Where Does Man Fit In?
IN TURNING from the wonders and complexities of the animal world to look at human life, we find even greater wonders, for the human body, and particularly the human brain, is of immeasurably greater complexity. In fact, the gulf between the world of animals and that of mankind is much wider than that between insects and apes.
What constitutes this gap? It is found in the difference in makeup physically, mentally and spiritually. Mankind of all tribes and nations, everywhere, has a desire to worship. The most godless of governments have not been able to stamp out this trait. History reveals that humans are always devoted to a god in one sense or another. Even those claiming godlessness may worship the State, money, pleasure, some hero, or a sports star or an entertainment star, or they may set themselves up as “gods.”
Man’s Capacity for Spirituality
The reason is that man, of all living things on earth, has the ability to grasp and understand spiritual things and therefore also has morality, which animals do not possess. Truly, man can be said to have an inborn capacity for spirituality, and he has a need for this capacity to be filled. He appreciates art, beauty and fine qualities. He can, with God’s help, produce the “fruitage of the spirit,” which is “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.”—Gal. 5:22, 23.
Purpose, Reasoning, Awareness of Death
The Bible explains this superiority on the part of humankind by saying that man was made ‘in God’s image and likeness.’ (Gen. 1:26, 27) He can reflect some of the qualities of God. Before Adam sinned he was completely, perfectly ‘God’s image and glory.” (1 Cor. 11:7) Not that he was God’s image in appearance or form, but in the desirable attributes of love, reasoning, wisdom, compassion and mercy. He had these and other qualities of God in a measure suited to the place he occupied in God’s creation and the obligations he had to fulfill.
Humans also have purpose in what they do, not as the animals, which do things instinctively. Animals accomplish a purpose, it is true, but not with their power of reason—it is through either instinct or a short-lived reaction from experience, to take care of an immediate objective. Take, for example, the Bible’s description of ostrich behavior:
“She leaves her eggs to the earth itself
And in the dust she keeps them warm,
And she forgets that some foot may crush them
Or even a wild beast of the field may tread on them.
She does treat her sons roughly, as if not hers—
In vain is her toil because she has no dread.
For God has made her forget wisdom,
And he has not given her a share in understanding.”
In Animals Are Quite Different, “A Study of the Relation between Mankind and the Animals,” Hans Bauer says:
“In contrast with mankind, no animal investigates the reasons for its actions. The animal, when left to its own devices simply seeks its own pleasure and comfort, nothing else. It is true that as a general rule it enjoys doing whatever is of service to its particular constitution. And in very many cases what is of service to it is the establishment of community living [as in the case of termites, ants, bees, birds, etc.].”—P. 204.
This is not to say that animals have no feelings. The above-quoted book says, on pages 24, 25:
“We have every reason to admit that animals, like human beings, can fear, hate, feel affection and disgust and homesickness, love their native environment, experience anger and terror, possess the social and imitative instincts and feel pleasure, sorrow, joy and depression.”
But these emotions are generally only temporary and are not based on reason. For instance, a dog may stick with and fight for a master that treats him very harshly and that uses the dog to accomplish cruel and wicked purposes.
Only humans have a conception of the future, or plan for the future. They can look forward to time indefinite, to infinity. The Bible says of God’s gift to man: “Even time indefinite he has put in their heart.” (Eccl. 3:11) Animals, on the other hand, live only for the immediate moment or the immediate satisfaction of their desires. Man builds for the future. He uses the information and discoveries of history to plan his future, and most men would like to continue to pursue their purposes to time indefinite. Men “dread” the end of their lives. They know how life turns out—first, the aging process toward death, then the leaving of loved ones, being unable to carry out their projected works, the ceasing of all enjoyment and being soon forgotten. But animals do not have that “dread,” just as the Bible says with regard to the ostrich.
Man Created to Live Forever and Given Dominion over Animals
The reason for this vast difference is that man was created, not to die, but to live forever on earth. The entering in of sin is what introduced death. (Rom. 5:12; 6:23) However, sin on the part of the man did not introduce sin and death into the animal world. Animals have no knowledge of sin nor a conscience to direct or convict them. Man’s sinful treatment of animals has caused their death in some cases, even the extinction of some species. But geological discoveries prove that animals lived and died long before man appeared on the scene. Obviously, they always had a limited life-span. So whether they die and decay, or are consumed by other animals, it is a natural thing for them to pass off the scene. They have instincts that warn them of danger. This ensures survival of the species. But the animal does not know that fact.
Man was originally given dominion over the animals. (Gen. 1:28) This was because of his great mental superiority. He has often exercised this dominion in a cruel, destructive way. Nevertheless, he is their undoubted master. God reassured Noah after the flood: “A fear of you and a terror of you will continue upon every living creature of the earth and upon every flying creature of the heavens, upon everything that goes moving on the ground, and upon all the fishes of the sea. Into your hand they are now given.”—Gen. 9:2.
In harmony with this statement, animals have a fear of man. Even wild beasts considered dangerous usually do all they can to avoid man. Rare is the animal that seeks out humans to attack them. Usually such a thing happens only when an animal is cornered and feels forced to attack. In fact, in the original perfect state animals were friends of man and were certainly put here for humankind’s good. Only a very small percentage today can be considered harmful, and this is usually because of man’s mistreatment of them, or his wasteful, polluting habits.
So man fits into the earthly scene as the one having dominion, and as the one for whom the entire intricate structure of life exists on earth. While the plant and animal creation glorifies God, man, by his created nature and makeup, if he establishes a good relationship with God, can bring Him far more glory. In answer to our question, we must say: No, life here on earth is not a product of mere chance. In all its counterbalancing forms, and especially in the masterpiece of earthly creation—man himself—the marvelous arrangement of living things extols the magnificence of the greatest of designers and builders—GOD.