Monday, June 25, 2007

Another Blow to the Young Earth Position on Neanderthals

Neanderthals were once thought to be the "missing link" between hominids and modern humans. They were supposedly the "smoking gun" that proved human evolution to be a fact. But evidence uncovered in the last 10 years has cast doubt on that position.

Scientists have been able to extract genetic samples from Neanderthal specimens in western and eastern Europe and compare their DNA to that of early humans. The results were not what scientists expected. Rather than proving that modern humans descended from Neanderthals, just the opposite happened. Although some have been slow to embrace the evidence, scientists now believe that Neanderthals are an evolutionary dead-end. Humans and Neanderthals are not only two different species, they aren't genetically related.

And now, Dr. Fuz Rana reports on yet another study that has been released which closes the door on any remaining reasonable doubt on the relationship (or non relationship, I should say) between humans and Neanderthals once and for all.

Unfortunately, my young-earth creationist friends are continuing to live in total denial of the evidence. They are still teaching that Neanderthals are misidentified human remains and are not a separate species at all. Sometimes they will say something to the effect that if you put a suit on a Neanderthal and he were to walk down Wall Street no one would notice the difference between him and anyone else.

The problem with the young-earth position on Neanderthals is that it ignores three lines of evidence that they are a totally separate species from modern humans (the descendants of Adam and Eve):

1. Differences in anatomy - Neanderthals were shorter, had thicker bones, longer brow ridges, a larger hole at the base of their skull and about a dozen other anatomical differences from humans.
2. Differences in behavior - Neanderthals did not engage in spiritual activity or artistic expression the way that the first humans did.
3. Differences in genetics - Even if you don't buy into the previous two lines of evidence, I really don't see how you can deny the genetics. It has very little wiggle room for human bias to skew the interpretation of the data. Multiple studies done by different teams all over the world are all coming up with the same three conclusions - humans and Neanderthals were different species, they weren't related, and they didn't interbreed.

For a detailed discussion on these topics, see Who was Adam?, by Fazale Rana.

On a practical level, my concern is about how this makes Christians look to the world. How can we hope to evangelize people with the Gospel when it is clear to them that we continue to maintain beliefs that are in the same category as the Catholic church believing the earth was at the center of the universe during the time of Galileo?

I also think that situations like this have the potential to do serious spiritual harm to Christian children. We tell our children that we believe in truth, that Jesus is the Truth, while we cling to obviously untrue beliefs. What will happen to their faith when/if they discover this as adults?

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