Dark Christianity
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May 2008
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dogemperor [userpic]
Neanderthal DNA and Biblical Literalism

LJ-SEC: (ORIGINALLY POSTED BY [info]1400scale)

At first, I didn’t think this would be particularly dominionist-related (more of a “couple degrees of separation”-type thing), until I was reminded that dominionism itself is dependent on, among other things, strict Biblical literalism, PARTICULARLY with regards to the creation account of Genesis. That being said, here’s something that might just make some headway with the more soft-core authoritarian-types regarding that issue if presented correctly (not to mention the evolution debate), and persuade some to be more open to reason (some of you might already be aware of it, at least a bit, anyway).

Before I go into it, I’ll reiterate the reason why evolution is rejected by the majority of fundamentalist or fundamentalist-leaning Christians; they find Natural Selection to be incompatible with the Genesis account of the creation of HUMANS. Any objections presented in scientific terms are secondary to that (whether they admit it or not), and the full-on believers make no bones about the issue. This even includes many who regard the six “Creative Days” to be colloquialisms, and accept that our planet and life on it is much older. In fact, when pressed with the issue, many of the latter will acknowledge that the Bible does not say HOW God created all the plants and animals, simply that He DID it.

But the objection is, predominantly, belief that Adam was a literal historical figure with no biological ancestry, created by means of a miracle directly by the hand of God.

Which brings me to the point of the post; I’m actually quite surprised that virtually no one on the “Genesis-as-allegory” camp has yet used the recently conducted research on Neanderthal DNA to address Biblical literalism, because the potential exists for it.

Here’s the skinny:

Homo Neanderthalis - Neanderthal man - stood about 5 feet tall, was robust but not freakishly strong, and both male and female remains of varying age groups have been found exclusively in northern Europe. They had hands and feet that were indistinguishable from ours (unlike apes), wore clothes, used fire, used tools, created religious art, buried their dead, had BIGGER brains than we did, and a recent analysis of their jaw structure indicated they used complex speech to communicate. Until just this year, the only differences seemed cosmetic; they were somewhat barrel-chested, a little bowlegged, and their skulls were shaped differently, but other than that, no reasonable person could ever mistake them for anything but HUMAN. Put one in work clothes and a hardhat and stick him on the subway, and it's doubtful anyone would give him a second look.

Science's fundamental understanding of the differences between Homo neanderthalis and Homo sapiens was turned on its ear in the spring of 2006, when several corroborated and peer-reviewed analyses were done on samples of DNA confirmed to have come from Neanderthal remains (the results were published in the mainstream news in July).

For two similar but distinctly different organisms to be closely related (and thusly capable of breeding) they can only have a maximum difference of 5 major chromosome base pairs (also called "genetic markers"). Any more restricts their ability to interbreed; there just isn't enough common genetic material to reproduce. A typical example of this is the difference between lions and tigers; both are different, but there is a difference of less than 5 genetic markers between the two animals’ respective DNA; they are genetically similar enough to be able to interbreed and produce offspring. Polar bears and grizzlies are another example, as are wolves and coyotes, lynxes and bobcats, and other similar and related but distinctly different lifeforms. Therefore, one would assume that the genetic material of Neanderthals and modern humans would be strikingly similar.

The opposite proved to be the case.

In every test done, geneticists discovered that Neanderthal DNA and modern human DNA had a minimum differential of TWENTY-FIVE genetic markers. In some cases it was as much as THIRTY-TWO. Neanderthals were so different from us genetically that interbreeding wasn't even remotely possible. More importantly, we could not have been descended from them, nor could they have been descended from us. The laws of genetics are very clear; there simply wasn't enough common genetic material between them and us for both to be closely related in any practical way.

Since the “Piltdown Man” hoax, fraud is not tolerated in the scientific community; it undermines the public's collective confidence in it, and the various respective disciplines police each other quite rigorously. Therefore, the possibility of these tests being compromised in that manner is extremely remote. Not to mention that the study’s findings reflected the OPPOSITE of what was expected.

In addition, the research was conducted by GENETICISTS, not anthropologists or evolutionary biologists.

Finally, if the understanding and application of DNA and genetics which produced these results is so fundamentally flawed (no pun intended) that it produces results with an error-factor of that magnitude, then every court case wherein a defendant was cleared OR convicted of a crime by DNA evidence was potentially misjudged, and the possibility of that is near-nonexistent; once a guilty defendant is confronted with genetic evidence linking him to a crime, he almost always confesses, and vice versa.

Therefore, the findings of the genetic tests conducted on Neanderthal DNA are likely to be accurate.

As I said before, I’m quite surprised that no one in the “Genesis-as-allegory” camp has picked up on this, and I’ve been keeping an eye on it for a while now. I’ve given it some thought, and I think the problem may be twofold; no one has yet realized its significance, and subsequently, the right questions are not being asked of Biblical literalists.

You see, genetic evidence indicates that Neanderthals were not simply a different "race" of humans. They were a completely different SPECIES of human.

A literal acceptance of the Genesis account (as most fundamentalists regard it) insists that all humans are descended from Adam.


No exceptions.

So the first question is; how could two completely different and genetically distinct species have a common ancestor? (this question is rhetorical, BTW, it’s meant to make the literalist stop short – imagine, if you will, the typical “record-scratch” sound effect used in sitcoms when a conversation-stopper occurs in the dialogue).

The second (and, more importantly, NON-rhetorical) question is this; how does the existence of more than one species of human fit into the narrative framework of the Genesis creation account? Or more simply, does the Genesis creation account as LITERAL HISTORY (the way most fundamentalists view it) allow for the existence of another species of human?

The answer is NO.

It does NOT allow for it.

The existence of more than one species of human does not fit into the narrative framework of the Genesis creation account as it’s currently understood and accepted by the vast majority of dominionists and fundamentalists. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the existence of a completely separate and genetically distinct species of human would be regarded by most fundamentalists as being in direct CONTRADICTION to Genesis as literal history.

Yet the genetic evidence is conclusive. At least one other completely different species of human has existed on our planet.

Therefore, the view of “Genesis as literal history” can justifiably be reexamined and potentially revised by Biblical literalists.

And therefore, if, after doing so, the Genesis creation account CAN be regarded as parable (the means by which Jesus Christ AND the Apostle Paul would “teach, reprove, and set things straight”, I might add) rather than literal history, what is the likeliest means by which life developed and propagated on our planet? (another rhetorical “make-them-stop-and-think” question)

I realize that this argument won’t be much use against the hard-core fundamentalist community. However, it may make a difference with the more thoughtful ones who nevertheless might have fundamentalist leanings. Basically, those on the fence.

That being said, feel free to use this in conversation with any literally-inclined evangelical Christians (dominionist or not), whenever you encounter them (particularly ones who knock on your door). Remember, BE NICE. Tell them to feel free to confirm the findings for themselves; a quick Google search should turn it up. And more importantly, tell them to ask their ministers and pastors what the implications are, and to pass it up along the “chain of command” if one exists.