Man’s Uniqueness—Due to Evolution or Creation?
“EVERYTHING in evolution is very, very speculative.” That is indeed a candid statement for a leading evolutionist to make. Yet S. L. Washburn, Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, did make that very statement. And what is still more remarkable, he made it in a lecture entitled “The Evolution of Human Behavior,” delivered at a Nobel Conference on the subject “The Uniqueness of Man.”
The speakers at this conference, held at an American midwestern university, pointed out many of the ways in which man is unique when compared with animals. Yet these men kept referring to evolution as though it were a proven fact. Among the points the various speakers made as to the uniqueness of man were the following, now published in the book The Uniqueness of Man, edited by J. D. Roslansky:
“No known human group does, however, simply throw out its dead without any ritual or ceremony. In stark contrast, no animal practices burial of dead individuals of its own species.” “Man is the only living being who has a developed self-awareness and death-awareness.”—Theodosius Dobzhansky, Russian-born scientist.
Why this striking singularity or uniqueness in man if he evolved from the animals? Should there not at least be some small degree of self-awareness and death-awareness in those that are claimed to be the ancestors of man? Evolution cannot account for this uniqueness but God’s Word can. The Bible explains that man alone was created in God’s image. He alone was endowed with reason, with imagination, with a moral sense.—Gen. 1:26-28.
As regards man’s ability to use a language, in contrast to other communication systems used among animals, Dr. Ernan McMullin, who is on the faculty of the University of Notre Dame, said the following:
“In recent times, much has been made of the ‘languages’ of honey-bees, ants, dolphins and other highly-organized animals. But several features of these ‘languages’ mark them off sharply from the languages of man. First, they are species-specific, inherited not learnt. Their use is instinctive, not reflective. Honey-bees of one species will not be able to ‘follow’ the language of another species, nor can they learn it. Genetic differences can even arise within species due to geographic separation; an Italian honey-bee cannot follow the cues given by a hive of German cousins. Once an Italian honey-bee, always an Italian honey-bee! The individual can in no way modify or unlearn its ‘language’ because of its being (so far as we can tell) entirely genetically determined, entirely instinctive in origin. Second, all the signs used are signals, strictly speaking, that is, they elicit immediate action. There is no reason to attribute to them a propositional character. They are not being used to make statements about the sugar-source, but rather to serve as stimulus for an instinctive response on the part of other bees that will send them to the right place. Third, these languages are entirely limited to a single type of situation, one that is of biological significance to the species, food-gathering, for example, or courtship.”
Yes, the problem of language presents an enigma to the evolutionists. Philologists have come up with many theories but none of them have been so reasonable or compelling as to win general acceptance. A small bird, the parrot, can talk, although not intelligently; but an ape, with many physical characteristics similar to that of man—teeth, lips, tongue, vocal cords, and far more intelligence than a parrot—cannot. Why not? Because, as Wooten shows in his Up from the Ape, the ape lacks the needed intelligence.
Noting a still further example of man’s uniqueness, Professor W. H. Thorpe, a leading English ethologist,a had the following to say:
“Man can manipulate completely abstract symbols to an extent far beyond that possible in the animal world; it’s on this ability mathematics is based. I do not believe that animals will ever be able to do mathematics. . . . Man has an abstract moral sense which can realize perfectly general moral laws—he can realize, in other words, the essential difference between what is and what ought to be and it follows from that I think, . . . that man is a philosophical, a metaphysical and a religious animal.”
Nobel Prize winner Sir John Eccles spoke at this Conference on the subject “The Experiencing Self.” Among other things he made the point that “man’s attempt to understand the world is a measure of his uniqueness.” Animals are content with creature comforts and the satisfying of their hunger and sex instincts. But man, and man alone, has a hunger for knowledge, for wanting to know, to understand, not only the world but the purpose of his existence. God’s Word, the Bible, furnishes that enlightenment.—Ps. 119:105.
And Professor Washburn, quoted at the outset, further contributed to the theme of the uniqueness of man by observing:
“Our whole notion of space is completely different from that of the nonhuman primates. Monkeys spend their entire lives in an area of two or three square miles. The gorilla spends its life in about 15 square miles . . . Here then are animals who can move much more rapidly than we can, with good locomotor systems and with special senses, very similar to ours, but they live their entire life in this exceedingly small area. . . . One would think one could drive monkeys along very easily. . . . It’s quite easy . . . until they reach the end of the area that they know. And then if one tries to drive them further, the troop will work around you and go back; they will not go beyond the space that they know. So one of the really remarkable characteristics of man is that even the most primitive men operate over hundreds of square miles rather than these small areas. . . .
“Constant practice is a characteristic of human play and it’s not a characteristic of the play of the nonhuman primates. . . .
“Our brains are vastly more in control of the rage reactions than is the case in the nonhuman primates. Certainly this is related to the ability to cooperate and to plan. These abilities also, of course, are uniquely human. . . . For the nonhuman primates to get two animals to do something for mutual benefit is about the limit of cooperation. . . .
“Sex is also remarkably different in human beings than in the nonhuman primates. . . . The loss of this . . . uncontrollable sex drive is exceedingly important and. . . is due to the human brain being far more important in sexual behavior than is. the case in nonhuman primates.”
How strikingly all the foregoing testimony bears witness to the uniqueness of man! With him a great array of unique qualities suddenly sprang into existence. Yet the various aspects named are by no means all the ways in which man is unique as compared to the animals. Not by any means!
However, on the basis of these aspects alone, is it reasonable to attribute all these facets of man’s uniqueness to evolution? Or rather, as God’s Word the Bible does, should we attribute them to the wisdom of the divine Creator? Surely reason and truth are with the latter conclusion!
a An ethologist studies the behavior of animals in their natural habitat.