Humans as Animals

I recently ran into a person who insisted that Humans are just animals and we aren’t free to choice to make our own choices. If we have these deep desires we should act on them even if it goes against the Bible. The point is that we don’t have free will. How do you all handle this? I’m trying to do this better.

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@Sandee_Case Great question :slight_smile: As an initial conversation point, it is interesting that this individual implies we can choose whether or not to act on our deep desires. If we can make that choice, that implies that we have free will…

You may find the following resources helpful as well :slight_smile:

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Actually she was implying that we can’t choose and should just do what is natural. An example would be that a homosexual should just go with it and not try to resist by not acting on their urges. They have no choice but to act on those desires. That is the argument I was given.

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Hello Sandee
I would ask the personal in a more general way. What if someone likes a neighbour’s car.
He feels like steeling it.
Based on feelings…why shouldn’t he?
Does he have any freewill in deciding?
If not, laws are pointless. Morals about anything are pointless. Even discussing freewill itself becomes pointless. We just “are” and “do”.
We become slaves to the feelings of the moment.
It would be quite chaotic and very meaningless.
I had the same experience with someone like this. I asked him directly . Are we merely animals or not? He finally didn’t want to answer. The implications are enormous. He is big on justice and the like but I would think there are few parts of the animal kinggdom that worry about justice or fairness.
After the silence I told him that man is more than an animal. He is made in the image of God. There is more to humans than an animal nature.
I would try something of this direction.
:slight_smile:

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@Sandee_Case Thank you for the clarification :slight_smile: The idea that our natural desires give us an identity that is discovered apart from the influence of family or culture is false. Our identity is always shaped from outside of us - it is never generated from within - that is an impossibility. In fact, our natural desires often conflict with each other, so it is not possible to simply follow our desires. We have to choose which desires to follow.

Consider this illustration from Tim Keller:

“Imagine an Anglo-Saxon warrior in Britain in AD 800. He has two very strong inner impulses and feelings. One is aggression. He loves to smash and kill people when they show him disrespect. Living in a shame-and-honour culture with its warrior ethic, he will identify with that feeling. He will say to himself, That’s me! That’s who I am! I will express that. The other feeling he senses is same-sex attraction. To that he will say, That’s not me. I will control and suppress that impulse. Now imagine a young man walking around Manhattan today. He has the same two inward impulses, both equally strong, both difficult to control. What will he say? He will look at the aggression and think, This is not who I want to be , and will seek deliverance in therapy and anger-management programmes. He will look at his sexual desire, however, and conclude, That is who I am.

The desires in our heart conflict with each other - how do we decide which to follow? We are taught, both implicity and explicity, by our culture and family. Here is a sermon by Tim Keller pointing out how culture shapes us and is shaped.

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Thanks I will have to consider this more.

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Steven,
I would agree with you but I tried to give this person an argument similar to this and she said it was just a matter of being a decent person. At that point I knew she wasn’t really hearing me but it is good to talk about these issues here and get better arguments for next time. So Thank you :slight_smile:

I would suggest conceeding a bit to make a larger point.

First, in terms of pure taxonomy, yes, we are animals. We certainly aren’t plants, fungi, bacteria, etc.!
But the questioner’s point is that we are instead ruled by our genetics. THe thing is, your questioner (let’s call him/her “Q”) doesn’t actually believe this. Ask Q whether they think there is right and wrong. Ravvi uses the example of grabbing a random human baby and dismembering it for pleasure. Is this wrong? From a purely genetic/naturalistic framework, no. The fact that you were able to do this thing means the parents’ genetic makeup was insufficient to prevent you from it, and so was inadequate and worth the culling. Evolution by natural selection at work!

If Q agrees that this wasn’t wrong, don’t bother with them, just run. :wink: seriously, though, even if Q asserts this, Q does not live that way. Q does not rape and pillage as pure genetic Darwinism would sometimes dictate as viable reproductive strategies.

