Were Neanderthals Humans?


#1

This is a reposting of my comment to Faz Rana’s FB post recently.

RTB’s holds a view regarding how to interpret Genesis that I find naive, at best. Allow me to explain, if I may.

I hold a view of God’s revelation in Genesis regarding mankind’s origin that few seem to have considered.

When, in Genesis 1:26, God says “let Us make humankind in Our image, according to Our likeness” I see the text as implying that there was a proto-mankind He was referring to, which already had an established presence in the animal kingdom; God was not announcing to Himself a last-minute design change in something He had not created yet!

After all, the Scriptures are clear that He had had humanity in mind from before the foundations of the world.

God then creates humankind “in His image” at this point, in the undated past, morally innocent, but not yet morally perfect, with language skills and everything that makes us fundamentally human. Humanity begins to spread around the globe, in response to God’s mandate to be “fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”

With a simple moral inner compass, these first humans were still innocent of major wrongdoing, but not sinless- - somewhat like many domesticated animals are today, but with an inner witness of God’s goodness and perfection.
This is why God is able to pronounce the creation as “very good” in Genesis 1:31.

It’s AFTER this initial state of human introduction and migration, as mankind begins to multiply, that God decides it’s time to introduce irrigation agriculture, and call us away from only hunter-gathering. It will be necessary for the future of humanity to be ecologically sustainable.

He places a specific man, Adam, in a prepared garden environment, commissioning him to stay put in one area, instead of wandering, to learn to till the ground and keep it.
Here, as humanity stands poised to learn the benefits of not constantly wandering over the face of the earth, but instead of staying in one place and making crops grow in an irrigated garden setting, that the basis for civilization will begin to be laid.

God knows it’s time for humanity to be tested, as this phase will involve new feelings of land “ownership” and moral jealousy.

The presence of the tree of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil will test their resolve to trust in God’s words and character, and not to seize control of the resources of the land in a manner that forgets God’s ownership of it, and responds to His call to use its fruits to benefit others in the human family, as well-- to share freely with others what has been so freely given.

An ongoing gratitude for God’s gifts will be key to humanity’s survival.

Adam and Eve failed this test, and gained instead a knowledge of moral evil, along with the cognitive changes and brain physiology which that implies, especially in the neocortex, likely accelerated by enzymatic changes brought on by the unique biochemicals in the tree’s fruit-- so much so, that all future births will involve significant pain to both mother and child.

God warns them of the terrible consequences of these actions, and the stage is set for God’s announcement of a plan formed from before the dawn of time to rescue all of humanity from this new evil, for those who would receive the gift of His Son.

Genesis 2:5ff is an account which takes place AFTER everything in Genesis 1:1-2-4.

There’s plenty of time, biblically, for the hominins and the earliest human species to fit into this scheme. This is an interpretation of the text which is warranted, I believe, though it differs from the RTB model.

The question becomes, were the Neanderthals pre, or post, Genesis 1:26?

While nature may preach survival of the fittest, God preaches the thriving of those truest to His own moral character, and to their purposes as a family of people “created in His image.”

Moral goodness, coupled with humility, honor and mutual respect.

Yet, we fail at this daily, for we are the children of Adam and Eve, under the active redemption of the work of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus’ finished work on the cross, if we trust in His name.

Adam and Eve’s first descendants, however, bear out the very marks of a rejection of all this, and the first outright murder only took a single generation.

If is not long before the vast majority of “simple” humanity is wiped out by either competition or warfare with Adam’s cunning lineage-- see Genesis 6.

Fazale Rana --please comment, and thanks for your own ministry. Hugh Ross, I’d love to hear your comments, as well; I believe this interpretation is very much worth exploring!

Cheers,
–Guy


#2

Welcome to the forums @Guy_Coe.

