Review by Greg Neyman
© Old Earth Ministries
Answers in Genesis is all excited about the recent amount of news coverage given to Neanderthal DNA studies. However, they are not excited about news from the studies that proves their young earth theories. They are excited because they are in damage control mode, trying to figure out how to put a spin on the stories so that they support their viewpoint. To date, they have been unsuccessful. Anyone with a scientific background will easily see the flaws in their arguments.
The same is true with the latest claim, made in the Daily Feature of the AiG website on 22 Nov 2006. In a ‘preliminary comment’ on AiG’s website, Dr. Georgia Purdom attempts to claim that there is a problem with sequencing the Neanderthal genome.1 Scientists used DNA from a Neanderthal bone sample obtained in Croatia. As she points out, one of the major problems with sequencing is contamination. She states that “what is being used as Neandertal mtDNA may actually be modern human mtDNA!”
That may be true, however, this is a self-correcting problem. To date, five independent Neanderthal mtDNA studies have all confirmed that Neanderthal did not contribute to our current human gene pool. In other words, there is absolutely no evidence that Neanderthal and humans interbred. Answers in Genesis is resolute in their claim that Neanderthals were modern humans, descended from Adam, despite the fact that the scientific evidence does not back up this claim.
If there was contamination, as Dr. Purdom suggests, it would actually favor the young earth argument. Suppose that some human mtDNA was sequenced, and it showed a false relationship between humans and Neanderthals. The evidence would suggest that humans and Neanderthals interbred. The young earth crowd would rejoice that their point was proven. However, this appears not to be the case. With these new studies, there was no link between Neanderthals and modern humans. This proves that there was no contamination from human handling of the fossils.
Dr. Purdom states that the DNA is probably 99.5 to 99.8 percent similar. One would expect this given our both coming from a common ancestor template only 500,000 years ago. The real issue is not how similar our DNA is. The real issue is whether or not modern human DNA contains any traceable mutation patterns that were present in Neanderthal. To date, the five mtDNA studies all confirm that no mutations were transferred from Neanderthal to modern humans, indicating that the Neanderthal specimens are not ancestors, nor even cousins, of modern humans.
In other words, mutations that occurred in Neanderthal populations after they split from mankind 500,000 years ago do not appear in our modern human genome. This clearly indicates that we do not have any Neanderthal in our genome.
Dr. Purdom also makes light of the two studies in Nature and Science. One claims that interbreeding did not take place, while the other says it may have. Note the key word here…may. We may eventually find a Neanderthal mutation that is present in our modern human genome. The authors of one publication leave this possibility open, thus they are mentioning a possible scenario that is outside of the evidence that they examined in their article. The other authors draw conclusions from the evidence only, and don’t speculate on this possibility, although it is there. This difference in approach for the two publications makes no difference in the argument.
Finally, Dr. Purdom appeals to Scripture, turning it into an emotional argument for young earth creationist readers. She claims we have an eyewitness account, given to us by God. I agree. However, that account also agrees with the old earth belief in millions of years, with all mankind descended from Adam and Eve. Neanderthal being a separate species makes no difference to the accuracy and reliability of God’s Word.
The bottom line is that AiG is trying to put a positive spin on evidence that clearly contradicts their model. Unfortunately for them, it is easy to see past their smoke screen of misleading claims. From a scientific standpoint, they don’t have one shred of evidence to back up their claim that Neanderthals were descendents of Adam and Eve. In the young earth world, the words of AiG and Dr. Purdom will be accepted as the truth. Anyone willing to examine the evidence without blinders on will see a different truth.
Sources / For More Reading
1 "The Trouble with Sequencing", published at http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2006/1122neandertal.asp
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