If Q disagrees, and says that suck a thing is evil, the question is on what basis? There’s no such thing as objective right and wrong spewed from DNA, since DNA varies. If there is right and wrong, objectively, it has to ‘live’ somewhere outside us.

That’s God.

And if there is right and wrong, then there has to be choice. Otherwise there is no value difference between them, and the difference is semantics alone and we are back where we started.

This is quite an interesting statement; and I’m curious as to what you mean by this?

Genesis 2:7 stated that God made man from dust; not from a previous animal. If you hold to the view that God used macro-evolution (apes-to-man evolution let’s call it, as opposed to micro-evolution/adaptation/etc); you have to ask the question at what point did animals become morally accountable before God? The fall in Genesis 3 states that Adam and Eve were morally accountable for their rejection/rebellion and lack of trust in what God said.

I like and completely agree with your logic with the moral law giver argument, and how it flows into the existence of right/wrong and therefore disproves determinism - its a very powerful argument, but I guess my question would be at what point in the historical timeline did God give the moral law to humans? I’d suggest there is a very wide line between humans, created in God’s image, and animals who are not morally accountable.

I was watching William Lane Craig talking to Ben Shapiro on youtube last night; and Craig thinks the moral law giver argument is one of the most powerful because you get up every morning and make decisions based on what you believe about moral obligations.

Craig: (at 8:53) so for me that is a very convincing argument for God but I find that with university students that’s not the most convincing argument (cosmological or fine tuning); you can ignore philosophical arguments for the finitude of the past or scientific evidence for the beginning of the universe, but the argument that I find I think the most compelling is what I call the moral argument and it would go like this:

  1. if God does not exist then objective moral values and duties do not exist that is to say in the absence of God everything’s becomes socio-culturally relative
  2. but objective moral values and duties do exist there are some moral absolutes some objective values and duties
  3. therefore God exists
    now this is an argument which is impossible I think to ignore because every day you get up you answer by how you treat other people whether you regard them as having intrinsic moral value or whether they are mere means to be used for your ends and so this argument I find tends to be the most convincing for people so for purposes of elucidating these arguments

Shapiro: (at 53:44) when you argue with students when you talk with students and discuss with them what do you find is the best way to approach them when it comes to the precepts of traditional judeo-christian morality do you come at it from the natural law perspective or do you come at it from the biblical perspective

Craig: I guess I share with them the moral argument that I shared earlier in our interview. This moral argument is very powerful with students, because on the one hand they’ve been taught relativism; they are scared to death of imposing their values on someone else, so it seems right to them that if God does not exist, that objective moral values don’t exist, they think their subjective person dependent and relative; but then secondly the premise also seems true to them that objective moral values do exist. They think it’s objectively wrong to impose your moral values on someone else and the values of tolerance open-mindedness and love have been deeply ingrained to them and so they believe both of the premises but have just never connected the dots to see what logically follows from it and this can lead to some bizarre conversations

I remember with one fellow when we would talk about premise 1, he would agree with it and deny 2, so when we talk about premise 2 he’d agree with that and then deny one and so we went back and forth back and forth with this poor fellow flailing to try to escape the logical conclusions of what he himself believed so I find approaching it through this moral argument as the best way one of the things

@Sandee_Case, you might like this vid from Reasonable Faith about the moral law giver agument:

Just some thoughts… :slight_smile:

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Hi Sandee
Thanks for the thanks :slight_smile:
I guess then if someone doesn’t want to listen there is not a lot you can do.
But … for yourself it is good to think these through (myself included).
This person says it is a matter of being a decent person which is the same as being a good or moral person. It sounds like a fatalistic type thinking of being born good or not. But that wouldn’t be fair either… or we couldn’t decide who or what is good.
Of course, if there is good and evil, then there is a standard. If a standard …it must be given by a personal being… and then we think of an ultimate personal being God.
Ravi has argued in this way.
Of course the complication is that theologians say we are given a “common grace” so we have a conscience to attempt to hold to or deny. When we feel generally guilt free we are generally living up to this.
Of course we fail… and we need forgiveness … the ultimate and only real and valid one is in Christ I believe.
We think of a ‘decent person’. Even this is difficult to define in many ways depending on one’s time period in history or one’s culture or upbringing. I think of the barbarians attacking Rome way back. Their ideas of morality would be quite different. The Vikings would have been different. How much of ‘decent’ is inspired by a Christian ideal would it be.
I would suggest you have a look at Ethics in philosophy of religion by William Lane Craig or Ravi.
The book Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview by Craig and Moreland

has a lot to think about what if you want to really get into it. See the part on Ethics if you will.
I hope I haven’t rambled too much.I find myself running into the same brick walls. It would seem there are times we are open to different ways of thinking about issues and ideas and other times we simply are not.
It seems we consider what is not too far from what we already believe and will consider it but if too different we often reject those ideas. (Plausibility Structures idea)
( like the idea of the cross …very radical to our thought process)
I am still amazed we could come to believe in it… yet is the most profound of all thoughts.

May we keep growing in wisdom and His ways …and how to relate His wisdom and truth to those around us… the tough part.
:smiley:

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I mean that, ignoring the concept of common descent for a moment, if you simply sort the organisms in the world (as we did long before Darwin existed) based on gross feature sets, humans fall into the “animal” category (in our system, the Kingdom Animalia). We are not prokaryotic (our cells have a nucleus and organelles, so we aren’t bacteria or cyano bacteria), we are not photosynthetic, so we aren’t plants, and we don’t have fruiting bodies or mycellium so we aren’t fungi, we are multicellular and not slime molds; therefore we are animals.

This is a gross, objective, qualitative assessment of physiology and cellular structure, and without commentary on value, intellect or origin. And is not a-biblical. Pure concordists may disagree, but I don’t see a contradiction in the Bible, implied or explicit.

And this kind of sorting does not necessarily raise a macroevolutionary issue, or necessarily require common descent. The “parachute theory” (my term) is also possible, in which this taxonomy existed and humans were “dropped” into their place ab initio. So while you raise a good question about the “Genesis” (hur hur) of man’s moral responsibility in an evolutionary space, I suggest it doesn’t necessarily flow from the kind of taxonomic sorting I have suggested.

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The thing with that is she was saying that humans are no better than animals.

Agreed. My point is that often the best way to disagree with someone is to begin with a point of agreement. I.e., sure, we may BE animals but… (Insert moral law giver).

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When we don’t follow God, her feelings and beliefs are justified. There is a saying “ God created angels with a spirit without a body. He created animals with a body without a spirit. He created humans with a spirit and a body. He gave us the free will to be more animal like or angel like”. When we fall away from God’s teaching we become like animals. This is why she feels this way.

EvoFaith, I agree with many of your points, but you may need to go further than the human baby example. Today, you may well receive the answer that no, it is not wrong to kill a human baby in any way. However, if you turn the tables and ask if it is OK to kill a baby whale or a baby deer (Bambi) or any number of other baby animals, you may receive the negative response for which you are looking. There is much despair in the human realm today – something that you don’t see in animals for the most part, unless they are stuck in a cage with limited space to move and nothing to see/challenge them. But that is not a natural setting, nor is it what God created them to do. People with great freedom experience despair. Why? What makes a human different from every other “animal”?