For reference, the original post by Fuz is here:


#3

@Guy_Coe you are taking a point of view that I think has a lot of merit. Have you read Walton’s work? My summary…

Here, John Walton’s model, based on a textual analysis5 of Genesis 1 – 3, is helpful. Without reliance on extra-Scriptural sources, he argues that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are sequential. God first makes “mankind” in His Image, and then later identifies, or perhaps specially creates, a single man Adam and a woman Eve, who together become important because of his Fall. Walton calls Adam and Eve the first “true” humans, who are both God Imaged and Fallen. In contrast, those “outside the garden” are God Imaged, but not yet Fallen. They are not sub-human, to be clear, but they are also different than humans as we understand them today; C.S. Lewis might say they were better than us. A related two-creation interpretation of Genesis, also, is found in The Book of Enoch (from before 200 BC) and elsewhere, so this solution may carry both traditional and textual support.
http://peacefulscience.org/genealogical-rapprochement/

Btw, have you read about the genealogical Adam proposal in this post yet? I’ve been able to show that your proposal is entirely plausible, as long as we allow for interbreeding between Adam’s line and others.

Or just interbred with them, conscripting them into Adam’s fallen line.


Also, @jongarvey’s review on Seth Postell is a must read too: https://discourse.peacefulscience.org/t/the-genealogical-adam-as-israel. If you can, read this article first: http://potiphar.jongarvey.co.uk/2017/11/03/finding-humans-origins-from-biblical-theology-2/

Basically, there is a lot of coherence to the two-creation view you are presenting here.


Also, I wrote to Fuz on his FB:

The more interesting question is if Homo erectus was “human” too. The same scientists that say Neanderthals were human usually apply the same argument to Homo Erectus. If not, what about the nearly Homo sapien finds (with smaller brain cases) from about 300,000 years ago. Are they human too? We see a smooth transition of forms as we move into the distant past; as humans are a chronospecies. Fascinating stuff.


#4

Will review as able; but, I am not espousing a “two creation” view… if
you look closely, the Hebrew verb form for “create” (“bara”) is entirely
missing with regard to Adam and Eve, both, anywhere in the account starting
in Genesis 2:5ff.

Unsteady, we have the verb for “making” not for "uniquely instantiating,"
which is more like “bara.”

Cheers!

–Guy


#5

I mean two-creation account view. You are treating Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 as sequential accounts. That is what I mean by that. Of course, Adam and Eve need not be specially created. Or they could be too.


#6

What made Eve, then Adam, “special” was their newly-acquired abilities to
both reject God’s prohibitions, and to assert their will over His – the
knowledge of good and evil – along with the substantial changes to the
human neocortex which that implies, making for greatly “increased pain in
childbirth,” likely brought on by enzymatically introduced changes in
neural networks, dendritic growth and, perhaps, propogation rates
.

These changes they passed along to their genealogical inheritors.

As a biomedical researcher, I was hoping you might have a better clue than
I along those lines?

It’s not as outlandish a claim as all that; Carl Sagan once noted the irony
of how uncannily possible that was, even while rejecting the Bible as God’s
revelation.

See Sagan’s “The Dragons of Eden” for more; don’t have mine on hand at the
moment.

Cheers!

–Guy


#7

Just to make sure we are on the same page, do you know the difference between genealogical and genetic inheritance?

I’m not sure how that is inheritable in the way you are proposing.

When you get a chance to read the post on genealogical ancestry (http://peacefulscience.org/genealogical-rapprochement/) , I can explain more.


#8

Yes; interbreeding is just what happened with Cain, and in Genesis 6.

I like a lot of Walton’s approach, but find he suffers from “hardening of
the categories” in a manner that leads him to less than the "both/and"
perspective you and I share with regards to human evolution being
compatible with “special creation” in the Scriptures.

Cheers,

–Guy


#9

The issue is that genetic inheritance is not reliable and would not spread to all their offspring. There is some interesting work that has to be done to figure out what is transmitted genealogically.


#10

Isn’t the presence, hertiably mediated, of course, of an abnormally large human neocortex indicative enough?

We sin because we CAN, and are, perhaps, latently “angry with God” for all that excruciating pain involved in childbirth, when, in fact, things are not the way God optimally designed them?

The birth canal accommodates a “softball;” we come through small “watermelons.” And both cause and endure a lit of pain in doing do.

Is this a reasonable way to describe the tendency towards “original sin?” As the inherited legacy of Adam and Eve’s fateful choice?

Hope I’ve expressed this clealrly enough.

The amygdala almost always outraces the complicated neocortex.

