Those who maintain that humans have been on Earth for less than 10,000 years face many evidence problems. This website has consistently pointed out that the Bible does not tell us when the first humans lived and how they looked.
The word “Adam” in Hebrew simply means “of the ground,” and Genesis tells us that God made Adam of “the dust (aphar) of the ground” (see Genesis 2:7 and 3:19). Genesis 1:29 and 2:9-16 tell us that the first humans began as vegetarians. The Bible does not tell us how long humans existed as “gatherers,” but Genesis 3:17-19 portrays humans becoming farmers securing food “by the sweat of your face.”
Some in the religious community view all of this as happening within the past 6,000 years. They may also view Adam as a white European with blue eyes and brown hair. Genesis 5:5 tells us that Adam lived for 930 years. If James 4:14 is correct, and human life “is a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away,” there is an obvious biblical disconnect. The truth is that the Bible does not tell us when the first humans lived and how they looked.
Discover magazine’s January/February 2022 issue has an article about what they call “2021’s hottest fossil.” Discovered in northeast China, this specimen was named “Homo longi.” Some scientists think it may be a Denisovan or a Neanderthal. Neanderthals, Denisovans, Homo sapiens, and possibly Homo longi all seem to have interbred and contributed DNA to you and me. They may have looked different from us, and their living styles were undoubtedly different. However, while they were primitive by modern standards, the discoveries show ornamental beads, primitive tools, and funerary ritual materials, indicating an awareness of the spiritual and a concept of life after death.
More to the point, the scientific evidence indicates that the first humans lived far more than 6,000 years ago and looked different from the average caucasian today. Many believers in God try to discredit the dating methods or deny the interpretation or even the existence of the fossils. That is becoming increasingly difficult as science gathers more evidence and improves dating and reconstruction techniques.
Our stereotypical views of when the first humans lived and how they looked are tainted by racism and tradition and don’t change the evidence. Adam lived long ago, was created in God’s image, began as a gatherer, and eventually became a farmer. We create conflict when we depict Adam living 6,000 years ago.
Bible skeptics claim that God did not uniquely create humans because scientists find human precursors in the fossil record. Instead, they say that Darwinian evolution can explain all human traits, and we are just more advanced animals.
The Bible defines humans in terms of spiritual characteristics, not physical attributes. Our capacity to create art and music, worship, show empathy, and display guilt indicates that we are unique. Our use of language and symbolism and our ability to be taught to think define humans from a biblical perspective. The critical factors are not brain size, the shape of the mandible, or standing erect.
Skeptics often use the fossil remains of Neanderthals to show that there are human precursors in the fossil record leading to human evolution. We have maintained that the properties of the Neanderthals are racial variations and not a different species from humans. Paleontologists have found Neanderthal fossils buried with religious artifacts. Scientists recently used computerized tomography (CT) scans to study Neanderthal specimens. Their findings suggest that the hearing and speaking organs of Neanderthals should give them language and communication abilities “…as efficient and complex as modern human speech,”
The descendants of Adam and Eve had the genetic code to enable them to adapt to whatever climate and conditions they encountered. So, while the racial variations were striking, the fact is that they were clearly human.
“Systemic racism” is making the news in a wide variety of subject areas.Science News magazine carried an interesting discussion of how media presentations and museums have contributed to racial bias. When you look at a series of pictures dealing with apes and ancient humans, they are artist depictions with many details that could not possibly be determined from a few bones. Anthropologists cannot determine soft tissue like ears, noses, and lips or skin color of ancient humans by looking at some bones.
When I taught a class on anthropology, I found the portrayal of Neandertals interesting. The earliest images showed hunched-over creatures with matted hair walking with the gait of a very old man. The fact is that grooming is part of any primate’s behavior. Some scientists believe that the first fossil specimens had arthritic problems that contributed to how they appeared.
The Time-Life series that was popular several decades back contained numerous errors. One interesting fact was that early specimens were shown with dark skin and negroid soft tissue, while recent models had lighter skin and caucasian features. The article in Science News points out that the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History has a similar portrayal in which the skin color of ancient humans gives the impression that people with lighter skin are more evolved.
Many years ago, in a college lectureship, I confronted a professor who said that black people evolved from gorillas and white people were true humans who had not changed. I asked the audience to compare the properties of a gorilla with those of the races today. Here are some examples: Gorillas have straight hair, not curled hair. Which race has straight hair? Gorillas have white skin under their hair. Which race has white skin? Gorillas have thin linear lips. Which race has thin lips as opposed to thicker lips?
I’m sure you get the point. The physical features of white people are more like gorillas than those of black people. I suggested to the professor that white people evolved from gorillas, and Adam was a black person. The reality is that no one evolved from gorillas, and no evolutionist would suggest that. We can’t determine the skin color of ancient humans.
Adam named his wife “Eve” because she would be the “mother of all the living” (Genesis 3:20). All of us carry the same genetic information indicating the truth of that statement. Like it or not, we are all related. The imaginative artwork that is so popular in the media and museums is almost always inconsistent with scientific evidence.
