The Left Doesn’t Know If We’re Animals Or Not

By Tom Gilson Published on June 2, 2018

When Donald Trump’s controversial “animals” tweet hit the news, I really had to wonder what the fuss was all about. Secularists have been calling everyone animals for a long time. Not every secularist, of course, but a lot of them, including some with considerable influence. It leaves room to wonder whether any of them really know what they’re talking about.

I had just started reading Richard Weikart’s book The Death of Humanity and the Case for Life at that time. One chapter deals with this humans-as-animals theme in depth. (Here are the articles he’s written for The Stream.)

It goes back a long, long way, as Weikart explains it. Following the 1859 publication of Darwin’s Origin of the Species, one of Darwin’s “leading German apostles” said Darwin had unveiled to us that humans “a natural product like any other creature.” Animals, in essence.

Evolution Means We Really Are Just Animals

It makes sense, really. If Darwin were right, and if we’re products of the same evolutionary processes as every other organism, what makes us any different from them? Nothing.

If you learned about “higher” evolved creatures in school, your science teacher taught you wrong. If evolution is a purely unguided natural process, then it isn’t progressing in any particular direction, not up, not down, not sideways or anything at all. It knows nothing about “higher.”

Humans have no right to claim we’re anything special. We’re animals. That’s straight evolutionary teaching.

So the transition from apes to humans wasn’t from lower to higher, just from one animal to another. Humans have no right to claim we’re anything special. We’re animals. That’s straight evolutionary teaching. 

Some evolutionary thinkers have understood that. Unsurprisingly, most of them are atheists or secularists. Biblical thinking leads another direction, as we’ll see shortly.

Secularists Who Get It

Facebook Live Next Tuesday!

I’ll be interacting on this topic live by video next week on The Stream’s Facebook page — Tuesday, June 5, at 8 pm Eastern time, in the 6th edition of “Contentious Questions (Because some questions are just that way).”

Bring your questions, your comments, and your friends. Share this around social media. I’ll look forward to being with you there then.

Weikart tells of David Strauss, a mid-19th century German theologian famous for his highly influential writings — now discredited — undermining the gospel accounts of Jesus. An avid follower of Darwinism, Strauss “argued that humans were not distinct from animals.”

But we need not reach back so far into history. Princeton University philosopher Peter Singer said in a 2004 interview, “All we are doing is catching up with Darwin. He showed in the nineteenth century that we are simply animals.”

The London Zoo in August 2005 featured a four day exhibit of homo sapiens in its primate area. Weikart quotes a spokesperson: “Seeing people in a different environment, among other animals, teaches members of the public that the human is just another primate.” One of the “primates” on display was a 26 year-old chemist, who said, “A lot of people think humans are above other animals. When they see humans as animals here, it kind of reminds us that we’re not that special.”

The Copenhagen zoo had presented a similar exhibit 9 years earlier, and the Adelaide zoo followed with a month-long human exhibit in 2007.

Scientists at the Texas Academy of Science gave University of Texas, Austin evolutionary ecologist Eric Pianka a standing ovation for his 2006 speech suggesting it would be good for the world if something like the Ebola virus would wipe out 90 percent of humans. Humans are no better than bacteria, he said.

But When Trump Said It…

A lot of them objected when Trump said members of MS-13 were “animals.” They thought he was saying “These people are sub-human.” He said it only metaphorically, and it was to their political advantage to ignore that. Trump can’t get away with calling anyone an animal metaphorically, while secular thought leaders can — and do — call everyone literally animals.

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Yet I find something heartening in their inconsistency. It shows they understand somewhere deep inside that we’re not mere animals after all; that we really can claim to be something higher. Evolution gives no basis for thinking that — yet we all know it’s true anyway.

Meanwhile we’ve got to hold on to humanness. That’s getting harder these days. The animal issue is only one piece of it. “Transhumanism” says we’re about to “evolve” into something else, and soon. The euthanasia movement denies the essential dignity of human life, making function or comfort the higher value.

Abortion proponents can’t deny that an unborn child is a unique human life, so they resort to saying that being human isn’t what matters; one has to be a “person,” which is apparently one step up from being human. Or down; since courts and legislatures around the world are now granting “human” rights to rivers and such.

Hold On to Humanness

Some secular people truly want to be genuinely human. There’s only one way we can hold on to humanness. Just one way. That’s knowing we’re specially created by God, in His image, for a special purpose given to no other animal.

Nature has no power to do that. But God can, and the Scriptures tell us clearly He has.

Tom Gilson is a senior editor with The Stream and the author of A Christian Mind: Thoughts on Life and Truth in Jesus Christ. Follow him on Twitter: @TomGilsonAuthor

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  • Howard Rosenbaum

    I’m just waiting for some “enlightened” simian to protest the Hubris of these partisan homo sapiens who choose to be identified w/apes . Seems that political pundits in the arena of ethics have lost sight of their moral prerogatives. Comparing themselves to primates or other creatures of the wild is just not kosher. It’s not even fair.
    After all apes may be a bit uncouth in the performance of their daily routines & other species perhaps as well. Yet I’ve never met an ape or other denizen of the great outdoors that voted for a modern democrat. Only homo – sapiens w/that moral prerogative thing gone astray can commit such deeds . Otherwise the laughable loons on the left would happily allow them to vote …..

    • Trilemma

      I’ve never met an ape or other denizen of the great outdoors that voted for a modern Republican.

      • Howard Rosenbaum

        Yeah, you need to get outside more …..
        Though the prevailing sentiment among the left as Mr Gilson suggests , is the affirmation of a presumed evolutionary progress of man from non human life forms. Sure, plenty of republicans likely hold to that mistaken belief as well. It’s just that those on the left are much more vocal in their duplicity where their critiques of Trumps appropriate though much maligned evaluation of folk who behave actually worse than amoral animals …

        • Trilemma

          I know that Mr. Trump used animal metaphorically, but not all people recognize a metaphor when they hear one. I think it can lead to unfortunate treatment of certain groups of people if they are always thought of as animals or in some way less than human.