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Hello Sandee. I came to this post a little late but this question is a really important one. Thank you for asking it

I would simply at least begin the conversation by saying that the kind of world where people are considered as nothing higher than a genetic amalgamation of internal forces entirely beyond the control of the individual would be an entirely different world than anyone who lives in the west has become accustomed to living in. We simply do not treat others and would not want to be treated ourselves as if this were the truth of who we are fundementally. Everytime you praise someone for doing something honorable you implicitly assume that person deserves such praise for an act that was voluntarily executed. We take it as an innate given that such a person could have chosen a less honorable path, but didn’t. It’s not even a thought when we see a truly good thing being done, we ascribe praise reflexively. The same is true for blame as well. We can always almost on an everyday basis catch ourselves, either directed to ourselves, or directed towards others, saying things like:
“You shouldn’t have done that, or said that, or acted in that manner, or taken that advice, or given that advice”. We have this dialogue within ourselves and with others on a daily basis. Much of what we discuss has to do with true morality, and true morality has everything to do with having freedom. It won’t take long for your friend to realize the importance of the reality of free will when tyrannically bent individuals begin to seize the thrones of power and begin arbitrarily limiting what we can do and what we can say. But if he, or she, really, and I mean really, deeply held this belief, then nothing can much be said against such people while remaining consistent. Because if there is no freedom of the will, the only thing left is power. If we have no freedom, why should it matter if a more powerful group dominates a weaker one… because such a thing is done against there, what, there will? That no longer stands as a valid mode of opposition if will itself isnt real. In fact, if everybody really stopped believing in free will and began acting according to those beliefs, the western world as we know it would certainly crumble.

It’s a curious thing to me that men who live in the freeset countries have the luxury, I’m tempted to say have the freedom, the comfort, to think about weather or not such a thing as free will exists. If that luxury was stripped and that comfort removed I think the attitude would change, as well as the arguments. I guess we really dont know how good a thing is until its gone, or it becomes forcibly removed.

[I dont even think we can reflect upon either having or not having freedom without actually having the freedom to reflect upon two legitimately distinct and contrasting realities, but that may be a bit of a digress.]

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Hello Sandee,

Interesting question and premises. But first a definition; an animal is, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, “a living being, endowed with sensation and voluntary motion ….” According to wikipedia “animals are multicellular eukaryotic organisms that form the biological kingdom Animalia.” Per these definitions, human beings are certainly animals. However, as already stated, human beings are made in the imago Dei . So, the next question becomes “what is the imago Dei ?” What makes man different from all other animals? Not intelligence, animals have intelligence. Not emotions, animals have emotions. Not “will” in the basic sense because animals act as free agents and exhibit a will to some degree.

For example, Stephen Hawking in The Grand Design asks:

“Do people have free will? If we have free will, where in the evolutionary tree did it develop? Do blue-green algae or bacteria have free will, or is there behavior automatic and within the realm of scientific law? Is it only multicelled organisms that have free will, or only mammals? We might think a chimpanzee is exercising free will when it chooses to chomp on a banana, or a cat when it rips up your sofa, but what about the roundworm called Caenorhabditis elegans —a simple creature made of only 959 cells? It probably never thinks, “That was **** tasty bacteria I got to dine on back there.” Yet it too has a definite preference in food and will either settle for an unattractive meal or go foraging for something better, depending on recent experience. Is that the exercise of free will?”

Anthony Flew in There is a God states:

“Many misconceptions about the nature of thought arise from misconceptions about computers. But let’s say were dealing with a supercomputer like the Blue Gene … Our first mistake is to assume that Blue Gene is like a bacterium or bumblebee. In the case of a bacterium or the bumblebee we’re dealing with an agent, a center of action that is an organically unified whole, and organism … Blue Gene is a bundle of parts that jointly or severally perform functions “implanted” and directed by the creators of the collection … Second, the bundle of parts does not know what it is doing when “it” performs a transaction. Supercomputer calculations and mainframe transactions performed in response to data and instructions are purely and simply a matter of electrical pulses, circuitry, and transistors. The same calculations and transactions performed by a human person, of course, involve the machinery of the brain, but they are performed by a center of consciousness who is conscious of what is going on …”

I bring up Hawkings’ question and Flew’s teaching because they address the question of free will. Hawking and Flew seem to be advocating for the position that all organisms have free will to some finite degree proportional to their neurological complexity; that is, all organisms act as free agents and it is in the acting as a free agent that the subject organism exercises free will. Thus, human beings clearly have free will.

