"Neanderthals were People too" -- what are the implications for faith?

This means that Adam and Eve lived over 500,000 years ago, no? Since that was the most recent common ancestor with modern humans (homo sapiens). I guess this could be compatible with church teaching, but it is so far off from usual depictions of the data (that the first “true humans” with a soul were 40,000-100,000 years ago as expressed by their cognitive and religious abilities).

But the issue is that neanderthals seemingly behaved in ways that traditionally caused theologians to say “true humans” only appeared about 40,000-100,000 years ago. Behavior resembling symbolic thought is said to have been part of neanderthal man; in addition, they made specific tools AND buried their dead*

In other words, theologians used to science and faith meshed well when considering Adam and Eve to have existed among the first *homo sapiens, a couple of thousand of years ago, since they were the first ones to display behaviors associated with the immortal soul.

The following articles may be helpful:

Neandertal Man - The Changing Picture

The Neandertals: Our Worthy Ancestors

There is no evidence of this. Science cannot, by its own definition, study the soul. It does not exist.


There is no Church teaching that says that. Adam and Eve are our first parents.

From the Catechism:

“390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man.264 Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.265”


No, but Catholics interested in reconciling scientific findings with the teaching on Original Sin and our First Parents have looked at the behavior of prehistoric humans to estimate when the rational soul came into the picture. That estimate now seems to be an order of magnitude too recent.

Well, the soul us typically associated with rational thought, so we could find fairly conclusive evidence, but you’re right, we don’t know for sure, and symbolic thought in itself might not mean “ensouled”. My only point is that if Neanderthals were ensouled men and “true humans”, they’d also have to be descended from Adam and Eve.

Yes, beware of the dating methods used.

I don’t trust the dating methods. I think Evolutionary Biology has no merit. Regarding genetics, allow me to mention “Junk DNA.” The conclusion drawn was that those junk (non-coding for proteins) elements were leftovers of our very lengthy development. That they were once useful, but are no longer needed. A little later, it turns out somebody finds out that they have function, then more and more are found to have function.


You are correct Ed. :thumbsup:

You’re missing the point of this thread. It’s not to say “Neanderthals are people and you MUST believe it.” but to say “Would Neanderthals being people contradict the faith?” Personally, I’m done, at least for now, trying to convince anyone that evolution is real, but by that same token please don’t go around saying those of us that take an evolutionist view on human development are idiots for even considering it.

And the question of whether or not A&E could’ve been before homo sapiens is a very interesting one for those of us that take an evolutionist view, just as any of the things you call science supporting a young earth are intriguing to you.

Pay attention to the Royal Societies last meeting on evolution. Neo-Darwinism is dead.

Okay well if you’re going to adequately attempt to answer the question, keep in mind I do accept the scientific evidence. I accept biological evolution, even if the human body. And I believe the teaching Church has moved this way as well.

You may argue about dating methods or evolution or quote the catechism, but note you will probably not be answering this thread’s question.

To recap. Neanderthals have seemed to displayed otherwise “unique” human behavior, such as burial of dead, making jewelry, and possibly capable of symbolic thought. Such characteristics have usually been associated with the immortal soul. And therefore traditionally, any such creature on earth would have to have Adam and Eve as a common ancestor. So either we say Adam and Eve lived much more long ago, perhaps as far back as 500,000 years (which would be odd considering how recent Abhrahamic religion came on to the scene). Or we modify the characteristics of the soul.

If it wasn’t clear from my responses, I don’t doubt the dating methods and such. 6,000 years ago, 40,000 years ago, 500,000 years ago, doesn’t matter. If there was an ensouled, true man walking about, Neanderthal or Homo sapiens or what have you, he was descended from Adam and Eve.

Maybe symbolic thought isn’t the same as having a soul and an immortal soul comes into the picture more recently. Or maybe it is. But all men who have had an immortal soul are descended from Adam and Eve.

Why the emotion word? I called no one an idiot. I find this consistent - for years - constant promotion of the evolutionist view as troubling. Evolution has no practical scientific value. Just as people don’t know or need to know, or believe in, quantum mechanics. They will live out their lives just fine.

People can study what they wish, but the Church has been concerned when it’s view of human origins is called into question. I’ve been and still am fascinated with science, but regarding this particular question, the Church and what it teaches, comes first, then science, which, regarding this subject, is rarely correct.

I remember Neanderthals starting out as these brutish sub-humans with nothing like modern human traits.


You are all trying so hard to reconcile scripture and science that you end up with a mish-mash of ideas that serve no purpose and are of no value.

To be Catholic, one must believe in a historical event between the first two true humans who were man and woman. That’s not negotiable.

In my experience, some are quick to see conflicts between science and tenets of faith where in reality there is none. “Young earth creationism” seems to be one such response to a non-existent perceived conflict.

I don’t see how this is a problem. Neanderthals are a subspecies of our species homo sapiens, and even if they weren’t, the modern scientific concept of a species (and this applies even more to a subspecies) isn’t theologically relevant.

I think Christianity could handle the discovery of rational nonhumans just fine. But that’s not even the issue here. If Neanderthals were rational, then they were human.


Really? Which creed declares that? What dogmatic declaration binds us to such a broad and general matter of faith in which we "must believe in a historical event between the first two true humans who were man and woman?" What is the penalty for not accepting such a general, run of the mill statement?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.