Some Common Misconceptions: Cavemen and Comment Threads

I have another Your Origins Matter post to share with you. This one is called Meet Your ‘Not So’ Ancient Relatives, and is about “cavemen.”

For decades, at least since Darwin’s time, cavemen have been given little respect.  They have been portrayed as knuckle-dragging near-apes that conked their women on the head with a club and dragged them into their caves by the hair.  Not until The Flintstones did cavemen find a semblance of dignity.  Fred would go to work daily peddling his rock-mobile, while Wilma kept the home all dressed up in her finest pearls.  More recently, cavemen have been given a greater opportunity to show their more “human” side in TV commercials for a leading auto insurance company.  Here, at least, we get the feeling that cavemen really are human after all.

The opening line here (bolded in the original) is impressive. It manages to implicitly blame the negative stereotype of cavemen on Darwin, as if they had previously been considered to be some kind of “knobbly savage” prior to that. To the contrary, wikipedia is of the opinion that the basis of the stereotype dates back to the middle ages. Discounting that poorly-sourced article and concentrating on the actual bones, both Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons – the latter group is entirely ignored by YOM – were only discovered around “Darwin’s time.” It’s difficult to blame him, but doing it implicitly like they did is easy.

It is of course amusing that YOM would claim that The Flintstones actually gave cavemen some kind of ‘dignity’ – it has dinosaurs and people living together, ’nuff said. And I really wouldn’t know what this commercial is about.

We believe that cavemen, or Neanderthals, were not predecessors to modern humans at all, but were human in every way.  However, there are some in the “creationist” community that still believe that Neanderthals were something less than human.  According to their biblical creation model, “hominids,” which include Neanderthals, Homo Erectus and others, were “animals created by God.”  They describe these “creatures” as extraordinary in that they had sufficient intelligence to make crude tools and even have a certain level of “culture.”  Their model “predicts” biological similarities between Neanderthal and modern humans, but they insist that true humanity belongs to the descendants of Adam and Eve.  There are serious ramifications to that line of thinking, but we can deal with that at another time.

Creationist infighting is always entertaining, and really doesn’t happen often enough. I would agree that Neanderthals were not our ancestors (with a caveat) but were still ‘human’ by any reasonable definition. But they were not identical to us, having (slightly) different morphology, (slightly) different genetics, and they lived in different places and times to our canonical ancestors. Differences in cognition are much harder to ascertain, and it’s worth noting just how flimsy if not hypocritical the evidence that has been used to show that Neanderthals were stupid really is. But nevertheless, they weren’t us.

Beyond the obvious in what you have seen above – particularly in the caveman = Neanderthal equivalence – there are some more misconceptions to come:

In an interview with Jonathan Sarfati of Creation Ministries International, Dr. Robert Carter, Marine Biologist, said this about Neanderthal:  “Recent archaeological studies show that Neandertals were behaviorally human; they apparently even had the spare time and intellect to make cosmetics.”  Recently, the study of Neanderthal genome was fully released, and “this showed us things completely unexpected from evolutionary theory.  First, Neandertal was fully human.  Second, he is related to people living in Eurasia today.  Third, Neandertals interbred with modern humans, meaning they were the same species, even though evolutionists claim that they split off from modern humans 500,000 years ago.  So there is nothing in the data to suggest Neandertals were not fully human.  And there are many reasons to believe they lived on the earth after the Flood and are descended from Noah and his family like everybody else,” says Dr. Carter.

Dr Carter is a clearly a creationist as well as a marine biologist, which helps explain his problems. He doesn’t seem to realise that saying that Neanderthals are “related to people living in Eurasia today” is either a trivially true statement (hello, universal common descent calling!) or equivalent to his next point, that “Neandertals interbred with modern humans,” depending on exactly what he means. He then adds that this means:

…they were the same species, even though evolutionists claim that they split off from modern humans 500,000 years ago.

