Friday, May 1, 2009
The Neanderthals Are Dead
The Neanderthal is dead. Yes, contrary to popular belief, these species are dead and they’re not coming back. How do we know? I’ll get to that in a minute, but first let me tell you how scientists came to this conclusion.
You may have first heard of Dr. Spencer Wells when he used DNA samples to show that the first man came from Africa about 60,000 years ago. He used a marker in the Y chromosome that remains unchanged from father to son. For more information, follow the link to the rediff.com website, or the Princeton interview of Dr. Well’s book, The Journey of Man.
In a scientific movement started by Dr. Spencer Wells, National Geographic has taken on this new line of thinking with the name: The Genographic Project. This project has taken scientific data from many different disciplines including archeology, anthropology, climatology, and genetics to name a few.
The goal of the Genographic Project is to take data from these and other disciplines and put it together to form a bigger picture of the human journey on Earth. For example, the migration of humans from Africa took place somewhere around 50 to 60 thousand years ago. Dr. Wells’ researchers looked at how the continents were connected during this time period, then used this data in conjunction with the many DNA samples they have taken all over the world and matched everything together. What I like about this type of research is that Dr. Wells doesn’t work in a black box. He takes data from all different disciplines to come up with his theories. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? The different disciplines shouldn’t be independent of each other. In fact, they are interdependent of each other, which allows a thorough scientist to come to more complete conclusions about the history of mankind.
When the skeletons of Neanderthals were found, it was assumed that because of their skeletal similarities, they were our ancestors. However, recent Mitochondrial DNA has shown that they are “a distinct species and therefore an evolutionary dead end.” Neanderthals are not our ancestors, never have been.
In other words, scientists were wrong. Would the correct version of our hominoid history have happened if we had kept scientific disciplines separate, if we just looked at skeletons and make predictions within that small discipline? Probably not. We would most likely continue to grasp at theoretical straws and make wild guesses in a closed environment.
What’s most fascinating to me is that answers to human history exist in our DNA. Our Creator put these markers there for us to find, which reminds me that God always has a plan. He understands our need to know where we came from and where we are going.
But do we remember where we came from? Do we remember God? What would happen if we took all this scientific data and tried to match it with Biblical data? Though Dr. Wells states that Biblical people began much earlier, I wonder what would happen if we took Dr. Gerald Schroeder’s Hebrew understanding of the Bible and matched it with the Genographic Project. Hmmm…could be interesting!