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Big-eye brain-less Neandertal nonsense

by and Don Batten

Published: 23 May 2013 (GMT+10)

Photo by David Green

The Neandertal Gibraltar 1 cranium was found in Forbes’ Quarry, Gibraltar, prior to 1948, and is said to be the first adult Neandertal 
cranium discovered (though it was not recognized as such until after the discovery of the original Neandertal fossils in the Feldhofer cave, Germany in 1856).

The Neandertal Gibraltar 1 cranium was found in Forbes’ Quarry, Gibraltar, prior to 1948, and is said to be the first adult Neandertal cranium discovered (though it was not recognized as such until after the discovery of the original Neandertal fossils in the Feldhofer cave, Germany in 1856).

BBC News opened their story on this with: “A study of Neanderthal skulls suggests that they became extinct because they had larger eyes than our species.”1

This outlandish claim arose out of a paper published in the esteemed Proceedings of the Royal Society B.2 Researchers reported that they compared the skulls of 32 Homo sapiens and 13 Neandertals. The latter had larger eye sockets—by an average of 6 mm (1/4 inch) from top to bottom. The researchers said this meant that more of the Neandertal brain would have been dedicated to vision, “leaving less brain to deal with other functions like social networking”.

Huh? Neandertals had slightly bigger eye sockets so they used more of their brains for visual processing and therefore were not as bright as ‘modern’ humans who therefore outcompeted them thanks to superior social networking and that’s why the Neandertals went extinct! And they call this ‘science’?

Photo by Claire Houck

Despite some slight differences in their shape, and allowing for the evolutionary bias in many of the reconstructions (walking with both knees 
bent, as here, makes them appear more ape-like, but this is an incredibly inefficient and unlikely mode of locomotion), Neandertal skeletons are very similar to ‘modern 
humans’.  Evolutionists such as Professor Chris Stringer (referred to in article) who want to portray Neandertals as inferior to ‘modern humans’ would do well 
to consider this: Neandertals had stronger bones, larger muscles, better teeth, bigger brains, greater average height (than the modern worldwide average), and with their bigger 
eyes, are now said by Stringer and his colleagues to have had better eyesight in the dark. Exactly who was superior to whom?

Despite some slight differences in their shape, and allowing for the evolutionary bias in many of the reconstructions (walking with both knees bent, as here, makes them appear more ape-like, but this is an incredibly inefficient and unlikely mode of locomotion), Neandertal skeletons are very similar to ‘modern humans’. Evolutionists such as Professor Chris Stringer (referred to in article) who want to portray Neandertals as inferior to ‘modern humans’ would do well to consider this: Neandertals had stronger bones, larger muscles, better teeth, bigger brains, greater average height (than the modern worldwide average), and with their bigger eyes, are now said by Stringer and his colleagues to have had better eyesight in the dark. Exactly who was superior to whom?

But they’re serious: “We infer that Neanderthals had a smaller cognitive part of the brain and this would have limited them, including their ability to form larger groups. If you live in a larger group, you need a larger brain in order to process all those extra relationships,” said one of the researchers, Professor Chris Stringer, of London’s Natural History Museum (and of ‘Boxgrove Man’3,4 fame).

He went on to say that this might have given us a crucial survival advantage. “Even if you had a small percent better ability to react quickly, to rely on your neighbours to help you survive and to pass on information—all these things together gave the edge to Homo sapiens over Neanderthals, and that may have made a difference to survival.”

But the ‘reasoning’ is hugely flawed, in the light of:

  1. Bigger eye sockets does not necessarily mean more light sensors/optic nerve fibres, so more of the brain would not be used.
  2. Neandertals had significantly bigger brains than ‘modern’ humans to start with, on average, anyway, so if more was used for visual processing, there would still be probably as much left as a ‘modern human’.
  3. The human brain is incredibly plastic in its organization, which cannot be ascertained by measuring eye sockets. For example, scientists have studied a girl born in Germany without the right hemisphere of her brain who can see normally. The optic nerves from her left and right eyes that would normally go to her right hemisphere re-routed to the left-hemisphere where regions of the brain were allocated to accommodate her vision. Dr Lars Muckli, who led the University of Glasgow study, said:
    “This study has revealed the surprising flexibility of the brain when it comes to self-organising mechanisms for forming visual maps.
    “The brain has amazing plasticity but we were quite astonished to see just how well the single hemisphere of the brain in this girl has adapted to compensate for the missing half.
    “Despite lacking one hemisphere, the girl has normal psychological function and is perfectly capable of living a normal and fulfilling life. She is witty, charming and intelligent.”5

So much for the wild conclusions that Neandertals has less brain available for social functions because their eyes were slightly bigger!

