Humans … Qualitatively or Only Quantitatively Different? (RJS)

Humans … Qualitatively or Only Quantitatively Different? (RJS) September 3, 2013

The final case study in origins considered by Gerald Rau in his book Mapping the Origins Debate: Six Models of the Beginning of Everything is the Origin of Humans. From a strictly natural, scientific, viewpoint this may be considered nothing more than a subset of the origin of species considered in the last post. From a Christian point of view, however, the origin of humans looms large.  As Rau notes:

In another sense, however, it is a distinct question that is central to the debate, because the underlying issue is whether humans are qualitatively or only quantitatively different from animals, whether we are unique or just smarter. Is there more to a person than meets the eye (or other sense organs): do we have a soul or spirit (and if so, are the two identical), and do we bear the image of God (and if so, what exactly does that mean)? (p. 129)

Most of these questions, Rau claims, fall beyond the scope of science. Science can address the origin of the human body and the connection between mind and brain.  Science can not really address questions of soul and has no appropriate scope or language for the concept “image of God.”

With respect to the evidence for the origin of the human body Rau gives a brief outline of the evidence. This really falls in two categories: the fossil evidence and the genetic evidence. The fossil evidence is either sparse or abundant depending how one wishes to argue. There are some 6000 fossils of early human or human-like individuals. Some are nearly complete, while many are represented by only one bone of some sort. Some species have multiple examples and some only one or two. The website on human fossils sponsored by the Smithsonian gives a good overview.

The genetic evidence for development of the human body over time is even more compelling. He discusses the evidence for chromosome fusion where chromosome 2 of humans is consistent with the fusion of two chromosomes found in chimpanzees. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes while chimpanzees and apes have 24. The gene order, the presence of a residual telomere in the middle of gene 23, and the presence of an inactive centromere all point to gene fusion. The mechanism by which this occurred isn’t clear, but the evidence that it occurred is quite clear.

Rau also runs through all of the various estimates given for the similarity of the human and chimpanzee genome. These range from very high (99%) to rather low. The discussion illustrates some of the confusion as nonscientists try to interpret the claims of various scientists. It isn’t that the estimates are in substantive disagreement as much as that they are fundamentally different estimates, a bit like comparing apples and oranges. The estimates may refer to segments that code for protein, and may refer to larger segments of the genome (most of the genome does not code for protein). The expression of genes is regulated at least in part by noncoding regions of the DNA, and the expression of the various genes differ far more than the actual coding sequence.

So what about the interpretation?

Rau claims that there are three significant questions that must be answered: (1) Is there such a thing as a human soul or spirit? (2) How does God interact with his creation? and (3) How is Genesis to be interpreted?

A. No God. Naturalistic evolution denies the existence of the soul, of God, and doesn’t much care about the interpretation of Genesis. The natural world is the only reality.

B. Hands-Off God. According to Rau’s classification nonteleological evolution and planned evolution both believe in God and in a soul (of some sort). God, however, does not intervene in the world in a manner that can be studied by science. By definition these positions accept nonoverlapping magisteria and view science and religion as answering different questions. Thus, as the scientific evidence demonstrates, there was never a time when there was a unique pair corresponding to Adam and Eve, progenitors of the human race.

If humans did not arise from a single man and woman at a particular point in time, various explanations are possible of how humans might have arisen. First, awareness of God and sinfulness could have arisen slowly in a group of primates over many generations, so there was no single point in time at which pre-humans became human. This interpretation, in accord with Darwinian gradualism and the idea of nonintervention, is the one espoused by most proponents of evolutionary creation at the present time. (p. 145)

C. Hands-On God. By Rau’s definition directed evolution does not restrict the way in which God intervenes in the world. This position therefore allows for a special purpose in creation. “According to this view God does not intervene in the world only at particular times; it would be better stated that he is constantly involved in sustaining and directing it.”  Many different submodels are then consistent – some of which involve a literal Adam and Eve, others involve God imparting his image to a population.

In Rau’s classification those who hold to directed evolution tend to emphasize the number of changes between humans and apes rather than the similarities. The rapidity of the development over the last several million years is also highlighted. “As with the origin of other species, DE claims this would be far more likely if changes were purposefully directed rather than random.” (p. 147)

D. Special Creation by God. Both old earth and young earth creation include the special creation of a unique pair, Adam and Eve. God created their bodies without progenitors, in the image of God, with a spirit and soul. Humans are therefore qualitatively different from the animals in both body and soul. The evidence for common descent claimed by proponent of evolution is argued to be evidence instead for common design.

What Difference Does It Make?

The question of human origins is a contentious issue because it cuts to the very core of our being.  Rau highlights theological issues (sin, death, inerrancy of scripture), personal identity, and social issues.

