A World Where Neanderthals Survived Till Now

Continuing the discussion from Determining similarity statistics between the human and chimp genome:

Hello @Patrick thanks for the thoughts.

Unfortunately, as both a scientist and a Christian, I think this is a very hard argument to follow.

You seem to arguing that because an event did not happen in a counterfactual universe, then it is a fantasy in our world. It seems logically equivalent arguing, “if someone killed Hitler as a child, then the Holocaust would never have happened; therefore this story we tell ourselves about the Holocaust cannot deemed credible.” To be clear, I am not at all accusing you of being a holocaust denier, but just showing the absurd conclusions we arrive at when using this pattern of logic. Just because things might have happened differently in a different version of our universe, does not undermine confidence of specific things that have taken place here in our world.

From a scientific point of view, you seem to assume that Neanderthals if they were still alive would some achieve what we have achieved. That they would just be some altered version of intelligent homo sapiens (but of course not homo sapiens). This is absolutely not a certain conclusion from science. The fact of the matter is that humans are unique in what we have achieved. We have no idea how difficult to “get” here, because no other species has even gotten close. That includes Neanderthals, Denisovans, and other hominids. They all died off and none of them crossed the thresholds of technology and culture we did.

It is entirely possible that Neanderthals, if they were still alive, would be hunter gatherers without written language or culture approach what we have now. It is possible they would fail to demonstrate a complete “theory of mind” with recursive though and sophisticated vocabulary. From a scientific point of view, we just do not know. And there is no guarantee that they would progress to a mind that equaled us. That is just not (from a scientific point of view) how evolution works.

We look like genetically modified apes in our genomes, but something special happened in our origins that has never (at least on earth) happened before or happened since. We are apes, but we are more than just apes.

From a theological point of view, your counterfactual is confusing too. Let us say in this other world, it happened as you say. We have no way to know how God would have responded or what He intended. If this is what happened, that it would have been what He intended. This is something different that what happened here, so we can only speculate what He would do. Perhaps He would have ordained a very similar origins story to arise, though I am pretty convinced it would not have been in Hebrew (or was it Aramaic?). Or perhaps He would have done something else. We do not know.

One notable exploration of question is the Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis. He envisions Narnia as real parallel universe (not a child’s fantasy. In this world, so much is different, though some things are similar. We find Jesus here too in the Great Lion Aslan (who is Jesus by another name).

“But there[, in your world,] I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason you were brought into Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you might know me better there.”
―Aslan as he’s about to send Edmund, Lucy and Eustace home (Chapter 16)

Here, CS Lewis is arguing that the Christian faith arises from God’s nature which is situated beyond our reality and universe. Therefore, in another universe, it would arise a similar way, but different too. Like a restatement of the same idea in a different language. In the same way, the incarnation of Jesus into a body of flesh binds God into a very human expression of His message that is inextricably bound to our universe. If humans never came to be, His incarnation would look different.

This rhyming of realities arises because God is the same, but these counterfactual worlds are nonetheless different. Perhaps the same sort of alternate version of the same Truth we find in Jesus might arise in your alternate Neanderthal world.

One last quote about Aslan, the One of another world,

Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…“Safe?” said Mr Beaver …"Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Let us follow the King who is good, even though He is not safe.


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