The human brain is incredibly plastic in its organization, which cannot be ascertained by measuring eye sockets.

Furthermore, these claims by Stringer and his colleagues run counter to an ever-increasing number of studies for well over a decade now pointing to Neandertals being just as intelligent as humans today, i.e. just like ‘modern humans’.6,7

Consider, for example, the recent report of medicinal chemicals being found in the tartar on Neanderthal teeth.8 The chemicals were from bitter herbs with “no nutritional qualities—but known medicinal qualities”, e.g. yarrow (an astringent) and camomile (an anti-inflammatory). New Scientist reported, by way of introduction: “Call it the Neanderthal health service”.2

Study after study of Neandertals point to their humanity. This is consistent with them being one of the post-Flood populations of humans that descended from Noah and his family, following the dispersion from Babel (Genesis 11).

Related Articles

Further Reading

References

  1. Neanderthals’ large eyes ‘caused their demise’, BBC News, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-21759233, 13 March 2013. Return to text.
  2. Pearce, E., Stringer, C. and Dunbar, R., New insights into differences in brain organization between Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 280(1758): 20130168, 7 May 2013. Return to text.
  3. ‘Boxgrove man’ … tall and human, Creation 16(4): 9, 1994, creation.com/focus-164#boxgrove-man. Return to text.
  4. Batten, D., Not another ape-man! Creation 18(3):42–45, 1996, creation.com/not-another-ape-man. Return to text.
  5. Scientists reveal secret of girl with ‘all seeing eye’; http://phys.org/news167324813.html, July 20, 2009. Return to text.
  6. Oard, M., Neandertal man—the changing picture, Creation 25(4):10–14, 2003; creation.com/neandertal. Return to text.
  7. Borger, P. and Truman, R., The FOX2P gene supports Neandertals being fully human, Journal of Creation 22(2):13–14, 2008. Return to text.
  8. Neanderthals had herbal know-how, New Scientist 215(2875):14, 28 July 2012. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments
Graham P., New Zealand, 23 May 2013

Excellent. Speaking of plasticity: An American surgeon has specialised in hemisphere-ectomies for years now, where he removes half of someone's brain permanently, to alleviate constant fits. These patients experience no harm at all, retaining their full range of physical abilities, except perhaps for an occasional limp in one leg. His name is Ben Carson.

David Catchpoole responds

Thanks for advising us of that very interesting fact, and making that pertinent point so well. It nicely adds to what we've previously written: Amazing brain—designed to compensate and The brain—brainier than believed before.

PostScript 24 May: See cautionary note from correspondent P.B. below.

N. O., Sweden, 23 May 2013

Reminds me of a study published by Oxford in Biology Letters (August 2011)--it indicated that scandinavians have larger orbits and brains than many other people groups.

This did not correlate with higher intelligence, however. Instead, the researchers suggested that the darker northern hemisphere forced scandinavians to follow an evolutionary trend similar to owls... But this might just fit as well in the creation model as any minor adaptation.

Susan W., United States, 23 May 2013

Thanks for a great article pointing out the huge stretch scientists make in the cause of supporting their religion, i.e., evolution. The information under the picture of the Neanderthal skeleton was great, I wish it was in bigger type, for I almost missed it. Thanks for all you do!! God bless you!

Don Batten responds

We are planning to make the caption font a bit bigger. We agree that it is a bit small.

Bruce B., United Kingdom, 23 May 2013

This simply seems to indicate that the human capacity for stupidity increases in direct proportion to intellectual capacity when we try to force facts into paradigms.

I have a recollection of many years ago (when brain scanning was new), that a Scandinavian man was discovered to have an almost hollow cranium with what brain tissue that remained adhering to the skull. Apparently this had been caused by hydroencephalitis in childhood. He apparently suffered no impairment to any of his faculties and was unaware of his brain condition. I can't vouch for it but it certainly sounds as though in could be true in the light of these accounts.

