CHAPTER 3: NEANDERTHALS AND INDEPENDENT ORIGINS (Refuting the critics)
Featured in: Special Creation (Upcoming book)
Modern scientific data tells us in every way that Neanderthals are fully human. If you go back a 100 years ago, it was asserted that Neanderthals were some half ape/half man brutish type creature. Now we know they were highly intelligent and very sophisticated. They were highly inventive with a diverse diet. One thing particularly important to note is they ate tuna fish. Tuna fish is an open water fish. We know that Neanderthals had boats. Neanderthals have evidence of purposeful navigation. The question is: what animal other than humans make boats and navigate the open seas? This requires high levels of intelligence. They even got to some of the islands in the Mediterranean that were never connected to the mainland. They were even into cosmetics. Neanderthals also painted in caves, made musical instruments, had the capabilities to control fire, they performed ceremonial burials where they pointed the head toward the rising sun (indicating spirituality), they hunted the landscape for odd minerals, where they would grind them up and use them for makeup, cosmetics. Amazingly, Neanderthals have the same FOXP2 gene that gives modern humans the ability to speak. The list goes on and on. They were human beings made in the image of God—and worst of all for the proponents of ape-to-man evolution—we have their genes! We interbred with them. None of this data was predicted by the evolutionary community. They have been forced to retrofit the data into their evolutionary story—which is very typical of the defenders of evolution who will never question the bigger picture of universal common ancestry. On pages 69-71 in my book “The First Couple: Adam and Eve – Refuting the Critics”, I give a brief overview of Neanderthals.
“I have claimed numerous times that the homo variant Neanderthal is more consistent with a creation model than an evolutionary model. I am briefly going to cover the Neanderthal including its history. Bones of Neanderthal were first discovered in the Neander Valley located in Germany in 1856. This is where we get the name Neanderthal. Nearly 500 Neanderthal skeletons have been found. Debates rage to this day between paleo-experts on whether Neanderthal should be classified as homo sapiens or a separate species altogether. This is an aspect of what I will be covering in this portion of the chapter. Upon their first discovery, Neanderthals were depicted as inhuman and brutish cavemen, when in fact we now know that Neanderthals were quite advanced, and no less human than anybody here today. According to the story of human evolution, Homo Neanderthalensis is our closest ancestor on the human family tree. They are said to have survived a cold glacial ecosystem. Experts in human evolution have suggested that these cold and harsh environments would have influenced the Neanderthals physique. Their bodies were relatively short. They are described as being incredibly robust and well adapted to various environmental conditions. They are also described with broad chests, bulky torsos, and muscular limbs. The adaptations seen in Neanderthals helped to generate and retain body heat. Neanderthals had large noses and strong brow ridges. They also had large brains similar in size to modern humans. Archeological evidence suggests that Neanderthals had a relatively sophisticated culture. This of course speaks to intelligence. They also lived alongside anatomically modern humans and were even inter-fertile and interbred. We see Neanderthal genes in modern populations. It is 100% clear that Neanderthals were fully human and a lot like modern humans. The evidence for gene flow between Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals is compelling. “Lumpers” have argued that Neanderthals should be classified as Homo Sapiens or Homo Sapiens sub-species neanderthalensis, but NOT a separate species. We find the classic Neanderthal characteristics and features in living people today. For example, if the skullcap of the Russian boxer named Nikolai Valuev were discovered as an isolated bone, it is almost certain that a “splitter” would identify him as a separate species when in fact that would be totally wrong. There have been bone pits discovered that show incredible human variation in skulls. This includes numerous features associated with Homo Sapiens, Erectus, Heidelbergensis and Neanderthals. Many paleo-experts have suggested that these are not all separate species but represent the same interbreeding species.”
In addition to the above inconsistencies with the evolutionary story and Neanderthals, Dr. John Sanford and Dr. Robert Carter point out another important problem with the evolutionary story and the apparent genetic reshaping that occurred in Neanderthals. This is found in their article “In Light of Genetics… Adam, Eve, and the Creation/Fall”.
