Anthropomorphism Extreme

Anthropomorphism
It is very easy to anthropomorphize the behavior of animals. According to Wikipedia anthropomorphism is, “the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities…It is considered to be an innate tendency of human psychology.” When your dog cowers after you scold it for doing something, is the dog indicating guilt or remorse? It may look that way, but it may be that the dog has learned that by showing that behavior it will receive less scolding.

There has been an upsurge of scientific material suggesting that humans are not unique in their expressions of grief, guilt, patriotism, devotion, love, hate, etc. Several books have been written promoting the view that no human emotion is missing from members of the animal kingdom. How Animals Grieve by Barbara King and Beyond Words–What Animals Think and Feel by Carl Safina are two examples. There have also been numerous articles in scientific journals promoting anthropomorphism.

The problem is that it is very difficult to avoid anthropomorphism of animals. Frequently we see articles describing how an animal reacts to the death of its offspring. A recent magazine has pictures and discussions of giraffes, whales, dolphins, elephants, gorillas, baboons, chimps, and zebras seeming to grieve at the death of an offspring or a mate for periods of days. (National Wildlife magazine for February-March 2018 page 30-39) The question is whether this is an evolutionary trait of all life and humans are just more highly evolved, or whether we are anthropomorphizing the behavior we see. We have all been influenced by Disney with stories like Bambi, so the question is complicated.

The biblical definition of humans is that we are the life-form created in the image of God. We see that image reflected in the things that humans do that are not physical in nature. We worship. We create art and music and express our emotions in art and music. We feel sympathy and experience guilt. We have an agape type of love that is unrelated to reproduction or survival. We can be taught to think. These properties are made possible by our spiritual nature. We can debate whether all of these characteristics are really unique to humans or whether they have survival value, but our uniqueness as a species is not a function of our intelligence or any physical characteristic.

The difficulty in interpreting animal behavior is that we cannot easily ascertain the role of instinct. Reproduction in animals is instinctively driven. In most mammals the role of the female is determined by her reproductive capacity. It is the lioness that drives the pride, not the male lion. The wonderful work that has been done on gorillas and chimpanzees has shown the role of reproduction in determining the social structure of the entire troop. Study of baboons and chimps shows that stress hormones called glucocorticoids increase when a close relative dies. The release of the hormone oxytocin which inhibits glucocorticoid increases when there is physical contact with other partners after the death of a close relative. What we see in animal behavior is the result of the instinctive drives being disturbed.

There is no question that animals think and that they have emotions, but we should avoid excessive anthropomorphism. Animal emotions are tied into their instinctive drives–not to political or religious values. We suggest that those instincts are part of the design of these animals which provides them with the greatest probability of survival.

The unique nature of all humans should motivate us to value human life. We are not instinctively-driven robots that obey the drives built into our DNA. We can change the world in which we live both physically and spiritually. Valuing all human life and working together to solve the conflicts that divide us is a necessary product of understanding our spiritual uniqueness. When Jesus taught us to love our enemy and to do good to those who do evil to us, He was calling us to express that which makes us human–our spiritual nature created in the image of God.
–John N. Clayton

IQ Tests, Intelligence, and Being Human

IQ Tests and Intelligence
An interesting area of discussion in talking about what makes a human is the question of intelligence and IQ tests. For several hundred years there have been debates among intellectuals about whether intelligence is related to race, sex, or genetics. Some interesting experiments have been conducted to measure intelligence in animals, and scientists have found that creatures from bees and ants to dolphins and crows demonstrate intelligence.

My first master’s degree was in the field of psychometry, the study of testing and measurements. One of the things I learned very early was that there are different kinds of IQ tests. Our mentally challenged foster son Tim was tested at an early age and had a Stanford Benet IQ of 42. One-hundred was the average among humans. When Tim entered the public schools, he was tested with the Otis IQ test, and his score was 110. Why were the scores so different? The Otis was verbal so that it could be administered to many people at a time. Tim’s verbal abilities are very high because my wife read to him constantly when he was a child.

