What about the Neanderthals?

I saw the program "Neanderthal" on the Discovery Channel last Sunday.  Did you see it and, if so, what did you think of it?  Did Neanderthals really exist and did they really look like that?

Whenever anyone asks me about Neandertals it makes me think of this great hymn found near the front in many hymnbooks:

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise him, for he is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, Now to his temple draw near;
Praise him in glad adoration.

When you go to church tomorrow, look up this song, "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty" in the hymnal and notice who wrote it: Joachim Neander, 1680.  It is a sad irony, but Neandertals get their name from the very place that this great hymn writer lived.  About ten miles east of Dusseldorf, Germany Joachim Neander, an evangelical Lutheran theologian and school rector, often walked through a beautiful valley through which the Dussel River flowed.  This valley became identified with him and later became known as the Neander Valley, or, "Neanderthal," since -thal means "valley" in Old German. 

So, to answer one of your questions, Neanderthals (or Neandertals now) did exist.  The first bones were discovered in this valley in 1856.  Today, over three hundred Neandertal-type individuals have been recovered, mostly in Europe.  Some of the characteristics found in these fossils are a large,  heavy browridge, a low forehead and a large cranial capacity.  To answer your first question, yes, I did see the Discovery Channel program.  But, whether the appearance of Neandertal was exactly as they showed, is beyond my expertise.  However, it seems unlikely that Neandertals had gray faces like they showed.

When those first bones were discovered they were brought to Rudolf Virchow, professor at the University of Berlin, and recognized as the father of pathology.  He concluded that they were modern Homo sapiens who suffered from rickets and arthritis.  Unfortunately, however, most of those coming after Virchow were not so honest or educated in their interpretations of these bones.  Influenced heavily by Darwinism, Neandertal bones were continually interpreted as an inferior race in the evolutionary scheme.  Eventually, however, evolutionists like Donald Johanson had to admit that Neandertal "wasn't qualitatively different from present-day Homo sapiens."

 Evidence such as wear patterns on Neandertal's tools indicate that they were people of great power and strength.  But this does not mean that they were primitive people.  Their hunting techniques were actually quite advanced.  As was correctly pointed out on the program, the discovery of a hyoid bone of a Neandertal gives "the morphological basis for human speech capability."  Of course, all these facts learned over the years about Neandertal were interpreted in the program from the evolutionary presupposition. 

Accepting such a presupposition is not necessary.  The creation model provides a much more reasonable answer to the question of who were the Neandertal people.  Any people (if you prefer to call them Homo sapiens), according to Genesis must be descendents of Adam and Eve.  Eve is called the "mother of all the living"  (Genesis 3:20).  The rickets found in the bones are a result of a lack of vitamin D.  This is reasonable in an environment after the Flood.  The weather patterns after the Flood were probably very violent for a while.  The idea of an ice age lasting a few hundred years is evident in the geologic record and very reasonable according to Biblical history.  People were probably forced into caves prohibiting them from obtaining the necessary vitamin D they needed from the sun.  Also, the dietary limitations of such an environment would have prevented good nutrition. 

The creation model would also predict the genetic variation that is seen in the structure of the Neandertal face and skeleton.  I heard the story that one person, thinking about the Neandertal problem, climbed on board a bus.  He looked up and saw a Neandertal staring him in the face.  These morphological features are not uncommon in some people today.  Thus, many geographical, environmental, pathological, cultural, genetic and dietary conditions could have attributed to what is seen in the Neandertal skeletons.

On the other hand, much of what is known about these skeletons remains an enigma to evolutionists.  Where did Neandertal come from?  Evolutionists attempt to explain him with such mechanisms as the founder principle, geographic isolation and genetic recombination.  Marvin Lubenow in his book "Bones of Contention" says, "While these are legitimate processes, they are not evolutionary processes.  They do not create unique new genetic information."  New genetic information is necessary for someone like Neandertal to have evolved.  Evolution provides no mechanism for which this new information could ever evolve.

However, despite these serious problems Neandertal remains an icon of human evolution as this Discovery Channel program showed.  Sadly, a man who glorified God with such strong worshipful songs like Joachim Neander has his name attached.  

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ŠTom Carpenter
Originally published in the Rockdale/Newton Citizen