“When the Neanderthal genome was sequenced, the African Bottleneck hypothesis became even more problematic. The evidence is clear: Neanderthal was fully human and inter-mated with Europeans and other people groups. 52 This contradicts the evolutionary near-extinction hypothesis. According to the evolutionary timeline, Neanderthal split away from the main human population about 400,000 years ago, but was somehow not part of the African near-extinction event. Neanderthal then reunited with the emerging human population, which was only recently coming out of Africa. If Homo sapiens went through a radical genetic reshaping in Africa, how could it remain inter-fertile with Neanderthal? And if Neanderthal, the Denisovans, and Homo erectus were outside the genetic bottleneck, then how can it be said that there was a real bottleneck?” Source: Sanford, J.C., and R. Carter. 2014. In light of genetics…Adam, Eve, and the creation/fall. Christian Apologetics Journal 12, no. 2:51–72. This article can also be found at: https://www.logosra.org/adam--eve
The evidence is absolutely overwhelming that Neanderthals were simply a variant of humans—they were a side branch on the human family tree. This is of course consistent with the biblical creation model of ancestry. In the same article—we read that Neanderthals and the other human variants are most consistent with the immediate post-flood world and the Babel event:
“We presume Neanderthal and other mutant forms of the modern human family (Denisovans?) either split away from the Tower of Babel community early (before the Babel dispersion) or were simply the first tribes to arrive in Eurasia after the Babel event. The extreme genetic uniformity of the Neanderthals55 is inconsistent with Neanderthal being an extremely ancient and widely dispersed people group. But such genetic uniformity is consist with Neanderthals being the result of an extreme founder event, with a tiny group of genetically deviant people splitting away from the rest of humanity not long before the diaspora out of the Middle East. This group could have been as small as an outcast brother and sister, who were forced into hunting and gathering, with their offspring scattering and colonizing Eurasia before the main Babel dispersion.”
Aside from all the amazing evidence confirming the humanity of Neanderthals, there have been a few arguments made by the critics of biblical creation that assert Neanderthals cannot be descended from Adam and Eve. The main argument from the critics goes like this: Neanderthals exhibit a different set of biodiversity compared to homo sapiens—and when we characterize and quantify those differences, we get Neanderthals as a sister group. This would of course be contrary to the biblical creation model of ancestry that places Neanderthals as the same species as homo sapiens. To represent the argument as accurately as possible—the argument insists that it is not about the quantity of differences (Neanderthals and homo sapiens are 99.7% similar), but the specific differences. We can look at specific genetic markers found in Neanderthals that are not found in any homo sapiens. We can also look at genetic markers that are in homo sapiens and are not found in Neanderthals. To the proponents of ape-to-man evolution, this would indicate that Neanderthals and homo sapiens belong to separate clades that share a common ancestor. Apologists of evolution are strongly relying on their argument that proclaims Neanderthals are so different that they do not cluster with homo sapiens when it comes to phylogenetic systematics.
What is the best way to refute these claims? There are several ways to answer these arguments. First, according to both scientific data and theological reasons, Neanderthals would signify an early branch of man—And so obviously, we would expect ancient man to be a lot different than modern man. This should be clear. We must remember that modern humans descend from only a small subset of the post-flood population. The so-called pre-humans, such as Neanderthals, denisovans, hobbits, naledi, heidelbergensis (possibly early neanderthal—the less inbred version), luzonensis, were all quite different in their own ways to modern humans. We can even look at ancient and modern hunter gatherers whose genomes are much different—and even more diverse in some ways. There have been a lot of genes lost over time. In short—Neanderthals are more different because they were earlier—plain and simple. These side branches on the human family tree experienced a different history, different environmental conditions, and different mutation events. This is why they were different. Should we expect it any other way? Dr. Robert Carter explains it perfectly in his article “Taking a crack at the Neandertal mitochondrial genome”. He states:
“In our model, the early post-Flood human population of about 1,000-10,000 people was split apart at Babel. Different groups went different directions on the globe and each saw different environmental pressures, experienced different demographic pressures, and were subject to different mutational events. Neandertals are one of those groups. They are different because they had a different history. We do not yet know much about that history, but we are learning more with time.” See: Carter, R., Taking a crack at the Neandertal mitochondrial genome, 16 September 2009 https://creation.com/taking-a-crack-at-the-neandertal-mitochondrial-genome
Neanderthals were literally the most inbred population we have ever seen. From Spain to Siberia with thousands of miles in extent, we are looking at a shocking amount of inbreeding. They were unbelievably inbred. All we must do is look at their runs of homozygosity. They have extremely high levels of homozygosity. We find these massive stretches of identical letters in their genomes and this indicates there was a ton of inbreeding that was population wide. It is important to note that Neanderthals have changed much over time. The classic Neanderthals we think of were highly inbred and on the verge of extinction. We know they were extremely admirably adapted to their cold environmental conditions. They lived during the post-flood Ice Age where environmental conditions were rather harsh. Early Neanderthals would have looked a lot more like modern humans. In other words—when we look at the end stage of Neanderthals, we are looking at a sub-population of humans that are extremely inbred who have accumulated massive numbers of mutations and are on their way to extinction.
