Tool Use Is Not What Makes Humans Unique

Tool Use Is Not What Makes Humans UniqueWhen I took my first anthropology course at Indiana University in 1958, the professors said that humans are the only animals that fashion and use tools. Later, scientists discovered that chimpanzees could smash rocks until they get one that has a sharp edge. Then they use that sharp edge as a tool to cut open fruit or dig for ants. Louis Leakey, the anthropology guru of that time, stated, “We are either going to have to change our definition of man, or invite the chimps to send a representative to the United Nations.” Tool use is not what makes humans unique.

Since that time, other animals have been observed using tools and some even manufacturing tools. Nuthatches can find a stick that they can slide under the bark of a tree to get at a bug. Crows can fashion a stick and use it to get into a milk bottle. The picture shows a macaque using a stone to smash a crab shell for food. Science now says that less than one percent of all animals use tools, but that number keeps growing. Discover Magazine for November 2019 (page 22), contained an article about skunks picking up a rock and pounding on the ice in a pond to make a hole for drinking.

The Bible does not identify humans according to tool use or any technological accomplishment. Mentally challenged humans might not make tools or use them, but they are still humans, no matter what their abilities. What defines humans is our spiritual makeup, which the Bible describes as being in the image of God. This image gives us the capacity to express ourselves in worship, in artistic expression, and in the ability to feel guilt and be sympathetic. Tool use is just one of many designed characteristics built into the DNA of many forms of life. But tool use is not what makes humans unique.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Has Society Lost the Value of Human Life?

Has Society Lost the Value of Human Life?Recent events have led us to consider the question, “Has society lost the value of human life?” There were two events in the news this past week that certainly seem to indicate where society is going.

One of those events took place at a town hall at a public library in Queens, New York. The freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who has been in the news for her “Green New Deal,” and other things, was holding the event. A woman stood up to ask a question and complement the congresswoman on her interest in climate change. The woman said, “Because of the climate crisis, we only have a few months left. Getting rid of fossil fuel is not going to solve the problem fast enough.” She went on to say, “Your next campaign slogan has to be this, ‘We got to start eating babies.’

She then removed her jacket to show her T-shirt which had the slogan, “Save the Planet, Eat the Children.” She looked around at the people in the room and said, “All of you, you know you are pollutants.” She also said, “Even if you would bomb Russia, we still have too many people, too much pollution, so we have to get rid of the babies.” It was shocking that someone would bring up such an idea in a public meeting. It makes me ask, “Has society lost the value of human life?”

Also shocking to me was the fact that the audience around her did not seem shocked or outraged. Neither did Ocasio-Cortez. Instead of saying that the woman’s idea was disgusting and unethical, her reply was, “One of the things that’s very important to us is that we need to treat the climate crisis with the urgency that it does present…There are a lot of solutions that we have.” You can see the exchange on YouTube using THIS LINK. If that video is removed, the entire town hall is on C-Span at THIS LINK. You will find the question at 1 hour 48 minutes into the video.

The other news item was from CBS News. It was a report on the newest abortion facility of Planned Parenthood. Missouri has placed some restrictions on abortion, and Illinois has passed the “Reproductive Health Act,” making access to abortion a “fundamental right.” Because of that, Planned Parenthood secretly constructed this new facility in Illinois, just outside of Saint Louis. According to CBS News, it is an “18,000-square-foot mega-clinic” able to “serve up to 11,000 patients a year.” Planned Parenthood set up a shell company to purchase an abandoned medical clinic and secretly convert it into “one of the largest abortion clinics in the country.” The secrecy was to “avoid protesters and delays.” You can see the CBS News report HERE.

So now the states of Illinois, New York, and Virginia have opened up the law to allow abortions up to, and perhaps even beyond the moment of birth, and eating babies to control climate change is being suggested. Has society lost the value of human life? What is the purpose for saving the planet if we kill the people because they are “pollutants?” The only thing that can reverse this trend is an understanding of the value of each person as we are made in the image of God and loved by Him with incredible love. See John 3:16.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Worshiping a Human Deity

Worshiping a Human Deity Some people think of God as a human – the “old man in the sky.” They think of a god with human limitations and needs as if we are worshiping a human deity. Questions about the race, sex, culture, language, and appearance of God are all rooted in the misconception that God possesses human properties and limitations. God does not have a sexual identity, and the Bible describes God with both masculine and feminine qualities. There is no neuter gender in Hebrew, so if a sexual identity is given, it must come from the context. Even the New Testament, sometimes provides a feminine description of God. (See Luke 13:34.)