Tim knows the words, but his application skills are sometimes lacking. One of our favorite stories about Tim was when he was angry with me one time he yelled at me “… and you’re causing me to commit adultery!!!” He knew that adultery was bad, but he had no idea of why.

When I was a college student, there were psychologists who maintained that Afro-Americans were less intelligent than Caucasians, because they scored lower on IQ tests. The problem was that the tests were loaded with cultural distractors that were not a part of the students’ ethnic background. In my years of teaching science in inner-city schools, I saw no variation in intelligence among kids from different backgrounds. However, to this day I hear people say that Asians are superior in intelligence and Afro-Americans are inferior. For most of my 41 years of teaching physics at the secondary level, I fought with administrators and counselors who maintained that girls were less able in the physical sciences than boys. I know that isn’t true from experience.

The bottom line is that intelligence means different things to different people and IQ tests do not show who is important or valuable. The ability to solve problems is frequently considered to be a measure of intelligence, but problem solving is frequently a function of experience or trial and error–not reasoning. For anyone to attempt to use intelligence to tell who is human and who isn’t, who should have the right to vote and who shouldn’t, or who should be allowed to survive and who shouldn’t, is illogical and in violation of everything God has taught us.

My mentally challenged foster son with a very low IQ score is still created in the image of God. It is his soul that makes him human, not his physical appearance or his IQ. Galatians 3:26-29 says that all the ways of dividing people are done away with in Christianity “for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Stephen Hawking and the Theory of Everything

Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking is perhaps the most famous scientist in the world today. Hawking is a British theoretical physicist and cosmologist. In 1963, when he was 21 years old, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The doctors gave him two years to live. He has far exceeded the life expectancy of an ALS patient, even though the disease has gradually taken away his ability to move.

Today Hawking speaks using a computerized voice that he controls with his cheek muscles using a slow process of selecting words and letters. In spite of his disability which he does not talk about, he has given lectures and written best-selling books. Although he had previously written that God was not needed to explain the creation, in 2014 he openly declared himself to be an atheist.

Hawking married Jane Wilde in 1965. Over the years his illness and his celebrity put a strain on the marriage. Also, Jane Hawking was a Christian and Stephen was an unbeliever, which added to their differences. In 1990 Stephen left Jane for one of his caregivers. In 1995 he divorced Jane and married the caregiver, Elaine Mason. In 2006 Stephen and Elaine divorced. Hawking then resumed a closer relationship with his first wife and his children and grandchildren. Jane wrote a book about their renewed relationship, and it was made into a movie The Theory of Everything in 2014. Eddie Redmayne played Stephen Hawking in the film, and the role won him the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Speaking of the Theory of Everything, that is what Stephen Hawking and other scientists have spent years trying to find. On January 8, 2018, a new episode of the series Favorite Places premiered on CuriosityStream.com. In the show, Stephen Hawking is shown traveling through space to visit some of his favorite places including Venus, the Sun, and the star Proxima Centauri. Narrating the adventure with his computer-generated voice, he tells about his search for the Theory of Everything:

“I have been searching for something my whole life. Something to explain the world that is by turns kind and cruel, beautiful and confusing. A single all-encompassing idea that can explain the nature of reality—where it all came from and why we exist at all—the Theory of Everything.”

Perhaps Hawking has been overlooking the answer. Perhaps he has left out the key to that answer—God. Perhaps his ex-wife Jane had the answer all along in her Christian faith. Stephen acknowledges that the universe is amazingly fine-tuned for life. He attempts to explain that by the idea that this is only one of an almost infinite number of universes with different parameters and we just happen to live in the one universe with the right parameters and laws to allow life to exist.

