A reader writes:
Unfortunately it is not possible to respond to McWhorter, so by default I am responding to you.
The discovery of the nude figurine in Germany, now dated at 35,000 years, is interesting not because it confers bragging rights on Europe, or implies that "real" human beings emerged during some Paleolithic Big Bang. That data point is more complex than that. The first and most important thing about the object is that it implies that a consciousness similar to our own at an even further point in the past than previously thought. McWhorter is sketching out an idea that consciousness similar to our own coincided with the emergence of homo sapiens as a sub-species, in Africa, and 150,000 years ago. Maybe, maybe not.
But we have no record of this: we do have the archaeological record in Europe. What is more interesting about the discovery is that the artifact may be connected with the Neanderthal presence in Europe, and the Neanderthal hominids split off from the human tree several hundred thousand years before homo sapiens even evolved in East Africa, and were active in Europe and West Asia for tens of thousands of years before homo sapiens showed up.
Is McWhorter willing to concede the possibility that the development of homo sapiens today may have been due to interaction with other hominids -- not just Neanderthals -- who evolved much earlier, and who also were distributed throughout the Eurasian continent? Or is he simply attempting to confer bragging rights on Africa in response to perceived Euro-centrism?
I just think it's interesting that there were doable hominids 37,000 years ago. Why can't we all just get along and enjoy that?