Man’s creation in the image of God is also not a human concept. We do not look like God physically or in any physical human way. We are in God’s image by our capacity to love sacrificially, our creative abilities in art and music, our capacity to engage in spiritual things, and our ability to feel guilt and sympathy and compassion. Even the purpose of human existence is linked to this concept. God did not create humans because He was lonely. The purpose of our creation is rooted in nonhuman struggles that we can only vaguely comprehend. The reason for our existence is independent of any physical human objective. (See Ephesians 3:9 -11; 6:12; and Job 1,2.)

Our worship of God is frequently skewed by our conception of God as a human with human needs. Sometimes we seem to act as though God needs our praise because He is depressed. We don’t praise God because God has a self-image problem. The quality of our praise or singing is not of importance to God. Sometimes we emphasize the quality of our singing praises more than the participation of everyone in the process. That emphasis reflects our limited understanding of the nature of God as a spirit. John 4:24 tells us that, “God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” We forget that because we have a limited human concept of God. We are not worshiping a human deity.

We tend to replace the simplicity and total involvement of the first century Church in their worship of God with elaborate theatrical productions. Our productions may have entertainment value, but we often fail to realize that God is not appeased with things humans deem as important. The Bible portrays God as looking on the hearts of those who worship Him, not the overt process. One of the best biblical examples is in Leviticus 10:1-2 where Nadab and Abihu, two priests, offered “strange fire” in replacement for what God had ordered. There is no indication that they neglected anything God had told them to do. They dressed up the fire in some way that would make it more appealing on a human level. God reacts strongly to this human substitution.

It is easy for people living in Western societies to look at human-like images from primitive cultures and wonder how they could conceive of God in such a distorted way. But we may be guilty of worshiping a human deity in our own way. God calls us to understand that His ways and thoughts are not like ours and that He does not have our limitations. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Let us listen to the true God and strive to understand what He wills for us rather than creating God in our image and trying to appease something of our own creation.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Worshiping a Physical Deity

Worshiping a Physical Deity One of the most significant problems people have with God is that they perceive God as a physical entity. That means God is subject to time, as all physical things are. It means that there are confines of space that limit God. It also means that limitations of energy and mass are problems for God. A favorite atheist challenge is, “Can God create a rock so big he can’t move it?” Marshall Keeble used to say, “Yep, and he can create a bulldozer big enough to do the job.” The problem with both the original question and the snappy comeback by Keeble is that they are dealing with a physical being with physical limitations. The problem is worshiping a physical deity.

Creating a physical God makes the process of creation impossible to visualize or understand. A great astronomer once commented that the problem with the big bang theory is that it does not tell us what banged or who caused the bang. That statement is absolutely true, but it also states the question in terms of a physical being. “What banged” means that there was something physical to do the banging. “Who caused the bang?” implies that a physical person created or directed the process. The biblical concept of God and the view of virtually all cosmologists is that the cosmos came from dimensions far beyond our own. Whether one looks for the explanation in quantum mechanics or God, the fact is that the creation process is not a physical process. Worshiping a physical deity is not logical.

Not only do we get bogged down in the creation question, but even our worship of God is impacted by creating a physical God. If your concept of God is physical, then you will do physical things in physical ways to serve God. The building of cathedrals, shrines, monuments, idols, and icons as focal points of worship have grown out of that concept of God. Instead of building structures that serve the needs of people, this kind of created deity infuses a concept of a physical place for God to dwell. Even the phrase “God’s house” suggests a physical limitation to God. We do not need a place to worship God. Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). That shows the importance of the nonphysical nature of God. The Bible says we are created in God’s image, but that does not mean a physical image. The God described in the Bible does not possess a face, hands, feet, and does not have an appetite, a sexual identification, or a race. Terms like face and hand may be used to describe how God acts when interacting with humans, but these are not true properties of God.