Further, one may posit that there are two types of free will: the type just discussed, incumbent upon all living organisms, subject only to the inviolable boundary of natural law, and the free will of a sentient moral free agent. Put another way, no natural law can be violated by any creature at any time or under any circumstance; however, God explicitly and quite deliberately allows humankind the free will to respect or violate His moral law as moral free agents. Non-human organisms do not operate as moral free agents because they do not possess the divine attribute of knowing good from evil, but since man does possess this attribute, he operates on the basis of both types of free will.

Further, the materialist challenge to free will was made in the academy of modern thought, namely, determinism , which flourished prior to the admission of quantum theory prior to the mid-20th century. This determinism posited that free will did not exist as all behaviors were “determined.” But post-modern thought rejects determinism and espouses uncertainty, relativity, and probability (thanks to quantum mechanics). Thus, materialism’s rejection of free will during the modern era was eclipsed by post-modern adoption of indeterminacy, which permits the notion of free will. Thus, the questioner is operating on an outmoded school of thought (although, some determinism still persists, but it’s not favored academically in the post-modern world).

If we admit this proposition of free will, then the question becomes what does man uniquely possess that might be indicative of the image of God? We’ll leave that for now (though we did discuss one such attribute) and consider the question of morality and ethics.

C. S. Lewis said it well about 77 years ago in Mere Christianity viz. the universality of the moral imperative. Specifically, he posits that in order for morality to enjoy a rational, legitimate, and warranted role, there must exist a moral standard external to man (who is subjected to that higher standard). Lewis teaches that this external, higher moral imperative is given by the moral Law Giver (God). If we agree w/Lewis, then we understand that your questioner is mistaken on all premises she posits–free will does exist, man is a moral free agent, and man is morally responsible for the good and bad we engage in.

Thanks for bringing up the question.

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You are unfortunately correct as some people think it is a human right to do so, at least with your own baby and declare you a human fail for not having evolved far enough if you do not recognise the need to do so. So you better start off with killing Bambi as it is less personal if you want to go down that road.

As she made the assertion you should ask her for evidence for her assertion. Ask her about her argument in the context of 9/11 and how it would have to be judged if there was no free will.

And if that is still too controversial, ask her what her explanation is for your current government if not an expression of peoples will :slight_smile: Should we start to outbreeding our competition or should we cull them or will evolution be caused by a natural disaster such as a great flood by melting icecaps and climate change and only the better swimmers will survive?

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Hitler already tried the outbreeding program. And as a woman, if she were to actually comprehend all that that entailed, she might not be so willing to jump on that bandwagon. However, sin blinds completely unless the Holy Spirit lifts that veil.

I have actually spoken with many who think the earth’s population should be capped at about 500,000 total. And, they also believe that abortion, euthanasia, and mass viral outbreaks and downright preemptive murder are the means by which to accomplish this. And they say these thoughts out loud.

Yet they will go to jail over stopping animal abuse. I am ALL for stopping animal abuse. I think that both of these events, human and animal abuse, are strong evidence for the depravity of mankind to its core. These evidences also point to the imperative that the Holy Spirit be actively working in an individual’s heart for anyone to reject said evil. Without His work, we all would be lost, and does not Scripture speak of the Holy Spirit holding back evil in general or we should all be destroyed?

It is ironic to me that many sociologists say we have to have invented the idea of God ourselves or mankind would surely destroy itself. I fully agree that we would destroy ourselves, and I believe God proved that with His cleansing at the Flood. The reason He did that as given in Genesis was the violence on the earth. If we still lived for centuries, can you imagine the evil that would emanate from our depravity?

Great conversation, all! Thank you for the view points and interactions. I am thankful for them and appreciate them very much!

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