Being Human

Being Human
One of the oldest debates among scientists is what it takes for an individual to be called “human.” The problem is that each discipline has its own criteria for being human.

A physical anthropologist would likely base his definition on the size of the brain, the shape of the mandible, or the position of the foramen magnum–the opening into the brain through which the spinal column passes. A cultural anthropologist might use community structure or communication techniques. In each discipline, the criteria correspond to the tools that discipline uses in its study. All of them are useful, but none present the full picture.

The biblical definition of being human is that being uniquely created in the image of God–that being possessing a soul. Physical appearance and physical characteristics are not part of the biblical definition. The indicator of being created in the image of God is how those spiritual characteristics are expressed. Worship, artistic creation, the use of symbolism, musical creation, and the ability to feel guilt and sympathy are leading indicators.

The media has portrayed the Neandertals as prehumans. Because they were bulky and jut-jawed they seem to fit the picture of prehuman cavemen. Movies have portrayed them as brutes lacking human characteristics. We have maintained for many years that the Neandertals were a race of humans. Recent genetic studies have shown Neandertal genes in the modern human population.

Recently researchers found artwork in three Spanish caves that are attributed to the Neandertals because they predate the time when other races of humans, such as Cromagnons, came to the area. Dr. Francesco d’Errico who has been studying the evidence for Neandertal artwork in the caves says, “Neandertals took modern humans into caves and showed them how to paint.”

The Bible tells us that God created humans in His image. We don’t know when that took place, or how far and how quickly the descendants of Adam and Eve moved out across the Earth. God designed humans to adapt to all kinds of environments, and climatic stresses led to racial variations. The Bible’s statement that “God has made of one blood all nations of men to dwell upon the face of the Earth” is supported by every evidence we have available. However, while being human, our capacity to act like animals and not express our likeness to God’s image cannot be denied.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Data from Science News, March 17, 2018 page 6.

Ancient Animal Butchering by Humans Is a Croc?

Ancient Animal Butchering Is a Croc
One of the things I love about science is that because of the nature of the discipline, errors eventually get corrected. Data on ancient animal butchering by humans just received a correction.

“In a field where researchers reap big rewards for publishing media-grabbing results in high-profile journals … there’s a push to publish extraordinary findings, but evolutionary researchers always have to weigh what is interesting versus what’s correct.” That statement was made by David Braun, an archaeologist at George Washington University in Washington D.C. He was responding to an announcement that what scientists thought was human butchering work with stone tools was apparently crocodile bites.

The date of tool use by early humans has been pushed back again and again as microscopic investigations looked at the shape of marks on the bones of horses and other animals. Carnivores like hyenas leave U-shaped marks on bones. Scientists had assumed that V-shaped incisions with internal ridges were caused by ancient animal butchering by humans using stone-age tools. The new finds show that crocodile bites can leave the same pattern on bones as stone butchering tools.

The traditional and biblical views of early humans show that they were gatherers and that butchering animals came along sometime later. The picture of the real human history is based on the evidence, and it is a constantly changing picture. The picture gets modified as scientists discover new evidence. The model indicated by Scripture and the scientifically-accepted picture will get closer to agreement as new evidence comes to light, and old evidence is re-examined.

Data from Science News December 9, 2017, and the November 6 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Human Evolution Theories More Confounded

Human Evolution Theories More Confounded
For many years the papers have reported on anthropologists finding the remains of human ancestors in Ethiopia, eastern Africa. In the past several weeks there have been headlines saying that “the oldest fossil of Homo sapiens” has been found in Morocco which is in northeast Africa. It seems that each new find makes human evolution theories more confounded.

Anthropologists working in Jebel Irhoud, Morocco, found fossils they claim are much older than those found in east Africa. The specimens have a lower jaw which matches Homo sapiens but the brain cases are long and low which is more indicative of apes or monkeys. They also found 14 stone artifacts which they associated with those fossils. The original report said that the tools were found with the fossils. Later reports indicate the tools were found in the strata above the fossils indicating they might not have been produced by those individuals.