Why are Neanderthals so different from modern humans? Being an early branch of man, Neanderthals would have started off different since early man would have been more diverse. The empirical evidence suggests that they picked up a ton of mutations over time for a large number of plausible and empirical reasons that we have discussed and will further discuss. They were also probably founded by an early patriarch in his old age (man would have lived longer in the pre-flood world and the immediate post-flood world), which would mean that Neanderthals would have started off with a gigantic number of new mutations and already possessed a different set of biodiversity. There is a concept called Patriarchal Drive that is very important to understand in order to fully grasp why Neanderthals are so different. What happens when incredibly old people have children? What are the effects of biblical patriarchs having children at very old ages in the post-flood population that would have been small? We accumulate more and more mutations throughout our lifetimes meaning the older the father is—the more mutations he will pass on theoretically. This is also a major problem for phylogenetic trees. When we look at family trees of people around the globe—these trees have a certain number of mutations that we can count. Now overall, whether you look at a human y chromosome tree or a mitochondrial DNA tree—we see very few mutations overall. This shows us that we all descend from a recent Y chromosome ancestor and a recent mitochondrial DNA ancestor. In addition to this, the pattern is exactly what we would expect as a biblical creationist. But when it comes to the branches, it is important to note that the evolutionists assume this is all based on the length of time that they’ve occurred—but if Patriarchal Drive is true, and very old people were having children, the length of branches is not dependent on the amount of time—Its dependent upon the age of the parents. I also want to point out that when you root these trees on the evolutionary assumption you do not necessarily have the same number of mutations along the resulting branches. This once again breaks the assumption of a molecular clock—the basis of where they place the root. Dr. Robert Carter discusses Patriarchal Drive in amazing detail in his article titled “Patriarchal drive in the early post-Flood population”.
“Carter, Lee, and Sanford14 introduced the term ‘patriarchal drive’ in their study of modern human Y chromosomes and mitochondrial DNA. This is defined as the genetic effects of long-lived people in a small population who become parents at great ages. But what effect might they have? That would depend on the immediate post-Flood mutation rate and how it scales with the father’s age, the rate of early population growth, and how evenly distributed the children were within the population. In other words, if a ruling class developed early, they could easily have suppressed reproductive output among the lower classes. We see evidence for this even late in history. For example, about one in five men from Northern Ireland (including this author) share a Y chromosome lineage that is associated with the Uí Néill clan, which may or may not trace their ancestry to a 6th century Irish chieftain named Niall of the Nine Hostages.19 Another example is that of Genghis Khan, who lived in the 13th century but is ancestor of perhaps 0.5% of the modern world population.20 Over time, even a slightly favourable reproductive advantage among one group would have been profound, effectively reducing the male population size to much less than the real size. In fact, it might be assumed that the longest-lived men in the population, those with the fewest number of generations from Noah, would more often become princes and rulers, and thus have an advantage over the majority of other males.”
Dr. Robert Carter continues:
“We also know that there are statistically significant differences in branch lengths among multiple Y chromosome groups that had a clear common ancestor.14 Thus, throughout human history the ‘molecular clock’ has not ticked at the same rate across time and geography. How much of the discrepancy could be due to paternal drive? Some, but certainly not all. Figure 1 shows multiple individuals that have longer branch lengths (i.e. more mutations) than closely related contemporaries (going counterclockwise, examples can be seen in groups C, G, I, O, T, M, and K). These differences have arisen in recent history, well after the Patriarchs were deceased. And yet, the results of the current study predict that long branches can form quickly and early. Putting these two things together tells us that the molecular clock simply cannot be trusted.
