by Dr. Ron Galloway
If a doctor tells me I’m a sick man, I’m not likely to argue with him. He is the expert, not me. But if a doctor tells me that it’s okay to cheat on my wife, because man is only an animal anyway, then I would debate with that doctor, for he has strayed outside of his own expertise. The same applies to a biologist who clams that human beings are mere animals. You cannot look at man purely from the standpoint of biology, make an ultimate claim that man is an animal, and suppose you are drawing scientific conclusions.[i] The biological sciences get themselves into difficulty when they make universal claims about man or the universe that far exceed their own areas of expertise.
To illustrate, I have chosen two main claims that springboard from biological claims into full-blown metaphysics. The first is the alleged scientific claim that man is purely an animal, and the second that the fossil record shows that man is spiritually and physically evolving and the whole of reality is becoming more complex.
Let us set up a pretend scenario. Imagine that all the existing evidence and presuppositions in the biological sciences imply that both claims are true. When a biologist makes these two claims, he or she is making ultimate statements about the nature of both humanity and the universe itself. Therefore, they sound less like scientific claims, and more like religious or philosophical claims. Neither biology nor any other of the physical sciences have the tools to verify all of reality.
History simply does not verify the claim that humanity is advancing day by day, decade by decade, or even century by century. For example, the Sumerian civilization was one of many civilizations that were far more complex than many of the civilizations that followed.[ii] This does little for the notion that all reality is evolving and becoming more and more complex. In addition, from the standpoint of historic human conduct, there would appear to be little trace of ethical evolution. If anything, man has become a more competent murderer than before. He seems no more or less capable of evil, but now he has better technologies to assist him in that evil. This appears true whether in the area of weaponry, political deception, or economic and psychological manipulation. When viewed historically, there would also seem to be little progress in the fight against human greed, unless of course one considers the extreme greed of much of the free world to be a desirable evolutionary development. Historically viewed, natural humanity’s evolution out of selfishness seems, thus far, undetectable.
As for the claim that man is an animal, there is much to show that man is better or worse than the beasts, but nothing to confirm that he is simply an animal. The fact that human beings show characteristics in common with animals in no way confirms that they are animals, any more than the similarities between a cat and cougar confirm that a cat is a cougar.
Not only history, but literature and art militate against our scenario. There seems to be little evidence of increasing complexity or superiority of either as we approach the twenty-first century. One fears that the secular worldview’s rejection of the transcendent might have actually triggered a digression of great art and literature, since traditionally and historically both embrace the transcendent.
Thus far, no recent flood of artists coming to the fore have succeeded in surpassing the work of Rembrandt, Shakespeare, Euripides, Dante, or Milton. If we move into the field of music, we might ask whether the music world believes that the works of Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach are really in danger of being surpassed in complexity by current artists. In fact, much of the present genius in music acknowledges its heavy and continuing debt to these masters. As with history, the world of art comes into direct collision with our scenario. So far as I know, no animal has ever composed an opera or rivaled Mozart. In the arts, the difference between man and animals is perhaps the most pronounced of all.
Nothing in the history of religions or religious study in general inspires confidence in the belief that contemporary man is a product of evolutionary spiritual development. In New Age religion, the very idea of spiritual evolution springboards off not only its take on Darwinian evolution, but also its take on Eastern religion. For example, the very pillars of New Age religion and its talk of a higher consciousness, and the “at-one-ment” of all things, are heavily dependent upon the ancient Hindu Upanishads. Why would such an evolving new religion, heralding the “Age of Aquarius,” be founded on what should be a primitive, simplistic ancient belief, according to the logic and implications of spiritual evolution?[iii] Why indeed, but the key doctrine of New Age religion—that all is one, all is God—takes its cue from the Upanishads.[iv] Even Carl Jung had to resurrect ancient Gnostic myths, Eastern religion, and the occult to emerge with his theory of the unconscious.[v] Indeed, it would appear that modern religions, not to mention biological sciences, are totally dependent on ancient laws to sustain them. This hardly serves as a plug for increasing complexity or an evolving higher consciousness.
As for the second claim that man is simply an animal, the universal and conspicuous absence of religion and worship in the animal kingdom make the claim absurd. Add to this the ancient religious belief that speaks of contact with a world of spirit personalities, who are able to enter into our bodies and minds and control them. This does very little for the idea that man is purely a biological animal. Our scenario cannot even begin to deal with the reality of the spirit world and man’s ancient or modern relationship to that world.
In light of the collision between the findings of biology and other areas of expertise such as history, the arts, and religion, it is clear that even if our scenario was true, the biological sciences are still making claims far beyond their expertise. I have only touched on the problems posed whenever one discipline seeks to impose its view of man and the universe on every other discipline. This is but one of the many worldviews that compete with the Christian worldview.
As Christians we are committed to the defense of a very different view of man and the universe than this scenario, or many others, and to the proposition that fallen humanity has no hope for transformation except through Christ. Far from progressing, the “fashion of this world is passing away” (1 Corinthians 7:31). Then comes the transfiguration not only of humanity, but of the universe itself. Until then, we “demolish strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:4-5) by defending the truth of the Christian worldview in gentleness and love.
[i] See, for example, B. F. Skinner’s Beyond Freedom and Dignity (New York: Knopf, 1971). Skinner maintains that human beings are merely a species of animal. Like all animals, there is no inward self, only a stimulus-response organism.
[ii] Samuel Noah Kramer, The Sumerians, Their History, Culture And Character (Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 1963). See pp. 3-7 especially.
[iii] Here I am simply positing what consistent logic would demand. Actual Hindu belief is by no means simplistic or primitive.
[iv] Sarvepalli Rhadhakrishnan and Charles A. Moore, eds., A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1967), 48.
[v] Carl Jung, Memory Dreams and Reflections, tr. Richard and Clara Winston (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), 323. Here, in his final book, Jung admits his extreme debt to Eastern thought and a spirit guide called Philemon to whom he attributes most of his psychological insights.