The first part of that subquote delves into the “what is a species” question, which is particularly annoying in this case where everything happened in the past. The ambiguity here is why Neanderthals are sometimes regarded merely as a subspecies and designated Homo sapiens Neanderthalensis (under that system we are ourselves ironically named Homo sapiens sapiens, or “wise, wise man”). But that doesn’t mean that they weren’t a distinct population in their own right, which “split off from modern humans 500,000 years ago” – interbreeding between populations doesn’t make them the same population.

You can’t tell from the limited material given above, but Dr Carter’s grasp on the situation is even worse than Jeff Tomkins’. Here’s another quote from the article being cited:

Evolutionists expected modern humans to be descended from many female lineages. When they only found one, they invoked a ‘population bottleneck’ as an explanation. That is, the number of people living in Africa supposedly shrank sharply to as few as 1,000–10,000 people—and we only just escaped becoming extinct. They reason that, while many females lived during this bottleneck period, only one lineage persisted, with the others going extinct through random chance. The parallels to the Bible are glaringly obvious. Genesis tells us clearly that humanity went through a population bottleneck (the Flood, where only 8 people survived), with one ultimate female ancestress (Eve).

Yes, the mitochondrial Eve “argument.”

If you trace mitochondrial lineages backwards in time you will find that they can only merge, never split (the opposite is true in the other direction). It is therefore inevitable, Adam and Eve or no Adam and Eve, that you will find your way back to one person. Population bottlenecks have nothing to do with it, and I’m not sure why he brings them up.

The YOM post concludes with the following:

So, you may be related to Neanderthal, but that’s okay – they were fully human!

There are already a number of comments, sparked by some poor soul asking:

Is this coming from an old or young earth perspective?

I’d have thought that this was obvious, but I suppose it isn’t really. YOM’s connection with the ICR is not quite that evident from their front page, and so confusion is understandable. YOM replied:

We are definitely “young earth.”

The conversation breifly turned to carbon dating, and as it stands (screengrab) the final comment is from YOM saying:

Just what is the fossil record? Billions of dead things buried in rock layers laid down by water all over the Earth. We account for the fossil record from the biblical record of the global flood of Noah. You can read a good description of that here: http://www.icr.org/article/what-geologic-processes-were-operating-during-floo/.

You know by simple observation that when something dies and is left exposed to the elements, it does not last very long – certainly not long enough for it to become fossilized. For fossils to form, they must be buried rapidly in sediments. Long years of gradual deposition would not form fossils. There are also many fossil deposits that include mammal and dinosaur fossils mixed together. Human fossils have also been found in the mix at the “great Carolina marl bed” in the phosphate rocks of South Carolina. Of course, you won’t read about that in any evolutionary literature.

Recently, paleontologist Dr. Mary Schweitzer discovered soft tissue in a supposed 65-million year old T-Rex. Soft tissue cannot last more than a few thousand years, yet there it is! Even more recently, a fossil of a squid (which is mostly all soft tissue) was discovered with ink still in its ink sac. You can find that article at: http://www.icr.org/article/fresh-fossil-squid-ink-160-million/. If all of this sounds unreasonable to you, it may have something to do with the many years of evolutionary indoctrination you have received.

You can find articles on this topic (and others) at http://www.icr.org/home/search/. Just search for “soft tissue,” or “squid ink.”

As we saw some months ago, the idea that “For fossils to form, they must be buried rapidly in sediments” is quite definitely wrong. Bones will survive on the surface for quite some time, and the fact that we rarely find the entirety of a large animal together should give you some indication of what is really going on. The claim that “There are also many fossil deposits that include mammal and dinosaur fossils mixed together” is hilarious, echoing this old article where Brian seemed to be under the impression that only dinosaurs lived in the mesozoic. The “great Carolina marl bed” should be worth investigating, but I can’t find much of use tonight and I am doubtful that it is as ‘great’ in this respect as claimed.

And those soft tissues? You can search those here too if you want to. You might be interested in what you find.