The theological issues are of little concern to those who hold to naturalistic evolution, but of significant concern and disagreement among proponents of the other five positions Rau describes. We have discussed many of the theological questions over the last five years, and will continue to discuss them into the foreseeable future.  At the heart of the question for many is the appropriate way to interpret Genesis. This is not as straightforward as it may seem because we need to consider the audience for which the text was originally written. Rau gives an interesting example:

Furthermore, if I write, “He went through a yellow light,” my meaning would be perfectly clear to present-day readers, but perhaps less so to readers forty centuries from now, trying to figure out what kind of light I was talking about and how someone went through it. (p. 149)

When John Walton talks about function as central to the appropriate interpretation of Genesis, it is in an attempt to get back to the mind of the audience some forty centuries ago, not an attempt to twist Genesis into something that it is not. (See the other post today or his book The Lost World of Genesis One for more details.)

Personal identity is a big issue, but here Rau sees the dividing line falling primarily between the theistic and nontheistic positions. Naturalistic atheism leads to nihilism or existentialism as the only logical conclusions “either we say that life is meaningless and do whatever we please, or we create a meaning for ourselves and no one can tell us whether our chosen purpose is good or bad, a relativistic perspective.

He contrasts this with theism – any of the five models from non-teleological evolution to young earth creation. “If theism is correct, there is a basis for morality that transcends the individual, and a purpose for living beyond this current life.” (p. 150) This gives hope, but also leads to questions of theodicy.

Rau also notes that personal connection with a church community plays a large (often defining) role in the position that different Christians take on the questions of origins including human origins. “Individual thought is stifled by a commitment to the unity of the whole.” (p. 151)  Leaders play an enormous role here, but also find it difficult to turn the juggernaut.

Social issues. Rau sees a huge distinction here – again between theistic and nontheistic positions. If we are created in the image of God we have an innate worth and purpose. We are not merely another animal with no special significance in the grand progression of the universe from big bang to … whatever.

According to Rau:

The logical outcome of naturalistic Darwinism, although many proponents refuse to accepts it, is social Darwinism. When there is a struggle for resources, it would be in our best interests to allow the infirm to be eliminated from the population. (p. 151)

The personal and social issues play a large role in the reaction of many Christians to evolution. All evolution is painted with the brush of naturalistic evolution.

Note – this does not mean that all who are not theists are automatically nihilists, existentialists, relativists, or hold to social Darwinism. Many are, in fact, active in a wide range of humanitarian activities. Rau is suggesting what he sees as the logical conclusions – but few of us carry our convictions to “logical conclusions.”

Final Words. Rau’s discussion here leaves room for a wide-ranging discussion. His categories help to frame the discussion. Again I find his rather rigid categorization of planned evolution and directed evolution unsatisfactory. The only choices are not a hands-off God, or an obviously hands-on God, non-overlapping magisteria or an “intelligently driven” process.

On another issue – I think he is right in the last section to draw a strong line between the consequences of a purely natural view and a theistic view. But his characterization of the nontheistic view is likely to raise many complaints from the proponent of this view and we should welcome a discussion of this as well.

Finally – what is means to be human, created in the image of God, is a big question. Evolution is not the only, or even the primary, source of questions on this count. Neuroscience and psychology (including, but not limited to, evolutionary psychology) also raise huge questions. Upcoming posts on the books by Malcolm Jeeves will provide an opportunity to consider many of these issues in much greater detail. (See Ask Jeeves! for links and an introduction.)

What do you see as the biggest questions in the area of human origins?

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  • Tim

    I’d like to see a discussion here on cognitive, emotional, & pro-social (i.e., moral) similarities between humans and our closest evolutionary cousins. We know grief is not unique to humanity. Nor is altruism. Nor is love. Nor is a sense of fair play and moral/pro-social dispositions. I think it would be interesting to see these issues addressed in a discussion of an emergence of the human soul.

  • Hello Scot.

    I’m a struggling, doubting and tentative Christian and I greatly appreciate your scholarship, intellectual honesty, openess to other views, and willingness to seriously consider data from the external world to build up your theology.

    Concerning the existence of the soul, I think we have strong grounds for rejecting materialism and believing that the subjective experience of living things is NOT identical to brain processes, as I explain here:

    That said, I think that the scientific data from various fields forbids us to believe in a platonic soul capable of existing independently of the body.

    The most troubling aspect of evolution is undoubtedly the problem of evil. Why did God allow a great part of His creation to come about through such a gruesome and cruel process?

    The findings of evolutionary psychologists pointing out a genetic basis for sinful behaviors should also be a concern for every thinking Christian.

    However I don’t believe that the task of explaining evil while believing in evolution is harder than explaining evil as the result of two persons having eaten the false fruit.

    The problem is compounded for those believing that this choice was predetermined by God.

    Lovely greetings from Europe.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

  • NateW

    I lean towards saying that humans bear the potential to be quantitativly different, but are not necessarily so. The ability to love and die for an enemy seems to be a uniquely human trait, but one that is not taken up by many. I have seen no evidence that there is any other creature able to choose to die for an enemy.

