Did Neanderthals Have a Soul--Some Related Questions

(Robert J. Kurland, Ph.D.) #1

I’ve been listening to John Hawkes’ audiobook, “Rise of Humans–Great Scientific Debates”. As a faithful Catholic a number of questions occur to me, related particularly to monogenesis.
I’ve expounded on these at greater length in my blog (see Did Neanderthals Have a Soul–please excuse the shameless self-promotion.)
Several questions occur to me since I’m not that knowledgeable about evolution, population genetics and paleo-archeology:

  1. Why is it said that “bottlenecks” (populations of small size) do not lead to new species? I’m trying to understand how mutations which give rise to new species could arise more or less simultaneously to yield a new species.
  2. I see there is another contribution here about Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens interbreeding. Is that definitely established? Did Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens have a common hominid ancestor? and if so, was that ancestor a tool-maker or did it show evidence of rational activity?
  3. I read reports that Neanderthals had advanced tool-making capability and buried their dead. Is this so, and does this constitute evidence of rationality?

Thanks very much for any help in answering these.
I won’t ask for help in answering the theological questions.


Yes, I think it is pretty much established. You can even have your genome sequenced (by 23 and me for example) to see how much, if any, Neanderthal you have in your genome. Not sure what common ancestor of Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens Sapiens is, but I’m sure it was a toolmaker, since tool making goes back to the Australopithecines.

You might consider taking the free course Introduction to Genetics and Evolution , on coursera.org

(Robert J. Kurland, Ph.D.) #3

Thanks for your comment Beagle Lady. I have a basic knowledge of evolution and genetics (recalling the hours in my Genetics course at Caltech some 60 years ago growing faint picking etherized fruit-flies out of a bottle.). What I’m looking for is something more sophisticated than the Hardy-Weinberg equation, a Markoff process type calculation dealing with mutations and population genetics. Maybe a Google search will help. But thanks again for your help.


Science changes a lot over 60 years. Perhaps a refresher course would be in order.

(Robert J. Kurland, Ph.D.) #5

Thanks again, Beagle Lady, I’ll have a look, although I have been keeping up (more or less). I’ve done a Google search for “Markov Process speciation”, so I’ll have a look at those also. Thanks for spurring me on.


You are welcome. Consider also a visit to a world-class natural history museum, with researchers in paleontology, where you can see the latest fossil finds. Or at least casts of the latest fossil finds.

(Henry Stoddard) #7

I believe as Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas that everything has a soul, even plants. Dr. Thomas Williams said:" Aristotle believed that the soul accounts for the fact that something is alive. Aristotle, even though he seems to have believed in the immortality of the intellectual soul of human beings, did not believe that animal and plant souls survive the death of the body. When their bodies die, their souls die also. Thomas Aquinas believed that animal souls as well as plant souls perish with their bodies; however, the human soul survives the death of the body. He does not prove inherently that they are immortality as Plato believed because since God created the human soul, God has the power to annihilate it. However, he believed that the human soul lives on". Did Neanderthals have souls? If Aristotle and Aquinas were right, the answer is “yes.” Did the Neanderthals’ souls survive the death of the body? That would depend if they were human beings or just animals. Science will need to step into this area of the subject to determine if they were in fact human beings.

(system) #8

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