Saturday, November 10, 2007

Were Neanderthals Human?

One component of the young-earth creation model is that what scientists call Neanderthals are actually misidentified humans. Sometimes you might hear young-earth leaders say something to the effect that if you dressed up a Neanderthal in a business suit and he walked down Wall Street, no one would notice the difference.

It is the old-earth creation position, however, that Neanderthals and early modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) are separate species. Furthermore, we would add that these species were separately created by God and that humans are not descended from Neanderthals, nor are either of them descendants of an ancient ape-like ancestor.

So how can we decide which of these approaches is correct? Thankfully, we live in the age of genetic research where we can easily put these two models to the test. If the young-earth model is correct, then we would expect there to be no genetic difference between Neanderthals and humans because, after all, they are really the same species. On the other hand, if the old-earth creation model is correct, then we would expect there to be no genetic connection between Neanderthals and humans.

Ok, so which way has the research been going? Overwhelmingly in an old-earth creation direction. For the full documentation, see Who was Adam? by Fuz Rana.

There is a very interesting update about the whole question of whether Neanderthals interbred with early humans. It's looking more and more like the answer to that question is "no" which further buttresses the old-earth creation model. Check out Fuz Rana's TNRTB entry for yesterday.

The Neanderthal-Human Soap Opera Continues


Jenny said...

I agree: If Neanderthals were just another "race" of humans with extra-large heads, etc., then they should have the genetic similarity with other humans as blacks and whites do. Have you come across a YEC rebuttal? I've read more that once that Neanderthals (i.e., pre-Flood humans) had a genetic make up different from modern-day humans. This supposedly made them live longer.

Anonymous said...

I think YEC's generally respond to the genetic research by trying to say it's invalid because the Neanderthal samples were too degraded or contaminated. However, those objections have been handily dealt with in the scientific literature.

As for whether the Neanderthals and other pre-Flood humans would have had a different genetic make-up that enabled them to live longer, my hunch is that this is bologna. It seems to me that genetic connections would still be the same because they are the same species. Longevity is not a genetic issue. I think that's more of a biochemical issue. But that's just a guess. You could call "Creation Update" sometime and ask Fuz that question directly.

Jenny said...

Thanks, "anonymous." I agree that longevity isn't a genetic issue, and most YECs probably don't either. Maybe that argument isn't used as often as I thought, but I have seen it. The special genetic makeup supposedly caused pre-Food humans' extra-long lifespans. This argument might be used by a small minority of YECs who wish to give scientific credibility to their beliefs.

Anonymous said...

I'm not trying to weigh in on either side of the argument, but I would say that longevity is, at least to a certain extent, a genetic issue. Why is it that some people live to 95 while their neighbours, who have a similar lifestyle only live into their 70s? Why is it that an astonishing number of Armenians reach 100? If it's just the food, then I'm off to buy a cookbook.

My guess is that the issue of longer lifespans pre-Flood is really an "all of the above" scenario, in which climatic factors were drastically changed, geographic features were altered, along with diet, lifestyle, and of course, the size of the gene pool. There's nothing saying that Noah's sons were married to women of "marathon lifespan" stock.

The interesting thing is to see that lifespans are increasing today, if the right factors are present. Of course, no one tips the charts at 969, but we have a record number of Centenarians, when only several hundred years ago you were considered a geezer at 40. Clearly, there are some traits in our genetics that can be exhibited if the conditions are right...

Anonymous said...

Anonymous #2:

I could be wrong about this, but I am fairly certain I've heard Fuz talk about a growing body of data that is showing if certain "things" (How's that for technical?) are turned off or on in the cell, then it can increase life-spans by hundreds of years. He speculates that maybe this change in biochemistry played some role in shortened life-spans in Genesis.

Here is one article on the issue: