Evolutionists and Creationists can come up with widely disparate theories
as to why the Neanderthals, who “appeared to have everything going for them”, suddenly, startlingly, disappeared from the world scene.
Anne Habermehl, who lists some of these many theories, considers that Dr. Jack Cuozzo’s “explanation of the Neanderthal demise [is] a good one”:
Those Enigmatic Neanderthals. What Are They Saying?
Are We Listening?
Why Did the Neanderthals Disappear?
The biggest puzzle, that neither the majority of creationists nor the evolutionists have been able to solve, is why the Neanderthals disappeared. The robust Neanderthals appeared to have everything going for them, all agree, and there is no visible reason why they should not have survived (Trinkaus 1978). Nonetheless, disappear they did, rather suddenly, before the end of the post-Flood Ice Age or, as evolutionists call it, the end of the last ice age9 (Van Andel and Davies 2004).
Everyone agrees that modern humans showed up on the world scene at approximately the same time that the Neanderthals disappeared; whether or not this timing was a coincidence is debated. Some evolutionists allow thousands of years for the two groups to overlap—how many thousand is a matter of intense discussion—because they have a lot of time at their disposal, and a few thousand years here or there are a mere trifle (see, for example, Lewin 1999, pp. 157, 165–166). Creationists obviously have far less historical time available to account for the Neanderthal disappearance and subsequent appearance of modern man; therefore they have to explain how this mysterious event could have happened so quickly. But the problem for both sides is the same: why did it happen?
The proposed explanations forwarded by evolutionists on the Neanderthal demise have been both varied and creative, and only a sampling of the rather large literature on this subject can be touched on here. The Neanderthals’ supposed inability to cope with climate change has been especially popular (Jimenez-Espejo et al. 2007); although the Neanderthals had been able to live through the Ice Age successfully, they apparently could not cope with the ending of this cold period. Also much discussed are losing out to modern humans in various kinds of competition (Banks et al. 2008; Hoffecker 2002; Shea 2001), intermarrying with moderns (Zilhão 2006), or possibly both (Miller 2001). But there are others. Carnieri (2006) suggests that anatomically modern humans in Europe ate a lot of seafood; this more healthful diet helped them outlive the largely carnivorous Neanderthals. Sorensen (n.d.) suggests that Homo sapiens, migrating out of Africa, brought infectious disease that killed off the Neanderthals. Kuhn and Stiner (2006) argue that because Neanderthals did not divide their labor between the sexes the way modern humans did, this gave the latter a survival advantage. A mathematician, using what he calls a “simple mathematical homogeneous model of competition,” has determined that extinction of the Neanderthals was unavoidable (Flores 1998). Economists have gotten into the act with a theory that the Neanderthals came out second best because modern humans were better at trade (Horan, Bulte, and Shogren 2005). A rather grisly version surfaced in reports that, finally, there was good evidence that the Neanderthals actually did practice cannibalism, as had been suspected (Sanders 1999); presumably we were to believe that, like the gingham dog and the calico cat (Field 1894), the Neanderthals simply ate each other up. Then a different angle on the alleged cannibalism was proposed: eating each other, especially the brains, might have caused spreading of a mad-cow-related disease that could have played a large part in wiping the Neanderthals out (Underdown 2008). More recently, news articles (for example, McKie 2009) trumpeted to the world that it was actually cannibalistic modern humans who ate the Neanderthals up; this was based on an interview with scientist Fernando Rozzi, head of a research team that had just published a paper (Rozzi et al. 2009) that cast doubt on what their leader was telling the press(!). According to a group of geneticists, the small population size of Neanderthals may have made them more vulnerable to extinction, whatever the causes (Briggs et al. 2009).
This is not an exhaustive list of the many possibilities that have been proposed. As one insightful science newswriter says, “Figuring out why Neanderthals died out and what they were like when alive have kept plenty of scientists busy” (ANI 2009). Mark Twain would have been quite impressed by how little hard evidence supports some of these papers. He wrote, “There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact” (Twain 1883). One might think he was talking about evolutionists’ papers on the disappearance of the Neanderthals.
Meanwhile, creationists’ explanations of the Neanderthal demise have seemed rather tame and tentative by comparison, nor has there been a noticeable rush to embrace many of the various theories offered by evolutionists. Even Lubenow, who is very definite about many other ideas in his book, glosses lightly over the matter of why creationists think the Neanderthals disappeared from view; indeed, he speculates that Neanderthals could have survived into fairly recent times (Lubenow 2004, p. 82). The creationist stance is exemplified by a recent online piece about an apparent Neanderthal stabbing (Human stabbed a Neanderthal, evidence suggests, 2009), that ended with the words,
The more interesting debate is whether Neanderthals went entirely extinct . . . or whether their genes survive in many modern Europeans, as some studies have suggested.
