This letter appeared in the Albany Times Union, April 29, 2018:
I read the Religion News Service interview “Evolution is science, not philosophy,” April 21, with Kenneth Miller. Miller emphasizes the unique position of our species. “Ultimately, there is a niche, and we’re the only species to date that has come to occupy it, that involves reflective intelligent and self-aware cognition of the conditions of existence.” The point is well-taken, except that there is now evidence that another species of humans was also capable of occupying such a niche: the Neanderthals.
Far from being hunched-over dullards, the Neanderthals thrived for several hundred thousand years under a much colder climate than Homo sapiens experienced while evolving in Africa. They almost certainly had language, and they interbred with our ancestors. Neanderthals made flutes, and may have been early cave-painters. They buried their dead with ceremony. They were very much like us.
Another point Miller makes, however, is very important and less debatable. Because of our powers, we are in a unique position to preserve the planet. I would add, and I am sure Miller would agree, we have not been doing a good job: at current extinction rates, half of the world’s species will be gone within 7,000 years. This is hardly a time to be reducing regulations designed to protect the environment. Here science and religion have common ground. We need the wisdom to take care of the world we live in.
- Beach bush, Sullivan’s Island SC