    Whether this ability is explained as a product of evolution and superior intelligence I don’t know. It is certainly not natural to any other species that I know of. Even if it is a natural product of evolution, since it is not present in any other species one could still argue that humans are qualitatively different in that respect. Yes, other animals will die for their own kind, to ensure the future of their species, but will any voluntarily allow themselves to be killed by their own kind to save a member of a competing species who would eat them in a moment, given the chance?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Actually, the ability to love an enemy is present, quite literally, in Bonobos. War is solved by… sex. But inter-species sacrifice is something different. One could claim that it does happen, but the lines become very blurry.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Exactly. I’m currently listening to Frans de Wall’s “The Bonobo and the atheist”, and he covers this ground extensively. I’d recommend the book to anyone interested in this debate. .

  • Andrew Dowling

    You have all of those stories of dogs risking themselves to save their animal companions of other species (even cats!) or a monkey adopting a pig and being willing to fight/risk injury to protect it etc. Rare but not 100% unheard of. But clearly this correlates with intelligence levels to some degree. I’ve never heard of a komodo dragon helping out a rat, but who knows!

  • NateW

    I suppose inter-species sacrifice isn’t really the point anyway. I

    I guess I’m speaking of the ability to act in love towards the one trying to kill you (whether literally or not) not as a strategy to end the dispute, but as an act of genuine concern for the other.

    An example might be Christ and/or Stephen sincerely praying, “father forgive them, they know not what they do,” Even as they are being killed.

    I doubt that there is any animal who acts in accordance with the belief that the wellfare of his enemy is a higher priority than his own survival. This, it seems to me, is decidedly contrary to anything found in the natural world. If anything is qualitatively different between humans and animals I think that it is this. Even an ape who seems able to use reason and some form of logic would never choose to employ his ability to this end.

    Of course I may be wrong, there’s really no way of knowing this, but thought if share these thoughts anyway.

  • Susan_G1

    I wonder at your choice for a unique trait. This is not a trait common or natural in humans. Self preservation is a strong instinct, as well as protection (and destruction) of offspring. If it so rarely happens in humans, what is the likelihood that it will happen to be observed in animal populations? As Klasie stated, some animals offer to protect or placate the enemy (this is not not as uncommon as you would think, esp. among great apes.)

    The individual who sacrifices himself to destroy an enemy is thousands of times more common than the choice you describe, and the circumstances under which your scenario happens are questionable: is the person dying for an enemy or another person that happens to be an enemy? There is a great difference.

  • Susan_G1

    Andrew – these instances are not rare. Since humans started taking interest in animal intelligence (as opposed to psychology), lots of such instances have been reported: dogs saving kittens, dolphins saving dogs and humans trapped in strong seas; there is even an instance (filmed) of a lioness adopting an orphaned gnu and protecting it against other lions. The latter case is sad, though, because it was really not possible for the lioness to sustain the gnu, and when it died, she abducted replacement gnus. Sad.

  • Andrew Dowling

    Good point Susan . .I was thinking the same thing. I can’t even think of a normal human example from history of someone dying specifically for their enemies. It doesn’t even make sense b/c you can’t die “for your enemies” . . .they want you dead anyway. You can kill yourself, but that’s called suicide, not a laudable sacrifice.

    Perhaps dying for a higher ’cause’ is uniquely human.Can’t think of any “isms” that a Bonobo would die for, but I’m prepared to be surprised!

  • Susan_G1

    i’ve been thinking about this, and my concern is that it’s not a unique case, but one of degree. I would argue that it represents empathy, a great degree of empathy. In humans, there is a wide range of empathy, from lack of (in anti-social personality disorders and narcissism) to those having great empathy (Mother Theresa, medal of honor winners, people who donate their kidneys to strangers, etc.) In your definition of what makes one human, you might have to declare that people lacking empathy are not human, which is of course untrue.

    Which brings us again to what makes us human; is there a qualitative uniqueness?

  • attytjj466

    Breakthrough in dna/genetics/genome has been a game changer in the area of human origins. The physical/genetic connection of humans with primates is far more compelling than the fossil record. But I too hold out for something quantitatively distinct about humans. More than a leap occured. In some fashion God actively intervened and participated in making human beings different, distinct, and unique. Image of God is a great way to express it and define it.

  • Andrew Dowling

    Ah, you’ve brought up a great example that has long proved troubling to me . . . anti-social personality disorder. Thankfully, those on the far end of the spectrum of that disorder are very rare in society, but they do exist. People unable, neurologically, to feel empathy, and most disturbingly of all, they are born that way. That there are great apes with a greater capacity for empathy (and thus to follow what could be called ‘Christ-like’ behavior) than some humans gives one pause and, IMO, thrusts a dagger into some major theological presuppositions.

  • NateW

    Try to broaden your idea of what it means to “die” for someone. I think of it as being about giving up whatever I feel I must grasp and obtain to be fulfilled. Of course this includes ones very life, but it also includes everything that we feel we must obtain to feel validated, successful and happy.

    Christ says “If anyone would follow after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” The apostle Paul echoes this saying, “I die daily…”.