But there are numerous unknowns in this discussion. In fact, we know nothing about most of the important variables. Thus, we need a flexible model if we are going to test the effects of patriarchal drive in the early post-Flood world. Yet, several biblical population models have already been developed.21-23 These have been shown to be both useful and realistic. The only thing required would be to add a model of mutation accumulation and track the ancestry of each individual. There is no need to force the model to generate evidence of patriarchal drive. If the effect is real, it should appear naturally, once the proper factors are being measured, within the models already in existence.” Source: Carter, R., Patriarchal drive in the early post-Flood population, Journal of Creation 33(1):110-118, April 2019. https://creation.com/patriarchal-drive
Dr. Robert W Carter has pointed out in “The Neandertal mitochondrial genome does not support evolution” found in the Journal of Creation 23(1) 2009 that the DNA data, if reliable, is perfectly consistent with post-flood inbreeding and isolation. Dr. Robert W Carter points out that what we are looking at is probably mutation accumulation in small population sizes that sometimes results in extinction. He states:
“But small populations are also at risk due to the high rate of mutation accumulation,7 which eventually leads to extinction due to ‘error catastrophe’. The accumulation of non-synonymous mutations in important genes is evidence for a high mutation rate acting on a small population under threat of extinction. It could also indicate the presence of post-mortem DNA degeneration that their techniques could not discern. If the results are valid, the accumulation of deleterious mutations might help to explain the disappearance of the Neandertals.” Please see: Carter, R., The Neandertal mitochondrial genome does not support evolution, Journal of Creation 23(1):40–43, 2009. This can also be found in my book “The First Couple: Adam and Eve – Refuting the Critics”.
In the same article “Taking a crack at the Neandertal mitochondrial genome”, Dr. Robert Carter provides more reasons as to why Neanderthals diverged from modern homo sapiens:
“Genetic drift occurs more rapidly in small populations. According to standard population genetics theory, the likelihood of any new mutation displacing all other alleles within the population is directly proportional to the size of the population. That is, in a population of 1000 individuals, a new mutation has a chance of 1/1000 of becoming “fixed”. If the Neandertal population was small or was restricted to a small size for a number of generations (as Green et al.1 hypothesize), genetic drift could have occurred rapidly.
Small populations are also at a greater risk of extinction due to the high rate of mutation accumulation,11 which eventually leads to extinction due to “error catastrophe”. This Neandertal sequence has many deleterious mutations, several of those in one particular gene.1 Why is this so? Should not natural selection have weeded out these negative mutations? Instead, they accumulated. The authors of the paper said that “purifying selection” had broken down. This is evidence for a high mutation rate acting on a small population.” See: Carter, R., Taking a crack at the Neandertal mitochondrial genome, 16 September 2009 https://creation.com/taking-a-crack-at-the-neandertal-mitochondrial-genome
On pages 79-81 in my book “The First Couple: Adam and Eve – Refuting the Critics”, I referenced Dr. Robert Carter’s must-read articles on Neanderthals as it pertains to hyper-mutation and the damaging of important DNA repair enzymes:
“In the same article, Dr. Robert Carter gives us a plausible reason as to why the Neanderthals were hyper-mutating:
“Bruce Ames, a member of the prestigious US National Academy of Science, has suggested that genetic damage can be directly linked to poor nutrition.12 According to the theory, when under starvation conditions, the body has to decide which systems to keep working and which to shut down. This genetic “triage” mechanism would keep an organism alive, but at the expense of less-than-critical cellular operations, like DNA repair.
It has been suggested by several creationists that the Neandertal population lived in Europe under less-than-ideal conditions and was subjected to nutrient limitations, specifically vitamin D deficiency due to the perpetually cloudy weather during the post-Flood Ice Age (see The Caring Neandertal and Bones Overthrown). Couple a harsh environment and poor nutrition to a small inbreeding population and you have an instant recipe for the rapid accumulation of mutations.”