Instead of an accidentally fine-tuned universe, what if God created a perfect universe. What if God is love and He created us so that He could love us and so that we would love and serve Him. What if our failure to do so explains why the world is “by turns kind and cruel.” That would explain “where we came from and why we exist at all.” It would also explain “the nature of reality.” That is what Stephen Hawking has been searching for his “whole life.”

We think that the “Theory of Everything” is written in the Bible ready for each of us to discover for ourselves.
–Roland Earnst – © 2018

Respectable Bird– Confusing Name

Respectable Bird
Benjamin Franklin called this animal a respectable bird. They are large birds native to North America where they’re called “turkeys.” The origin of that name is disputed, but it apparently has a connection with the country of Turkey.

Turkeys were brought to England from America, on merchant ships from the Middle East area of Turkey. After being domesticated in England, turkeys spread throughout the British Empire, including India. From India, they were taken to various other countries where they were known as “a bird from India.” For that reason, the name for turkeys in several languages is connected to India. In the country of Turkey, turkeys are called “Hindi” which means “India” in Turkish. To make things even more confusing, in Portuguese a turkey is called a “peru” which is apparently derived from the name of the country of Peru. To further compound the confusion, there are several other birds in other countries that have “turkey” names but are not related to the American turkey.

Native Americans first used turkeys for their feathers in about 800 BC. It was almost 2,000 years later before they used turkeys for meat. In the United States, turkeys are a popular food on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas.

The founders of the United States chose the bald eagle as a national symbol. Benjamin Franklin was famously critical of that. He called the eagle “a bird of bad moral character” and wrote that “the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America.” With respect for Mr. Franklin, the truth is that the only creature God created that has “moral character,” whether good or bad, is the human creature. All other creatures do what God created them to do. Humans often choose to do otherwise.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Animals Farming and How to Define Humans

Animals Farming
When I was in high school in the 1950s, a human was defined in terms of making tools and cultivating food. The idea that tool use is unique to humans has been disproven many times. Birds, apes, and some fish have all been shown to use tools. We even have examples of animals farming.

In 1967 studies were released showing that Attine ants were gathering fungi into groupings, and then using the fungi as their sole food source. Recent studies have verified that Attine ants get the amino acid arginine from the fungus that they grow in plots. The ants provide the moisture the fungus must have, and the fungus provides the arginine the ants need. This symbiotic relationship is one of many in the natural world that show a critical balance in the processes and workers that allows complex life to exist on Earth.

The definition of what is “human” from a scientific standpoint is very difficult, because complex chemical relationships exist in both the plant and animal kingdoms. These processes can duplicate what is considered to be unique to humans. Things like brain size also cannot be used because of the huge variations that exist among all living things.

Since we have observed animals farming, we know that even that is not a human peculiarity. In recent months scientists have found human remains with brain sizes smaller than what is usually ascribed to humans. So how do we define humans? Humans were created in the image of God, and that definition is the only one that really works. You can see it by observing a human’s ability to create art and music, to worship God, to feel guilt and sympathy, and to be able to learn to think and reason.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
Reference: Science News, November 11, 2017 page 4.

Different Shades of Brown

Different Shades of Brown
Racial prejudice based on skin color is a function of ignorance. I am amazed that promoters of violence against black-skinned people have daughters who are using tanning booths to get darker. There is no inferior race, and there are no different species of humans. Acts 17:26 tells us that God “has made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth…” We are all just different shades of brown.

Many years ago the preacher of the Central Church of Christ in Birmingham, Alabama, invited me to participate in a television panel discussion. The format was a call-in where callers could ask questions for the panel to answer. On the panel with me was the black president of a small African-American college in East Texas.

The discussion took place during the time of racial strife in Birmingham. A caller asked if black people were evolved apes and white people were created by God in His image. I responded by pointing out that apes and white people have more features in common than apes and black people. This includes hair texture, jaw shape, skull shape, and even skin color when you look under the hair. This produced some antagonism from our host but was followed by the question of why black people are black and white people are white.

