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Creation 40(2):52–54, April 2018

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What humans do but animals don’t

by and

If we humans are not evolved animals, then we should possess abilities and features that animals lack. We will here consider six of these, which are also features of God. They are language, literacy, music, mathematics, creativity, and dominion.

These features not only make us special, they also make us accountable. We can use these features to glorify God or to rebel against His will—even to practise “the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).

1. Language

language

Humans are the only species with a spoken language,1 and “there is no society known which lacks speech.”2,3 Not only does language enable us to communicate with each other, and with God in prayer, God used it to communicate with us. The Bible has many references to God speaking; e.g. to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:9–19), Noah (Genesis 6:13–7:4), Abraham (Genesis 18:22–33), Moses (Exodus 3:4–4:17), Saul (Acts 9:4–6), and the Apostle John (Revelation 1, 2 and 3), to name just a few.

Animals communicate in several ways, including by the sounds they make, facial expression, posture display, body movement, physical contact, and odours, but no animal is capable of speaking grammatical phrases or sentences.1 Nevertheless, in the Bible there are two occasions when animals spoke. In Genesis 3, the serpent spoke to Eve. In Numbers 22:28–30, God used Balaam’s donkey to speak to Balaam; this was a one-off divine miracle for a specific purpose and not the donkey’s normal habit.

2. Literacy

literacy

This is a subset of language, and while not all humans are literate, all have the capacity to become so.4 The sophisticated cultures that sprang up in Mesopotamia just after the Flood were literate. Of course, hallmarks of civilization like writing and technology can become lost, especially in rapid dispersion migrations such as would have occurred following the language confusion at Babel.

We know that God writes because He gave Moses the Ten Commandments on two tablets of stone “written with the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18). And God has written the names of all born-again Christians in His ‘book of life’ (Philippians 4:3; Revelation 17:8; 20:12; 21:27). We also know that “All Scripture is God-breathed …” (2 Timothy 3:16). God chose to communicate with us by means of His written Word, which also enshrines the Gospel in the text of Scripture.5

No animal can read or write, so none uses the written word to communicate. Literacy is thus a gift commensurate with our having been made in the image of God.

3. Music

music

Music is a truly wonderful feature, both in our creation of it and our appreciation of it. It can express and even stir up emotions like suspense, happiness, sadness, humour, love, etc., including in situations where words would be inadequate. We can listen to The Creation by Haydn and be awestruck by the images of the magnificence of creation that the music engenders in our mind.

God sings! Zephaniah 3:17 says of God, “He will exult over you with loud singing.” On a personal level, Ephesians 5:18–19 tells us to “be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.”

Do animals sing? Whales, notably Humpback males, make sounds called ‘whale songs’. These may be long groans, low moans, roaring sounds, trills and chirps, that appear to be mating calls or feeding calls. However, they are regular, predictable and repetitious, rather than being individually creative. All the males in a population at any one time make the same sounds, arranged in the same pattern. Toothed whales appear to communicate the same information by means of clicks. Likewise ‘bird songs’ are species-specific mating calls, or territory warnings, or mimicry of noises heard, such as the non-sentient sounds of machinery, e.g. chain saws.

4. Mathematics

mathematics

Only God and human beings can use and understand mathematics.6 The relative dimensions that God gave to Noah for the Ark (Genesis 6:15) were the optimum to achieve structural safety, anti-overturning stability, and sea-keeping quality for a floating vessel of that size in a stormy sea.7 And it has taken the use of sophisticated mathematical methods for humans to unravel the hidden order which God built into the clicks of dolphins.8 This gives them “a sonar system that is so precise that it’s the envy of the U.S. Navy.”9

Our use of mathematics enables us to understand much about God’s creation, for this behaves according to mathematical rules which He has set in place. Mathematics has enabled scientists to understand the structure and behaviour of many cosmic phenomena, including the orbits of our solar-system planets, and then to calculate the trajectories of spacecraft to take close-up photographs of them. It enabled the development of the theory of relativity, and the relationship between space, motion, gravity and time. Theories derived from this can explain (again using mathematics) how in a relatively young universe we can see stars that are millions of light-years away.10

5. Creativity

creativity

If we were to find something as simple as a hammer on a beach we would know a human being had made it, not an ape. This is because, when animals build things, they endlessly reproduce a stereotyped design, rather than being creative. A particular spider instinctively constructs a web of constant pattern, and a particular bird instinctively builds a species-specific nest, but no originality is demonstrated.

