Little furry humans?
How often have you heard the ‘humans and other animals’. This seems intended to attack the notion that people are special, being made in the image of God.
Is man an animal? This is not exactly a simple question to answer, despite what many will think. The progressives really try to avoid discussing in detail the actual facts and just make the simple statements and hope that you will accept it as a fact- even if you kind of know that it isn’t quite right. So let us get in to the more technical biological world to answer the question. If we use the man-made classification criteria instituted by Linnaeus (did I mention he was a creationist) 1, the answer would seem to be ‘yes’.
Man is obviously not a plant, or mold or coral and does not live in the water or in the soil, and does not fly without any assistance, etc. All creatures are grouped together using a variety of criteria of similarity, which does not have any evolutionary overtones. Humans have backbones, which would place us in the biological group known as vertebrates. Humans give birth to live young, suckle our offspring, and maintain a type of herd mentality. This places us in the category of mammals, specifically the placental mammals. Interestingly these features are shared more or less in common with an order known as primates. The order Primates, with its 300 or more species, is the third most diverse order of mammals, after rodents (Rodentia) and bats (Chiroptera).
The problem is not with the technical classification as with the progressive effect that labeling people as ‘animals’ tries to achieve. The real point that evolutionists try to make, and which needs to be resisted, is that man is ‘just one more animal’.
The reason for confusion is strong when you consider that the word ‘animal’, in the understanding of most everyday individuals, means something other than a human being. For instance, when people say (which used to be a big ‘thing’ for the progressives), ‘animals are used to test cosmetics’, it is obvious that man is not included in this use of the term ‘animals’. Similarly , fish, insects and birds, though technically ‘animals’, are not usually talked about in that way ‘The fire injured many animals and birds’.
People are definitely not ‘animals’ in any normal sense of that word, nor are they related to any other animals by a “common descent”. Humans have been made in the very image of their Creator, and an incredible gulf separates them from even the most similar of any other living creatures.
The solution might be to set up a separate kingdom in the technical classification system to adequately reflect that fact. This is unlikely to appear anytime soon in a world dominated by evolutionary thinking.
Over the past half-century or so, dozens of dedicated Darwinists have devoted decades of their lives to studying the behavior of apes and monkeys. The public is flooded with stories about the likes of Jane Goodall and Dianne Fossey living with chimps and mountain gorillas and trying t prove how “human-like” they are. The social structures, behaviors, communication and so virtually every aspect of apes and monkeys are scrutinized for the slightest evidence that they have thoughts and minds like our own. We are bombarded with ‘facts’ designed to get us to conclude that the differences between humans and these alleged ‘close relatives’ of ours are really minor ones of degree, and not of kind.
Two developments in particular have comforted and reinforced the masses in such evolutionary notions. One is the high percentage of genetic (DNA) similarity which primates hold in common with humans. Chimp DNA is supposed to be anywhere from 96% to 98.7% identical to that of humans, depending on who is telling the story. The reason for the variation is that no one has yet sequenced an ape’s DNA; other, much cruder techniques are used to give a ‘guesstimate’ of the similarity.2
Baboons are said to share 92% of their DNA with us. Granted a high degree of shared DNA, even if it were 92%, would that make them 92% human or us 92% baboon, as most interpret this? It is worth repeating what prominent evolutionist Steve Jones reminded his audience of recently in the context of man/chimp DNA-sharing: “We also share about 50% of our DNA with bananas and that doesn’t make us half bananas, either from the waist up or the waist down.”3
The other development has to do with the issue of language. The chimpanzee Washoe and the bonobo Kanzi “have become famous for their ability to respond to human language in surprisingly complex ways”.4 There are ‘severe limitations on intelligence and communication in monkeys’. It must be a great disappointment, then, for committed evolutionists to read of the latest work by two of the most dedicated primate behavior researchers in the world.5 Robert Seyfarth and Dorothy Cheney are a husband-and-wife team who have performed many ingenious experiments with vervet monkeys and baboons, plumbing the depths of their social knowledge and mental processes.