Cheers,

–Guy


#11

So this is something that is being actively worked out. It comes down to what ancestry really might be. Here is a quote from a paper I am writing:

Genealogies record an unbroken chain of biological and physical relationships. They are, nonetheless, not ultimately biological or physical in the usual sense. Distant genealogical connections are not usually genetic, because DNA does not reliably transmit along genealogical connections. Moreover, the physicality of the genealogies dilutes each generation too. We inherit neither genetic information nor physical material from most our distant ancestors. This distinction notwithstanding, genealogies are a real feature of the natural world. They do not exist in an unobservable spiritual realm. They are the proper object of scientific inquiry, even though science is blind to genealogical relationships in the distant past. Their explication, moreover, is not predicated on a modern or ancient understanding of biology. Instead, they are a fundamental reality that arises among all biologically reproducing creature.

How do you imagine that might be theologically important?


@vjtorley curious your thoughts on this thread too. Do you think Neanderthals are “human”?


#12

Agreed to the degree of sophistication I possess in genetics and heredity.

Agreed that none of this diminishes the very real possibility that I’ve described, adequately enough, what is universal to the human condition since Adam, both as a matter of heritable traits, and of the theory of how and why we got an abnormally large neocortex, in an “evolutionary moment,” so to speak, with explosive and unprecedented neural network neocortical growth in one human generation, from one pair’s actions.

But, then again, I can have an active imagination.

Why; what does my answer suggest to you? : )

Cheers,

–Guy


#13

Hi everyone,

I’d like to provide some useful information about the Neandertals, which may assist this discussion.

People have been talking about pain in childbirth. The evidence indicates that while the Neandertal mode of childbirth was different from our own, Neandertal women would have experienced pain in childbirth, too.

When did the modern human pattern of childbirth arise? New insights from an old Neandertal pelvis

Finally, as Weaver and Hublin (7) acknowledge, the differences in the precise birthing pattern between Neandertals and modern humans should not let us lose sight of the fact that both lineages would have had difficult births, obligate midwifery, and all of the attendant social implications.

Neandertal birth canal shape and the evolution of human childbirth

Based on A.L. 288–1, Sts 14, and BSN49/P27 it appears that a transversely oval outlet was the primitive condition for hominins. Sima Pelvis 1 has a transversely oval outlet, suggesting that the last common ancestor of humans and Neandertals also would have had a transversely oval outlet. Brain size relative to body size increased substantially during the Middle Pleistocene (25). These changes in encephalization would have had obstetrical consequences for both the human and Neandertal evolutionary lineages. Neandertals apparently adapted to increased obstetrical constraints by further expanding their outlet transverse dimensions, as earlier hominins had done, whereas in the human lineage there was a shift to expanding the outlet anteroposteriorly.

Why did humans change their birth mechanism when Neandertals did not? One possible explanation is that the need to dissipate heat when living close to the equator led to pelvic narrowing in the African-centered human lineage, and when human brain size expanded in the Middle Pleistocene (25), natural selection produced a solution to increased obstetrical constraints that did not result in a wider outlet.

Assuming that ligament relaxation was the same in Neandertals as in humans, the neonate’s anteroposterior head dimensions during childbirth would have 139–141 mm of space in Tabun, compared with 134–146 mm in humans. From these comparisons, we conclude that childbirth was about as difficult in Neandertals as in humans.


#14

So, were the Neandertals humans? I’ve uncovered some data which may shed light on this question.

There are some creationists (notably, Hugh Ross and Fazale Rana) who believe that only Homo sapiens qualifies as truly human, meaning that the Neandertals were brute beasts, lacking rational souls – a view that is difficult to square with evidence presented by Dediu and Levinson, in their paper, On the antiquity of language: the reinterpretation of Neandertal linguistic capacities and its consequences (Frontiers in Psychology, 4:397. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00397), indicating that they possessed language.

The Neandertals managed to live in hostile sub-Arctic conditions (Stewart, 2005). They controlled fire, and in addition to game, cooked and ate starchy foods of various kinds (Henry et al., 2010; Roebroeks and Villa, 2011). They almost certainly had sewn skin clothing and some kind of footgear (Sørensen, 2009). They hunted a range of large animals, probably by collective driving, and could bring down substantial game like buffalo and mammoth (Conard and Niven, 2001; Villa and Lenoir, 2009).

