Saturday, 31 January 2009

More on Neanderthals

I was pointed at this account of a refutation of the commonly held view amongst the scientific community that Neanderthals are a separate species of hominid (indeed, of the genus Homo). I have many issues with both the premises as presented and the conclusions drawn. In fact, every paragraph seems to have at least one thing I feel is wrong or misunderstood. Below each paragraph I have tried to show which items I believe are fallacious premises, which are non-sequiturs as conclusions, and which are misrepresentations of facts.

Neanderthal Men Were Modern Men
by Brian Thomas, M.S.*

A set of fossilized human remains has been discovered in Iberia that shows partial Neanderthal characteristics, proving again that Neanderthals interbred with anatomically modern men.1 This adds to a growing list of evidence, consistent with biblical history, that demonstrates Neanderthal to have been fully human, rather than an evolutionary transition.2

Ref[1] indicates that this is the Sima de las Palomas find. Apparently this is dated to 40,000 years. Also seems like the site has only Neanderthal remains, unless it's not stated in the abstract that there are also 'modern' humans (i.e. Homo sapiens). “The human fossils from the upper levels of the Sima de las Palomas are anatomically clearly Neanderthals, and they are now securely dated to 40,000 years ago.”[ref] From the reports on this find[ref][ref][ref], none other than this one mention “partial” Neanderthal characteristics.

After writing the above paragraph I went and did some more digging, and found this which does say that the PNAS article mentions characteristics similar to modern humans. One of the two explanations it says are put forward in the article is that there was hybridisation. However, Antonio Rosas, an expert on Neanderthals, says that he does not believe the find demonstrates this hypothesis, saying "The variation seen in the Neanderthals they have found can be explained without hybridisation. Genetically, there is no data that exists to affirm this hybridisation, and the genetic separation between modern humans and Neanderthals is very large."

What I understand from the abstract of Ref[2] (that does indicate a “mosaic of European early modern human and Neandertal features”) is that this is suggesting that the two groups lived alongside each other rather than the Homo sapiens population overrunning (and hence replacing) the Neanderthal populations in the Late Pleistocene (which it implies was the prevalent current conjecture). Nor, as the author of the article appears to (erroneously) believe evolution claims, that the Neanderthals died out, and modern man replaced them with no overlap.

Why does commonality of features prove them to have been “fully human”? What does “fully human” mean? They are fully human in the sense that they are within the genus Homo… In exactly the same way that both they and ourselves are hominids (in the family Hominidae or "Great Apes"), along with the genera Pan, Pongo and Gorilla.

Though evolution models once held that Neanderthal man was one of the “missing links” between an ape-like ancestor and modern man, the repeated discoveries of Neanderthal remains right next to those of modern humans—instead of in separate, lower, older strata—have forced him out of the pool of “pre-human” evolutionary ancestor candidates. In contrast to ever-evolving naturalistic interpretations, the biblical creation model has consistently maintained that Neanderthal man was just that—man.

Evolution also claims that Neanderthal is a form of man, and that Homo neandertalensis and Homo sapiens split off the same branch of human ancestors. Evolution does not describe a ladder, but a tree.

Ancestors can still co-exist with descendant species. Think of mud-hoppers – fish that have changed very little from those fossils of trasitional forms such as Tiktaalik. Also think of a great-grandfather living at the same time as his great-grandson. They are related, but one is several generations younger. Think also that there are many branches from the great-grandfather, and some of his offspring may look more like him than others. And of course, even more appropriate, a man's granddaughter and grandson will be alive at the same time. While my examples cover a very small time-period, the principles are still the same - two separate lines will be alive at the same time. The Neanderthals died out - but that does not mean they were not around at the same time as Homo sapiens. Indeed, they *must* have been at the start of the divergence of the two species.

In fact, it is the data that tell us that some forms of man followed on in a somewhat sequential manner, because one appears to have died out shortly after the inception of the other. The theory of evolution does not predicate any such sequence.

