What is the Christian Worldview’s answer to Neanderthals? I have an 8th grade student who ask this question. Thanks
Well, it is a very hard question and I think that a straight forward yes or no answer is not so appropriated, this is a complex subject. But, since your student is asking and it is very probable that a technical answer will just confuse him, I think the answer would be no. Humans are different from neanderthals, we do not share a lot of anthropomorphic characteristics and also we differ in DNA structure. In fact, there is more relationship of DNA structure between certain races of neanderthals than between humans and neanderthals. Let´s say, roughly speaking, that we are a unique species.
I think this blog in Dr.Hugh´s Ross web page can be very helpfull if you would like to do deeper into this topic.
Genesis states that God made mankind from the dust of the earth, in His image; complete with morality, free will, and morally responsible for their decisions before God. This short video might be helpful to review from John Lennox, one of my favourite speakers and authors.
It is interesting that Neanderthals not only buried their dead but also buried them with items of significance .
To me They definitely had a concept of things spiritual.
Most amazing to me is the fact that it is now known through DNA that " modern humans " and Neanderthals interbred .
They had to have had some form of common communication in my mind .
You say your 8th grader had a " question " ?
I think the unpacking of the Neanderthal issue gives rise to at least half a dozen important questions.
God Bless+ Mike
For an alternative, check this video.
I’m not sure I buy everything they’re selling. I’ll wait for their book to come out before I make that decision. but if your student is looking for a possible synthesis between a biblical view and a scientific view, I like the tree they’re barking up. It does require a non-literal reading of Genesis 1 through 4. Instead, Craig champions a reading based on the literary style of Genesis rather than a strictly literal one.
It’s a great question for an age group like that to be asking though!
To echo @EvoFaith, Craig also puts forth another possible view in his Defenders class that I found very interesting. I’ll summarize the best I can here and put a link at the bottom.
Basically Craig puts the idea out there that ‘humankind’ in the Scriptures doesn’t only refer to HomoSapiens. He begins by asking the question, “What is a human?” He gives a list of characteristics that belong to humans that include biological traits, brain capacity, tool manipulation, artistic and symbolic abilities, the burial of the dead, and other societal norms. From here he asks where do we first see this in anthropological history? His answer is that these characteristics present themselves all the way back to HomoHeidelbergensis750,000 years ago.
Craig submits that it’s possible that Adam and Eve would fall under that classification. That would entail that humankind would start at HomoHeidelbergensisand include Neanderthals, Denisovans, and HomoSapiens.
While this view raises more questions for me and I’m not 100% sold on it, I do think it is a plausible answer given what modern science tells us.
At any rate, CLICK HERE to listen to the lectures he gives over this subject. You’ll want to select parts 13-18 at a minimum to hear the entire thought process so that you can weigh and evaluate for yourself.
(Lastly, sorry for no space after the word H o m o. RZIM Connect apparently doesn’t allow that word to be posted).
I have often heard it said that the people we thought of as neanderthalls were those who lived after the flood. Their bone structure and such were different and deformed because they didn’t have good nutrition, lived in caves, and then the ice age also messed things up, etc.
You’ll want to research this for yourself, but it could be an answer to your student’s question.
That is a pretty entertaining exchange. We had two other exchanges (one with RTB too) where we got into the question of Neanderthals. Perhaps someone else will find and post them. What I can say is that for every camp in origins is wrestling with what to do about Neanderthals.
Are they in the image of God? Some say yes, some say no.
Do they descend from Adam and Eve? Some say yes. Some say now.
As for what we are “selling,” WLC and I take different points of view, but we’ve also found common ground. My book is already out. His is under review right now. We are working on a joint book now, and one chapter is likely going to be focused on the question of Neanderthals.
First and foremost, Dr. Swamidass, thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my post. Since I posted this, I’ve listened to several more of your interviews on this topic, and I have to say that it’s a fascinating direction to take. While my own scientific training (MS in Evolutionary Sociobiology, ) only brushed up against your specialty, the direction you’ve taken it has really expanded the horizons of what I have been considering as I work through my own personal synthesis of my science and my faith.
I actually ordered your book from Amazon a few days ago, and it is second on my reading list after doctor Craig’s book on the atonement. I’m doing a personal deep dive on the meaning of identity, what parts of it we can shape and what parts of it we can’t, and the impacts and benefits that has on us in real life depending on where we found our identity. I’m also looking forward to some addition insight into the nuts and bolts of the ideas you’re offering in the video above.
The question of how we draw our genetic / genealogical identity back to Adam and Eve, is of course going to be an important factor in that research. I’m very much looking forward to it.
Finally, on a personal note, thanks for being such a fantastic advocate for Christian scientists. Sometimes it can be rather tough, given how many assumptions folks tend to make about both sides of that coin. And having folks like you out there who do such a great job representing people like us on the national stage makes it a little easier.
Here is another video I enjoyed with Sean McDowell (who supports intelligent design) interviewing Joshua Swamidass (a Christian who affirms evolution and runs Peaceful Science) and Fuz Rana (old earth creationist from Reasons to Believe). It was a great discussion with nice collegiality. I think that none of us will know the truth about the origins of man until we get to heaven, but its a fun and important topic to think about. I find comfort in seeing that there are different options for understanding how the Bible fits with science.
So to answer your question in the top post, @Deneen , is complicated: there are many different views on the Neanderthals which could fit into a Biblical worldview. Its not entirely clear what one right answer would be, yet.
Thanks for the kind words @EvoFaith.
You are right that I am advocating for Christian scientists, not any particular idea or even merely science or merely Christianity. It seems there is an important neglected role for us as scientists in the Church and Christians in science. I do hope my public work gives some shade to others.
I’ve seen some of your posts here too. You are doing a great job serving. Keep it up.
I’ll look for to hearing what you think of my book once you’ve read it. Find me at PS sometime too.