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9 thoughts on “Some Common Misconceptions: Cavemen and Comment Threads

  1. “Neandertals interbred with modern humans, meaning they were the same species…”. By THAT logic, lions and tigers are the SAME species.

    • I’ve taken a bit more of a look at this Marl thing. I can’t find evidence that there are actual human fossils that have been found there, but it seems to be a mix of remains from multiple periods including some human-made tools.

      I have found nothing to rule out the possibility that the older fossils have simply been eroded out of their original rocks and deposited in new ones along with newer fossils. There are two things I would challenge YOM about (I don’t intend to get involved directly). The first is the question of why we don’t see many more of these things, and why whatever mechanism that creationists usually invoke to order fossils in the geological column has been suspended on this one occasion. The other is the stratigraphical context of the rocks: if there were rocks that are “older” than those we could expect to find tools in above the marl rocks, then we would begin to have a problem for geology.

      Here are some resources you may find useful to read:

      http://biostor.org/reference/92241
      http://digital.tcl.sc.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/phosphate/id/384/show/304/rec/2

      I might do a post on it at a later date.

    • I’ve since found this forum, which has a lot of information on this topic. I do love how the YOM folk have jumped to conspiracy theories so quickly, much of the lack of information is really caused by the use of an apparently archaic name for the deposits.

    • Interesting.
      A post dated 16.7.08 stated:
      “The Ashley Beds is an enormous phosphate graveyard that contains mixed remains of man with land and sea animals, notably dinosaurs, pleisosaurs, whales, sharks, rhinos, horses, mastodons, mammoths, porpoises, elephants, deer, pigs, dogs, and sheep. This catalogue of fossils from the phosphate beds was given in the records of Major Edward Willis who displayed them at multiple expositions (Willis, “Fossils and Phosphate Specimens,” 1881.) Professor F.S. Holmes (paleontologist and curator of the College of Charleston’s Natural History Museum) described the fossil graveyard in a report to the Academy of Natural Sciences: “Remains of the hog, the horse and other animals of recent date, together with human bones mingled with the bones of the mastodon and extinct gigantic lizards.” There can be little doubt what extinct gigantic lizard he referenced for he pictured a hadrosaurus on the front of his 1870 book The Phosphate Rocks of South Carolina and captioned it: “Skeleton of a Fossil Lizard eighteen feet in Length.” Moreover, on page 31 he wrote, “It was in this Post-Pleiocene age, the period when the American Elephant, or Mammoth, the Mastodon, Rhinoceros, Megathereum, Hadrosaurus, and other gigantic quadrupeds roamed the Carolina forests, and repaired periodically to these Salt-lakes”… (p. 31.) The mixing of these remains was pell-mell throughout the roughly 40 square mile area of this deposit around Charleston, South Carolina. By one estimate, bones made up 65% of the extraordinary phosphate deposits in the region of the Ashley River basin before it was largely mined out. (Keener, J.C., The Garden of Eden and the Flood, 1901, p. 244.) Evolutionists have cast about trying to propose a credible mechanism for mixing creatures from Cretaceous to Holocene in this stratum, but none has been satisfactory and the matter has been expunged from current references to this site. (Watson, John Allen, Man, Dinosaurs, and Mammals Together, 2001, p. 7.)”
      The question seems to be: “what sort of giant li

  2. Peter, do you know if there is a consensus on whether Neanderthals interbred with Homo Sapiens Sapiens? I have heard that there is no DNA evidence for it, but there seems to be studies that support it.

    • It depends what you consider to be a “consensus,” really. The Tomkins post that I alluded to above was a result of a paper that claimed that the evidence in favour of limited admixture (which would be all DNA-related, as we have little else to go on) could be explained away by population structure, but this was loudly attacked. I heartily recommend John Hawks’ blog for this subject, particularly this post.

      I would say that the safest bet is to say that interbreeding is accepted in general by most scientists, and that most of the arguing is over the specifics.

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