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Neanderthal

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Reconstruction from the Neanderthal Museum. Mettmann, Germany

Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis), an extinct hominid, lived throughout most of Europe and parts of Asia and northern Africa. At first, Neanderthals represented somewhat of an enigma for evolutionists and creationists alike. However, whilst the vast majority of creationists now agree that Neanderthals were simply genetically isolated humans, some evolutionary circles have been slow to abandon the misconception that Neanderthals were stooped "apemen." Nevertheless, since the mid 1950s, studies have revealed that Neanderthal features fell within the accepted range of human anatomy.

Contents

Contention

There has been disagreement about whether the Neanderthals should be considered a subspecies (i.e. homo sapiens neanderthalis) or their own species. The recent sequencing of Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA seems to point towards a separate species designation because of the substantial differences found compared to modern humans, and the apparent lack of breeding between sapiens and Neanderthals [1].

Reconstructing the face of the Gibraltar 2 (Devil's Tower) Neanderthal child.

Yet, the 1998 discovery of a Neanderthal-human "hybrid" skeleton at Abrigo do Lagar Velho in Portugal indicates that humans were indeed capable of interbreeding with Neanderthals [2]. Moreover, critics of the Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA data have noted that the sample size of Neanderthals is extremely small, resulting in underrepresentation.

Based on the comparison of modern human mt DNA and that taken from the Neanderthal, evolutionists have argued that the "Neanderthal line" diverged from the line of "hominids" leading to modern humans about 600,000 years B.P. without contributing mt DNA to modern Homo sapiens populations. This strongly implies that Neanderthals were a different species from modern humans.

However, the above noted interpretation is not scientifically justified. Lubenow (1998) has pointed out that the use of a statistical average of a large modern human sample (994 sequences from 1669 modern humans) compared with the mt DNA sequence from one Neanderthal is not appropriate. Furthermore, the mt DNA sequence differences among modern humans range from 1 to 24 substitutions, with an average of eight substitutions, whereas, the mt DNA sequence differences between modern man and the Neanderthal specimen range from 22 to 36 substitutions, placing Neanderthals, at worst, on the fringes of the modern range. (Neanderthals are Still Human! Dave Phillips, Impact Vol. 323, May 2000)

It is possible that Neanderthals contributed to modern human populations, but their mitochondrial DNA sequence disappeared as a result of the loss of genetic diversity. As Kahn and Gibbons write: "Living humans are strangely homogeneous genetically, presumably because ... their ancestors underwent a population bottleneck that wiped out many variations." [3] The mt DNA differences are at mutational hotspots where substantial mutational change can occur in short periods of time, resulting in rapid genetic shifts within a population. One Neanderthal mt DNA study concluded: "The separate phylogenetic position of Neanderthals is not supported when these factors are considered [i.e. the high substitution rate variation at these hotspots]." [4] Hence, recent mt DNA findings are not in conflict with the conclusion from the evidence of fossil hybrids and artifacts that Neanderthals were fully human.

Cuozzo’s angle

Jack Cuozzo, who was the first to radiograph Neanderthal fossils in modern times, postulated that the unusual skeletal structures may actually be the result of extreme longevity. This conclusion was reached following his comparison between his Neanderthal skull radiographs and human growth patterns. A charge which might be brought to bear against this idea is the existence of Neanderthal children. Such individuals would not have had the time to show the characteristic traits of the adults. Cuozzo has stated that in his firsthand research with the Engis 2 child fossil there are lacking the pronounced brow ridges and elongated skull cited in evolutionist articles. In addition to long life, however, Cuozzo believes that the Neanderthals aged slower than modern humans, and secular studies have suggested that they were also superior in strength and dexterity. Moreover, Neanderthals had larger cranial capacities than modern humans, hinting at the possibility of greater intelligence. In all, the Neanderthals may be evidence for the biblical account of early people, such as Adam, Noah, and Methuselah, reaching great age. They were individuals closer to the Creation, and therefore possibly less degenerate from the effects of the Fall of Man.[Reference needed]

Dating Errors

In 2004, newspapers reported on the dating flaws of Professor Reiner Protsch von Zieten, the former director of the Institute of Anthropology and Human Genetics for Biology at Goethe University in Frankfurt[1], whose carbon dating results had been used to date such specimens such as Hahnhofersand Man and Binschof-Speyer Woman (actually a man).[2][3] The Hahnofersand specimen was estimated by von Zieten to be around 36,000 years old. Independent Oxford research found the specimen to be less than 7,500 years of age -- long after evolution says the neanderthals went extinct.[4] (The age is still outside the estimates of most young-earth creationists, but a drastic reduction nonetheless.) According to the Herne Anthropological Museum in Germany, the remains still exuded an odor when the skull was cut open for further review.[5] Binschof-Speyer was estimated at 21,300, but independent research dated it at around 3,000 years of age.[2]