Jonathan W., United States, 23 May 2013

Is the will to achieve a name and receive recognition for oneself in the scientific community so great that it will lead a person to make such outlandish conclusions and yet take it in all seriousness?

Aleksandar K., Croatia, 23 May 2013

Big eye sockets, small brain? Isn't this phrenology?

David Catchpoole responds

For readers who might be wondering what 'phrenology' is, see Using facial angle to prove evolution and the human race hierarchy.

And for the horrific consequences of such thinking see, e.g., Darwinism and the Nazi race holocaust and Potatoes and 'white chimpanzees'.

P. B., United Kingdom, 23 May 2013

Appreciated this short article about this latest evolutionary nonsense, thank you.

Just a word of caution if I may. In light of other commentators on the internet regarding hemispherectomy, it seems Graham P of NZ was rather overstating things when he said that hemispherectomy patients “experience no harm at all, retaining their full range of physical abilities…”. E.g. one says:

"Do hemispherectomy patients suffer any long-term disability? Patients with hemispherectomies always have some paralysis on the side of the body opposite the removed hemisphere. They are usually able to walk with only a limp, and perhaps an ankle brace. They are able to move the elbow and shoulder on the paralyzed side, but do not have normal function in the hand and fingers, or normal sensation. Therefore, the paralyzed hand becomes a "helper" hand and never completely recovers. However, all the children have some paralysis before the operation. Surgery does not appear to decrease a child's intellect. Intelligence sometimes, in fact, improves due, partly, to a lack of seizures and elimination of anti-seizure medications. Where there are no complications, many of these children leave the hospital for rehabilitation within two weeks of surgery."

And another writes:

"Still, there are potential side effects of the procedure that may leave a permanent trace on the patient's life. Apart from general side effects that are transient and easily managed there are far more complex issues like swelling of the brain, loss of movement/sensation on the opposite side of the body, loss of peripheral vision, delayed development and damage to the remnant hemisphere. This is why hemispherectomy is almost exclusively performed in children in whom the neurons from the preserved portion of the brain may easily take over the tasks of the removed parts and by doing so restore all the functions that would be otherwise lost."

Michael F., United States, 24 May 2013

Neanderthals didn't go extinct. The are alive inside of most modern humans. I got a DNA test from 23andme, and it says I am over 3% Neanderthal, which is pretty high...in the 98th percentile. Funny thing is that people always tell me I have really big eyes :-) I also have a big round neanderthal nose, just like Darwin and Einstein.

John M., New Zealand, 24 May 2013

If brain size is so closely correlated with general or social intelligence, then males are smarter than females because they generally have larger brains, short people are less smart than tall people because their brains are smaller, and elephants are smarter than evolutionist humans for the same reason.

Bob S., United States, 24 May 2013

Thank you for this article exposing one more fanciful story. Evolutionism is built on many such fanciful stories. The reigning paradigm (false reality) is always self-promoting and self-protecting. The main problem of paradigms is that they appear to be reality to the people who are captured by them. They explain every observation so it fits comfortably into the paradigm. The reigning paradigm confirms itself by filtering out any scientific papers that would challenge it and by limiting funding to only those who will promote the reigning paradigm.

However, these are just competing stories. They don’t even make sense, but if they did make sense, they would simply be competing stories, uncheckable lies.

John 10:4 “And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.” John 10:16 “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” John 10:27 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me”

We recognize His Voice, and His Voice tells us that the Scripture gives us the true history, and all these competing stories are false.

Since the ungodly think their paradigm is reality, they also think that telling any story that makes sense and also fits into their false reality will prove the story true. We, as followers of Christ, must re-frame the discussion in a way that fits with God’s revealed Truth rather than the ungodly false reality. Even if they ever dream up a feasible competing story, it would only be a feasible lie. They have proved nothing. It is impossible to prove a lie so it is impossible to prove naturalism or that molecules-to-man evolution actually happened.

Michael H., Australia, 24 May 2013

There's "amazing plasticity" all right -- in the evolutionary story-telling. You're right - this isn't science, it's science fiction.