    As for people who have done it in history, I don’t think you need to look as hard as you think. Who in your life has loved you enough to give you good advice, perhaps pointing out how you are wrong, only to have you respond with anger and pride, lashing out against them? This person loved you so much that they were willing to risk their relationship with you to do what is best for you. Part of them died when you failed to realize that and built a wall of anger between you and them. Because of their act of love they were separated from the one they were trying to love.

    Even if you can’t think of any examples in your own life, look at Christ Himself:

    “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”

    Perhaps humans aren’t the only species who can use reason and logic, but perhaps we are certainly the only species who can choose to act in opposition to our reason and logic?

  • NateW

    Perhaps what makes us human is the ability to act against our empathetic impulses? Perhaps we are unique in having the ability to act in opposition to our instincts, rationality, and logic? To love when it makes no sense whatsoever? Perhaps it is the sense of shared humanity that makes you uncomfortable with calling non-empathetic people (sociopaths, etc.,) sub-human?

    Again, I don’t know, just throwing things out there. Thanks for the dialogue!

  • Susan_G1

    Interesting.. maybe you have something here. War would be a good example of what you describe, I think.

    Animals wage war, though, for territory/prey/social status. Chimps can actually carry out campaigns against lesser apes. What is love? Is the “love” a lioness has for an orphaned gnu rational? Logical? Logic and rationality dictates she eat it, not nurture and protect it.

    Non-empathetic people are often called “sub-human” (think child molesters or serial killers), but they cannot actually be anything but flawed humans. Anencephalic babies are still human, even if they are born without a brain. As Andrew points out, many creatures would have greater empathy, social order, etc.

    I’m not just looking to argue. I really want to know if there is a uniquely human, defining characteristic. Art is not unique, nor is creation. Even clothing – whether used to regulate body temperature or for decoration is not unique – chimps cover up on cold nights with leaves, and some mating animals decorate themselves.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Bonobo, not Komodo 🙂

  • NateW

    How about this one: Shame. The deep, inner sense that who I am is simply not enough. That there exists a void between me and abiding contentment that i lack the power to cross—and the idea that this is my fault. The idea that I am being judged by others and that who I am at the heart of my being is irreparable lacking.

    Do animals punish themselves (cutting, etc?), commit suicide?

    Perhaps we alone sense that there is an ideal by which we are judged as persons (as opposed to merely certain behaviors being learned to be acceptable or not).

    Can’t every evil that humans unleash upon each other and the world be traced back to this concept of shame? What I sense I lack I will demand from others and seek by power, force, or coercion to obtain, giving as little as possible of myself in the process.

    Christ demonstrates that the shame we feel is powerless, that freedom from shame is not a matter of obtaining or achieving, but of giving away what we do have. By giving away that which we sense we need to truly be at peace, we find peace bubbling up in the midst of humanity, rising from the ashes of those who burn themselves out in self-sacrificial love.

  • Benjamin Rhodes

    So I’ve been thinking about this overnight, and I think I’ve isolated the conceptual problem I have with this post. Mainly, it is that I’m not sure there is broad theological agreement about what it means to be made in the image of God. Of course, unless we have a pretty good theological definition, it is difficult to figure out how to “prove” the definition scientifically.
    Just off the top of my head, I have encountered at least 4 views. First is the view I grew up with, that we are created in the image of the triune God in that humans have a body, soul, and spirit. We are triune in ourselves, just as God is triune in himself. Next is two flavors of the sociological view, the first being that we are made in God’s image in that we are enhanced social creatures, able to conciously love, emphathize with, and sacrifice for others; and the second that we are able to reason and chose in a purposeful, teleological fashion. Both of these seem to be pretty fundamental characteristics of God. As I’ve studied ANE, I’ve encountered the view that we are made in the image of God in that we are basically living icons of God, who demonstrate and share his presence with creation in proportion to how much we can be found “in him”.
    Obviously, some of these are more provable than others, and I’m pretty sure that we could not get concensus on a single one of these as the dominant definition of what it means to be imago dei.

  • Dorfl

    “But his characterization of the nontheistic view is likely to raise many complaints from the proponent of this view and we should welcome a discussion of this as well.”

    I’m on it:

    In the text you quoted, Rau doesn’t explain how he gets from naturalistic Darwinism (“The individuals best adapted to the local environment on average tend to have more offspring, causing the genes for those adaptions to become more widespread”) to social Darwinism (“Be a jerk to the sick and starving”), except to insist that it’s a logical outcome that biologists refuse to see and assert that “When there is a struggle for resources, it would be in our best interests to allow the infirm to be eliminated from the population.”

    That means I can’t really deal with his argument in any detail. There are a few typical ways that people usually conclude that the fact of evolution implies that social Darwinism is a sensible policy, so I’ll go over the ones I’ve heard.

