Neanderthal Brains

Learning about Neanderthals and understanding who they were is fascinating. These humans have been regarded by some as knuckle-dragging brutes relegated to a separate lineage of man than us, but the more we learn about them, the more human they become. Well… those who believe the evolutionary history of life tend to make them less human, while those who don’t believe in evolution point out that they were just as human as you or I.

The first Neanderthal fossils were discovered in 1829 in Belgium, but they weren’t recognized until another specimen was discovered in 1856 in the Neander Valley in Germany. Cartoons depicted them as dumb ape-men or primitive humans, and that description lasted many years. But recently, some evolutionists have conceded that they’re humans, like us.

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Yet there are still those who maintain those old stereotypes in an effort (intentional or not) to dehumanize Neanderthals. It does little good to have them be fully human when they supposedly lived 28,000 to 200,000 years ago. In this article titled: “Neanderthal Brains Focused On Vision and Movement Leaving Less Room for Social Networking”, research by Eiluned Pearce and Professor Robin Dunbar at the University of Oxford and Professor Chris Stringer at the Natural History Museum, London, has suggested that Neanderthal brains were adapted to see better and maintain larger bodies than modern humans, but at the expense of a “higher level” of thinking, making them less able “to form large social groups”.

This conclusion is interesting because Neanderthals had a brain size as large as modern humans, if not larger. So rather than conclude that they were just as intelligent- if not more intelligent- as us, these researchers are trying to persuade us to believe that they were less intelligent and unable to form large social groups, which they believe is what helps make us so successful, and why they went extinct.

So how did they arrive at these conclusions? By looking at and comparing the skulls of 13 Neanderthals and 32 modern humans to examine the size and organization of the brain. They found that the brain structure was different- Neanderthals had significantly larger eye sockets, and that larger areas of the Neanderthal’s brain were used for processing vision and movement. Therefore, it’s assumed that there was less room for other cognitive functions, such as a higher level of thinking.

Further, it’s believed that Neanderthals evolved larger eyes because they were living at higher latitudes. They also had shorter, stockier bodies that were strong, compact and heavily built- ideal for winter climates.

The researchers admitted that Neanderthals have large brains, but contend that their brain size is a source of debate because no one knew the “quality” of their brains, leaving us to focus on their “material culture and supposed way of life” to understand the complexity of their brains.

Professor Robin Dunbar says, “Having less brain available to manage the social world has profound implications for the Neanderthals’ ability to maintain extended trading networks, and are likely also to have resulted in less well developed material culture — which, between them, may have left them more exposed than modern humans when facing the ecological challenges of the Ice Ages.”

But the article concludes with another admission, namely that the relationship between brain size and cognitive abilities is controversial.

Therefore it’s important to point out that examining skull size can’t tell us anything about how a person or people group thought, behaved, or acted. Though the article mentions this controversy, it nonetheless purports much of their research as fact, which reinforces these false evolutionary beliefs with the public at large.

As a creationist we have a different understanding of Neanderthals; for one, they were never the brutish beasts depicted, but were descendents of Noah and his son’s Shem, Ham and Japheth, just like the rest of us. Sometime after humans were scattered across the earth, this particular people group became isolated in the European regions and higher latitudes, taking with them a specific gene pool that benefited a specific body type and size. This, in fact, is no different than any other people group that has diversified their physical characteristics to fit certain geographical regions. But it doesn’t mean that they are less capable of having large social groups than any other people group. And it doesn’t mean that any particular people group of modern humans are less developed than any other. This study suggests that we can look at people groups around the world and make them less human because of certain attributes. But that’s what has been done in the past due to Darwinism and evolution; it used to be said that certain people groups were less evolved than others, justifying how we treat or mistreat them, but we now know this isn’t true, and I’d go on to say that it was never true about any people group.

In fact we were all made in the image of God: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).

And as we head into the Easter holiday, it’s important to remember the work that Christ did on the cross for all men: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

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