I took my hand and laid it on a white sheet of paper and asked if I was really white? The answer, of course, was that I wasn’t white like the paper. I was light brown. Then I asked my black friend to lay his hand on the same sheet of paper, and I asked if he was really black? The answer was obvious. He was just a darker shade of brown. I then made the point that we are all just different shades of brown, and we are all equally created in God’s image.

My black friend leaned over and whispered in my ear as we looked into some rather hostile people at the TV station. He said, “Ain’t neither one of us getting out of here alive.” I am glad to say that we did.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Apes and Humans

Apes and Humans
Is there an evolutionary connection between apes and humans? Many years ago in a youth rally, a young lady asked me, “If we didn’t come from apes, how come my brother looks so much like an ape?”

It is true that we share many physical characteristics with the apes. Apes and humans both have stereoscopic vision, necessary for depth perception. We both have opposable thumbs, necessary to hold a tool or a club. Apes and humans have noses immediately above our mouth to detect and analyze flavor. Naturalists who want to explain everything on a chance basis suggest that apes and humans share a common ancestor.

Those naturalists frequently ignore the fact that there are many things humans do not share with apes. These are not physical characteristics, but they are what separate us from all other forms of animal life. They include our capacity for worship and our ability to create music and art. Only humans have the ability to think and reason in abstract terms. Apes do not share our capacity for guilt and sympathy, including our ability to have an “agape” kind of love that isn’t survival based.

We would think that with our genome being so similar to the apes some of these characteristics should show up to some degree in the apes. In spite of attempts to show such connections, it is increasingly obvious that such attempts are complex exercises in anthropomorphism.

The question then is, “Why do we see such an enormous collection of fossils of primates which is expanded daily by paleoanthropologists?” In The September 2, 2017, issue of Science News Bruce Bower reviewed some of the evidence and current theories about ape evolution.

The bottom line is that there are connections between specimens like oreopithecus, modern day gibbons and recent finds like Nyanzapithecus alesi. The capacity of life-forms to change is a fact that no one can deny. The various races of human beings indicate that humans have changed enormously since the beginning. The Bible tells us about our human spiritual nature, and that nature has not changed throughout our history. Our physical makeup has changed a great deal during that time, and apes have changed even more.

We see humans as a special creation of God–created in His image with characteristics that are not a product of physical changes. As scientists find more fossils of apes, they will study the changes that have taken place leading to the wide variety of monkeys and apes in the world today. They will create more theories about the physical evolution of apes. In spite of that, the special place of humans in relationship to God will remain unchanged. How we should treat other humans with love and compassion will also not change.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Where Is God When Natural Disaster Strikes?

Where Is God?
Many times atheists and skeptics use natural disasters as proof that God doesn’t exist. The argument is that an almighty and loving God would not allow these things to happen, so therefore God doesn’t exist. That is a faulty argument that assumes we know more than an omniscient God could know. When faced with the current disaster of flooding from Hurricane Harvey on the United States Gulf Coast, even those who believe in God often ask, “Where is God?” They want to know why the God they believe in would allow such things to happen.

So where is God? Why doesn’t He do something about the suffering? God is there, and He is doing something. God is working through His people. We are all created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). When tragedy strikes, even those who don’t have a good relationship with God begin to show a little bit of that image as they reach out to help. Those of us who are Christians should be the most willing and eager to show God’s love. We not only bear the image of God, but we also remember what Jesus did and what He said about helping “the least of these” (Matthew 25:34-40).

Rick Stedman posted an opinion essay on the Fox News website that answers the question about where is God when a natural disaster strikes. We recommend that you read it. We could not have said it better.

We also encourage you to help those in need in any way you can. If you can donate to help the flood victims in Texas and Louisiana, please do so. But make sure you are giving your support through a trustworthy organization. You want your money to go toward helping the people in need and churches and Christian relief funds are the best a doing that.