On the one side, Oard (2006a, p. 129) states that the Neanderthals “very likely” intermarried with Cro-Magnon man, who seemed to follow the Neanderthals into Europe some time later; and Sarfati (2004, p. 317) concludes that “. . . modern humans and Neandertals likely amalgamated in Europe.” But, on the other side, Wise (2008) claims that DNA evidence shows that we do not carry Neanderthal genes today; therefore Neanderthals went extinct without intermarrying with modern humans. He speculates that this extinction event could have occurred because of challenges of survival in the post-Flood earth, or from various kinds of human violence.
The creationist debate as to whether or not the Neanderthals mixed their genes with those of modern humans through marriage is mirrored by evolutionists (who prefer to talk about “interbreeding” or “admixing” or “cohabiting”). Their positions are entrenched on both sides of this fence. “It is becoming increasingly clear that the Neanderthals and their modern human successors did not mix and that the Neanderthals are an extinct side branch of humanity” (Klein 2003); see also Currat and Excoffier (2004) and Tattersall (2007). But on the opposite side of the question are Wolpoff et al. (2004), who specifically refute Klein (2003); and Trinkhaus (2007), who believes that paleoanthropology shows definitively that the Neanderthals and moderns interbred, and the case is closed. Not so, says Paabo (Morgan 2009), whose belief in DNA and genome mapping (Green et al. 2008) bring him down on the side of almost total lack of interbreeding between Neanderthals and later humans. There would appear to be practically no middle ground between the two camps.
Predictably, progressive (old-earth) creationist Hugh Ross much prefers the DNA “proof” that Neanderthals and modern humans did not interbreed10; this is an extremely important matter to Ross, because if it can be shown that they did intermix, this would be “fatal to the current Progressive Creationist model,” according to Line (2007).
Obviously creationists and evolutionists are grappling with the same questions. Lubenow’s remark that the disappearance of the Neanderthals is like the disappearance of the Cheshire cat (Carroll 1865), whose grin remains to taunt evolutionists (Lubenow 2004, p. 81), applies equally to creationists. Clearly, the matter of what caused the disappearance of the Neanderthals has not been clear at all.
A major problem with most of the proffered hypotheses on the Neanderthal extinction is the widening geographical distribution of Neanderthal sites that have been located in the past few years, a subject that will be discussed later in this paper. Many authors address extinction of the Neanderthals in Europe, for example, and then rather ignore the ones in more far-flung places. Did other Neanderthals in other places become extinct for the same reasons? The whole subject becomes more complicated as the very large distances involved make it increasingly difficult to assume that everything can be explained by merely saying that the Neanderthals were nomadic.
However, the problem of the demise of the Neanderthals goes away entirely if we accept that Cuozzo is correct in his conclusions that the Neanderthals were the post-Flood long-lived people who spread out from Babel in all directions. Their “disappearance” would have occurred when they no longer lived long enough to develop the distinctive Neanderthal characteristics.11 The modern humans who supposedly “replaced” the Neanderthals would be the descendants of the latter, who did not live as long as their ancestors. This not only makes the matter of the Neanderthal disappearance very simple and straightforward, it also explains why it happens that modern humans arose at around the same time as the Neanderthals disappeared; furthermore, this would be true in all parts of the world. Proponents of Occam’s razor (Occam’s razor 2009), often stated as “The simplest explanation is usually the best,” would recognize the Cuozzo explanation of the Neanderthal demise as a good one.
According to Cuozzo, we would expect that, with people’s decreasing lifespans as time went on, the Neanderthal characteristics would gradually lessen from generation to generation, and then disappear entirely. In fact, this is what we see in various archaeological discoveries, although these are usually interpreted as humans that are the result of intermarriage between the Neanderthal and modern peoples (except for the DNA proponents, who do not agree, and who propose other ideas). For example, excavations in Israel are claimed to show “continuous biological evolution from Neanderthal to anatomically modern Homo sapiens” (Jelinek 1982). Also, at the Neanderthal site in Romania, the human remains display a “mosaic of modern human and archaic and/or Neandertal features” according to the paper published on the find (Soficaru, Dobos, and Trinkaus 2006). Creationists have hailed this as exciting news and further evidence that the Neanderthals were fully human beings (Anderson 2006; Jaroncyk 2007).
It follows logically that Cuozzo’s work knocks out the underpinnings of the Ross old-earth belief system, since the Ross view of Neanderthals as animals without spirits is nullified.