    One common argument is that this is the way things work in nature, which means it is therefore good. The problem with this line of reasoning is that it’s a textbook example of the ‘appeal to nature’ fallacy. In general, there is simply no way to fill in the steps from the premise “Left to its own devices, that kind of system tends to develop in this way” to the conclusion “This way is the right way for things to develop and interfering with it is morally wrong!”.

    Also, while this is a bit pedantic: protecting our sick and weak from starvation, diseases, etc. doesn’t actually stop natural selection from acting on those ill adapted to the environment – what it does is to change the environment into one the sick and weak are not so poorly adapted to.

    Another common argument is based on the assumption that natural selection causes us to evolve into higher ‘more developed’ forms, and that it’s therefore a crime against humanity’s future to interfere with it. The problem with this argument is that it’s based on a popular misconception of how natural selection operates. Evolution doesn’t actually work the way it does in Zack Snyder’s Superman movie – where a hostile environment makes lifeforms more awesome all around – it just makes lifeforms more adapted to their particular environment.

    A third argument is that allowing poor people to be without attrition from sickness and starvation will lead to their numbers increasing until a Malthusian disaster occurs. The problem with that argument is that this does not, in fact, happen. Prosperous countries very quickly end up with close to zero population growth, despite having health care and feeding the poor.

  • Susan_G1

    actually there has been recent evidence that development of a social conscience predated the evolutionary advantage, drove evolution, rather than evolution selecting that advantage. If that makes no sense, I’ll dig up the study.

  • Susan_G1

    How? In what fashion are humans different, distinct and unique?

  • Susan_G1

    the psychology of shame depends on an understanding of right from wrong. There is evidence of chimps teaching their young “socially acceptable” and “socially unacceptable” behavior. That chimps will carry out socially unacceptable behavior under the cover of night, or when they are alone, means that they at least fear the consequences of getting caught. Whether this is shame, I don’t know, but I can search the literature.

    I don’t know of animal suicides, but I do know that elephants call it quits when they become too great a burden to the group, walking off to die alone of starvation/dehydration.

  • Dorfl

    If it’s not to much trouble to find, I would like to see that study. Right now, I can’t really see how it relates to what I wrote.

  • attytjj466

    Do animals worship and develop religions? do animals have fear, anxiety, hope about the future, life after death, a year from now? Do animals crave/seek meaning and purpose significance in life? Do animals create music, art, poetry, because they long deep within themselves to do so?

  • Andrew Dowling

    “do animals have fear, anxiety, hope about the future, life after death, a year from now?”
    Advanced mammals such as dolphins actually have amazing memories. There is also direct evidence that they delay gratification given expectations of future outcomes. Given their vast memory banks, I would expect they likely can ponder about things relatively deep into the future (if you are looking for concrete evidence, it would be extremely difficult to devise a study to confirm long-term forward thinking . . dolphins can literally “speak” to each other; we just don’t understand their language).

    We know apes can create art and demonstrate artistic expression. As for whether they crave significance/meaning, honestly we don’t know. We are only at the very cusp of animal intelligence and I greatly suspect (as has been the case recently) increasing evidence will point to greater and greater levels of intelligence among non-humans .

  • Susan_G1

    I can’t add much to what Andrew has said, except, how would you know it if they did? I know chimps have fears, anxiety and hopes for the future, but I can’t tell you how long into the future they think. Whales create elaborate songs, and for all I know, there is poetry in them. Surely they do it because they long to. Songs are learned and transported to other oceans as well. Top twenty hits? Dolphins have such an advanced language that they can create among themselves. As I have said elsewhere, when we learn the language of animals we have hunted for food and oil, I think we will cry to know the cultures we have destroyed.

  • Susan_G1

    I’ve looked online and through my history. Can’t find it. That will teach me to bookmark. Rereading your comment, I’m not sure I see the relevance myself.Please accept my apologies.

  • Dorfl

    No worries. And I absolutely sympathise with the feeling of sifting through your browser history trying to remember what on Earth that one page you visited was called.

  • attytjj466

    You have identified some animal behavior. You read much into that and call it equivalent. I know dog and cat lovers who do that too. But I hardly think it is so nor does science support that. Yes some animal species are more intelligent than others. Yes, some animals have incredible behaviors. But to infer that dolphins or chimps or bonobos wrestle with angst over purpose or meaning or significance or evil or God or “what is it all about” or “where is it all going” and “why” and have angst over death and life after death and “why am I here” and what is love, and what is hate, what is beauty and what is failure, that is to infer something that is not there. What is there is that all this and much much more is in the human experience and it is distinct and I would say qualitatively different.

  • Susan_G1

    You are not interpreting my words correctly; you are misconstruing my words to represent what you believe, and saying “my words” are false. I am not anthropomorphizing “dogs and cats” or any other animal. Where did I infer anything about life after death, the meaning of life, the significance of evil, beauty, failure… these are all straw men of your creation that you’re knocking down.

    Finally, after knocking straw men, you say “this is the human experience and it is distinct and I would say quantitatively different.”

    I do not trust that you know science, or anything that I (or Andrew) have elucidated. Your argument is known as the “Just Because” fallacy, or Begging the question, dogmatism and perhaps others.