Neandertals buried their dead (Pettitt, 2002), with some but contested evidence for grave offerings and indications of cannibalism (Lalueza-Fox et al., 2010). Lumps of pigment — presumably used in body decoration, and recently found applied to perforated shells (Zilhao et al., 2010) — are also found in Neandertal sites. They also looked after the infirm and the sick, as shown by healed or permanent injuries (e.g., Spikins et al., 2010), and apparently used medicinal herbs (Hardy et al., 2012). They may have made huts, bone tools, and beads, but the evidence is more scattered (Klein, 2009), and seemed to live in small family groups and practice patrilocality (Lalueza-Fox et al., 2010).

Professor Nathan H. Lents, in a 2015 blog article, has also argued that Neandertal man was capable of speech, although he concedes that Homo erectus was probably incapable.

I should point out, however, that Dediu and Levinson’s 2013 paper has been critiqued by Berwick, Hauser and Tattersall, who argue in their commentary that: (i) “hominids can be smart without implying modern cognition”; (ii) “smart does not necessarily mean that Neanderthals had the competence for language or the capacity to externalize it in speech”; (iii) the earliest unambiguous evidence for symbolic communication dates from less than 100,000 years ago; and (iv) although they may have had the same FOXP2 genes as we do, “[n]either Neanderthals nor Denisovans possessed human variants of other putatively ‘language-related’ alleles such as CNTAP2, ASPM, and MCPH1.

Recent evidence seems to bear out the authors’ skepticism about the Neandertals’ use of language. Scientists at the 2017 annual meeting of The American Society of Human Genetics discussed the significance of Neandertal genes, pointing out that “some ‘Neandertal’ genetic variants inherited by modern humans outside of Africa are not peculiarly Neandertal genes, but represent the ancestral human condition,” according to a report by Ann Gibbons in Science magazine (October 23, 2017). But there was more. New findings strongly suggest that the Neandertals would have suffered some severe speech impediments, if they spoke at all:

Other geneticists at the meeting zeroed in on archaic DNA “deserts,” where living humans have inherited no DNA from Neandertals or other archaic humans. One of these regions includes the site of the FOXP2 “language” gene. This suggests that in our ancestors, natural selection flushed out the Neandertal version of this gene. Using statistical software that evaluates gene expression based on the type of gene, Vanderbilt graduate student Laura Colbran found that Neandertal versions of the gene would have pumped out much less FOXP2 protein than expressed in modern brains. In living people, a rare mutation that causes members of a family to produce half the usual amount of FOXP2 protein also triggers severe speech defects, notes Simon Fisher, director of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, who discovered the gene. Expression of FOXP2 may be key to language, Fisher says.

If we define the “human-making” attributes as language and a theory of mind, these appear to have originated with our species, Homo sapiens. Symbolic art, science and religion seem to be unique to our species as well, although there is evidence that the Neandertals buried their dead.

If instead, we choose to define the “human-making” attributes as self-control and morality, then it would seem to have originated with Heidelberg man. I’d like to draw readers’ attention to Benoit Dubreuil’s well-argued essay, Paleolithic Public Goods Games: Why Human Culture and Cooperation Did Not Evolve in One Step (Biology and Philosophy (2010) 25:53–73, DOI 10.1007/s10539-009-9177-7). Dubreuil’s claim is that the human prefrontal cortex reached its present form about 700,000 years ago, with the appearance of Heidelberg man, whose advanced prefrontal cortex conferred on him “modern-like abilities for inhibitory control and goal maintenance.” In plain English, Heidelberg man’s advanced pre-frontal cortex meant that he was able to control his selfish impulse to turn tail and run from dangerous predators, and put his own life at risk in order to defend the “greater good” of the group; additionally, he was able to make long-term plans and commitments relating to his and his family’s future. These advances, Dubreuil believes, would have allowed Heidelberg man to hunt big-game (which is highly rewarding in terms of food, if successful, but is also very dangerous for the hunters, who might easily get gored by the animals they are trying to kill) and make life-long monogamous commitments (for the rearing of children whose prolonged infancy and whose large, energy-demanding brains would have made it impossible for their mothers to feed them alone, without a committed husband who would provide for the family) became features of human life. Dubreuil refers to these two activities as “cooperative feeding” and “cooperative breeding,” and describes them as “Paleolithic public good games” (PPGGs). He believes that Homo erectus lacked these abilities: while there’s good evidence that he ate a lot of meat, there’s no good evidence that he hunted large-scale game. Dubreuil thinks he was probably an active scavenger, which means that he ate meat from carcasses that other animals had killed, and confronted any creature that tried to stop him eating.

