Sadly, the record shows that the strongest advocates of UCD were racists in the guise of scientists who set-out to prove that the non-white features of blacks and aboriginal tribes were markers of an inferior pre-human species. As Jon Mooallem wrote in the NY Times:
No living humans had skeletal features remotely like these [Neanderthals], but King was under the impression that the skulls of contemporary African and Australian aboriginals resembled the Neanderthals’ more than “ordinary” white-people skulls. So extrapolating from his low opinion of what he called these “savage” races, he explained that the Neanderthal’s skull alone was proof of its moral “darkness” and stupidity. “The thoughts and desires which once dwelt within it never soared beyond those of a brute,” he wrote. Other scientists piled on. So did the popular press. We knew almost nothing about Neanderthals, but already we assumed they were ogres and losers.
Mooallem sanitizes the language for the modern reader, but [geologist] King himself wrote, “the Neanderthal skull is of an elongated oval form, with a basil outline bearing much resemblance to that of the Negro cranium… it is of a large size, being about an inch longer than ordinary British skulls…” King goes on to conclude that these features do not represent the higher human species (white people), but resembles the most “degraded” and “savage” races more akin to the apes. In 1886, just 3 years after King’s “discovery”, the German biologist and staunch racist Ernst Hackel proposed the name Homo-stupidus. It was also Hackel who in 1926 approved of Bernolet Moens’ experiments to use “negro” sperm to impregnate a chimpanzee believing these “lower forms” could interbreed with apes (Weikart, 59). Today many ND-evoultionsits may not publicly endorse the racist underpinnings of these “esteemed” proponents of Darwinian evolution, but “scientists” like Richard Dawkins continue to see humans as evolved animals. These modern ND evolutionists wholeheartedly approve of hybridization experiments and eagerly accept this classic definition of what “modern humans” should look like and continue the search for the missing link that connects the pre-human HN which they assume split from modern humans more than 1 million years ago.
The newest Neanderthal evidence, however, exposes this historic euro-centric prejudice and demonstrates the failure of these so-called “great men of science” to make a proper classification. More.
The photos that Miller provides showing the gradual humanization of Neanderthals in artists’ conceptions are fascinating.
So there is a history there, both in the paleontology community (and among religious people trying to make sense of it all, as Miller also recounts).
We really did not know much about Neanderthal man until fairly recently. The most common sort of evidence turning up today suggests that the Neanderthal lived pretty much the same as other humans and interbred with them. Although many claim that modern humans wiped them out, the story may be more complex. If Neanderthals were much less numerous than newcomers, many of them would be assimilated, as today’s genome maps seem to suggest.
The principal reason that Neanderthals have continued to be seen as less than human after the decline of racism in science is that they were the best hope that Darwinians had for a missing link, a not-quite-human. The Neanderthals’ biggest failure, as it happens, was that they did not live down to that billing. Even the Guardian’s editorial board now feels that, like so many others, they have been misjudged.
And the missing link is still missing.
See also: Neanderthal artwork found: “Academic bombshell” obliterates “lesser human” theory?
Neanderthal Man: The long-lost relative turns up again, this time with documents
A deep and abiding need for Neanderthals to be stupid. Why?
In this third post in my series, I look at 3 common views for making sense of the Neanderthal evidence and argue that the best option is to view them as fully human and descended from Adam and Eve.