I have subscribed to National Geographic for well over 50 years. The magazine has evolved from a reporting magazine to a promoting magazine. What I mean is that in the 1950s and 60s the magazine reported on scientific discoveries and explanations of the science of the day. In recent years has adopted an agenda that does a great deal of speculative editorializing. Speculations concerning quantum mechanics and cosmology are presented in such a way that lay readers assume that they are scientific facts. This happens in a wide range of subject matter, including human evolution.
Sometimes the magazine is in an awkward position because of presenting speculations as facts. A few years ago, in their rush to push the idea that birds are actually dinosaurs, National Geographic ran a cover picture and article on a fossil find in China that seemed to prove that theory. Later it was discovered that the fossil they placed on the cover was a fake, constructed by a field worker and sold to make money.
In the April 2017, issue of the magazine there is an article titled “Beyond Human” and subtitled “Like any other species we are the product of millions of years of evolution. Now we’re taking the matter into our own hands.” The article by D. T. Maxis is well written and presents many facts about how humans can adapt to varied climatic conditions. People living at high elevations adapt in such a way that their hemoglobin binds larger amounts of oxygen.
The article also presents various ideas proposed by scientists to fit their particular model of human evolution. Some examples are bipedalism to speed up locomotion, making tools leading to bigger brains, reduced fur to keep cool and make finding parasites easier, blushing to signal remorse and elicit forgiveness, and tears to show vulnerability and get help. Those are interesting speculations, but tears also flush the cornea, have an antiseptic quality, and carry certain chemicals from the body. Most of the characteristics justified as evolutionary products have a purpose different from or in addition to what is suggested.
Magazines like National Geographic promote naturalism–the notion that everything can be explained by science and with natural causes. In this article, the use of art and symbols is viewed as an evolved characteristic for establishing civilizations. This ignores the fact that artwork has been found in the remains of the very earliest specimens of humans long before any civilization. Religion is presented as an evolved case of self-awareness leading to thoughts about a possible afterlife. How human evolution through natural selection would do such a thing is hard to visualize.
The article points out that humans now have the capacity to alter their genetic make-up and introduce new traits that will make us free of genetic diseases and give us improved physical characteristics. Naturalism cannot answer the moral and ethical questions of how we should use our ability to change the human genome.
God created us in His image–meaning that we have a soul, a spiritual aspect that is not a part of the physical body and is not in the genome. All humans have the same spiritual makeup, and thus all humans have equal value. We look different because the genome was designed to allow change and adaptation to the varied climates and conditions in which humans live. Genetic diseases result from a wide variety of things, and our pollution and misuse of the environment are major causes.
Naturalism would suggest that we are only animals and that culling the unfit is good genetic management no matter if the genes are part of a mosquito or a human. What Naturalism fails to recognize is that all humans have incredible value because we were created in the image of God. The struggle for physical survival will only intensify if humans reduce their existence to merely flesh and blood.
–John N. Clayton © 2017