However, even Dubreuil acknowledges that the distinctive features of Homo sapiens‘ brain enabled modern man to make further cognitive advances, relating to theory of mind, language, symbolism and art. These advances, Dubreuil believes, were triggered by developments in the temporoparietal cortex of the brain, rather than the prefrontal cortex:

One of the most distinctive features of Homo sapiens’ cranium morphology is its overall more globular structure. This globularization of Homo sapiens’ cranium occurred between 300 and 100,000 years ago and has been associated with the relative enlargement of the temporal and/or parietal lobes (Lieberman et al. 2002; Bruner et al. 2003; Bruner 2004, 2007; Lieberman 2008). Paleoneurological reconstructions are currently insufficient to identify the precise regions that benefited from globularization. It is not unreasonable, however, to link this change with a functional reorganization of the higher association areas of the temporal and parietal areas…

The temporoparietal cortex is certainly involved in many complex cognitive tasks. It plays a central role in attention shifting, perspective taking, episodic memory, and theory of mind (as mentioned in Section “The role of perspective taking”), as well as in complex categorization and semantic processing (that is where Wernicke’s area is located)…

I have argued elsewhere (Dubreuil 2008; Henshilwood and Dubreuil 2009) that a change in the attentional abilities underlying perspective taking and high-level theory of mind best explains the behavioral changes associated with modern Homo sapiens, including the evolution of symbolic and artistic components in material culture.

Finally, there are no clear-cut boundaries between Australopithecus and early Homo, between early Homo and Homo erectus, between Homo erectus and Heidelberg man, and between Heidelberg man and Neandertal man. However, there is one species whose appearance in the fossil record is relatively sudden: Homo sapiens. As Ian Tatterall and Jeffrey Schwartz put it in their article, The morphological distinctiveness of Homo sapiens and its recognition in the fossil record: Clarifying the problem (Evolutionary Anthropology, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp. 49-54):

Species are historically differentiated entities that, osteologically, may be differentiated to inconveniently varying extents. Living Homo sapiens is a distinctive morphological entity that is easily distinguished in both cranial and postcranial morphology from all other living hominoids and from the vast majority of its fossil relatives.

So when did we become human? Recent discoveries have pushed the origin of Homo sapiens back to at least 300,000 years ago, and we still don’t know if this was a sudden or a gradual event. On the other hand, the great leap forward in human culture seems not to have taken place until about 100,000 years ago, which is when modern human behavior emerged in South Africa. This seems to have been a relatively sudden event.

I’d like to make a final suggestion regarding the evidence for Neandertal art. Is it possible that this art post-dated contact between Neandertals and Homo sapiens, and that some Neandertals picked it up from us? Just an idea.


#15

@vjtorley thanks for your work pulling that together.

Let us grant for the purpose of argument that Neanderthals are “human.” Is it not also true that they are not humans we we understand humans today? They are a different type of human, right?

Also, the definition of “human” is ambiguous and debated.

Yes, but they are not preciely like use anatomically.

True, but once again, that is not “human” as we understand it today.

This is all contested too. Even if Neandertals are not humans like us, does not make them brute beasts lacking rational souls. Perhaps that is what Fuz and Hugh think, but there other options. Right? They could just be a different type of “human” than us.


#16

To me, the only interest in a question like this is how in impacts the interpretation of Genesis, since I will never meet a Neanderthal this side of glory, and I don’t have to decide the criteria either of humanness or salvation.

But if one is worried about whether they sinned, or are saved, consider that the Biblical revelation, on which we depend, is pretty silent on God’s spiritual provision even for thoroughly modern humans outside the Mosaic Covenant before Christ. Paul speaks of their being “without God and without hope in the world”, and yet there were Naaman the Syrian, Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel, and many God-fearers and Gentile proselytes in the 1st century synagogues.

If we trust God to know what he was doing in recorded salvation history, I for one am pretty happy to do the same for what we neither know, nor can know, and try not to go beyond what is revealed. I’ve got enough problems getting to glory myself.


#17

Hi Joshua and Jon,

Thanks very much for your comments. Re the Neandertals being human or not, I guess the question boils down to this: were they made in the image and likeness of God? In order to qualify as being made in God’s image, they must have been capable of knowing God. John Wesley held that many animals possess rationality, but that humans alone are capable of knowing their Creator.