    Attacking me for things I didn’t say is not the best way to get your point across. If you’d like to point out where you think I am incorrect, please do so and ask for proof.

  • RJS4DQ

    Frankly Susan, I think you and Andrew are misapplying reports of animal intelligence and consciousness as well. But it will come up again as I work through Jeeves’s books and perhaps we can structure the discussion more productively.

  • DMH

    Very interesting discussion by all. In terms of the structure which RJ mentioned (below?) I would like to hear an interdisciplinary discussion regarding animal intelligence which specifically addresses the question of what we can reasonably infer vs. what we may be reading into various behaviors.

    I have always wondered about the religion/worship also. Either way, whether humans are found to be qualitatively or only quantitatively different, I don’t think it would be a point against Christianity. Theologically the “quantitative only” is not hard to incorporate, and it certainly wouldn’t be a one up for Naturalism.

  • Susan_G1

    If you would care to point out any aspect of my comment, I will support it with the appropriate literature. I have not misconstrued any facts which I have presented. To which do you object?

  • Susan_G1

    Here is one starting place: a philosopher’s examination of two philosophies regarding the “morality” of animal behavior. He starts with the prevailing view – that animals are incapable of moral behavior. Why? Because that’s what separates us from the animals.

  • Susan_G1

    Do you mean to say humans are qualitatively different (where you say “quantitatively different”?) Qualitative means there is something unique, a unique quality to being human, say, the ability to imagine the future. Quantitative means there is a different amount of a quality, say, empathy, in humans and animals. My position is that we are only quantitatively unique, a position you attacked, then finished your argument by stating my position.

    If you are getting your scientific information from the Institute for Creation Research, you are not getting it from a scientifically respected source.

  • Trin

    Nail on the head, Ben.

    To think on “in the image of God” requires context and genre, which lead to the comparisons the author is making between the god that had enough mojo to bring the nation out of Egypt versus the (obviously inferior) gods of both Egypt and the other surrounding nations. Ultimately, this was a ‘war’ of the gods – which nation had the most powerful god(s) behind it. God is revealing unique essentials about his character – living, loving, compassionate, redemptive, powerful . . .

    One difference? Living eikons in the image of a living God versus dead/non-existent gods. This God is alive, and capable of – or more accurately – desirous of relationship (met with man in the garden – a garden culturally associated with serving the gods); the others are not. In context, I would argue this is in mind. Out of context, well, we can go anywhere, can’t we. “Judas went out and hung himself” . . . “go ye and do likewise.” 😉

  • Trin

    Lothar: “…the scientific data from various fields forbids us to believe in a platonic soul capable of existing independently of the body.” This is necessarily true as science’s capabilities stop at death, do they not? Science has no way of going beyond a material end.

    “The most troubling aspect of evolution is undoubtedly the problem of evil. Why did God allow a great part of His creation to come about through such a gruesome and cruel process?” What about it is gruesome and cruel? Death? This biosphere is a ‘closed’ system dependent on ‘recycling.’ God’s establishment of an evolutionary process, of a creation creating itself, seems amazing, imho.

    “…genetic basis for sinful behaviors…” There is a difference between a genetic basis, a genetic link, and a genetic predisposition. We are all marred in some way. Into that comes the God with the love and power to redeem – to bring something good and beautiful even out of the broken (“I intended it for good; all things work together for good…”)

    “…problem is compounded for those believing that this choice was predetermined by God.” Agreed. Which is why anything other than libertarian free-will can ultimately hold together given who God has revealed himself to be.

  • attytjj466

    Sorry, yeah meant qualitatively different.

  • attytjj466

    I did not mean that you said those things, sorry if I was not clear. I meant those are the kind of things that make human beings qualitatievly different from animals because animals do not posess the capacity for any of those things pursuant to current scientific knowledge. To suggest human beings do not possess qualities that are unique and distinct to humans is to infer or suggest annimals do also possess those qualities. Which I would say they do not. And that takes us back to how our discussion began. Which is probably a good place to leave it and move on. Best wishes.

  • ThisIsTheEnd

    Hello Trin, Lothar didn’t say death was cruel. He said evolution is a gruesome and cruel process. Doesn’t matter if it’s also amazing.

  • Trin

    Right. I didn’t say “he” said; I asked him/her.

  • ThisIsTheEnd

    OK. So you presented and answered your own question.

  • Trin

    Correct. I presented, and answered, one possible, inferred and common option. This is sometimes done as part of regular conversation. Is that a problem?

  • ThisIsTheEnd

    Option? what option? an option to a thing he didn’t ask? Lothar asked “Why did God allow his creation to come about through such a cruel and gruesome process?” Death isn’t the problem, the mechanism of living is. A Good God bringing forth life by evolution is troubling. You haven’t answered it (which is to be expected, nobody can)

  • Trin

    Lothar was not specific, hence, this little go around. He/she references evolution, theodicy and a cruel and gruesome process. It could mean a number of things; I made a simple observation and an attempt at conversation. That’s all that’s there, Endy. Not sure what you’re so stuck on here. Be well.