Not only are we humans creative, we recognize both the beauty and the complexity of God’s creation, e.g. in a flower, a feather, an eye; indeed in so many things that are a part of His creation.

Indeed, one of the strongest arguments that living things have been designed by God is the many times they have inspired human designers. This is the cutting-edge field of biomimetics, i.e. the study of designs and processes in nature for the purpose of imitating them in practical applications.11

6. Dominion

dominion

God gave a specific command to our first parents: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28). We have thus been given sovereignty over all the other creatures of the earth.

This was never withdrawn as a result of the Curse, and applies over even the fallen state of our world, as we develop ways of controlling locusts, mosquitoes, weeds, and other pests. It also enables us to develop treatments and cures for various diseases. Our dominion includes control over bacteria and viruses. These were part of God’s original creation (Genesis 1:31), but after the Fall, information-losing mutations caused some of them to become disease-causing.12 God has also entrusted us with dominion over our environment (Psalm 8:6–8) and we are accountable to Him for how we manage it.13

God gave Adam dominion over every tree in the Garden of Eden, except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:15-17) and the tree of life (Genesis 3:22–24). When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they lost their innocence, and became experientially aware of evil, suffering, and death. These came into God’s perfect world because our first parents chose to rebel.

What this means for us

God, who is “holy” (1 Peter 1:15–16), “true” (Jeremiah 10:10), “good” (Psalm 145:9), and has beauty (Psalm 27:4), created man for His glory (Isaiah 43:7). Thus, created not evolved, we can reflect holiness, truth, goodness and beauty in our language, literature, music, mathematics, creativity and dominion, and so fulfil the purpose for which God brought us into being. Or we can rebel. It is true that we have all rebelled, but we can become new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:24) through repentance and faith in Christ’s death and resurrection on our behalf.

References and notes

  1. Adamthwaite, M., Languages of the post-Diluvian World, J. Creation 30(1) 112–121; creation.com/how-language-develops. Return to text.
  2. “Of all the objections to the evolutionary kinship of man to animal, the most readily observed and easily perceived difference is that of language.” Smith, S., Human consciousness and the image of God, Creation Research Society Quarterly 39(2):40–45, June 2002. Return to text.
  3. Sign language in a deaf community is included, as it has all the features of full-blown grammatical language, merely using visual rather than audible sequences of symbols. Return to text.
  4. Barring pathological damage to the relevant parts of the nervous system, of course. Return to text.
  5. Cosner, L, Why did God give us a book? Creation 37(4):16–17 2015, creation.com/why-book. Return to text.
  6. The complex computations that must take place within the nervous system of certain species, e.g. the archer fish’s ability to aim at where the insect is rather than where it looks to be, are hardwired and not related to the way humans use mathematics. See Sarfati, J., Archer fish use advanced hydrodynamics, Creation 36(3):36–37 July 2014; creation.com/archer-fish. Return to text.
  7. Hong, S.W. et al., Safety investigation of Noah’s Ark in a seaway, J. Creation 8(1):26–36, 1994; creation.com/ark-safety. Return to text.
  8. Howlett, R., Flipper’s Secret, New Scientist 154(2088):34–39, 28 June 1997. Return to text.
  9. Sarfati, J., Refuting Evolution, Ch 5, Creation Book Publishers, USA, 2012, p. 70, creation.com/rech5. Return to text.
  10. See How can we see distant stars in a young universe?, Ch. 5, Creation Answers Book, Creation Book Pub., USA, 2017, creation.com/cab5. Return to text.
  11. For examples, see creation.com/biomimetics. Return to text.
  12. Gurney, R., The carnivorous nature and suffering of animals, J. Creation 18(3):70–75, 2004; creation.com/carniv. Return to text.
  13. Wieland, C., Fouling the Nest: Christianity and the environment, Creation 24(1):10–17, 2001; creation.com/fouling-the-nest. Return to text.