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Thursday, 24 May 2018

No, hominin fossils are not all the same.

Given that anti-evolutionists in our community are invariably extremely poorly informed on even the basics of palaeoanthropology, I am not surprised to see sweeping statements such as "there is no evidence that Neanderthal man existed", uncritical repetition of creationist aphorisms such as "all life breeds after its own kind" or even "there are no different species of humans, only different races." Anyone who makes these assertions is positively shouting the fact that they know nothing of the subject at all. The morphological differences between humans and Neanderthals are clear and unmistakable. Furthermore, we now have the Neanderthal genome, which is clearly distinct from that of the human. Both anatomy and genetics confirm that Neanderthals existed, and were clearly different from us. In this post, I will summarise this information.

Even for those without formal training in anatomy, the differences between human and Neanderthal skulls are clear and unmistakable. [1]


By hairymuseummatt - https://www.flickr.com/photos/hmnh/3033749380/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6833148

  • Neanderthal cranial vaults are longer, wider, and lower than modern humans
  • Neanderthals brow ridges (supraorbital tori) are more pronounced than in modern humans
  • Neanderthals have a flat frontal squama (forehead) that slopes sharply backwards
  • Neanderthal frontal sinuses don't extend into the frontal squama and are larger than those of modern humans
  • Neanderthal skulls have an occipital bun (a bulge at the back of the skull)
  • Distinct differences between the bony labyrinth (the bony outer wall of the inner ear)
  • Neanderthal faces are larger in length, breadth, and height.
  • Neanderthal piroform aperture (nose opening) is much larger
  • Neanderthal faces are prognathic (protruding mandible)
  • Lack of a mental protuberance (chin) in the Neanderthal jaw
  • Large incisors and canine teeth in Neanderthals
The differences between Neanderthal and modern human bodies are also likewise clear. [2]
  • Short, stocky build
  • Shorter ulna and radius compared with humerus
  • Shorter fibula and tibia compared with femur
  • Very long clavicles
  • Broad, flared pelvis
Reconstructed Neanderthal and modern human skeleton. Note the difference in the anterior tilt of the pelvis: less in the Neanderthal, more tilted in the human skeleton shown. (Sawyer and Maley 2005). Source

While I am mainly concerned with physical anthropology rather than genetics, it is worth noting that not only do we have a considerable number of Neanderthal fossils, we have also been able to sequence the Neanderthal genome and show that it does differ from that of the human genome. In fact, we have been able to demonstrate that non-African humans interbred with Neanderthals, with humans outside of Africa having a small component of Neanderthal ancestry. [3]

The assertion that 'there are no different species of humans, only different races' is as I have already demonstrated just from the Neanderthal data demonstrably false. This becomes even more apparent when we look at the hominin fossil record over time, where clear, unmistakable change over time occurs.

Homo habilis -  Cranial capacity 510cc (KNM-ER 1813 - 1.9 million years old)

Homo rudolfensis - Cranial capacity 700 cc (KNM-ER 1470 - 1.9 million years old


Homo erectus - Cranial capacity 850cc  (KNM-ER 3733 - 1.8 million years old)


Homo erectus - Cranial capacity 1029 cc (Sangiran 17 - 1.3 - 1.0 million years old)

Homo heidelbergensis - Cranial capacity 1250cc (Bodo - 600,000 years old)




Homo neanderthalensis - Cranial capacity 1641cc (Saccopastore 1 - 130,000 -100,000 years old)
 
Homo sapiens - Cranial capacity 1660cc (Cro Magnon 1 - 30,000 years old)
There is simply no way one can bracket all these hominins in the same species. The creationist who asserts that "there are no different species of humans, only different races" needs to find alive today "races of humans" that are identical to Homo habilis, Homo erectus, and Homo neanderthalensis. I safely predict that any such search will be fruitless. One wishes creationists would not make such easily falsifiable assertions, if only because it brings Christianity into disrepute by confirming every negative stereotype of Christians.

References
 

1. Cartmill, Matt; Smith, Fred H.. The Human Lineage (Foundation of Human Biology) (Kindle Location 12400-13222). Wiley. Kindle Edition. 
2. ibid, locations 13224 -13597
3. Complete Neanderthal Genome Sequenced. DNA Signatures Found in Present-Day Europeans and Asians, But Not In Africans NIH News Thurs., May 6, 2010