What The Guardian explains; " Theories of what drove the Neanderthals to extinction range from an inability to adapt to a quickly changing environment, to genocide by early humans. "
The Independent elaborates;
"Professor Chris Stringer, head of human origins at the Natural History Museum in London, believes that the long period of separation – and genetic isolation – between the Neanderthals and early modern humans meant that profound physical and mental differences had evolved between them.What Interests me here is the assumptions that mediate the "genocide" hypothesis. Stringer implies that there is not enough empirical evidence to answer the extinction question. This allows the assumptions that frame the empiricism to stand on their own. While Stringer is tentative to make any general assertions, the unnamed advocates of the "genocide hypothesis" are not. For them human nature, from its origin in primordial history, must be seen as inherently murderous. Human history then, rather then culminating in the genocidal 20th century, is a continuous eruption of genocide.
"The question then is whether, when the populations met, they regarded each other as simply people, enemies, aliens or even prey," he said. "We simply don't know the answer, and the answer may have varied from one time and place to another, especially given the vagaries of human behaviour."
We may never know what happened when modern humans came to live in the same space inhabited by the Neanderthals. They may simply have avoided one another, with Neanderthals retreating to their last stronghold in Europe – a cave system in Gibraltar where the most recent Neanderthal bones have been found.
Or the two species might have engaged in the sort of brutal conflict that has been the hallmark of human history throughout time.
Critical theory would move against the genocidal hypothesis by attacking the mediating assumptions. Scanty evidence, or any empirical evidence for the matter, is framed by our immanent discourse. The genocidal hypothesis, then, is not historical. Instead it reveals the genocidal impulse that is immanent to our culture. An impulse enacted by our society, and the encounter with "the other" is reflected in "human nature" as self-preservation.
While the later is certainly true, should the "genocidal hypothesis" be proven, it will have enormous philosophical repercussions. It will also serve as yet another reminder that the time to leave what Marx calls the realm of necessity, is long overdue;
The realm of freedom actually begins only where labour which is determined by necessity and mundane considerations ceases; thus in the very nature of things it lies beyond the sphere of actual material production. Just as the savage must wrestle with Nature to satisfy his wants, to maintain and reproduce life, so must civilized man, and he must do so in all social formations and under all possible modes of production. With his development this realm of physical necessity expands as a result of his wants; but, at the same time, the forces of production which satisfy these wants also increase. Freedom in this field can only consist in socialized man, the associated producers, rationally regulating their interchange with Nature, bringing it under their common control, instead of being ruled by it as by the blind forces of Nature; and achieving this with the least expenditure of energy and under conditions most favourable to, and worthy of, their human nature. But it nonetheless still remains a realm of necessity. Beyond it begins that development of human energy which is an end in itself, the true realm of freedom, which, however, can blossom forth only with the realm of necessity as its basis. The shortening of the working day is its basic prerequisite. (Marx Capital Vol III, 820)