What Makes Humans Special?

What Makes Humans Special?
As we look at the many creatures that inhabit planet Earth, we see that humans are unique. What makes humans special?

Unlike most animals, we walk on two legs. Even primates that can stand upright, spend much of their time on all-fours. Standing upright frees our hands for making and using tools. It also allows us to use our hands for creating art and writing stories and books. Our hands enable us to write instructions explaining how to use the tools we create. Writing makes it possible for us to record the things we learn about the world around us.

Our hands allow us to do things that no animal can because of our opposable thumbs. Most apes and monkeys have opposible thumbs, but only humans can bring their thumbs in opposition to any of our four fingers.

Most animals are covered with a thick layer of hair to protect them from the harsh environment. We protect ourselves by clothing that we design using our creativity and that we make using our hands.

Humans are special in our ability to speak. The design and position of our larynx, tongue, and mouth make it physically possible to create sounds that form words. Beyond our physical traits, the ability to understand symbolism is essential for advanced communication. Your ability to understand the meaning of words, even the meaning of the words formed by the letters you are reading is unique to humans.

Human children are dependent on their parents for a much longer time than any animal, and our family relationships are important throughout life. We are capable of an “agape” type of love that emphasizes the needs of others rather than ourselves. We learn to love in our families as our parents model a godly love for us.

Most animals live as long as they can reproduce and they die soon after that. Their purpose is to procreate and maintain a balanced natural environment. Humans live far beyond the time when we produce offspring because we have a purpose beyond reproduction. God has given us the responsibility take care of the creation and to serve others and to serve Him.

Our brain makes us unique, not necessarily because of its size but because of what it can do. There are animals with larger brains. The sperm whale has the largest. When you compare brain weight to body size, many birds have brains that make up 8 percent of their body weight. The human brain is only about 2.5 percent of our body weight, but it far exceeds the brain of any animal in intelligence.

The greatest difference–and the biggest mystery to science–is what is often referred to as “mind.” How can mere atoms and molecules form cells and neural connections to create the human sense of self-consciousness and purpose? How can they form themselves into a mind that can contemplate the universe and our purpose in life? We believe this most unique feature of humans is more than the physical action of neurons. We prefer to call it our soul.

As we seek to know what makes humans special and unique, we have to look beyond the physical realm. Our creativity, our search for beauty, our desire for loving relationships, our seeking after justice, and our need to worship, all indicate that we know there is something beyond what this world offers. We believe those desires are in our souls because we were created in the image of our Creator and we were created to have a relationship with Him. That is truly what makes humans special.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Human Evolution

Variety and Unity in Humans
Variety and Unity in Humans

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. Things that scientists like to speculate about are frequently presented as facts, and this happens in a wide range of subject matter. Speculations concerning quantum mechanics and cosmology are presented in such a way that lay readers assume that they are scientific facts. 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 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