Further Review Overturns Neanderthal Art Claim

Faz Rana of RTB tries to overturn dating of Neanderthal Art. Is he correct?


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He has to be correct:

In fact, as a Christian, I see symbolism as a manifestation of the image of God. If Neanderthals possessed symbolic capabilities, such a quality would undermine human exceptionalism (and with it the biblical view of human nature), rendering human beings nothing more than another hominin. At this juncture, every claim for Neanderthal symbolism has failed to withstand scientific scrutiny.

Because apparently the Bible teaches Neanderthals didn’t have the image of God and creatures that use symbolism have the image of God, Neanderthals definitely didn’t use symbolism. Here’s my daughter last year next to one of these beasts:


His reasoning might be idiosyncratic to science, but it isn’t idiosyncratic to the public. His conclusions (assumptions?) are within mainstream science for now. His position is a legitimate minority that may ultimately be vindicated as we understand the genetic differences between Sapiens and Neanderthals.

It also is very close to Denis Venema’s position. Venema also asserts that Neanderthals are a different species. The only difference is than Venema neither engaged with the archeological details nor concerned about deeming multiple different species as “human.” I’ll also add that Fuz has been far more gracious to other views of “human” than Venema, and far more precise.

Venema appears to have adopted his precise place in the constellation of scientific views so as to be able to claim all historical Adam models, including John Walton’s, have racist implications. Are you concerned about that at all @pevaquark?

Also still curious your take on Kepler vs. Galileo.

@AJRoberts and @SueD might add more details.

@Patrick he might be correct. We do not know for sure yet.

Look at the latest from Jerry Coyne. Neanderthals were surely human to me.

What definition that of “human”?

Did they have equal abilities as us? Why didn’t the interbreed often with us? If they were alive to this day, would polygenesis be true?

Questions abound for everyone. We are coming to one of the grand questions. It is best not to be dogmatic.

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Genus Homo. Evidence of language, culture, tool making.

From the evidence, at say 100,000 years ago, Neanderthal technology and behavior is similar to Sapiens and Denosivan technology and behavior. Very simlar at 40,000 years ago also. Then Neanderthal and Denovisain died out after intermixing with Homo Sapian leaving H. Sapians are the only surviving human species. Human culture, language did really take off until the advent of agriculture and animal husbandry about 12,000 years ago.

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A lot of animals o have language, culture, and toolmaking. Are chimpanzees human?

Other than convention, what is the evidential basis for drawing the line there, versus somewhere else?

Similar Language, culture and tool making of all genus homo from 2 million years until about 40,000 years ago. No chimp did that.

In science, we care about precision. How do you precisely define the lines in such a way that the majority of qualified experts would agree with you? In this case, it seems impossible.

I suppose, but I don’t see where one could ever draw a line on what a ‘species’ actually is in a historical sense. Like a simple example of horses, donkeys and zebras share a common ancestor. Going back in time, when was a horse no longer a horse? Were Neanderthals a different species? Beats me. But they are genetically and morphologically different enough to say ‘yes.’ Compared to the diversity among all humans alive today (let’s go with substitutions per site) they were quite different. But starting with some hominid common ancestor when did ‘non-humans’ become ‘human?’ I don’t think there’s an answer to that question nor its complement: going backwards then, when did ‘humans’ stop being ‘human’? That is why I shall forever love this chart (courtesy of @Joel_Duff) :


I didn’t get a chance to pick the book up yet- do you have a summary or some publications of the main ideas handy? If not I can try to look them up but wouldn’t know how to evaluate them.

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I agree.

Which makes the rigidity very hard to make sense of in his position.

That is not true. There is more similarity between Neanderthals and humans than two groups of chimpanzees.

That would be helpful @Patrick. I agree with @pevaquark.

Sorry I was thinking about a graph like this one when I made the claim:

I tried to do a calculation one time based on measuring the lines that showed that was that ancient denosvians and ancient humans had about three times the substitutions per site than all humans alive today. Neanderthals would of course be less. Is that enough to warrant being a new species? :man_shrugging:

Is it fair for us to characterize all chimpanzees as the same ‘species?’ Maybe. But it could be an example of how sometimes we can easily lump those different than us into one big category without noticing minor details that are important. Are you thinking of a similar metric though to characterize the similarity between among groups of chimpanzees? Maybe this paper?

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The visual here, from Todd Woods, is to scale and helps make sense of it.

It is reasonable to call humans a “chronospecies”, which makes sense of this:

At the same time, it is possible there was a discontinuity along the lineage. There are strong opinions in science across the spectrum. Rana is not an outlier in where he draws the line.

What do you mean by discontinuity along the lineage?

I mean this in an open-ended way. There several proposals that have been suggested by biologists for a “before” and “after” criteria for a not-human to human definition. Discontinuity just means that there is something different before and after a particular point.