I guess the question is a largely theoretical one today, although it has bearing on the question of when Adam lived, for those who share the traditional understanding of Adam.

40,000 years ago, however, the question was quite practical, as Neandertals and Homo sapiens co-existed. Here are two questions which could have arisen for people living in those times: (i) under what circumstances (aside from self-defense) would it be permissible for me to kill a Neandertal? (ii) would it be all right to marry one? If they were humans of a different kind, the answer to (i) would be never, and the answer to (ii) would seem to be yes, as it could hardly be wrong for one human being to interbreed with another. But if they were not made in God’s image, then the answer to (ii) would seem to be no, and the answer to (i) would no longer be never.


#18

@vjtorley thanks for continuing the conversation.

These are excellent questions that there answers too.

First off, I want to challenge the assumptions embedded in this question:

There is a very large range of views on the Image of God in theology, and not all of them would be detectable by science, and not all of them are even correlated with “human.” As a few examples of deviations from your view:

  1. Some theologians (perhaps even @jongarvey) favor a view of God’s Image that focus on a unique role to which Adam is appointed, and have absolutely nothing to do with his biological capabilities, nor is this how universal rights or dignity are grounded.
  2. Some theologians (see Martin Luther and early Jewish though) hold that the Image of God was lost when Adam fell, and that we ourselves are not God Imaged any longer. In contrast, angels or the Nephilim might still be God Imaged as immortal beings.

So “human” for some is not defined by God’s Image. Moreover, there are deeper problems here with identifying God’s Image to tightly with rational thought, language, art, and capability to be in relationship with God.

The fundamental problem is that not all humans are equal in these things or achieve these heights. For example, a just conceived person, as a Catholic, you would likely believe (1) bears the Image of God and (2) has God granted rights and dignity. This is all before this person even has developed a brain (!), let alone a consciousness or awareness of anything. Likewise, there are mentally disabled people who do not ever achieve rational thought, but we do not believe the Image of God is diminished in them, or that they should have less rights.

These theological challenges, along with Scriptures near silence on the Image God means that there are manifold ways of interpreting the Image of God, a precise definition of which was never the intention of Scripture. We would should be cautions about over interpreting it.

That being said, there is a three key approaches that I think are helpful.

  1. Historically, many attach the image of God to Adam, and then ground universal rights on the universality of the Image of God. This move is not well grounded in the text. Genesis 1 mentions God’s Image when “mankind” was made (male + female). Genesis 2 makes no mention of God’s Image, when we see Adam being made. There is strong reason to see Genesis 1 and 2 as sequential creation accounts, and therefore (1) stop identifying the Image of God exclusively with Adam, recognizing that God could have (and seems to have) created others with his Image too and (2) affirming that all our ancestors at any specific point of time equally bore the image of God.
  2. Remembering how universal rights have been grounded in theology, which has not always been on the Image of God. In particular, I want to draw your attention to Gregory of Nyssa, one of the Cappadocian fathers, and the first abolitionist we know of in history in the 4th century. He argued against slavery, but not based on God’s Image. Instead, he focused on the fact that when Mankind is created in Genesis 1, they are given dominion over all creatures, but not other men. That is how he grounds his abolitionism. https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/view/21995197/gregory-of-nyssa-and-the-culture-of-oppression-baylor-university This shoudl remind us that the Image of God is not necessarily the basis for grounding universal rights.
  3. Finally, one way we know for a fact that Neandertal-human pairng was not beastiality is that it was reproductively successful; producing offspring. This is never possible when humans mate with animals, and demonstrates with evidence that we are of the same “kind,” even if we are different “types.” For theological reasons that are well explored in Catholicism, the evidence interbreeding the presence of hybridization itself is that there no problem with these couplings.

The key point here is that Scripture speaks to “humans”, but the word for “human” in Scripture is “adam”. It is speaking to the type of human which is associated with him. This does not deny the existence of “humans” or God’s Image before Adam. They would just be a different type of “human” that Scripture does not reference, except perhaps in Genesis 1. There is no promise that Scripture gives us the whole story, and it is similarly silent on (for example) the religion of Melchizedek and others alongside the descendents of Abraham.