When someone asks “who created God?” his question is rooted in a misconception of what God is. They think we are worshiping a physical deity. My usual response to that question is to ask the questioner to draw me a four-sided triangle. The point is that the question assumed things about God that are not true. “Who created God?” implies that there was a time when God did not exist. It assumes that space and energy existed without God and before God’s existence. Those are incorrect physical assumptions. God created time, space, matter, and energy. The question is wrong, and so no answer satisfies, just as it is impossible to draw a four-sided triangle.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Are Humans Animals?

Are humans animals like bears?People have sometimes called me to task for referring to humans as animals. The point is well taken that humans are unique, but humans are not plants, and they are not minerals. According to all basic elementary science books, there are three kingdoms – plants, animals, and minerals. Are humans animals? Yes, we are animals.

The problem we seem to have is that we don’t understand what makes humans different from bears, for example. In our correspondence courses, we have questions about what distinguishes a human from other forms of animal life. I find it interesting that the answers my students give are so poorly considered. Some will say that we think, but all animals think. Some say we have emotions, but all animals have emotions. Others will say we stand erect, but kangaroos, birds, and bears all stand erect. Still others say it’s our brain size, but whales have bigger brains than we do, and bears have very large brains.

I recently watched a National Geographic program on bears. The program emphasized that female bears in the wild that give birth to unhealthy or significantly deformed cubs will kill and eat them. AOL News on the web (August 18, 2019) carried a story about two Russian fishermen who rescued two bear cubs from drowning. The mother bear was swimming across a lake with two cubs on her back when she became tired and chilled. Her solution was to shake the two cubs off of her back, leaving them to drown while she continued her journey to the other side of the lake. These are behaviors that would be unlikely in a human mother. What is it that makes humans different? Why do human mothers continue to care for children with deformities or severe health issues? Why do human mothers usually show incredible resilience when their child is threatened?

When someone asks, “Are humans animals?” I reply, “Yes, but not JUST animals. Humans are not driven by “survival of the fittest.” There are characteristics of humans that cause us to care for those who are not “fit.” These human qualities also provide for an innate sense of the love of beauty in art or music or in a natural setting. What is it in humans that causes us to worship, to feel guilt, and to be sympathetic. What causes us to be driven by an “agape” type of love – self-sacrificing, nonsexual, and unrelated to our survival?

It isn’t any physical characteristic that makes humans special. Our spiritual makeup is the source of all those things that set humans apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. We are created in the image of God. That isn’t just an empty cliché. It is an observable difference between humans and the animal world around us. We can behave like bears if we choose, but bears cannot behave as humans.

Are humans animals? Yes, but not JUST animals. The word the Bible uses to describe the distinctive characteristic of humans is “soul.” It’s the part of us that never dies, and it separates us from all other forms of life.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

It IS Worth the Price!

It IS Worth the Price! Timothy Clayton
\We want to continue our thoughts from yesterday’s post. If you haven’t read it yet, you can click HERE. My point was that it IS worth the price to care for those who cannot take care of themselves. The example I used was my son Tim.

Some argue that it is a waste of money. They say that we should euthanize those who have “a low quality of life” or who are in prison for the rest of their lives. As I said before, from a Christian standpoint, that idea is repugnant. Christians do not view a human as “just another animal.” We believe that ALL humans are created in the image of God, and every life is infinitely valuable.

To add to the points we made yesterday, here are three more objections to the view of the euthanasia advocates:

1) All human lives can be productive. This is truer today in our world of technology than it ever was. Stephen Hawking did much of his work after he was unable to function physically. My son works in a shop that does jobs that require massive human time. Selecting phone parts and putting one of each in a cloth bag may not be a career you want to have, but Tim and his friends at the sheltered workshop thrive on it. Prisoners can train and rehabilitate dogs, cultivate the land and produce crops, do precision manual work, and write and compose amazing stories, music, and art. Prisons can be productive places with decent living conditions, and they can even be self-supporting. No human is worthless except those who choose to be.

