The June 2015 edition of Scientific American published my short Letter to the Editor refuting the notion held by many anthropologists that the Neanderthal extinction was due to anatomically modern humans (Homo Sapiens, i.e. us) who fairly out competed them and that the 1% to 2% of Neanderthal DNA in us today is the result of an occasional romantic dalliance. I argued that the recorded history of our species is filled with plunder and rape. From Alexander the Great, to the Roman Lesions, to the Vikings, to more recently Pol Pot, Adolf Hitler, Al Qaeda, and ISIS, our species is known for murderous territorial battles and takeovers not fair competition or forbidden romances as suggested in most movies.
In fact, the extinction of the Neanderthals most likely paralleled what we did to our own Native American population. That is, an ever increasing number of settlers and cavalry with relatively advanced weaponry murdered and displaced the Native Americans from East to West. What we did not kill directly, we killed by starvation and the introduction of diseases (i.e. small pox, tuberculosis) that their immune systems and physiology were totally unprepared to cope with.
Now, we fast forward to today and we see our so called advanced civilization steeped in organizational scandals from the “Deflategate” in American Football to the corruption and bribery of the World Cup Soccer Consortium (FIFA) to our own IRS, to the Benghazi cover-up, and the selling of influence and power by foundations cloaking themselves in a few good deeds for the poor while individuals in these foundations receive donations and exorbitant speaking fees. The common thread is again deception and dishonesty.
Therefore, is such bend the rules, ignore the rules, and even break the very rules you are supposed to uphold an inherent trait in all humans? And is it now so rampant with the rapid dissemination from the information age of today that it is accepted as the norm? I say yes, indeed it is the norm! It is just the inherited genetic norm.
The realization that deceit and dishonesty is what allowed our species to out compete and succeed beyond all others and is within us all today is not to condone it nor to shy away from resisting it. My fictional novel “Deadly Prescriptions” explores this very concept within the framework of one of the most deceitful and callous industries today represented by the big drug companies.
A nonfictional example and factual record is the Vioxx scandal. When the COX-2 inhibitor drug Vioxx was introduced, it was just what the doctor ordered; a truly effective non-narcotic pain killer for moderate to severe pain and of course no addiction potential. It was widely accepted and prescribed. Then, prescribing physicians began noticing heart attacks in patients prescribed Vioxx and reports in the literature began trickling in. Merck Company, the manufacturer of Vioxx, denied that these heart attacks were due to their wonder drug claiming the number of heart attacks in patients taking Vioxx was no more than the general population and many had a previous history of heart disease. However, many Vioxx patients who suffered heart attacks after taking Vioxx were otherwise normal with no risk factors for heart disease and indeed the number of heart attacks in Vioxx patients was four times that of the general population.
Merck Company met the concerns about Vioxx not by accepting responsibility but by conducting a study preplanned to refute the concern. They compared Vioxx to Naprosyn (also known as Aleve®). The study results were published in the respected and prestigious New England Journal of Medicine and of course was widely read. The publication touted the vastly superior pain relief of Vioxx over Naprosyn supported by elaborate statistical analyses. The publication attributed a fourfold lesser incidence of cardiovascular events in those who took Naprosyn to the cardio protective features of Naprosyn like those known for aspirin.
The deceit and dishonesty becomes apparent when one understands that Naprosyn has no cardio protective effects and that the Merck Company researchers actually turned the words around in their publication hiding the fact that Vioxx actually had a fourfold or greater number of cardiovascular events than Naprosyn. Their assumption that the Naprosyn recipients represented an actual control population is what makes their bogus study a scientific sleight of hand. No true control (placebo) group was used. This represents a serious deviation from the scientific method.
One then has to wonder how complicit were the reviewers and the then editor of the New England Journal of Medicine in approving this manuscript for publication. As a reviewer for several scientific journals myself, I would have not accepted a manuscript with such profound conclusions without a control population. Did the paid advertising from Merck influence the editorial decision making? I am sure both Merck and the journal would say no but perhaps their denials be better directed to the families of the estimated 139,000 Americans who suffered heart attacks as a result of taking Vioxx.
Once the truth about this article came out and heart attack cases due to Vioxx mounted, Merck Company quietly settled all outstanding claims for 980 million dollars. In a shrewd maneuver (these guys are no dummies), Merck saved face and their reputation by voluntarily withdrawing Vioxx from the market before The FDA could withdraw their approval. Merck Company has gone on to be the successful multibillion dollar drug company giant that it is today. A testimony that the successful survival today in the competitive corporate environment requires full expression of the dishonesty and deceit genes that allowed our very species to become earth’s dominant species in the first place. One will see this inherited trait in full bloom in my upcoming novel, Deadly Prescription. —Dr. Robert E. Marx