It appeared to be one of archaeology's most sensational finds. The skull fragment discovered in a peat bog near Hamburg was more than 36,000 years old - and was the vital missing link between modern humans and Neanderthals. This, at least, is what Professor Reiner Protsch von Zieten - a distinguished, cigar-smoking German anthropologist - told his scientific colleagues, to global acclaim, after being invited to date the extremely rare skull. However, the professor's 30-year-old academic career has now ended in disgrace after the revelation that he systematically falsified the dates on this and numerous other "stone age" relics... According to experts, his deceptions may mean an entire tranche of the history of man's development will have to be rewritten. "Anthropology is going to have to completely revise its picture of modern man between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago," said Thomas Terberger, the archaeologist who discovered the hoax. "Prof Protsch's work appeared to prove that anatomically modern humans and Neanderthals had co-existed, and perhaps even had children together. This now appears to be rubbish."[6]

Von Zieten was also accused of trying to sell a collection of chimpanzee skulls to an American collector. He was suspended in 2004, and forced to retire in early 2005.[5] 'Scant news coverage' of the subject drew frustration from Answers In Genesis.[7]

Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)

Evolutionists are now claiming a 1997 study Neanderthal mtDNA shows they were not human. This claim is based on the degree of differences in Neanderthal and living human mtDNA. However, as is often the case, nothing destroys a good Evolutionary argument like the original paper. The bases for the claim is a comparison with Neanderthal mtNA positions 16,024 to 16,383 which is just 360 nucleotides.

comparison Average differences Range of differences
Among living humans 8 1-24
Between living humans and Neanderthals 27.2 22-36

25 of these differences are in 225 positions that also vary among living humans. 1 of the remaining two was in a position that varies among chimps which the paper claims makes it consistent with Evolution, however one such unique commonality based on chance alone is not statically unlikely at worst 1/27.

Now when they made a comparison of the difference with chimps they use only the 333 positions "in common among the human and chimpanzee sequences" to get:

comparison Average differences Range of differences
Among living humans 8 1-24
Between living humans and Neanderthals 25.6 20-34
Between living humans and chimps 55 46-67

While it true that these results do put the Neanderthal average out side the range of living humans that does not mean that they were not human.

  1. The living humans and Neanderthal do overlap meaning that both are humans. There are living humans with more mtDNA differences than some Neanderthals. You can't say one is human and one is not just because one is living and one is not.
  2. The comparison was made between living humans and Neanderthals who died thousands of years ago.
    • Clearly some human mtDNA lines have gone extinct, this means that living humans do not represent the full range of human mtDNA lines, thus Neanderthals could simply represent an extinct human mtDNA line. The paper's chart (Figure 7a) is only one possible way the data can be represented but it is consistent with this model idea.
    • The Bible indicates that people before the Flood lived 900+years and the first few post Flood generations still lived 200-400 years. One theory is that Neanderthals were people who lived in the 300-400 year range. Now as we age our DNA accumulates more mutations, so the differences could be a result of extreme old age.
    • Given the fact that even in a young Earth model Neanderthals lived more than 3000 years ago the differences could simply represent normal Human genetic drift over the last 3000+ years.

Neanderthal mtDNA data are consistent with Neanderthals being totally human, the evolutionists conclusion that it indicates they were not human is based more on their Evolutionary presuppositions rather than objective analysis of the data.

News

In 2006, news was released that scientists had found Neanderthal DNA to be as much as 99.9% identical to modern humans.[5] However, this does more than shorten the gap between Neanderthals and humans, since it is recognized by the mainstream scientific community that any two humans on earth have genes that are 99.9% identical to each other.[6] Such recognition of modern genetic divergence also serves to acknowledge Neanderthals as fully human genetically.

References

  1. Science 27 August 2004: 1237. DOI:10.1126/science.305.5688.1237c.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Archaeological Institute of America (2005, May/June). "Look Before You Date." Archaeology. Insider. Vol. 58, No. 3.
  3. Nature 430, 958 (26 August 2004) | doi:10.1038/430958a; Published online 25 August 2004.
  4. Paterson, Tony (2004, August 22). "Neanderthal Man 'Never Walked in Northern Europe'." The Telegraph.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Murdock, Matthew (2005). "Scandalous First Dates for Neanderthals." www.Creation.com.
  6. Harding, Luke (2005, February 18). "History of Modern Man Unravels as German Scholar is Exposed as Fraud." The Guardian.
  7. Line, Peter (2005, April 13). "Upper Paleolithic Blues: Consequences of Recent Dating Fiasco on Human Evolutionary Prehistory." Answers in Genesis.

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