One interesting thing I’ve learned from 23andMe is that 2.9% of my DNA comes from Neanderthals. Not surprising, given my European ancestry.
The Human Genome Project, initially completed in 2003, uncovered strands of Neanderthal DNA in our double helix. Geneticists methodically worked backward to the DNA found in Neanderthal bones much like running a movie in reverse.
A very long movie it turns out.
The first Neanderthals arrived in Europe as early as 600,000 to 350,000 years ago. Neanderthals — Homo neanderthalensis — and modern humans — Homo sapiens — lived alongside each other for thousands of years. Genetic evidence suggest that they interbred and although Neanderthals disappeared about 30,000 years ago, traces of their DNA — between 1 percent and 4 percent — are found in all modern humans outside of Africa.
This is an inconvenient truth for Young Earth creationists who hold an archaic interpretation of Genesis, which is akin to believing an epic like Gone with the Wind consists only of the last five or six minutes. The necessary backstory is ignored.
Just because some atheists draw unwarranted conclusions from evolution doesn’t mean Christians should dismiss the legitimate science behind it. Better to heed the advice of St. Augustine:
Often a non-Christian knows something of the earth, the heavens, the motions and the orbits of the stars [and genetics], and this knowledge he holds with Certainty from reason and experience. It is thus offensive and disgraceful for an unbeliever to hear a Christian talk nonsense about such things, claiming that what he is saying is based on Scripture. We should do all we can to avoid such embarrassment, which people see as ignorance in the Christian and laugh to scorn.