If there is a problem with the DNA repair enzyme, a person is going to accumulate more mutations throughout their lifetime. We know people like this exist. If we have two separate populations with one population having a defect in their DNA repair mechanisms, the two populations would diverge and grow further and further apart genetically. We know that DNA naturally breaks and is repaired everyday based on the DNA repair mechanisms that exist on our bodies. DNA mutation is oftentimes very much dependent upon the environment. Mutation often has an environmental cause. Imagine a population undergoing starvation and even inbreeding. Under these various types of negative conditions, the body, and ultimately, the population, would be undergoing long-term stress. DNA repair is not necessary for survival. Under starvation conditions, basic metabolism would be of utmost concern to the body. If our bodies were undergoing long-term stress for several reasons (starvation, inbreeding, etc.), portions of our bodies shutdown with one of those parts being DNA repair. Under stressful conditions, the body needs to survive until tomorrow and is not entirely focused on getting cancer 30 years down the road. A body under these types of stress results in more mutation accumulation. Defective DNA mechanisms means more mutations accumulated. A body will shut things down that are non-essential. As a matter of fact, one of the harshest environments on earth today is Africa. Africa is a major population that spans the equator. The same reasons why Neanderthals were hyper-mutating could also be the reasons behind why Africans are so genetically diverse as compared to the rest of the world.
This time in his article “The Neandertal mitochondrial genome does not support evolution,” Dr. Robert Carter provides undeniable reasons why Neanderthals really are just a human variant and not a separate species:
“It is entirely possible that Neandertals accumulated mutations very rapidly in the years after the Flood. Based on this single sample, Neandertals have many mutations not seen in any modern human. Even so, this Neandertal sequence is closer to modern humans than many living chimps are to one another! Diversity within living chimpanzees is three- to four-fold higher than within the modern human population,11,12 even though chimpanzees are descended from a single pre-Flood pair and thus should have less genetic diversity than humans. This is evidence for a chimpanzee genome in rapid decline and might indicate some degree of entropy was acting on the Neandertal genome.”
We should be able to see by now that the unique genetic markers seen in Neanderthals is not a valid reason to conclude they are another species. The fact that some living chimpanzees are more different genetically to each other than Neanderthals are to modern humans should be a strong indication that Neanderthals are indeed a variant of homo sapiens. The critics assert loudly and confidently that Neanderthals cannot be descended from Adam and Eve for no good scientific reason other than they have a bias towards human evolution being true.”
In the same article cited elsewhere in this chapter, Dr. Robert Carter gives the perfect recipe for why people groups such as Neanderthals fall where they do on a phylogenetic tree:
“In the end, we expect a chaotic early history of man. That is, even if the events are fixed in history, it will be very difficult to predict the exact pattern that should result from the starting conditions. The combination of rapid early population growth, patriarchal drive, fragmentation of the population after Babel with the subsequent long-term isolation of some groups and extreme inbreeding in some, population surges and collapses, and selective sweeps (either naturally or through war and conquest) creates a recipe for exactly the type of tree we see, even if the specific tree cannot be predicted. In figure 1 there are deep branches that separate all major lineages, yet there are only a handful of these lineages. The paucity of major lineages indicates that we came from a small population that expanded rapidly. The distance between the lineages suggests patriarchal drive was in effect during the early years of that expansion. How much of an effect this had depends on many factors that have yet to be fleshed out, but patriarchal drive should be considered an important part of the discussion.” Source: Carter, R., Patriarchal drive in the early post-Flood population, Journal of Creation 33(1):110-118, April 2019. https://creation.com/patriarchal-drive
The final objection we need to address before we conclude this chapter on Neanderthals is the argument that suggests hyper-mutation and inbreeding are contradictory. I actually address this in extraordinary detail in my book just referenced above “The First Couple: Adam and Eve – Refuting the Critics”. This can be found on pages 81- 83.
