End of the Neanderthal Myth?
A grim Neanderthal face stares out from the cover of the October 2008 National Geographic Magazine. Coinciding with the cover story is a TV special, Neanderthal Code, about the Neanderthal genome. Both are replete with artwork from the magazine’s army of illustrators charged with putting flesh on bones and bringing lost prehistories to life. The magazine’s cover title emphasizes a certain word: “The Other Humans: Neanderthals Revealed.” That word other is the center of a long-standing belief that appears to have collapsed. Were they really distinct from modern humans? What do we mean by “other”?
Conjectures and cave stories about Neanderthals have been legion. The conventional wisdom for over a century (though less so recently) has been that Neanderthals were stocky, brutish and intellectually inferior beings who were supplanted by the leaner, smarter modern humans moving into their space. Neanderthals had brawn; moderns had brain. Who hasn’t seen artwork of fur-clad grunter-hunters chasing after mammoths in the ice age? Though National Geographic entertained some of the latest controversies about Neanderthals, they chose a bad time to label them as “other.” A commentary in PNAS today has essentially removed the last argument for calling them different.1 The title is right to the point: “Separating ‘us’ from ‘them’: Neanderthal and modern human behavior.”
Pat Shipman (anthropologist, Penn State) began her commentary with a tone of remorse, as if ready to confess to a kind of paleontological racism:
Neanderthals have always been treated like the poor relation in the human family. From the recognition of the first partial skeleton from Feldhofer, Germany, in 1856, Neanderthals made scientists uneasy. Initially they were viewed as too physically apelike to fit into Homo sapiens and too brutishly primitive to have been capable of modern human behavior. Now, new information on Neanderthal adaptations has come from Gibraltar, an island where an adult Neanderthal cranium and pieces of a Neanderthal child’s skull were found previously. As reported in this issue of PNAS, evidence from Vanguard and Gorham’s caves indicates that Neanderthals used unexpectedly modern and complex subsistence strategies.
Most anthropologists had already brought Neanderthals well within the human circle 10/25/2007). Erik Trinkaus, for instance, believes that Neanderthals and modern humans interbred (08/02/2007). Most accepted them as good hunters, dexterous, social, artistic and successful in just about every way – no “poor relation” to modern humans. It has been known for a long time that their skull capacity was, on average, larger than ours. Still, many anthropologists just couldn’t give up the notion that they were – well, maybe not stupid, but – not as sophisticated as moderns in terms of social behaviors, creativity, and living strategies.
Shipman challenged that last argument for classifying Neanderthals as “other.” Evidence from the Gibraltar caves shows that they possessed all four complex behaviors thought characteristic of modern humans: (1) broad use of land resources, (2) sea fishing and hunting, (3) use of small scale resources, and (4) scheduling resource use by the seasons. This revelation came with some emotion. “That modern human subsistence behaviors would show up among archaic humans like Neanderthals, even as late as ~28,000 B.P.,” she remarked, “is startling.” What does it mean?
Basically, it means the anthropologists have been wrong about our brethren all along. It undermines the notion that Neanderthals were the losers in competition with more modern, more sophisticated Homo sapiens sapiens. Notice her last question:
Paleoanthropologists currently debate whether any set of attributes of material culture can distinguish between modern and archaic human behavior. In particular, McBrearty and Brooks challenge the paradigm that there was an abrupt “human revolution” ~40,000 years ago in Europe that marked the invasion of modern humans and the onset of modern behavior (but see ref. 16 for another view). In Gibraltar, Neanderthals and modern humans apparently shared similar or identical “modern” subsistence practices at ~28,000, yet Neanderthals were clearly outside of the range of morphological and genetic variability of modern humans.2 If behavior did not separate “us” (modern humans) from “them” (Neanderthals), what did?
In addition, she asked, if Neanderthals and modern humans lived and worked side by side at Gibraltar with the same subsistence strategies, why did they go extinct? Shipman ended by saying, “Answers to these questions are likely to be elusive.” Her only hope was that “more research into carefully chosen, meticulously excavated, and thoughtfully analyzed sites may be one way to begin to find them.”
1. Pat Shipman, “Separating ‘us’ from ‘them’: Neanderthal and modern human behavior,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, published September 22, 2008, doi:10.1073/pnas.0807931105.
2. This claim needs to be understood in context. For one thing, if Neanderthals were indeed capable of interbreeding with modern humans, they were fully human. Also, the NG article quotes Ed Green commenting on the Neanderthal genome, “We know that the human and chimpanzee sequences are 98.7 percent the same,3 and Neanderthals are much closer to us than chimps, so the reality is that for most of the sequence, there’s no difference between Neanderthals and [modern] humans.” The differences amount to half a percent – but even then, how representative are our samples of Neanderthal DNA? How well do we know the genetic diversity among the entire Neanderthal population? Statistical claims like these are bound to be overturned by more data.
