Re: Neanderthal DNA

Glenn Morton (
Mon, 14 Jul 1997 20:47:34 -0500

At 03:36 PM 7/14/97 -0700, Robert Wahl wrote:

>Glenn says, " is behavior which marks us as humans not looks, not
>genetics," but I always thought our genes made us human, both
>theologically and scientifically. The bible has a lot to say about
>decendency, and the usual definition of a species is related to the notion
>of a gene pool. Phenotype, we suppose, permits indirect observation of
>genes (genotype). Couldn't we say that a bipedal hominid with interesting
>teeth (like Lucy) is sub human but we look to a phenotype called 'spiritual
>awareness' to indicate a human?

Obviously genes play a role in behavior. But the problem we have with
neanderthal is this? Consider the picture below. DNA can be plotted in what
is called a phase space where each sequence represents one point. The phase
space is a multi-dimensional space (3.5 billion dimensions where each
nucleotide represents a dimension.) Let c be the mtDNA sequence of the last
common ancestor of modern men and Neanderthal. Let 1 be the Chinese, 2 be
the Australians, and 3 be Europeans, while 4 is about the same distance from
C as are 1,2 and 3 but it is into the plane of the page (it is behind c). B
will be explained later.

(this won't look good on the archive)

b 2


The reports I have read say that Neanderthal DNA is about equidistant from
modern mtDNA as all modern mtDNA is from each other.

Let us assume that this is the same way the Neanderthal nuclear DNA would
plot, i.e. about as different from any modern group as they are from each
other. Would this make a behavioural difference? If the position b
represents true modern behavior then one would be forced to conclude that
the Australians act more modern than any other population. But the
difficulty lies in the fact that the genomes of the earth form a cloud which
smears across the entire space, some people farther from b and other closer.
But since we consider all living people modern, obviously there is not one
single gene sequence which provides the definition for modern behavior. Not
knowing where the position for "modern behavior" or spiritual behavior is,
we can't rule Neanderthal out of the family. It might be that b was closer
to his position than ours.

Dick Fischer asked about Lucy. I don't know where to place the
Australopithecines. I have gone back and forth on their status. They left
so little evidence in the way of culture it is difficult to say whether the
material has decayed or never was. There is certainly no definitive
evidence for religion among them, as there is for erectus, Neanderthal and
modern man.


Foundation, Fall and Flood