Intelligent Design

The human face of Neanderthal Man

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The archetypal image of Neanderthals has been one that reinforced the Darwinian story of human evolution. A Washington Post story puts it like this: “Early study of Neanderthals described them as very hairy, brutish, unable to talk or walk like more-modern humans.” Although things have changed slowly, media presentations have continued to create an impression that does not differ much from this description. However, the evidence for their humanity has accumulated rather rapidly in recent years, and the past month has seen two significant additions to the literature. A Wired Science report introduces one of these studies like this:

“For decades, Neanderthal was cultural shorthand for primitive. Our closest non-living relatives were caricatured as lumbering, slope-browed simpletons unable to keep pace with nimble, quick-witted Homo sapiens. However, anthropologists have found evidence in recent years suggesting considerable Neanderthal sophistication, and not only in tool-making and hunting, but in their ability to feel [i.e. to show compassion].”

For more, go here.

6 Replies to “The human face of Neanderthal Man

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Dr. Tyler,

    I would love to solidly tie the Neanderthal ‘question’ down, since it seems to be the only ‘loose end’ that refuses to find successful resolution as to demonstrating the dramatic demarcation between us and primates. Though you are shooting for consolidating Neanderthals with man, as many other ID proponents are (Luskin, I believe, joins you in this approach), The one thing that stands out between us and Neanderthals is our ability to communicate information, as is stated here by Ian Tattersall and Jeffrey H. Schwartz in the “Evolution of the Genus Homo,” paper:

    I especially like how the authors draw out this following ‘what it means to be human’ distinction in their paper:

    “although Homo neanderthalensis had a large brain, it left no unequivocal evidence of the symbolic consciousness that makes our species unique.” — “Unusual though Homo sapiens may be morphologically, it is undoubtedly our remarkable cognitive qualities that most strikingly demarcate us from all other extant species. They are certainly what give us our strong subjective sense of being qualitatively different. And they are all ultimately traceable to our symbolic capacity. Human beings alone, it seems, mentally dissect the world into a multitude of discrete symbols, and combine and recombine those symbols in their minds to produce hypotheses of alternative possibilities. When exactly Homo sapiens acquired this unusual ability is the subject of debate.”

    The authors of the paper try to find some evolutionary/materialistic reason for the extremely unique ‘information capacity’ of humans, but of course they never find a coherent reason. Indeed why should we ever consider a process, which is utterly incapable of ever generating any complex functional information at even the most foundational levels of molecular biology, to suddenly, magically, have the ability to generate our brain which can readily understand and generate functional information? A brain which has been repeatedly referred to as ‘the Most Complex Structure in the Universe’? The authors never seem to consider the ‘spiritual angle’ for why we would have such a unique capacity for such abundant information processing. Myself, knowing that ‘information’ is foundational to reality, I definitely have my own opinions as to why we have this capacity!

    further notes:

    New study suggests big bang theory of human evolution – U of M Press Release
    Excerpt: “The earliest H. sapiens (Human-like) remains differ significantly from australopithecines (ape-like) in both size and anatomical details. Insofar as we can tell, these changes were sudden and not gradual.” University of Michigan anthropologist Milford Wolpoff

    A 2004 book by leading evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr stated that “The earliest fossils of Homo, Homo rudolfensis and Homo erectus, are separated from Australopithecus (Lucy) by a large, unbridged gap. How can we explain this seeming saltation? Not having any fossils that can serve as missing links, we have to fall back on the time-honored method of historical science, the construction of a historical narrative.”
    Misrepresentations of the Evidence for Human Evolutionary Origins:

    “Dr. Leakey produced a biased reconstruction (of 1470/ Homo Rudolfensis) based on erroneous preconceived expectations of early human appearance that violated principles of craniofacial development,” Dr. Timothy Bromage

    Hominids, Homonyms, and Homo sapiens – 05/27/2009 – Creation Safaris:
    Excerpt: Homo erectus is particularly controversial, because it is such a broad classification. Tattersall and Schwartz find no clear connection between the Asian, European and African specimens lumped into this class. “In his 1950 review, Ernst Mayr placed all of these forms firmly within the species Homo erectus,” they explained. “Subsequently, Homo erectus became the standard-issue ‘hominid in the middle,’ expanding to include not only the fossils just mentioned, but others of the same general period….”. They discussed the arbitrariness of this classification: “Put together, all these fossils (which span almost 2 myr) make a very heterogeneous assortment indeed; and placing them all together in the same species only makes any conceivable sense in the context of the ecumenical view of Homo erectus as the middle stage of the single hypervariable hominid lineage envisioned by Mayr (on the basis of a much slenderer record). Viewed from the morphological angle, however, the practice of cramming all of this material into a single Old World-wide species is highly questionable. Indeed, the stuffing process has only been rendered possible by a sort of ratchet effect, in which fossils allocated to Homo erectus almost regardless of their morphology have subsequently been cited as proof of just how variable the species can be.” By “ratchet effect,” they appear to mean something like a self-fulfilling prophecy: i.e., “Let’s put everything from this 2-million-year period into one class that we will call Homo erectus.” Someone complains, “But this fossil from Singapore is very different from the others.” The first responds, “That just shows how variable the species Homo erectus can be.”

