Assembling Humanity’s History

So now we know that early humans bred with Neanderthals and Denisovans. We know this because genome sequences from these “evolutionary cousins” make up from 4% to 6% of the genomes of some humans. And we’ve recently learned that some of the genetic material introduced by this cross-breeding included an upgrade of our immune system’s capacity to recognize and destroy pathogens.

The Denisovans joined our family when two tiny fragments of their existence were discovered in a Siberian cave in 2008. A tooth and a finger bone are all that’s been found. The genome sequence extracted from the finger bone establishes a precise connection between these extinct members of the genus Homo and some of us.

Day by day, detail by detail, a more accurate history of humanity is being assembled.

A Human Project

This tiny piece of evidence about our past comes from a research team based at Stanford University, collaborating with scientists in the United States, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Canada and Kenya. It’s important to remember that our self-discovery is a human project.

The Neanderthals are named after the Neander Valley in Germany (“thal,” or “tal,” is German for “valley”), where their remains were discovered. The valley is named after esteemed 17th-century Calvinist minister and hymnist Joachim Neander, whose most famous hymn, “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation,” remains popular among Christians today. Neander wrote:

“Praise to the Lord, who, when tempests their warfare are waging,
Who, when the elements madly around thee are raging,
Biddeth them cease, turneth their fury to peace,
Whirlwinds and waters assuaging.”

From Fury to Peace

One way to defend civilization against whirlwinds, floods and war is to investigate causes. War is behavioral cancer. Capacity to develop a cure depends in part upon acquiring more realistic information about who we are. We pray for constructive sacred secular science to come.

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