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Why am I Neanderthal?

According to National Geographic, everyone living outside of Africa today has a small amount of caveman in them. The genetic makeup of nearly everyone born outside the dark Continent includes 1 to 2 percent DNA from Neanderthals, so named when bones were found in Germany’s Neander Valley in 1856. According to Smithsonian Magazine, these Neanderthals likely made tools, used fire, buried their dead, cared for their sick and injured, and probably had some facility for language. National Geographic launched a genographic project in 2005 with a goal of revealing patterns of human migration. Since then, 1,006,404 people in over 140 countries have participated through National Geographic’s “Geno 2.0 DNA Ancestry Kit.” I’m one of them. And, according to my results, I’m 1.5% Neanderthal. Surprised? (My wife wasn’t.) What comes to mind when you think of “Neanderthal,” anyway? A grunting, dimwitted and knuckle-dragging caveman with a unibrow? Probably. But while I—like most men—probably exhibit a few caveman tendencies from time to time, use of the lower-case “neanderthal” in modern language is hardly flattering…and is a misnomer. If I truly believe that all humans are connected back to one man and one woman, then why not Adam and Eve? If I truly believe that Adam and Ever were created in God’s image and likeness (see Genesis 1), then it would stand to reason that we all possess the same likeness (the image of God was lost in the Fall), right? Right. Except that we don’t know what Adam and Eve looked like before, or after, the Fall. Our closest clue to the image of God is Jesus (see 2 Corinthians 4), but we don’t know what he looked like, either. He was likely not a blue-eyed Caucasian with a blow-dried flowing chestnut mane, and I’m fairly certain he didn’t speak English with a British accent. What I do know is that all humans retain some likeness of the image of God still today, qualities imbued in Adam and Eve, such as love, self-awareness, justice, grace, and mercy. But back to DNA… Thanks to continuing advances in DNA research, my family tree keeps growing (over 7,000 names), yet I can’t help but wonder where it all ends—conventional wisdom, not to mention faith, points to Adam and Eve. I’m sure someone with a Bible, some time, and a head for numbers could calculate the generations from Adam and Eve to me, but DNA matching works from the bottom up. My ...

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