About one in 500 persons of non-African descent have traces of Neanderthal DNA. Today we will look at how these persons’ deep ancestors are viewed by three groups: Young Earth Creationists, Old Earth Creationists, and Old Earth Anthropologists (perhaps a redundant phrase).
The first group maintains that Neanderthals were descended from Noah. For a YEC, everything has to be crammed into a self-imposed 5,000-year timeline. They “deal” with discomfiting evidence for the age of the universe, such as radioactive dating, lake varves, and seeing starlight from millions of light years away by saying that maybe physics and chemistry worked different before – that maybe radioactive isotopes decayed at a different rate than has ever been observed, that maybe lake varves were formed at several million layers per year instead of one annually that scientists have consistently noted, and that maybe God created starlight already in transit.
They back these notions with precisely zero evidence or hypothetical mechanisms for how any of this would be accomplished. Neanderthals went extinct about 50,000 years ago, which is about how old a bone could be and still be reliably tested through carbon-14 dating. Yet Answers in Genesis has yet to produce a bone from a 5,000-year-old Neanderthal sample that would add credence to its position. Similarly, they offer no evidence or reasonable avenue for how this large, widespread population disappeared just a few thousand years ago without leaving any trace of themselves, their fire pits, clothes, accoutrements, tools, weapons, artwork, migrations, or habitat.
AIG declares Neanderthals, Homo floresiensis, Nadeli, and Densiovans to be related species and descended from Noah. But this would require that these diverse populations emerged from the same couple and became markedly distinct from each other in a thousand years, which is much faster than how evolution works.
They try and tie this to the Tower of Babel, saying the confused languages may have resulted in disparate species of human. But people going their separate ways wouldn’t lead to their descendants being drastically different within 40 generations. AIG insists the Bible is the absolute truth, which is why they resort to shoehorning attempts like the wild speculation with Babel. If they feel insufficiently creative, they fall back on their mission statement that, “No apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field can be valid if it contradicts the scriptural record.”
It is always science that comes up with the idea first. The Genesis author did not describe various types of humans, which anthropologists later confirmed. Science discovered the fossils and found the ways to date them and in none of these digs and research did they find evidence that the first humans were zapped into existence 5,000 years ago.
Modern humans and Neanderthals share a common ancestor, but the two populations splintered and became distinct as mutations increased, creating DNA differences between the two. AIG more or less accepts this, but insists it took place not over 500,000 years, but over 500, a period much too short. It would be like persons today being markedly different in appearance than what they were in Christopher Columbus’ time.
Jim Foley at Panda’s Thumb explained, “There is enough genetic diversity among modern humans that it is almost impossible for it to have arisen in the last 10,000 years at measured mutation rates. For example, the common ancestor of all human mitochondrial DNA sequences is estimated to have lived about 200,000 years ago.”
And that’s just us. If you toss Neanderthals in the mix, that’s thrice as much genetic diversity to account for in less than half the time. Also, human-Neanderthal interbreeding was rare, which would be unlikely if the populations were expanding at the rate AIG asserts.
Since the YEC position holds that Neanderthals were human, they are OK with the concept of Neanderthals and Homo sapiens breeding, which science shows likely happened in limited instances.
While Old Earth Creationists likewise accept the evidence that this happened, they view the occurrence to be a sin, specifically bestiality since they consider Neanderthals to be a separate species from humans. One OEC organization, Reasons to Believe, maintains that human-Neanderthal sex represents mankind’s debauchery after the Tower of Babel and was among the reasons God slaughtered most of his creation, advanced apes included.
A century ago, OECs were the great majority of Christians, but they have been supplanted by AIG, the Institute for Creation Research, and most Southern Baptist flocks. These groups insist on a literal reading of Genesis 1 and permit no creative interpretations, such as there perhaps being a billion years between that chapter’s first and second verses, or deducing that a translation error took the Hebrew term for “long period” and made it “day.”
As such, OECs have far fewer conflicts with science than do YECs, though their central assertion that humans were supernaturally created in their present form 50,000 years ago has no basis in evidence, and they reject any evidence of man having evolved. Further, they are still subject to the god of the gaps fallacy and they consider any slight difference from modern humans in an unearthed fossil to be proof the fossil was a non-human. They trot that line out to deny the existence of any transitional hominin fossils.
Indeed, Reasons to Believe considers all non-Homo sapiens hominids, including Neanderthals, to be apes. If so, they are the most advanced simians ever, mastering the abilities to make tools, fashion loins, cook, hunt in packs, hold funerals, provide for the common defense, and achieving rudimentary language.
OECs argue that the range of a few hundred thousand years when humans and Neanderthals split from a common ancestor is too wide to be reasonable. Foley responded, “Age estimates based on genetic differences are always fuzzy because of the probabilistic nature of mutations, not to mention that different genes might really have different divergence times, and that the Neanderthal genome is still imperfectly known.”
For those more interested in the scientific over the spiritual, differences between modern humans and Neanderthals include skull shape and size, Neanderthals being shorter and stockier with broader rib cages, wider pelvises, shorter spines, longer limbs, and a much more limited language. They are an extinct species or subspecies in the Homo genus.
Biologists Svante Paabo and Nicholas Matzke completed the sequencing of the Neanderthal genome, which showed that breeding with humans occurred. One never sees Answers in Genesis or Reasons to Believe making these types of contributions to our understanding of the natural world. They merely react, embracing finds if they fit their predetermined conclusions and rejecting them if they don’t. Rejection is not due to their inability to replicate the findings or researching and reaching a different conclusion or having an issue over the collection methods. The evidence is rejected only because it is inconsistent with their interpretation of their favored Bible version. Even a Neanderthal would know that’s irrational.