2) No human is beyond the reach of the Holy Spirit. Our prison ministry has dealt with some hardened criminals who grew up in an environment that made them that way. Can they be changed? The answer is yes, and there are hundreds of cases to prove that. There is a book titled “The Meanest Man in Texas” that you might wish to read for an example. It is worth the price when you see people transformed by the Spirit.

God’s Spirit can help to change a man or woman who seems to be hopeless. My own personal story of “Why I Left Atheism” is available on doesgodexist.org if you want a personal example. Christians never give up on a man or woman. Euthanizing prisoners who are destined to spend the rest of their lives in prison would cut off what may be a tool to help young people who are headed toward violence and abuse. We worked with “Scared Straight” here in Indiana for several years and saw what can be done by someone “who has been there.”

3) There is a Christian industry built around caring for the disadvantaged. Programs like SSI and Medicare provide some money for those who qualify for their support. The actual care for the disadvantaged doesn’t come from the government. It comes from men and women tho don’t make much money, but who believe that the message of Matthew 25:31-46 applies to them. They serve and bless their constituents, bringing joy and love and happiness as they do so. Their work employs large numbers of men and women who would not otherwise have a job. They train and place disabled people in jobs that match their ability and desire.

Yes, it is worth the price. The bottom line is, what kind of a world to we want to live in and leave to our children and grandchildren? Do we want a world that teaches survival of the fittest and the annihilation of all of those someone deems to be unfit? Or do we want a world of love and gentleness and caring that treats every human with dignity and respect? It seems to me that the answer to this question is obvious. And it is worth the price.
–= John N. Clayton © 2019

To obtain John’s book about Timothy, click HERE.

Is It Worth the Price?

Is It Worth the Price? Yes, Timothy is worth it.
Every Wednesday morning I take my son Tim, who is 57 years old, out for breakfast. Tim is mentally challenged, blind, and has a mild form of muscular dystrophy. He also has cerebral palsy and schizophrenia. All of this has left him wheelchair-bound and with trembles that affect his ability to hold a cup to drink. Various government programs for the disabled have supported Tim since he became of school age. Some people have told me they resent their tax money being used to prolong my son’s suffering. I regularly receive brochures from pro-euthanasia groups promoting legislation that would terminate those who have “a low quality of life.” That brings up the question, “Is it worth the price?”

I suspect that we could reduce the massive amount of government deficit spending if we euthanized everyone in a mental hospital or care facility. We could expand that to include any prisoner who will always be incarcerated. We could also add anyone who is in a vegetative state due to brain injuries or congenital problems caused by disease, injury, stroke, or inadequate care. From an atheistic standpoint, the euthanizing of all of these individuals makes sense. Putting human life on the same level as animal life would allow involuntary euthanasia. The champion of this kind of thinking is Australian Dr. Peter Singer. He is the Ira W. Decamp Professor of bioethics at Princeton University. He is also the Australian Laureate Professor of Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne.

From a Christian standpoint, these proposals are repugnant. To be clear, we are not talking about allowing a dying person to refuse a life support machine with no hope of ever being free of the machine. Christians do not view a human as “just another animal.” The Christian view is that ALL humans are created in the image of God. That means they have a spiritual makeup which is unique to humans. Christians reject the view that a human, a dog, and a pig are of equal value.

But is it worth the price of caring for those whom Singer and others would eliminate? There are a large number of objections to the views of the euthanasia advocates. Here are a few:

1) The handicapped historically have made significant contributions to all disciples of human activity. Would those who promote involuntary euthanasia suggest that Stephen Hawking’s life should have been terminated when he could no longer function without help? How many great musical composers have had major handicaps? Many times a handicap has led to a unique talent that blesses the lives of others.

2) How do you determine a “low quality of life”? My son has many things that bring him joy. He enjoys food and knows about the different foods of various cultures. He gets great pleasure from hearing about various religious beliefs. He enjoys music and loves to feel different textures. He does not agonize over his blindness or complain about not being able to play sports. He looks forward to my daily phone calls and loves eating out. From his perspective, his quality of life is very good.