Scientific theories about how humans came into existence are always changing as new data becomes available. The classic theoretical model of human evolution in recent years has maintained that humans arose in east Africa and migrated elsewhere. That is apparently not the case, but this new find will be debated and discussed by the experts for many years.

The Bible does not address the evolution of apes or monkeys. We are simply told that animals reproduced after their kind. There is no indication of how many kinds there were, or how much their genetic makeup varied as the years went by. The Bible says that God created man and woman in His own image. That spiritual quality of humans is the thrust of the biblical account. Modern human’s origin in the Fertile Crescent area of what is now Iraq is not questioned by very many people. That is also what the Bible tells us. Human migration throughout the world and the racial variations that developed to help people adapt to different climates is without a doubt.

The fact that apes and monkeys evolved and adapted to the varied climate of Africa is interesting and not surprising. The assumption that their evolution jumped to produce modern humans with all of all of the human characteristics and spiritual capabilities is a leap of faith. New data will keep developing new ideas and theories, but humans as a special creation of God will not be changed. The discovery of the changes in creatures that in some cases looked physically like us makes human evolution theories more confounded.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
Reference: Science News, July 8, 22, 2017, page 6 and Houston Chronicle, June 8, 2017, page A18.

Human Evolution “The Road to Homo Sapiens”

Human Evolution the Road to Homo Sapiens
Around 1970, Time-Life Books published a mural of human evolution “The Road to Homo Sapiens.” It became a monstrous success. It was a foldout in a book titled Early Man. It was also laminated and sent to teachers in public schools. This mural became the basis of several movies and even cartoons. What most people don’t realize is that it was quite inaccurate. The artists who made the drawing created the impression that it was a chronological sequence of human history. Actually, the dates were misrepresented, and the drawings were pretty much fictional. In spite of that fact, much of the American public accepted “pliopithecus-to-modern-man” as a proven fact.

Half-a-century later, the picture is much more complicated and highly contested. Recently in Europe scientists found older fossils of what were considered to be the earliest ancestors of modern humans. Others found fossils of a group of small-brained individuals apparently ritualistically buried in a cave complex in southern Africa. This find violated the theory that there is a relationship between brain size and human-like activities. Discovered in Indonesia is a very small hominid that supports the view that there is no relationship between brain size and humanism. Names like Homo floresiensis or Hobbits, and Homo naledi or Naledi, and Graecopithecus fill the literature today.

Debates rage among the leading anthropologists about whether brains became larger as Homo species evolved, or whether brain size came first and increased physical size came later, or whether brain size has nothing to do with evolution at all. It is interesting that some of the great geniuses of the past 100 years had very small brains.

The major source of problems here is the failure to have a good definition of, “What is a human?” The biblical account defines humans as those beings created in the image of God. That does not refer to brain size or any physical characteristic. In reality, we have no idea what Adam looked like, how big his brain was, or any other physical characteristic.

The Bible tells us that “God formed the man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). The Hebrew word yatsar is translated “formed.” It is a term used to refer to someone shaping pottery from clay. It’s different from the Hebrew word bara which is used in Genesis 1:27 to indicate how humans were created in God’s image. Bara is a word used only in reference to what God can do, and that is what makes us unique. You can form a man out of plastic and put clothes on him and put him in a department store window. The body may resemble a man, but it does not have the breath of life, and it does not have a soul.

The fossil record shows us that there were many creatures in the past who may have had some resemblance to humans. The same could be said today. You can visit a zoo and see gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, baboons, spider monkeys, Japanese snow monkeys, and others. The fact that there are some common features does not mean we are related.

The anthropological definition of humans deals only with physical characteristics. From the standpoint of human evolution, the road to homo sapiens is very bumpy indeed. The biblical definition of beings created in the image of God gives humans a special identification and a unique role in the world. It’s a role that has eternal significance and should also help us function in a constructive way in the affairs of this life. Humans can act like animals, but no animal can be human. Only humans are uniquely created in God’s image, now and for eternity.

–John N. Clayton © 2017

References: Science News June 10, 2017, page 6, The Week, June 23, 2017, page 20, Science News June 24, 2017, page 9.