Neanderthal did have distinct characteristics that are apparently now either extinct or diffused, but his family line was fully human for several hundred years after Noah’s Flood, when humans repopulated the earth about 4,300 years ago.

The Iberian find is dated to 40,000 years. Most Neanderthal fossils are in the order of 50-60 thousand years old. How does this statement reconcile itself with the evidence that the author has already presented?

The mounting evidence for Neanderthal and modern man’s coexistence calls into question whether the Neanderthal and other human varieties even lived in separate times, as the evolutionary story still maintains. Both the Bible and science indicate that this was not the case. Biblical history has no place for such a separate, distant time of evolutionary development, but it does allow for variations within the human kind in its 6,000-year history.

"The mounting evidence" presented here appears to be one reference, or perhaps two. And I don't think that even these really debunk anything in the theory of evolution or common descent.

The "evolutionary story" maintains that "human varieties" lived at separate times? See above. This is at best a dubious statement, if not completely fallacious.

Anthropologist Marvin L. Lubenow has shown that Neanderthal, other than having a larger cranial capacity, was anatomically the same as Homo erectus.3 Their fossils do not fit into the depiction of a linear evolutionary ape-to-man transition that is iconic today, but were simply comingling variations of humankind. Furthermore, a fossil elbow (KP 271) and the Laetoli footprints of Neanderthal man are indistinguishable from modern man, and both have been dated by evolutionary scientists at 4 million years or older—predating the earliest Neanderthals!4 Thus, within the published evolutionary dates, “anatomically modern Homo sapiens, Neandertal, archaic Homo sapiens, and Homo erectus [as well as Lucy-like Australopithecinces] all lived as contemporaries.”3

Again, see above – evolution does not claim a linear transition. It claims common descent - i.e. a common ancestor.

"Comingling variations of mankind". Indeed. There is a possibility that contemporaneous varieties and species within the Homo genus might have interbred, although the further apart they are, the less likely that is. One of the common lines in the various definitions of species is that they cannot (or do not…) interbreed, or that if they can, they produce infertile offspring. HGT may also account for some intermingling of DNA; I have not looked at how much influence this is thought to have. If the evidence does point to both Homo sapiens and Homo neandertalensis co-existing (I don't think the references here cited do, but I don't think it's impossible or unlikely), that would not mean that the evolutionary theory was incorrect.

As for the Laetoli footprints are not believed to have been made by H. neandertalensis. The wikipedia entry suggests that they were made by Australopithecus afarensis. Encarta agrees with it being A. Afarensis. Another opinion is presented by William E. H. Harcourt-Smith, who doesn't actually say what species made the footprints, but does point out reasons for it not necessarily being A Afarensis as nearby remains might suggest. The one tentative alternative is A. anamensis ( The reason the footprints look similar to those made by modern man is because they are made by hominids which walked in a similar, upright, bipedal stance. This does not mean that they are H. sapiens. Or indeed even within the genus Homo, as A. afarensis appears to be main contender. That there is contention about them suggests that they certainly are different in some respects to modern humans' footprints. The similarities - which are what prove that they belong to a bipedal animal - are the arched foot and the forward-pointing big toe.

The overlap of species appears is depicted here. Yes, there are overlaps - exactly as to be expected, as explained above.. (see also this talkorigins page)

As seen in the fossil remains from Iberia, the more that is discovered about Neanderthal, the more evolutionary models morph to accommodate the data. In contrast to this ambiguity, both the Bible and science confirm that man and apes—though many small differences can be discerned within each kind—nevertheless remain totally separate, untransitioned created kinds.

"The more evolutionary models morph to accomodate the data". Well, that is how science works. The more data you get, the better your theories become. If there is something that doesn't fit, then you have to change your ideas. However, if the rest of the data can be accounted for by the existing theory, and there is some slight deviation in this data, then only a small change is needed. If the deviation is huge, then perhaps a different theory is needed. Everything so far seems to fit the theory, or the former example. None of it has so far so catastrophically refuted the existing theory that it needs major revamping. Even things like relativity didn't change Newton's theory of gravity, as it described the existing data perfectly well.

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