3) Ignoring the spiritual dimension of life means not understanding what brings joy to many people. Galatians 5:19-25 describes the physical “works of the flesh,” and the “fruit of the Spirit.” The physical things are animal responses that involve the physical body. Verse 22 lists the fruits of the Spirit as “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance..” My son has all of those. Not only does he have them, but he brings them into the lives of others.

The bottom line is, what kind of a world do we want to live in and leave to our children and grandchildren? Should it be a world that teaches survival of the fittest and the annihilation anyone that some person or group of people decides are not fit? Or should it be a world of love and gentleness and caring that treats every human with dignity and respect? It seems to me that the answer to this question is obvious. Is it worth the price? You bet it is! More on this tomorrow.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Abortion and Infanticide in Virginia

Abortion and Infanticide in Virginia
Newborn Baby Girl with Club Foot

There seems to be confusion between abortion and infanticide in Virginia today. State Delegate Kathy Tran introduced a bill in the Virginia legislature that would permit abortion through the moment of birth, even when the mother shows signs of being in labor. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said this about a baby born with significant physical problems: “The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

Webster’s Dictionary defines abortion as “the expulsion of a fetus before it is viable.” It is obvious that in Virginia – and also New York – at least, it is now legal to kill a viable fetus. That is not abortion – it is infanticide. Matthew 2:16-18 tells of Herod practicing infanticide to try to avoid the political consequences of the King of the Jews surviving. In ancient Rome, unwanted babies were simply thrown into the street to die. In some nations today, male babies are preferred, and the females are eliminated.

In America, babies are now viewed by many as commodities, and only the best are fit to survive. The unfit – those with physical problems or perhaps the wrong physical features – can be destroyed. Abortion and infanticide are the tools to accomplish that. Science has sequenced and analyzed the human genome and developed techniques to modify the genome. That means we are close to being able to design a child with the features we want. Then we can discard any child that has the “wrong” features.

Christians believe that what defines a human is not their appearance or a set of physical characteristics. The Bible defines humans as beings created in the image of God. No, we don’t look like God physically because God is not a physical being. If God had a physical body, and we were all in created in God’s physical image, we would be identical. God is a spirit, and we are in God’s spiritual image. That means all humans have value, no matter what our physical body is like.

Some of the world’s greatest thinkers, artists, musicians, and political leaders were people who had physical problems. Before America today is the question, “What do we believe about the worth of a human being?” Do we want to create the super race of physical beings manufactured by human intelligence and designed to be the most fit of all life on Earth? Or do we believe that every human has value and worth? If we want the super race, then abortion and infanticide are the methods by which we can achieve that goal.

Let’s understand it is not only abortion that we are endorsing, it is the killing of infants. If every human has value, then let us work to eliminate the causes of physical problems. Let us focus on life in all of its variety and value, realizing that every human being bears the image of God. That image allows all of us to express beauty in an amazing variety of ways.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Susan B. Anthony List

Placing Blame for Gun Violence

Placing Blame for Gun ViolenceThe National Center for Health Statistics reports that 39,773 Americans lost their lives to firearms in 2017. Since 1968, 1,625,000 Americans have died from gunfire. That is more than all American deaths in all wars since the founding of America more than 200 years ago. From 2008 to 2017 there were 342,439 deaths by firearms and 374,340 deaths caused by motor vehicles. It is hard to believe that guns are nearly equal to cars in their careless use. These numbers are facts, not opinions. The opinions come when people are placing blame for gun violence.

Everyone from the NRA to the WTA wants to explain why this is happening, and we would add another voice to the discussion. The trend in firearm deaths is evident. In 1968 the number of deaths due to firearms in the United States was roughly 24,000. In 2017 the number of fatalities was roughly 40,000. In almost 50 years, there has been a dramatic increase that no one can deny. That leads to people placing blame for gun violence.

What else has changed in those 50 years? We have only cited the years for which we have numbers. Before 1968, deaths due to firearms would have been much lower. As a teenager in the 50s, I can remember that when someone died due to a firearm in our half of the state, it made the front page of every newspaper.

