] deformation was tentatively correctedÖ (p. 537). In other words, they took a bunch of bone fragments and allowed the computer to spit out a computer-generated skull. If pieces were missing (and they were in many places!), then the computer filled in what it thought the measurements should be.
The second problem with this study is that it was centered on early changes in skull structure, and yet the authors admitted to estimating the ages for all of the pre-modern fossils (see methods for aging, p. 537). Nevertheless, they still assigned the specific ages to these computer-generated reconstructions, which then were used in their data analysis. The Neanderthal sample was comprised of eleven immature and five adult specimens. The ages of the immature specimens were estimated to be: 0.5, 2.2, 3, 3.2, 3.5, 3.5, 5.5, 6.5, 8.5, 14, and 15 years old (p. 537). [Again, just to emphasize differences in physical characteristics, compare your 6-month baby picture with those when you were 5, 8, or 15óand those are just the changes you see in a single individual. Then imagine the vast differences found in an entire population!] The ages of the five adult specimens were not given. Most of the aging was accomplished using standardized dental scoring; however, as anyone with more than one child knows, teeth come in at their own pace and develop at different rates, not some predetermined rate that has been established by scientists. The authors then compared these fossilized samples to three fossil modern humans said to have been 100,000 years old. The ages for these samples were given as 3.5, 13.5 years old, and one adult. Additionally, the authors selected twenty-two specimens from around the world that were known to be modern humans. While their computer-generated graphics did indeed reveal differences between humans and Neanderthals, the physical evidence is much more truthful. Interestingly, their use of so many children is one of the downfalls of this particular study. Many of the Neanderthal skulls that evolutionists have examined have exhibited symptoms of rickets.
After discovering the first Neanderthal skullcap in 1856 in the Neander Valley near Dusseldorf, Germany, German anatomist Ruldolph Virchow said in essence that the fossil was the remains of a modern man afflicted with rickets and osteoporosis. In 1958, at the International Congress of Zoology, A.J.E. Cave stated that his examination of the famous Neanderthal skeleton established that it was simply an old man who had suffered from arthritis. Francis Ivanhoe authored an article that appeared in Nature titled Was Virchow Right About Neanderthal? (1970). Virchow had reported that the Neanderthal manís ape-like appearance was due to a disease known as rickets, which is a vitamin-D deficiency characterized by overproduction and deficient calcification of bone tissue. It causes skeletal deformities, enlargement of the liver and spleen, and generalized tenderness throughout the body. Dr. Cave noted that every Neanderthal childís skull studied thus far apparently was affected by severe rickets. When rickets occurs in children, it commonly produces a large head due to late closure of the epiphysis and fontanels.
Even though Ivanhoe was an evolutionist, he nevertheless went on to note that the wide distribution of Neanderthal finds in various parts of the world explained the differences seen in bone configuration. The extreme variation in locations of these Neanderthal discoveries probably played a role in the diversity of fossils assigned to this Neanderthal classification. The differences likely were a result of different amounts of sunlight for a given area, which prevented or retarded vitamin D production (vitamin D is manufactured in the skin upon exposure to sunlight). In adults, a lack of vitamin D causes osteomalacia (softening of the bone). This softening often results in long bones bowing (a condition reported in many Neanderthal fossils).
Others have suggested that Pagetís disease may have played a role in the bone deformities observed in Neanderthal specimens. Pagetís (pronounced paj-ets) disease affects bones, which under normal growing conditions break down and grow back throughout a personís life. In Pagetís disease, the normal process of bone growth is altered. The bone breaks down more quickly, and when it grows back again it is softer than normal bone. Soft bones can bend or break more easily. The area affected by Pagetís disease can become shorter because the bone bends. With Pagetís disease, the bone also can grow larger than before. While this disease can affect any bone, it most often affects the skull, the hip and pelvis bones, and bones in the legs and back. The authors of the Nature paper summarized their findings by stating:
The early appearance of taxon-specific features between Neanderthals and modern humans, the morphological distinctiveness of these taxa throughout later postnatal ontogeny, and the evidence for evolutionary stasis of taxon-specific patterns of ontogeny, all support the theory that Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens represent morphologically discrete, separate species, which belonged to distinct evolutionary lineages (p. 537).
A simple look around your home or workplace will reveal that human skulls vary considerably within any given population. Does this difference alone mean that some people are closer to a Neanderthal lineage than others? No. It simply demonstrates the vast variability that exists among humans on our planet. This study in Nature used fossil fragments and estimated ages, and did not take into account any oseteological deformities due to conditions such as rickets or Pagetís disease. Variation in the human race has existed since Adam and Eve, and will continue to exist as long as humans walk this Earth.
Ponce de Leon, Marcia S. and Christoph P.E. Zollikofer (2001), Neanderthal Cranial Ontogeny and Its Implications for Late Hominid Diversity, Nature, 412:534-537, August 2.
Ivanhoe, F. (1970), Was Virchow Right About Neanderthal? Nature, 227:577-579, August 8.
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