A recent two-part piece on The BioLogos Forum admits that meshing evolution and the image of God that all humans possess is a "challenging issue." Clearly the reason for this is the number of transitional and experimental species that supposedly led up to modern humans, the crown jewel of creation that finally does bear the image of God. Confounding the matter further is the evidence of Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA in modern humans. Dr. Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe (RTB) deals with the matter this way:
RTB's biblical creation model identifies "hominids," Neanderthals, Homo erectus and others, as animals created by God. These extra-ordinary creatures walked erect and possessed enough intelligence to assemble crude tools and even adopt some level of "culture." The RTB model maintains that the hominids were not spiritual beings made in God's image. RTB’s model reserves this status exclusively for Adam and Eve and their descendants (modern humans).
The model predicts many biological similarities will exist between the hominids and modern humans but also significant differences. The greatest distinctions between modern humans and the hominids can be seen in their cognitive capacity, behavior patterns, technological development, and culture, especially artistic and religious expression.
Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell has addressed Reasons to Believe's views in "Does Hugh Ross Believe in Soulless Ancient Humans?" In a two-part series on BioLogos, however, authors Tyler Greenway and Pamela Ebstyne King have taken this idea a different direction by not giving any indication of a belief in a literal Adam and Eve and by delineating divine image-bearing as a matter of fulfilling that very role itself:
If bearing God's image requires a particular role with particular capacities, those species that lack those capacities and therefore cannot act in that role are not image bearers of God.