3. It is unfortunate that NG did not challenge Green’s reiteration of the false yet often-assumed statistic that only 1.3% separates human and chimpanzee DNA (see 06/29/2007, CMI #1 and CMI #2).
The answers aren’t elusive at all. It’s only evolutionary blinders that obscure the obvious to those who refuse to see. Creationists aren’t surprised. They feel vindicated
The whole human evolution story is a farce. Think about this, for starters: now that we know Neanderthals were the mental equivalents of modern humans, evolutionists would have us believe that these people lived among and hunted all the big mammals for over 100,000 years – ten times all recorded human history – and in all that time never learned to ride a horse (11/09/2007, 08/16/2008) or plant a farm or build a city. Is that even remotely credible? Even when “modern humans” showed up 30,000 years ago it supposedly took them 22,000 years to figure it out. Does that match anything you know about our curious, inventive species? In the Darwin paleofantasyland scenario (02/22/2008), some lucky mutation must have just switched on abstract language (02/21/2008), architecture and agriculture out of nowhere (02/22/2008), because archaeology shows these abilities full blown from the start. Who can believe the evolutionary tales any longer? Look how goofy they can get (see 05/29/2008, 05/02/2008, 10/28/2007).
The next day after Shipman’s commentary, National Geographic News tried to do damage control. Their article repeated the same fictional plot line, this time with feeling: “Neanderthals and modern humans are distinct species that split from a common ancestor several hundred thousand years ago.” This was followed by “Test your Neanderthal knowledge with our online quiz,” which being interpreted, means, “Let’s make sure your indoctrination level is safe before we reveal the next admission.” This was followed by an astonishing backtrack:
Why modern humans thrived and Neanderthals ultimately failed has long been a topic of scientific intrigue, and previous research had suggested that the ability to exploit marine resources was one of the defining characteristics for the success of modern humans.
But the new research may eliminate sophisticated foraging skills from the list of potential advantages unique to humans.
“I don’t think that the success of one or the other had to do with subsistence, with the way they hunted or fed,” Finlayson said.
“There may be other factors coming into this, or it may just have been a question of luck.”
Emphasize that word intrigue (def: “to accomplish or force by crafty plotting or underhand machinations”). Pay attention: this quote is a complete admission of ignorance. “It could be this factor, it could be that factor, it could be Lady Luck” (cf. 03/18/2008). What kind of scientific explanation is that? Attributing events to chance is no better than appealing to the Stuff Happens Law (see 09/15/2008 commentary). A cartoon on EvidentCreation (2nd cartoon) illustrates the principle. Ignorance is not science, even if you use the methods of science to explore the extent of your ignorance. What does the word science mean? Knowledge. The know-nothings (02/22/2008) have no claim on science, white lab coats notwithstanding (cf. 05/06/2008). The Darwin diviners (07/26/2008 commentary) only surpass the Babylonians in the sophistication of their ignorance.
The BBC News tried to rescue a bad situation in their report with a quote from Chris Stringer [Natural History Museum, London]: “So there still is an element of superiority,” [Where!?] “but it is a much more finely balanced one now” [What!?] “This is yet another difference that had been proposed between Neanderthals and moderns which now disappears.” That’s falsification, folks! Where is that finely-balanced superiority they just talked about? It just disappeared, along with their credibility. Again, no remorse, and no repentance for their entrenched fossil racism.
Live Science quoted Clive Finlayson of the Gibraltar Museum as a spoiler: “Deep down there is this idea that modern humans are cognitively superior and therefore able to outcompete Neanderthals. I suppose we’ve thrown a bit of a spanner in the works by showing that Neanderthals were doing exactly the same thing.” Of course, he wasn’t surprised, he said. He’s been arguing for many years that Neanderthals “were as intelligent as modern humans with similar behaviors.” OK, so how exactly are the Darwinians supposed to run that flag up the pole? Big help he is. This is the same guy who told NG the modern humans won out by chance – not by natural selection. This abandons any grounds for making human evolution a theory based on laws of nature; it reduces to the Stuff Happens Law.
The rest of National Geographic’s too-little-too-late article resorts to the usual evolutionist misdirection tactic of handing out promissory notes for evolutionary futureware:
To resolve the issue, Marean recommends a systematic comparison of Neanderthal and human seafood collection at sites with similar availability.
“Were Neanderthals [exploiting seafood] like we expect they would if they were modern? And if they weren’t, then the question is: Why?” he said.
“We could be getting into something interesting there, for sure.”
Veddyyy inteddesting, yah, foor shoor. Do you get angry at admissions like this? You should. Think how much damage has been done by the Neanderthal myth. For over a century, school children have been indoctrinated into a vision that Neanderthals were some kind of pre-modern, human-but-not-quite product of evolution that the superior moderns (like us and the Europeans) knocked out of the race. Countless posters, artist reconstructions, museum dummies and TV specials have told and re-told this myth for decades. National Geographic Magazine has been one of the worst repeat offenders. Where is their shame? Any sign of remorse? None whatsoever. They still portray their organization as a beacon of scientific knowledge, leading us into a glorious future of understanding our origins.