Where is God when natural disasters strike? He is working through His people who are demonstrating God’s love to those who need it the most. There is no better time for you to witness to those who need to know that God loves them.

If you have questions about why God allows pain and suffering, we invite you to visit our website www.whypain.org.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Why Is There Color in Our World?

Why Is there Color in the World?
One of the joys of life is the beauty that we see in the natural world. The beauty of flowers is so great that we decorate our homes inside and out with flowers of every description. People will get out of bed early in the morning to watch a sunrise display colors of incredible beauty and complexity. We admire the work of artists and photographers who can capture a permanent record of the colors of the world on canvas or film. Why is there color in the world?

There are hundreds of papers that have been written by scientists and science writers concerning the reason for color. The design of the Earth and of the life systems on Earth frequently demand that certain colors exist. For example, the green in vegetation is necessary to protect plants from the high energy wavelengths of the Sun’s light.

There are some colors in the natural world, however, that seem to defy a naturalistic evolutionary explanation. Flowers living in identical environments will frequently have radically different colors. If we postulate that the colors are different to attract different pollinators, we run into logical problems. Wouldn’t the most efficient pollinators provide the same advantages to all flowers of similar geometric design? In caves deep in the ocean, there are some of the more vividly colored tropical fish. These fish never see sunlight and have no camouflage advantage given by their colors. There are worms and burrowing animals in thermal vents deep in the floor of the ocean that display rich and beautiful colors.

A skeptic may reply that these colors are a chance consequence of the materials that make up the bodies of these organisms. The fact is that, in many cases, the colored materials in the organism are inconsequential to the survival of the organism. We would suggest an equally plausible and perhaps more realistic explanation. Could it be that a God of intelligence and creative power designed the creation not only with functional wisdom but also with aesthetic intelligence?

Why is there color? God obviously enjoys beauty. We were created in God’s image, and therefore we enjoy the beauty of the world around us. Beauty is one of the things that makes our sojourn on this planet worthwhile.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Dancing Around Religion

Is Religion a Brain Function?
Is religion a brain function? Stav Dimitropoulos is a regular writer for Discover magazine. In the July/August 2017 issue (page 26-27) she wrote an article titled “Trying to Lose My Religion.” She explains her religious feelings by saying, “Could my grandparents’ faith, foisted upon me during my formative years, have hard-wired my otherwise logical brain for mysticism?”

Dimitropoulos launches into a series of speculative discussions trying to explain away the unique religious quality of humans as entirely functions of the brain. In one section of the article, she suggests that psychoactive drugs will accomplish the same result. One of her fellow researchers, Dr. Jordan Grafman at Northwestern University points out that, “Mystical experiences can lead to creative thoughts and artistic development.” This is a step in the right direction. The problem is that researchers like Dimitropoulos lump all religious activity into the same mold.

Attempting to suggest that all religions do the same thing, come to action in the same way, and/or have the same experiences in worship activity is rather ignorant. Many of us worship quietly on our own without emotional experiences or ritual. Suggesting that an apologetic scholar, a Unitarian, a Muslim, a Hindu, a voodoo chanter, a Buddhist, a Catholic priest, and pentecostal participant engaging in tongues all do the same thing, in the same way, is ludicrous.

The fact that creativity, music, art, and worship all have similar origins in religious activity is a manifestation of the spiritual nature of humans. Guilt, sympathy, compassion, and self-sacrificing love are further manifestations of the human spiritual nature. Those of us who work with the mentally challenged and have mentally challenged children can tell you that their spiritual nature is no different from ours. They may not be able to express that nature as we do because of the impairment they have to overcome.

Trying to make religion a brain function is dancing around the fact that there are things humans do which are not rooted in any evolutionary model. Attempting to break the brain down into a multilayered device to explain everything there is to know about humans doesn’t work. God created us in His image and religion is not a function of the brain. Our spiritual uniqueness is not dependent on our brain or any section of the brain.
–John N. Clayton © 2017