Making those distinctions, there far more leeway in how we understand the scientific account. We do not know how the first "humans’ arise, but Scripture does seem to tell us how Adamites arise and come to fill the earth entirely. Scripture speaks to us, the God Imaged and Fallen descendents of Adam, and not to Neandertals from 40,000 years ago, who did not even know how to read.


#19

Perhaps it bears mentioning that the overall reason we need not choose between whether humankind “evolved” OR was “specially created” is because the God we have come know is both immanent AND transcendent, and is the source of the regularity in nature that we call “natural laws,” while also actively maintaining those laws-- "in Him all things live and move and have their being."
Thus, the “special” things God does, above and beyond the usual outworkings of nature, are all of one piece.
Therefore, we believe in both “special creation” AND evolution, and reject the false dichotomy of “creation versus evolution.”


#20

The Hebrew word translated “good” here does not mean moral perfection. It means “suitable”. Functionally good. The same word is translated “fair” - as in “good looking” in Genesis chapter six when it says that “The Sons of God saw that the daughters of ha-adam were fair…”. Of course in this case the function was to produce Christ and the Church, so I suppose you could say a moral component was part and parcel.

So what does it mean to be “according to the likeness” of God? What makes man like God in a way which does not apply to anything else He created or made? I mean what makes us different in kind, not just in degree. For example, you might say that we are more intelligent than animals. OK, but animals can still be intelligent and we are dim bulbs indeed compared to God. If our degree of intelligence makes us different from beasts, it still does not make us “like God.” Our differences in intelligence with the animals are differences in degree, not in kind. The same is true with our use of language, and our use of tools.

No, what separates us from the beasts of the earth in kind is our ability to unite in Spirit with the Divine. The doorway to this unity is embedded in another feature which we possess- an ability to make moral judgements. We have a spiritual aspect or dimension which other living things lack. We can cooperate with one another based not on mere instinct or just mutual advantage for some material need, but because we judge some common cause to be in the right.

Where we are different in kind from the beasts is that humans have the potential to be of one nature with God. Sinful man can only access this potential through membership in the body of Christ, and we sense only the barest glimmer of it in this world, but when we finally become one with Him we will understand how He is one with the Father- one in nature. It is a capacity which beasts completely lack.

I know there has been a debate over to what degree higher animals possess “self-awareness.” Mankind though, goes beyond self-awareness and seeks out true connectedness. We are self-aware, but at our best we are also aware that there is something beyond ourselves, and bigger than ourselves. We can make a choice to connect and serve not out of mere instinct, but by our conscious choice.

We are “religious” by nature. Properly connected, we are capable of accessing a reference point for right and wrong which is beyond ourselves and our interests. This is what truly sets us apart from the higher animals in that here our differences are of kind, not just degree. That man rarely uses this potential does not mean that it is absent.
This is why I am unthreatened by the idea that there may have been hominids, two legged beings, with relatively large brains walking around making some sort of tools back in the dawn of time. I never considered that being “according to the likeness of God” (much less being “in the image of God”) meant having two legs, or a large brain, or even being able to make a flint scraper. That is not what makes us human. If we give up our humanity, I suppose that is what we can degenerate to- apes wearing trousers as C.S. Lewis once put it, but that is not how we were made.

We have a spiritual dimension which permits us to relate to one another and to God in a deeper way than that available to the beasts. If these other creatures did not have that, then they were not made in His image or after His likeness. In Genesis 1:26 God proposed creating something new. That was Man.


Regarding the genetic mixing, I have seen studies to the effect that the Y-chromosomes don’t show the same sort of mixing, implying either that these unions had trouble producing male offspring, at least fertile male offspring. I also remember an analysis of declining Neanderthal DNA in the genome over time and the researcher concluded “it looks like we got mostly junk from our Neanderthal ancestors, and evolution is already more than half-way done throwing it out.” I remember that specific quote. And it was made before the most recent research shows that many genes thought to be from Neanderthals are actually the ancestral alleles for modern humans which may or may not have been re-introduced by inbreeding.

Add it all up: They were not human. There genes were mechanically close enough for a workable but not profitable or perhaps even sustainable fit. They were more like the Sayters from mythology. Interested in us perhaps, but not us.

I am going to head to church but if anyone is interested in the things I have referenced let me know and I will put more effort into finding the source.