Neanderthal Man was one of the last in the famous parade of hominids leading to the ultimate product, us. The iconic evolutionary march of progress to Thoroughly Modern Man (and Millie) has been the subject of countless cartoons. But it’s not funny. This has been bad science. It has been perpetrated with an agenda to make evolutionary philosophy appear scientific. Now, after all that propaganda, they ask, if behavior did not separate “us” from “them,” what did? The answer is obvious. Nothing!
Imagine the myths that could have been spun with the bones of living humans from differing parts of the world. Put a Watusi skeleton next to an Eskimo in the Museum of Man, and just imagine the yarns you could spin. That is basically what has happened here. Extreme members of the same species have been put side by side, and a fictional fable has been foisted on the unsuspecting for over a century. Long ago it was noted that you could give a shave and a suit to a Neanderthal Man, have him walk down a New York sidewalk, and nobody would notice, even without the shave.
It’s not science that led culture down this primrose path. It was the Darwinians – those usurping materialists who have a psychological need to force every bit of evidence into a moyboy (09/16/2005) scheme of progress from particles to people via mindless, undirected, purposeless natural processes of evolution. They are a blight on science. Real scientists, who find cures for disease and peer into the workings of the cell, and explore space and seek to understand the laws of physics and chemistry that bring us technological advances – God bless them all – owe nothing to these pretenders. Like parasites, the Darwinians sap the resources of their host and use it for their own advantage. And did you notice? These are the same people who most vehemently breathe fire against the scientists who actually have the resources to explain the origin of life and human history (the creationists).
Let this fact melt into the folds of your cerebrum: the Darwinians were wrong again for 150 years! – just like they have been wrong about the origin of life, the fossil record, and the genetic code. What major discovery did not hit them like a complete surprise? (the DNA code, the complexity of the cell, Mendel’s laws, the Cambrian explosion, living fossils, “convergent evolution” everywhere, to name a few examples). What prediction did they make that has not been falsified? (e.g., molecular phylogeny, ease of self-assembly of molecules into a cell, unlimited genetic variation, evolution of the horse, life on Mars, and much more – read the back issues). Their scientific theory is all vaporware and futureware. Their scientific method is just-so storytelling (02/22/2008). Their list of scientific accomplishments is a list of failures and deflated hype – a growing midden of discarded ideas, piling up and stinking to high heaven. Their scientific legacy is a ghastly record of intolerance, arrogance, destructive doctrines and crimes against humanity. How can real scientists stand being associated with these incorrigible miscreants? (miscreant, n., adj.: depraved, behaving badly, scoundrel, reprobate.) What have they done for you lately, you true scientists out there? They are destroying your good reputation.
Take Darwin and evolution and the Victorian myth of progress out of the 19th century, and what might have happened? Creationists would have looked at the robust skeletons dug up from the field of Christian hymnwriter Joachim Neander (see 10/26/2001), and interpreted them as fully human without a blink. Creationist historians would have fit them into Biblical history after Babel, looking into the Table of Nations for clues. Creationist geneticists would have recognized the propensity for exaggeration of features with inbreeding of family groups. Creationist anatomists (like Jack Cuozzo) would theorize that the skeletons represented long-lived humans, just like the Bible said existed around the time of the Flood. Creationist geologists would have not been misled by myths about humans evolving from apes over millions of years, and so would have felt no pressure to fit these humans into a long, stretched-out timeline. Creationist anthropologists would not have called it “startling” to find them using the same hunting and subsistence strategies as other tribes at Gibraltar. Who would have been more correct? Who would have felt more comfortable with the evidence? The fate of the evolutionist is to be constantly startled by facts that don’t fit their plot line.
Stop calling our ancient dead forebears Neanderthals – they were people. Stop the “us” vs “them” racist rhetoric; they were our brothers. This final collapse of the evolutionary Neanderthal Myth should arouse a call for accountability. Americans are all up in arms right now about high-profile managers of money funds who mismanaged affairs terribly, causing major economic catastrophes, yet profited by their misdeeds to the tune of tens of millions of dollars in salaries and pensions. The evolutionists should pay for what they have done. It’s time to defrock them of their white lab coats, charge them with impersonating a scientist (09/30/2007) and send them packing. Don’t let them say that science is marching on and correcting itself. This was a painful, totally unnecessary, 150-year detour. Don’t let them say more research will figure it out. They cannot be trusted any more. Don’t let them say this is just how science works. Science is supposed to be a search for the truth. Don’t let them say this was just an academic correction. It seduced the minds of millions of school children. It destroyed people’s faith. It was all lies, lies, lies! Citizens who love science should get really angry right about now.
Channel that righteous anger into constructive action – like cleaning house at the Science Academy. One effective method is to cut off the flow of money for evolutionary research and other oxymorons.