  • ThisIsTheEnd

    I understood what he meant and you took the time to offer a lengthy reply. But same to you Buddy

  • Susan_G1

    “There is a difference between a genetic basis, a genetic link, and a genetic predisposition.”

    I’m not sure I grasp this distinction. Can you expand on this?

  • Trin

    What I thought of was the genetic basis for, say, eye colour. Then I thought of a genetic link for some cancers (thinking of Angelina Jolie’s recent double mastectomy). Then I thought of predisposition for, say, depression.

    These differences may not exist; this may be nothing more than science’s ability to *know* what is genetically determined. Dunno. But it seemed to me like there are differences.

  • Susan_G1

    This is just my opinion, but when expanding on or refuting someone’s position, or positing our own, it’s helpful to stay with what we know. Your comment (and subsequent clarification) didn’t help or refute in any way Lothar’s concern that there might be a genetic basis for sin. It’s a serious concern for some when it comes to free will.

  • Trin

    Some of us can learn by discussion, which includes more than only what we know. I was unaware that we could only participate by either being helpful or refuting a point. My apologies for participating.

  • Susan_G1

    certainly when talking about faith, or any number of things, we often wonder about things we do not know. That’s fine and normal and different than stating something as fact when we really don’t know. I certainly didn’t infer you should not participate in conversation. But if you state something as fact that you don’t in fact know, you shouldn’t be surprised if you get questions about it.

    Stating a falsehood and learning by being corrected is one way to learn, that’s true, but it’s usually an uncomfortable process. However, if that’s your preferred method, it’s fine with me.

  • Trin

    Is there not a difference between a genetic link and a genetic predisposition?

  • Susan_G1

    yes, actually. The three are different. Eye color is genetic. It needs no further modifier, but basis is fine. A genetic link biologically refers to alleles close enough together that they are usually not separated during cross-overs, for example, curly wings and black bodies in fruit flies. Or it may refer to being on a particular chromosome, such as X-linked diseases (like hemophilia.) People loosely refer to a genetic link when something is genetic. In this sense, it is no different from basis. A predisposition is a condition which is possibly inherited but doesn’t follow genetic predictions closely enough to be stated as genetic with certainty yet, for example, certain cancers, alcoholism, schizophrenia, etc. However, as more studies are done, the predispositions are being revealed to be, indeed, genetic, as in the breast cancer genes BRAC1 and BRAC2. These are no longer “predispositions”.

    Again, I was somewhat uncomprehending when you chose to point out that “There is a difference between
    a genetic basis, a genetic link, and a genetic predisposition,” when responding to Lothar’s comment, “…genetic basis for sinful behaviors…” That made no sense to me. Nor does it now. If sin has a genetic basis, it calls into question free will, regardless if it’s genetic, linked, or a predisposition.

  • Trin

    Doesn’t it make a difference (hence my response)? Won’t a genetic basis for behaviour be stronger (undeniable?) than a genetic predisposition? Society already accepts a genetic basis for absolving certain people of criminal acts.

    If sin has a genetic basis, it may provide some basis for Calvinism after all.


  • Susan_G1

    “Society already accepts a genetic basis for absolving certain people of criminal acts.” I have no idea what you’re referring to here, unless it’s gender identity/homosexuality, and if you are, I find it offensive and extremely unkind.

    Frankly, I don’t really understand your question. What kind of God would allow someone to suffer in hell for ‘a sin’ they have no control over (REGARDLESS of it’s basis, linkage, or predisposition)? That’s like saying all people with Down Syndrome should go to hell.

    Also, I don’t think you understood my explanation. What is the genetic basis for this class of criminal acts you speak of?

  • Trin

    A person with down syndrome is not held criminally responsible for their acts, are they? If a person is deemed unfit to stand trial, they may be found criminally insane, but they are not held responsible in the same sense someone found competent to face charges, correct? On a Greyhound bus trip, a man beheaded another passenger; his schizophrenia was taken into account in the resulting proceedings. We have a genetic basis for absolving certain people of criminal acts.

    I’m not sure why you would connect criminal activity with homosexuality (?).

    In Col. 2&3 Paul talks about Christ cutting away our sinful nature, that we now live by the Spirit, that we no longer live the way we did before we came to Jesus (with a list of sins). I wonder about the connection between genetics and these sinful acts; the power of God to make us new. I’ve never thought of it in term of genetics, but perhaps it is worth exploring.

  • Susan_G1

    About jumping to conclusions regarding homosexuality, please forgive me. That was completely wrong of me and impugned you unnecessarily. I am sorry.

    Again, what is the genetic basis for this class of criminal acts you speak of? What kind of God would allow someone to suffer in hell (you mentioned predestination) for ‘a sin’ they have no control over?

    “A person with down syndrome is not held criminally responsible for their acts, are they?”

