Did Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals Interbreed?

Wallace (Shaun) Shaunfield, 7/25/2010


In the book, My God, Your God? on page 85, I pointed out there was some debate as to whether there was any interbreeding between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals. I also pointed out that at that point in time, there was no DNA evidence to support the theory that they did interbreed.

Now there is evidence that interbreeding did occur and was reported in a new study by N. M. Hunley and colleagues at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologist in Albuquerque, N. M. in Aril 2010 and was reported online by The Christian Science Monitor and others. The study “found signs of ‘some significant amount’ of interbreeding between early humans and Neanderthals”. They felt the interbreeding occurred shortly after Homo sapiens migrated out of Africa around 60,000 years ago.

Another study published in the May 7 issue of Science from the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig Germany and authored by a team led by Svante Pääbo found the same result as reported in cosmosmagazine.com. This team felt that interbreeding was probably infrequent as only 1-4% of the modern non-African genome appeared to be from Neanderthals. This study also reported that their results show the Neanderthal to be a separate species rather than a subspecies of Homo sapiens.

However, as Michael Shermer discusses in his article in the Scientific American, August 2010, “By Mayr’s definition, these two interbreeding populations are not two species after all, but two sibling subspecies…” So what is the answer? Both of these reports are preliminary and I believe the scientist will come to a common conclusion in time.  I believe there is a more important question for me. Does this have any bearing on the conclusions about God reached in the book? The answer to this is, while the interbreeding is interesting, I do not see that it matters at all.

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