“One final objection we need to address before we end our section on Neanderthals is the claim that hyper-mutation would increase genetic diversity and therefore is inconsistent with the empirical evidence suggesting Neanderthals were highly inbred. Once again, this challenge is not really a challenge at all. This argument simply reflects just how biased these critics of biblical creation really are. They are so desperate to refute the separate ancestry model and hold onto the ape-to-man story that they will resort to incredibly feeble arguments that do not even reflect good science. We know from all the evidence cited thus far in this book that Neanderthals were inbred and were hyper-mutating. What DNA compartment would be influenced the most by hyper-mutation? Of course, the answer to this question would be the uniparentally-inherited DNA. This is the non-recombining DNA. Hyper-mutation would have the largest effect on mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosomal DNA. These would be our uni parentally-inherited DNA compartments. When it comes to bi-parentally-inherited DNA, the increase due to hyper-mutation would be virtually undetectable. There are a couple reasons for this. For one, created heterozygosity would apply. As biblical creationists, we do not assume that the vast majority of nuclear DNA differences was the result of mutations over time. We invoke created nuclear heterozygosity. Therefore, the nuclear DNA of the Neanderthals would have had millions of created DNA differences. I hope you can now see why the bi-parentally-inherited DNA (nuclear DNA) would be far less noticeable in terms of hyper-mutation. How large is the mitochondrial DNA compartment? The mitochondrial genome consists of only 16,569 base pairs as compared to the nuclear genome, which consists of over 3 billion base pairs of DNA. I do not want anybody to misunderstand what I am saying. I am stating that the entire genome would be experiencing hyper-mutation. All I am declaring is that due to the incredible size difference between the nuclear genome and the mitochondrial genome, the corresponding increase due to hyper-mutation would be practically invisible to detection. We know the nuclear genome has high levels of homozygosity in the Neanderthals. They were highly inbred, which reduced levels of heterozygosity. This inbreeding would have impacted the nuclear genome the most. Inbreeding and the resulting increased levels of homozygosity would have the biggest impact on the nuclear DNA. Therefore, it is entirely plausible to have bi-parentally-inherited DNA (nuclear DNA) be less diverse than modern humans, and uni parentally-inherited DNA be more diverse.”
I want to end this chapter by stating the obvious—the fact that the genetic evidence tells us that Neanderthals interbred with the direct ancestors of modern people, and when we look at the biological species concept, then we are by definition the same species. It appears that people outside of Africa carry 3-4% Neanderthal DNA. We have a great deal of Neanderthal genetics. Most of this DNA data comes from their mitochondrial DNA. Mitochondrial DNA is an exceedingly small loop of approximately 16000 base pairs that exists outside of the cell’s nucleus. We also know that mitochondrial DNA is inherited exclusively from our mothers. This is uni-parentally inherited DNA. The mitochondria from the egg remains with you while the mitochondria in the sperm are ejected at the time that eggs are fertilized. The Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA is quite different from modern humans today. We have looked at 100s of thousands of human mitochondrial DNA from today and none are quite like Neanderthals. The reasons for this have been dealt with throughout this chapter on Neanderthals. I do also want to point out that it was a major surprise that based on the nuclear genome of Neanderthals, humans from around the world have up to 2-3% neanderthal DNA outside of Africa now. These Neanderthals, these ancient people, still persist with us today in our genomes. This is rather fascinating. Many people reading this would be surprised to know that 2 to 3% of their genetics come from Neanderthals. Outside of Africa, over 6 billion people are over 2% Neanderthal. This was not predicted nor expected as I have stated elsewhere in this chapter. It is in our DNA that the question of ancestry is ultimately answered. It's our DNA that is inherited sperm and egg—this is the most direct way of determining ancestry and determining whether independent origins or universal common ancestry is true. The data has been presented clearly—Neanderthals were fully human and made in the image of God.
Robert W. Carter, “Neandertal genome like ours (There may be Neandertals at your next family reunion!)” Creation Ministries (June 1, 2010),
Carter, R., The Neandertal mitochondrial genome does not support evolution, Journal of Creation 23(1):40–43,
Carter, R., Taking a crack at the Neandertal mitochondrial genome, 16
Carter, R., Patriarchal drive in the early post-Flood population, Journal of Creation 33(1):110-118, April 2019. https://creation.com/patriarchal-drive
Carter, R.W., Lee, S.S., and Sanford, J.C., An overview of the independent histories of the human Y chromosome and the human mitochondrial chromosome; in: Whitmore, J.H. (Ed.), Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Creationism, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, PA, pp. 133–151, 2018; creationicc.org/abstract.php?pk=364