    It is unusual, but yes, they are, to the extent of their understanding of right from wrong, and their IQ. A lawyer can give you a better answer.

    The cause of schizophrenia is not known with any certainty. We believe there is a highly significant genetic predisposition to schizophrenia, but that is all. It also appears randomly, as well as in certain drug users. The etiology is heavily debated. In spite of this, prisons are filled with schizophrenics. They are judged on their ability to stand trial, not on the presence or absence of schizophrenia. Criminal insanity is too broad a category to comment on genetically; one would need to know the disorder. For example, severe postpartum depression with psychosis was deemed insanity (appropriately) for Andrea Yeats. Postpartum depression has an epigenetic component.

    Finally, if you know of anyone with a genetic disease being cured by coming to Christ, I would love to hear about it.

  • Gerald Rau

    Like most things, the distinction between genetic basis and genetic predisposition is more a matter of degree than absolute. The difference is in the degree of genetic determination as opposed to how much the effect of the genes is modified by environment/choice.

    Some things, like cystic fibrosis or hair color, are largely genetically determined, so we say they have a genetic basis. Treatments can cause a temporary change, but new cells still have a mutated ion channel, and new hair grows in at the original color.

    Other things, like diabetes or weight, show a genetic predisposition, in that there are genes that tend to increase your chances of getting diabetes or becoming obese, but by making certain lifestyle choices you can reduce your chances of either.

    As this relates to sinful behaviors, it has been shown that some genes predispose a person to anger. As with other predispositions, this does not mean it is inevitable, only that a person with that predisposition needs to take more precautions to avoid it than others might. Similarly for alcoholism, and increased sexual drive, and probably many others we have not found yet.

    Similarly, there is at least one gene that predisposes toward homosexuality, but does not determine it. Whether this is considered a sinful behavior or not is independent of whether it is a genetic predisposition.

  • Susan_G1

    Thank you, Dr. Rau. About your last point, my question is really not if homosexuality is genetic (or epigenetic, because I think it is), but rather if something *is* genetic/epigenetic, how can one be held accountable for the “sin” that results? Homosexuality is not a predisposition in most people, something to be controlled with diet or exercise. We now know that post-partum depression is epigenetic and that a blood test can predict with 85% accuracy whether a woman will experience it. Andrea Yates drowned her 5 children while suffering from severe post-partum depression with psychosis. Did she sin when she killed her children under the delusion that they would go to hell if they lived? I would think not. Evangelical Christians say that homosexuality is a sin. It’s not a matter of abstaining from certain foods; it is an inherent, indelible part of who they are (acknowledging the fluidity/differences with lesbians). Is their behavior then sinful?

    Finally, and I sincerely hope you can help here, I am troubled by the theodicy of Evolution. Pauline/Augustinian (and other systems) theodicy do not apply; saying merely that God’s plan is good misses the mark as well, if the punishment for sin is suffering and death after the fall but not before it. Do you know of a good resource that deals with this?

  • Gerald Rau

    Hi Susan,

    Let me respond by way of a question. If someone has a gene (or epigenetic mark that controls gene expression, it really does not matter) that makes him crave alcohol, so he gets drunk and kills someone in an accident, is it part of who he is and therefore not sinful for him, although it would be for someone else? If someone has a gene that increases his level of testosterone leading to a very strong sex drive, and he commits adultery, do we say it is not sinful because it is an inherent, indelible part of who he is? The question of whether something is right or wrong morally is a distinct question from whether certain people have a stronger desire to do it than others. Also, homosexual behavior is different from homosexual orientation – sin is always based on action committed, not temptation. I recognize there are differences among Christian groups about whether they believe homosexuality is sinful, and I will not address those because that is outside my realm of expertise, but the genetic argument does not hold up. I believe we all have some predisposition to some sort of sin, and yes, it is probably part of who we are. We still have a choice of how we act. I must add that I have had many coworkers over the years who were homosexual, and was as much a friend to any of them as any other coworker. There is no excuse for the hate some Christians show for one sin, while overlooking others.

    As to the question of theodicy, Lamoureux deals with it some in Ch 8 of Evolutionary Creation, and that is probably the best I have seen (still not very good). As many theistic evolutionists, he treats both the creation and the fall as stories conveying spiritual truth, not historical events. In other words, whenever we became human, we became aware of sin – perhaps that was the origin of humanness and the ‘image of God’. According to this view, suffering and death are and always have been part of the creation, and ‘good’ from an ecological/overall perspective. “Some natural mechanisms are certainly repugnant and distasteful, such as suffering and death. Yet, human emotional reactions to these do not negate their goodness.” (304) “Suffering and death are redeemed and declared purposeful. Both glorify God. They also test and refine faith, are considered pure joy, and lead to the hope of eternal life.” (314)

    Thank you for your honest questions. I hope you will continue to seek and one day find answers that satisfy you.

  • Susan_G1

    Thank you for your responses. They are much appreciated. I will continue to seek, and I’ll look at Lamoureux.