Is the Label "Neanderthal" Justifiable These Days?
They were our physical and intellectual equals. What’s the difference? The label “Neanderthal” becomes a kind of historical racism against a group of true human beings.
Science news reports are agreeing that “Neanderthals were not inferior to modern humans” (Science Daily), or “Neanderthals may have been our intellectual equals” (New Scientist). The “cuddly Neanderthals” had good parenting skills (Live Science; see 4/29/14). We have some of their genes mixed in with ours. “The genomes of humans and Neanderthals differ little; the two groups have fewer than 100 proteins that differ in their amino acid sequence,” Nature says. Sure, they seemed to have a stockier build (but see 4/01/14, #5), and some lived in caves, but what’s the diff? They knew how to cook good stew in those caves, National Geographic says. They talked in languages “not dissimilar to the ones we use today,” Science Daily says, quoting an evolutionist who admits, “From this research, we can conclude that it’s likely that the origins of speech and language are far, far older than once thought” (see Footnote). When a press release from Wageningen University argues that “DNA-research confirms recent interaction between Neanderthals and humans,” one wonders why the headlines differentiate them from “humans.” Isn’t the ability to interbreed and bear fertile offspring the hallmark of species membership?
It’s even possible the Neanderthals were the intellectual leaders, not the followers. New Scientist states,
Enough of the cheap jibes: Neanderthals may have been just as clever as modern humans. Anthropologists have already demolished the idea that Neanderthals were dumb brutes, and now a review of the archaeological record suggests they were our equals.
Neanderthals were one of the most successful of all hominin species, occupying much of Europe and Asia. Their final demise about 40,000 years ago, shortly after Homo sapiens walked into their territory, is often put down to the superiority of our species.
It’s time to lay that idea to rest, say Paola Villa at the University of Colorado in Boulder and Wil Roebroeks at Leiden University in the Netherlands….
Evidence has even emerged that Homo sapiens may have learned some skills by copying Neanderthals. Yet despite all of this evidence, the idea that Neanderthals were our inferiors still persists.
It doesn’t help matters for author Colin Barras to call them a “hominin species” outside of “Homo sapiens” (man the wise), even though he admits they were “just as smart as you.” Why even keep the distinction? We don’t do that with any living hunter-gatherer ethnic groups. No one would dare call an extant tribe a “hominin species,” even if they use their brains for hunting instead of writing.
Some, however, want to keep the gap from closing. Another National Geographic headline claims, “Gap between humans and Neanderthals and us narrows, but does not close.” The basis for this assertion is merely the current shifting opinion of Chris Stringer (Natural History Museum, London), who is interviewed in the article. He’s already lost credibility by his admission that he goofed. “Twenty years ago I would have said the interbreeding between us and them was insignificant,” he says. “That was certainly wrong.” He also admits that he has had to modify his view that there were major behavioral gaps between the groups.
But despite his past mistakes, Stringer is still trying to keep that gap open. He is claiming that Neanderthals were replaced by modern humans, rather than assimilating into them. How? Maybe “modern humans” invented sewing needles that enabled them to make better clothes. Maybe they had brains better capable of producing representational art (even though Neanderthal brain capacity was comparable to, if not larger than, modern man’s). Maybe the moderns had better musical instruments. Maybe they were better prepared for climate change. The interviewer gets the point; “So it wasn’t that the Neanderthals and Denisovans were cognitively disadvantaged. They just had a harder row to hoe.” Stringer doesn’t disagree with that. He suggests that their tribes had less genetic diversity (despite success for 300,000 years), and their populations just collapsed. Even so, it wouldn’t mean they were non-human.
It’s apparent that Chris Stringer, who has studied Neanderthals most of his life, is scrambling to support his view that Neanderthals were “different” from Homo sapiens. Even though he admits that “Neanderthals” possessed that uniquely human ability of language, he tries to assert that they were dumber than us. Notice the complete lack of evidence for his speculations about something he could not possibly know:
But I’m not sure. I’m sure they had speech and language, but I’m guessing it was much more a language for the here and now, a more practical language for survival. I doubt they would have expressed complicated things like, “Well, what if I did this differently, what then would happen?” The kind of hypothetical reasoning that leads to modern inventions. Maybe Neanderthals didn’t have so much of that.
Asked what is responsible for the “unending fascination” with Neanderthals, he responds, “It’s this whole question of having a population of humans that are in some ways like us, and yet so different—and the fact that they died out and we’re still here.”
But that’s the very question: why does he still think they were different? New Scientist confesses that a persistent bias influences the story of Neanderthal Man:
Archaeologists are reluctant to accept evidence of advanced behaviour if it is attributed to extinct hominins, says Roebroeks. This prevailing attitude influences our ideas about the causes of the Neanderthal extinction.
How long will it take to change the perception to the reality: they were “just as smart as you” – “our equals.”
Footnote: “than thought” by evolutionists, that is; creationists believe man was speaking on Day 6 of creation, endowed with speech as part of the image of God.
Suppose one country wiped out a tribe that didn’t look exactly like them (such events are not exactly rare in history). Suppose that instead of facing their guilt, they covered their shame by saying the tribe “went extinct.” Suppose the perpetrators pretended to be scientists. Suppose they published papers for decades looking for evolutionary reasons why their victims, who had lived successfully on their land just fine for centuries, just didn’t have the “fitness” to endure the modern world. Would this kind of historical revisionism be tolerated? For all we know, the celebrated “modern humans” were genocidal maniacs who wiped out the Neanderthals, playing flutes over their vanquished foes’ graves.
Chris Stringer is a self-admitted boob, wrong for 20 years about these people. Why is National Geographic giving him the time of day? Why are his fact-free speculations still getting good press before NG’s large readership? Why isn’t he out of a job? Anyone that wrong in any other line of work would get the boot and be forced to move on to something more productive, like trash pickup.
The Neanderthal myth has done so much damage, in fact, we should severely chastise those who have proclaimed it for over a century in support of Charlie D, and still won’t let go of it, despite all the recent evidence that supports finally allowing these “other” people full membership in the human race. Here’s just the way to do it: call the evolutionists a word that cannot be tolerated in the world today, the word that will send the media and all the PC attack dogs running for their blood. Call them racists.
Look at the way museums continue to portray “Neanderthals” with the Darwinian-Victorian bias of dumb expressions, stooped shoulders and full nudity. These are prejudicial acts, designed to make them look inferior. It’s an old Darwinian tradition. Remember the case of Oto Benga? (CMI). Remember the Herero genocide? (Wikipedia admits it was “Social Darwinist” in nature and had continuity with the Holocaust). Remember attempts to wipe out the Aborigines and Maoris as inferiors, less evolved than Europeans?
The label “Neanderthal” has lost all significance. We wouldn’t apply such a label to any living tribe that has particular physical or cultural characteristics. It’s time to pull the race card on anyone who uses that term from now on. Shout “Stop calling them the N-word! They were human beings!”