    When we consider the remote past, before the origin of the actual species Homo sapiens, we are faced with a fragmentary and disconnected fossil record. Despite the excited and optimistic claims that have been made by some paleontologists, no fossil hominid species can be established as our direct ancestor. Richard Lewontin – Harvard Zoologist

    “But what is the basis for the human evolution thesis put forward by evolutionists? It is the existence of plenty of fossils on which evolutionists are able to build imaginary interpretations. Throughout history, more than 6,000 species of ape have lived, and most of them have become extinct. Today, only 120 species live on the earth. These 6,000 or so species of ape, most of which are extinct, constitute a rich resource for the evolutionists to build imaginary interpretations with.”

    Human evolution: We know little, and with good reason:
    “Despite decades of patient work we still know rather little about the evolution of humanity…the remains we have are very scarce and very meager and that means that there are probably lots of different species that existed, lived for hundreds of thousands of years and then became extinct and we know nothing about them…All you need is just one to completely blow apart your well entrenched comfortable idea of the linear progress of evolution.” – Henry Gee – Editor Of Nature Magazine –

    “Fossil evidence of human evolutionary history is fragmentary and open to various interpretations. Fossil evidence of chimpanzee evolution is absent altogether”. Evolutionist Henry Gee, Nature 2001

    Animals Can Skew Archaeological Dates – October 2010
    Excerpt: “Animals push human tools into ground—and back in time, study says,” was a subtitle of a report in National Geographic News. This factor could cause mis-dating of stone tools and other artifacts, “making them seem older than they really are—in some cases, thousands of years older,” experiments have demonstrated.,, “To our amazement,” lead author Metin Eren said, “the disturbance was much greater than we had anticipated.” “Trampling could even create the illusion of ancient sites where none really existed,”,, Is this a minor matter? Anthropologist Julien Riel-Salvatore of the University of Colorado Denver said, “Pretty much any open-air site located near a water source will potentially be very seriously affected by some of these conclusions.”

    ect.. etc..

  2. 2
    Robert Byers says:

    For a biblical creationist all one must do is examine the female neaderthals to determine if they had pain birthing their kids. Only women have pain doing this and all animals do not. This settles any last doubts to YEC’ers.
    Another point about this is once again this idea of brain size determining thinking ability.
    We all know men over women or this people over that people in different brain sizes.
    Yet , I believe, most reject that this affects thinking abilities. So why is brain size brought up?
    In this age of computers where small is brilliant surely the old ideas of large brains equaling large intelligence have died.
    We think with our heart, says the bible, and our brains deal with minor things.

    finally if man was very adaptable after the flood, as YEC believe, then neanders are simply quicking changing peoples to rough areas. Just like our quick colour/hair/ etc changes upon migrations.
    Neanders are simply celts, Germans etc where found in Europe.
    I say one day they will finf in neander remains artifacts from the earliest cities.
    Neanderthals was a needed link for early evolutionists and simply its falling apart under better modern tools for investigation.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    Dr. Tyler,

    This article may interest you:

    Neanderthals did not shop at prehistoric Tiffany’s
    Excerpt: In 1959 in the Grotte du Renne in central France, archaeologists found a wide range of ornaments and tools, including some that look like primitive jewellery. Think of it as a Stone Age Tiffany’s. Later, a study showed that the artefacts were jumbled up with Neanderthal teeth, suggesting that the Neanderthals made them some time between 35,000 and 40,000 years ago.

    But if a new study of the remains is correct, the ornaments have nothing to do with Neanderthals.

    In this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team led by Thomas Higham of the University of Oxford used radiocarbon dating to nail down the ages of the remains.

    The key finding is that as you dig down through the layers of sediment in the Grotte du Renne, the age of the remains does not increase as you would expect. Instead, the ages of the different objects are all over the place, suggesting that remains from different eras have got mixed up together.,,,

    This leads Higham to suggest that a key piece of evidence for Neanderthal sophistication has fallen:

  4. 4
    Ilion says:

    Concerning the popular(ly presented) “face” of Neanderthals —

    When I was a kid, by Boy Scout troup would sometimes go to the museums up in Chicago.

    At the time (for that matter, it was still there when I took my nephews a few years ago), the Field Museum had a Neanderthal diarama which depicted Heanderthals as lumbering cave-men. You know, the common perception of them for the past century or more.

    Now, *in* my Scout Troup was a boy of my age who would have looked right at home inside that diarama, if stripped of his modern clothes and dressed in the ill-fitting furs of the depiction.

  5. 5
    Ilion says:

    Robert Byers:For a biblical creationist all one must do is examine the female neaderthals to determine if they had pain birthing their kids. Only women have pain doing this and all animals do not.

    Hyenas have pain during childbirth that makes that of humans look like nothing, for the birth-canals of hyenas runs *through* their clitoris. It would be somewhat like you or I trying to pass an infant through our penis.

  6. 6
    David Tyler says:

    bornagain77 @ 1
    “I would love to solidly tie the Neanderthal ‘question’ down, since it seems to be the only ‘loose end’ that refuses to find successful resolution as to demonstrating the dramatic demarcation between us and primates.”
    Sorry for the delay in responding. I understand your question. I should point out that the blog is not trying to tie down any loose ends, but is mainly trying to sweep away the darwinian cobwebs surrounding these ancient humans. A good starting point for anyone wanting to “tie down” how all these artifacts can be turned into understanding of human history is “Apes or Ancestors?” by Hartwig-Scherer. This is on pages 212-235 of “Mere Creation” (1998), ed. William A. Dembski, IVP.

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