In the last decade, geneticists have learned how to decode DNA in ancient human remains. We can now begin to see human history in DNA. The media has saturated us with the theory that humans originated in Africa and migrated from there to the rest of the world. National Geographic was a major promoter of that theory, and it was based on the field work of a group of anthropologists like Louis Leakey who actively defended that view. Discussions about race have also been a part of this debate among scientists, and sometimes the exchanges have been less than cordial.
The most recent debate along these lines has come with the release of a book titled Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past by David Reich. Reich runs a lab at Harvard Medical School which has released a great deal of data in the past decade. In 2010 Reich’s lab informed us that all non-Africans have Neanderthal DNA in their genome. Reich maintains that race is a social construct and that differences in genetic makeup are geographically related.
The biblical description of human history is so brief that one should not look for conflicts with the biblical account. The Bible tells us that we are all related, and the fact that all races are fertile with one another supports that. The Bible does not tell us when Adam and Eve lived or how much time elapsed as humans migrated throughout the world.
One of the oldest debates among scientists is what it takes for an individual to be called “human.” The problem is that each discipline has its own criteria for being human.
A physical anthropologist would likely base his definition on the size of the brain, the shape of the mandible, or the position of the foramen magnum–the opening into the brain through which the spinal column passes. A cultural anthropologist might use community structure or communication techniques. In each discipline, the criteria correspond to the tools that discipline uses in its study. All of them are useful, but none present the full picture.
The biblical definition of being human is that being uniquely created in the image of God–that being possessing a soul. Physical appearance and physical characteristics are not part of the biblical definition. The indicator of being created in the image of God is how those spiritual characteristics are expressed. Worship, artistic creation, the use of symbolism, musical creation, and the ability to feel guilt and sympathy are leading indicators.
The media has portrayed the Neandertals as prehumans. Because they were bulky and jut-jawed they seem to fit the picture of prehuman cavemen. Movies have portrayed them as brutes lacking human characteristics. We have maintained for many years that the Neandertals were a race of humans. Recent genetic studies have shown Neandertal genes in the modern human population.
Recently researchers found artwork in three Spanish caves that are attributed to the Neandertals because they predate the time when other races of humans, such as Cromagnons, came to the area. Dr. Francesco d’Errico who has been studying the evidence for Neandertal artwork in the caves says, “Neandertals took modern humans into caves and showed them how to paint.”
There has been a lot of confusion about the Neanderthals in both religious publications and scientific writings. Scientists have reported that there are Neanderthal genes in modern humans.
Many have treated the Neanderthals as ape-men, and there have been multiple theories about how they originated.
Religious publications have speculated about Neanderthal influence on biblical characters. Those who wish to find “giants” in biblical accounts have claimed that the Neanderthals were giants, and at least one set of fake pictures of huge skulls has circulated on the internet attempting to back that up.
Researchers in Germany have just reported on DNA studies of the Neanderthal genes in modern humans. They found 15 Neanderthal DNA traits in modern humans. What is interesting is that these 15 traits show up in people of British ancestry, but people of pure African descent have no Neanderthal DNA. This will certainly complicate some of the “out of Africa” theories about the origin of humans.
There is a tendency for the media to be “splitters” instead of “lumpers” when it comes to human history. Splitters are people, in and out of the academic community, who want to put a new label on everything they find in the fossil record. Every new find is given a new name and assumed to be a new species. The result is that people believe there have been many species of humans. In the past, splitters justified slavery by maintaining that some races were actually inferior species and could be used by more fit (more advanced) species of humans. Lumpers are those who maintain that all of the variations are simply racial variations and that there is only one human species.
The Bible is clear that God looks at all humans as having equal value (Galatians 3:28). The advent of Christianity ended the barriers between humans even though greed and selfishness continue to plague the planet. The splitter mentality attempts to classify the Neanderthals as a different species of humans, even though evidence suggests this is not scientifically correct. Scientists studying the human genome have found genes in all of us that seem to be related to the Neanderthals. On April 27, 2017, the journal Nature published a report of a study of some mastodon bones found in the San Diego are two decades ago. The conclusion of a team of scientists was that marks on the bones indicate they were split open to get at the marrow. They suggest that the bone fractures and potential hammer stones found with them were the work of possible Neanderthals. Previous archaeological studies suggest that humans arrived in the Americas some 15,000 years ago. Dating of the mastodon bones is close to 130,000 years ago. Many other scientists question this new report.