B. H., Australia, 24 May 2013

Another great article. Keep up the good work.

I'm getting increasingly annoyed at our local ABC radio station. It seems that every week they are doing extended interviews of proponents of the religion of evolution. Yesterday it was a cosmologist who got quite insulting when asked about creationists. He obviously didn't have any legitimate arguments so resorted to vilification (a usual tactic). He also made an off the cuff claim something to the effect "We know RNA can form spontaneously." What rubbish! This "expert" was obviously not a student of chemistry. Every chemical reaction is an equilibrium reaction that will go toward the product that is in the lowest energy state unless special conditions are applied to the reaction. I suspect any molecule of RNA that might miraculously spontaneously form (if that was at all possible) would very quickly revert to its constituent parts (obeying the Second Law of Thermodynamics). Besides RNA forming without all the machinery to decode it (for which it codes itself) is useless anyway.

Perhaps we should demand equal time on the ABC.

DrMike S., Finland, 24 May 2013

Has something happened when I wasn't looking ? Surely Neanderthal is OFFICIALLY H. sapiens neanderthalensis ... Which means they ARE H. sapiens ... so what's Chris Stringer on about ? Evil-utionists really should concentrate more. EITHER larger brains = more intelligence ... OR brain size and intelligence are not linked ... In which case ... what's the point in bothering about eye socket size ? What they SHOULD be looking at is CAT scans of Organs Of Balance in ORIGINAL skulls; where there is an Organ of Balance suitable for upright walking; it will be obvious. Where it is best suited to a four-legged gait such as knuckle walking it will be equally obvious. The Lord is in the details ! God bless !

Anna N., United Kingdom, 24 May 2013

We only use a % of our brain function which then leads one to think we must be still quite stupid. Bigger eye-sockets would not have any influence on the size of the brain, it just means that possibly Neanderthal vision may have had a better peripheral vision and using the visual cortex to a much greater extent.

Gail S., United States, 25 May 2013

I think these researchers have to be on drugs to come up with this explanation...

Geoff W., Australia, 25 May 2013

Um... isn't there an odd creature about the place with a brain smaller than a human, but which has very high social organisation? Like, say, ants?

Must be something else going on there...

Mary J., United States, 25 May 2013

I was rather surprised that your assumption about Neanderthals is that they were "post-flood." Is there any possibility that they were pre-flood?

I have a book by an orthodontist in which he points out that the skulls of Neanderthals are frequently displayed with the jaw set in the wrong position to give them a more ape-like appearance. He also concluded that the brow-ridges were so thick because they had lived long, long lives. I realize that the first people after the flood lived very long lives, compared to today, but I assumed he was referring to pre-flood humans because of their exceptionally long lives.

Don Batten responds

I assume the book you refer to is by Dr John ('Jack') Cuozzo. He also has Neandertals as post-Flood, as he says in this article. We agree. We don't believe that there is any possibility of them being pre-Flood.

Teddy M., New Zealand, 26 May 2013

We who believe in the truth of creation, thus, the Creator and the Son, need to admit that people living in western societies have had the Truth available to them for centuries and many, if not most, have rejected it. Darwin only provides cover for this rejection. Theistic evolution is worse with its duplicity. Ooh, too negative? No, just looking at current society through the prism of the Old Testament. The Israelites consistently rejected, as Jesus noted, Moses and the prophets. What is going on today should remind us "there is nothing new under the sun." It doesn't matter that the philosophy of evolution fails as science and is full of lies; people who want to be their own God want to believe it. The beauty of CMI is that it provides a bulwark for Christian parents to teach their children to think critically and to notice the dishonesty in programs like the one critiqued in this article and teach them a way of thinking they will not depart from as they grow older. CMI also fills the breach for folks who may or may not currently be believers in God but are alert in their search for provable, observable facts in science and don't swallow the philosophical koolaid that has kept generations turned against God in the name of science. The good news in the broader sense is that in some societies, like China, there is a turning to Shang Ti, the one true god and creator of all things and his son, Jesu Jidu, especially in universities, the main haven of Darwinism in the west. The comment of one professor might give some insight as to why, "In China, we can criticize Darwin but not the government." Professor Chen then noted "In America you can criticize the government but not Darwin." He could have included all western societies.

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