Some say that mental illness is the cause of the increase. I would suggest that we have always had the mentally ill with us. Until the mid 20th century, there were virtually no medications that relieved the symptoms of the mentally ill. I can recall classmates in high school who were mentally ill, and none of them resorted to violence with a firearm.

Some say that gun availability is the cause of this, but I bought my first gun when I was 12 years old. I had a hard time deciding between a 12 gauge shotgun and a 22 rifle. In southern Indiana, it seemed that every pickup truck had a gun rack behind the driver’s seat. There was usually more than one loaded gun in the rack. The trucks were never locked so any five-year-old could have climbed in, grabbed a loaded gun, and started shooting.

So when placing blame for gun violence, we cannot completely point to those factors. The one thing that has changed in the same time period is our country’s fundamental faith in God. When you read all of our historical documents, even those written by those who may have had doubts about God, you see a basic declaration of the importance of living by God’s principles. Even though my father was an atheist, he grew up with a father who was a minister, and he believed and lived by the basic teachings of the Bible.

In the last 50 years, we have been saturated with the doctrine propagated by the media and the educational establishment that humans are just animals. Along with that, goes the belief in survival of the fittest as the basic rule by which we should live. In the animal world, you generally don’t see the notion that the less fit should be cared for and looked after by those who are fit.

The idea of caring for the less fit has been denigrated among human beings by people like Peter Singer and Richard Dawkins. They vocalize what much of our culture wants to believe. Everything from abortion to euthanasia is radically affected by what we believe about the worth of a human being. If educated leaders in the secular world want to eliminate those they see as unfit, how can we expect a mentally ill person not to embrace the same idea? The problem is how they identify the unfit.

“We then that are are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (Romans 15:1). That is a principle of Christianity and should be applied to both spiritual and physical weakness. In Matthew 25, when Jesus describes the basis of judgment by God, He said, “I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink, I was naked, and you clothed me, I was sick and in prison, and you visited me…”

Perhaps society is placing blame for gun violence on the wrong things. It is only when a person accepts the biblical concept that ALL human beings are created in the image of God, and therefore, ALL human life is sacred, that we can hope to see a change. It is only then that we can have a psychological foundation that allows even the mentally ill to understand that they have value and that people care about them and want to help them. There is no-one “unfit” in the sight of God. Violence will only increase as our children play video games and watch movies that glorify those who are strong destroying the weak.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Being Able to Breathe

Being Able to BreatheI have just gone through one of the most unpleasant physical experiences of life – not being able to breathe. Most of us have had the breath knocked out of us when we got hit in the diaphragm and temporarily were left gasping for air. Imagine that feeling going on for hours, or even days. I am writing this while I am battling pneumonia, and fluid in my lungs has left me struggling to maintain my normal activities.

From a scientific perspective, being able to breathe is one of the most complex things we see in the natural world. Our lungs take in air that is 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen. The oxygen makes its journey into our vascular system and sustains our lives. Fish take the oxygen dissolved in water and bring the oxygen into their vascular system through gills. The complexity of these systems chemically and physically points to the design the Creator has built into His living things.

While the Bible speaks of God creating breath in all living things, the most commonly quoted statements about the breath of life in humans don’t refer to air at all. Genesis 1:26-27 says that God created male and female in His image. Genesis 2:7 tells us that God formed the man and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living soul.

Beginning in verse 16, we see God’s communication to man centering not around his physical well-being, but his spiritual well-being. The forbidden fruit and the relationship of good and evil, man’s dominance over the animal kingdom, and his relationship to woman all indicate a unique spiritual being with the soul breathed into him by God.

I have been in a great deal of physical distress because of pneumonia. Not being able to breathe fully is painful and frustrating. It has given me a whole new sympathy for those I know who are struggling with COPD or other breathing issues. Most people today are not struggling with the physical breath they take for granted, but the spiritual death that comes from rejecting God and His creation. Look at the evidence and build a dynamic living, breathing faith based on the fact that you are uniquely created in the image of God. That is a pain-relieving act we all can do.
— John N. Clayton © 2019