A question that periodically comes up when the origins issue is discussed is who were the Neanderthals? There is a lot of misinformation on the internet about them, much of which is outdated as well. However, even newer research often portrays Neanderthals to the public in an inaccurate light. The burning question about Neanderthals is were they human, and if so, what happened to them? Such a question is in the back of the minds of many people, even within the church. Never the less, Neanderthals do not have to remain a mystery. Their humanity is not in question.
Despite their humanity, some scientists insist on treating Neanderthals as less than human. For example, a recent study released by researchers in Japan and Italy claimed that humans had outlasted Neanderthals because of their ability to throw spears. Other scientists have made similar bizarre claims. None of these claims hold up under scrutiny.
If you are reading this in a public setting, look around you. If you see a few dozen people, odds are, at least one of them carries some Neanderthal DNA. Researchers have been able to piece together a draft of the majority of the Neanderthal genome. Based on this draft, every ethnic group, with the exception of central Africans, carries at least a small part of this Neanderthal DNA. This would seem to indicate that Neanderthals married and had children with modern humans.
However, some evolutionists and even a few Christians want to insist that Neanderthals were somehow either subhuman or were pre-Adamic humans. The subhuman hypothesis simply does not work. Neanderthals buried their dead, used jewelry, makeup, and appeared to live in communities. All these things are indicative of fully human individuals which refutes any thought of Neanderthals being subhuman brutes.
Why then do evolutionists insist on viewing Neanderthals as less than human? The reasoning is quite simple. Neanderthals do serious damage to the idea that man migrated out of Africa, which their model has as an ad hoc, and that he was a dumb brute. Neanderthals clearly were not dumb brutes, nor did they migrate out of Africa. They were remarkably similar in form and function to modern humans and shared many similar DNA characteristics. Further, their interbreeding with modern humans upsets the evolutionary progression from ape to man, which damages evolutionary dogma.
Those who want Neanderthals to be pre-Adamic humans or human-like organisms have an even bigger problem. There is genetic and fossil evidence that Neanderthals not only married humans but also produced “hybrids”. Since one of the accepted delineators of humanity is interfertility, if humans and Neanderthals were able to produce offspring, then they were both fully human.
However, because of the worldview issues in play, the defenders of millions of years have a rescuing device to explain why Neanderthals and their purported descendants, humans, interbred. For the Christian, they appeal to bestiality. No really, that’s their answer. Reasons to Believe, an old earth promoting Christian group, made that very argument back in 2004 and appears to stand by it. That would require that such a vile sin produced offspring, which would be in violation of the Biblical command to reproduce after their kind and has, thankfully, never been observed in the present. However, if, as Reasons to Believe does, you want to add millions of years into the Bible, you are compelled to believe in such absurdities.
So how then should we view Neanderthals? Based on the data we have available, Neanderthals are fully human. Sure they have some stand out characteristics that would likely make them their own “ethnicity” in the modern world. However, every single one of their standout features can be found in modern humans. Neanderthals are simply a people group that formed in the aftermath of Babel. They then migrated mostly north into Europe and central Asia. There they lived in caves and either went extinct as an ethnic group or were absorbed into the nearby populations. This is something that would be expected with a Biblical worldview. After Babel, some groups could easily have died out or been absorbed into other groups. Given that Neanderthals have been shown to interbreed with modern humans, the possibility of absorption is very real. Either way, Neanderthals are fully human and may even be in your family tree.