancients’ rampant sex lives

That is the title of a Nature post about a story which is really about the sub-headline below that above one:

Genome analysis suggests interbreeding between modern humans, Neanderthals, Denisovans and a mysterious archaic population.

Here's where the current clickbaitiness ends up hurting, I think.  The headline is sexsexsex so that people would read the story.  And I get that.

But aren't we going to go away subconsciously thinking that the ancients had spicy and rampant sex lives?  Like at least over thousands of years and if we count any act of intercourse by any ancient as somehow part of giant sex rampage?  Wow, those boyz-n-galz shure got some booty!

A trifling point, you might think.  But then I have found that old cartoons about the stone age (the stay-in-cave-housewife and the man who drags her by her hair) still have an impact on how some people think of the past.  We might want to be careful about those kinds of headlines, at least in places like Nature.

Note, also, that those "mystery humans" are not included among the ancients in the headline.  But they must have been ancients, too.  Indeed, they might be the ancestors of at least some of us.

I don't know how much this matters.  Probably a lot less than the practice of publicizing new studies which are not available for scrutiny and which have not been even accepted by a peer-reviewed journal for eventual publication.  Some of those studies never get published, because of flaws in the research.  But their message remains in the cyberspace.