They have occasionally revealed previously unknown ‘richness’ in a monkey’s social knowledge, overall their results have caused them to give a massive ‘thumbs down’ to the ‘monkeys are almost human’ view. They have gradually come to the conclusion (no surprise to Bible-believing Christians) that there are ‘severe limitations on intelligence and communication in monkeys’.6
Examples: baboons walking past a recently dismembered buffalo carcass do seem to understand that lions are in the vicinity. They only act alarmed once they spot the actual lions. When baboons see an antelope carcass stuffed high up in a tree, they show no signs of concluding the obvious—that their mortal enemy, the leopard, is in the vicinity. Baboons from a foraging troop which has spread out so that some are on either side of a forest are known to give barking calls. It has long been assumed that they were keeping ‘contact’, saying, in effect, ‘Hey, we’re over here, where are you?’ like humans would. But ingenious experiments have shown that the monkeys were only wailing about their own “lostness”.
Seyfarth and Cheney say that, unlike humans, “monkeys don’t actually recognize that other monkeys have minds”.7 Whatever thoughts and emotions they may have, they cannot project them outside of themselves, as humans do all the time. Thus, a chimp may grieve due to loss, but chimps do not seem to comfort others that are grieving. This inability to put themselves in another monkey’s place was starkly demonstrated when a monkey named Sylvia made a deep water crossing with a baby clinging to her underside, causing it to drown. Since she could breathe, she could not relate to the fact that her baby could not.
So what does all this do to the ‘genetic similarity’ issue? The writer of the Smithsonian article (who is definitely a non-creationist) concedes that these results remind us that ‘just a few percentage points can translate into vast, unbridgeable gaps between species’.8 Of course, we have long known that a few percentage points means many millions of base pair differences—which are likely to be in much more crucial ‘controlling genes’. And I will be producing a very in depth discourse on the most likely causal effect of chromosomal complexity- I will try to explain the cellular biology and physiology as effectively as I can, it is very complex.
When apes were created they had more similarities to humans than to jellyfish. Since all of our bodily construction reflects our ‘basic’ DNA ‘recipe’, it is perfectly logical and consistent that apes would also be genetically more similar to humans than to jellyfish—or bananas, for that matter.
And what about the much-vaunted ape language abilities? These researchers remind us that the circumstances were artificial. Seyfarth says, “You can teach a monkey to ride a bicycle in the circus, but it doesn’t tell you much about what monkeys learn to do in the wild.”9 Furthermore, “even in the laboratory, no animal has attained anything like true language”. Whereas humans “embody a theory of mind in wild excess”. We are aware that we, and our minds, exist and that other humans have thinking minds also. Humans, and humans alone, “know what we know, and we know that we know it. We possess the playful, curious, strange and sympathetic entity called human consciousness”.9
This is because we are made in the image of God. Made to think, reason, love and communicate with our Creator. Apes and monkeys, no matter how superficially similar are not.
As Seyfarth concludes, “They’re not furry little humans. They’re just monkeys.”6
In the meantime, if you are asked whether man is ‘an animal’, the best way to avoid promoting evolutionary notions would be to:
- Carefully point out the different definitions of the term.
- Affirm that man is not an animal in any common usage of the term, nor in any evolutionary sense whatsoever.
- A Swedish botanist (1707-1778), physician, and zoologist, who founded the modern system of naming organisms called binomial nomenclature. He is known by the epithet “father of modern taxonomy”.
- Batten, D. (Ed.), The Answers Book, Brisbane, Australia, pp. 102–106, 1999.
- Jones, S., interviewed at the Australian Museum on The Science Show, broadcast on ABC radio, 12 January 2002, abc.net.au.
- Conniff, R., Monkey wrench, Smithsonian 102–104, 2001.
- Reported in ref. 4, pp. 97–104
- 4, p. 97
- 4, p. 102.
- 4, p. 98.
- 4, p. 104