The biblical concept of humans is spiritual and has nothing to do with a person’s race or ethnic background. We are all in God’s image, and that reference has to do with our soul, not how we look (Genesis 1:27).
News reports of the data on Neanderthals have often contained misinformation. Neanderthals (or Neandertals) were not apes, and they were not primitive subhumans. They engaged in activities similar to modern humans. Our suggestion for many years has been that we should think of the Neanderthals as a race of humans. When one looks at the different races of humans in today’s world, we see huge variations. A pygmy is much different from a Scandinavian, and yet from a scientific standpoint, they are one species. They can mate and produce fertile offspring, which was has been the usual way of defining a species.
The newest data on Neanderthals (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) is that they interbred with those we call Homo sapiens, and their genes are being discovered in populations in Europe and western Asia. Science News carried an article titled “Neanderthals and Humans Mated Often.” It reported on the DNA evidence linking Neanderthals to modern humans.
If scientists found the remains of Adam and Eve, what would their DNA look like? The Bible gives us no indication of what Adam and Eve were like regarding their race or physical characteristics. The sons of Noah were Ham, Shem, and Japheth. In the original Hebrew, Ham means dark-colored and Japheth means fair. The term Neanderthal comes from where scientists found their first bones in the Neander Valley of Germany. The name has nothing to do with skin color. If we found the fossil remains of Adam and Eve, what name would we give them?
The only thing we know is that Eve was the mother of all living (Genesis 3:20). How long ago she lived and how we would classify her today is pure speculation.
As more and more people have their genetic history analyzed to find out where their ancestors came from, interest has increased in the origins of human genetic history. There has been a lot of speculation on this question, and some skeptics have tried to claim that the Genesis account is incompatible with the human genome, and particularly with the very early specimens of ancient humans including Denisovans and Neanderthals.
Science News (June 8, 2019) published an interesting article by Bruce Bower about recent finds of these hominids and how they may fit into human genetic history. The first point we want to make is that the Bible has an economy of language on this subject. We do not know anything about the appearance of Adam and Eve or their offspring from the biblical account. We don’t know when they lived, or where they went as they left the Fertile Crescent where they were created. People whose denominations have established a doctrinal view on these questions do so with no biblical support.
Recent finds of the Denisovans in the Tibetan Plateau show that great migrations had taken place because the name “Denisovan” comes from the original discoveries made in Siberia’s Denisova Cave (shown in picture). Anthropologists have also found remains of the Denisovans in China. Modern humans in Asia, Melanesia, Australia, and Papua New Guinea have some Denisovan DNA. In fact, these populations show protein sequences which are more closely related to the Denisovans than the Neanderthals.
There is an old battle that has been going on among scientists for at least the last 100 years. It’s the battle between the “splitters” and the “lumpers” and how they handle human genetic history. The splitters are those who tend to put a new species identification on every new find. In this case, they have identified each of these groups as being independent of each other, so Denisovans, Neanderthals, and modern humans are each classified as a different species. The lumpers tend to say these are all variations in the original DNA, and they must all be one species since they can and did interbreed.
The familiar name “Neanderthal” came from the place where scientists found the first skulls in 1856 near Neander, Germany. Writers have published numerous articles about Neanderthals. Most of the articles have been very misleading about who the Neanderthals were, what they looked like, how they lived, and what connection they have to modern humans. Neanderthal research presents a changing picture.
The popular perception of Neanderthals has been connected to the term “ape-man” often used to describe them. At the Max Planck Institute early in the 20th century, a French paleontologist depicted Neanderthals as “apelike and backward.” In 1953, a movie titled The Neanderthal Man popularized them as primitive humans with passions and desires common to apes. The view for years was that the Neanderthals were brutes who huddled in cold caves gnawing on slabs of slain mammoths.
The truth is that Neanderthals walked upright and had larger brains and larger lung capacities than modern humans. They made complex tools, built shelters, created and traded jewelry, wore clothes, created art, buried their dead, had language and a form of worship. What has convinced scientists to change their understanding has been Neanderthal research and the sequencing of the Neanderthal genome. Comparisons of the Neanderthal genome and the modern European genome shows that up to 4% of modern human genes came from Neanderthals. They were not brutes or ape-men. They were totally human.
Probably much of the reason for the negative stereotyping is the “out of Africa” scenario promoted by many as the origin of human history. Some scientists have not wanted to admit that human origins seem to have come from a more northern source. Dr. Joao Zilhao, a Portuguese paleoanthropologist and an expert on Neanderthals, says: “The mainstream narrative of our origins has been fairly straightforward: the exodus of modern humans from Africa was depicted like it was a biblical event: Chosen ones replacing debased Europeans, the Neanderthals. Nonsense, all of it.”
Neanderthals were not apes or brutes of a different species of humans. They were a race of humans that had specific physiological characteristics that are somewhat different from the appearance of humans today. The Neanderthal Museum near Dusseldorf, Germany, displays a recreation of a Neanderthal by renowned paleo-artists Adrie and Alfons Kennis. He is groomed, wearing a business suit, and looking like the politician he could have been. For that matter, his name might have been Adam. As Neanderthal research continues, we will see what develops.
— John N. Clayton
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.