          • Andrew Mason

            And yet the Left considers it acceptable to label Trump etc animals. Society is increasingly tribal.

          • Trilemma

            I agree that society is growing increasingly tribal.

          • Sapient

            Trilemma, some people do evil things because they aggressively seek to be evil. They act like an animal—better yet a demonic beast—because they want to be seen as a sadistic demonic beast. Labeling those people accordingly is not wrong. It is very right! If you sincerely cannot see your way to approve of labeling these beasts what they themselves seek to be labeled—what their very acts compel humanity to label them—then you are a danger to yourself and civilized society.

          • Trilemma

            Referring to some people you said, “They act like an animal—.” I don’t have a problem with a simile or making comparisons like that.

            Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, upon visiting quarantined Jews in the Łodz ghetto in 1939, wrote in his diary: “These are not humans, but animals.”

            Thinking of people as animals is the first step in a dangerous direction.

          • Sapient

            Are you seriously comparing Goebbles’ labeling of innocent Jews as animals to our society labeling MS13 members as animals? MS13 gang motto is “rape, control, kill”. To become a “homeboy” (eg, full member in the gang) the sadistic beast has to commit a murder. In your horrible equivocating comparison you conflate the “actor” and the “acted upon”, and you fail to realize that Goebbles was the sadistic animal! The Jews were innocent victims preyed upon by a demonic beast of a man. Are you next going to tell me that the world should have considered Hitler and Goebbles as misguided sparks of divinity? Fools like you sicken me.

          • Trilemma

            Calling MS-13 members animals is the first step toward calling innocent people animals as the Nazis did. Who’s next, calling Palestinians animals?

          • Sapient

            Hamas and Hezbollah are, indeed, hate-filled beasts that are hell-bent on genocide of the Jewish people. Your comments are just plain idiotic. I’m done.

          • Trilemma

            I said Palestinians, not Hamas or Hezbollah. When you say certain people are animals you deny they bear the image of God. Since you call these various people are animals you have to also call King David of the Old Testament an animal because of the atrocities he committed.

          • I think the fact that not all people recognized that metaphor when they heard it indicates either a very serious lack of education or else a desire to treat it as literal so they could have something to complain about.

          • Trilemma

            An example of the type of people I had in mind are people with Asperger’s syndrome who tend to have trouble with figurative language such as metaphor.

  • JP

    Very good article. This is the kind of article young people and parents need to read and apply in their public discourse.

  • Trilemma

    If we compare the DNA of humans to the DNA of chimpanzees, it’s obvious both were evolved from a common ancestor. In that respect, humans are animals. However, I don’t think it’s right to consider all animals equal. Humans, chimpanzees, dogs and spiders are not equal. I think my dog’s life is more important than the life of a spider. I think the life of a chimpanzee is more important than the life of my dog. And I think the life of a human is more important than the life of any other animal. In that respect, humans should not be considered as animals. Even though humans are more important than other animals, other animals do have souls and should have some rights to be treated humanely.

    • Howard Rosenbaum

      No, it is not obvious. ( Unless you are a democrat .. )
      Actually the difference in the DNA between chimps & man ( though seemingly similar ) is more than sufficient to preclude the possibility of an evolutionary design. Do some research on the subject by objective “scholars” on the subject ..

      • Trilemma

        The large number of ERV insertions common to both humans and chimps is extremely strong evidence for a common ancestor. Pleas name an objective “scholar” on the subject.

        • Gerrard

          Not only unlikely but probabilistically impossible. Try Matti Leisola (“Heretic” ), or Meyer (“Signature in the cell”) or Douglas Axe or James Tour. Good luck.

    • Kevin Carr

      Couldn’t point to common designer could it? Has to be evolution. Do you believe the creation account or is that a lie? Would you go to the Answers In Genesis site and type in what you just posted and check out the explanation.

      • Trilemma

        I think it indicates a creator who evolved humans from an ancestor common to chimps. I believe the creation account is a fable and not to be taken as literal history. The explanation at AiG generally boils down to, because Bible.

        • Kevin Carr

          It seems you take your own “I think” over because Bible. Tell me which parts of the Bible are fables and which is truth? The Bible says God spoke everything into existence, (of course we know that can’t happen, so lets just conjure up something else). Why isn’t because God said it was that way good enough for you?

          • Trilemma

            Allegory can express truths. Jesus frequently used allegory. However, I think all of Genesis must be viewed as fictional.

            The Bible doesn’t actually say God spoke everything into existence. If God says something is such and such a way then that’s good enough for me. I just don’t share your faith in the Bible always being God speaking.

          • Kevin Carr

            Then by your belief it is not truth, just another book. Why bother with it at all?

          • Kevin Quillen

            “And God said, Let there be light” Gen 1:3
            “And God said, Let there be a firmament…” Gen 1 :6
            etc, etc….

          • Trilemma

            In the beginning of God’s preparing the heavens and the earth — the earth hath existed waste and void, and darkness is on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God fluttering on the face of the waters, and God saith, ‘Let light be;’ and light is. Genesis 1:1-3 – YLT

            Before God said, “Let there be light,” the Earth already existed and God found it waste and void.

        • Kevin Quillen

          Jesus said that from the beginning God created mankind male and female. From the beginning of what? CREATION! If you deny the Bible Creation account, you deny the validity of Christ. Pretty serious stuff. How do you account for the soft tissue found in many dinosaur bones? The earth is young. Evolution is a fairy tale and the source of many problems. It takes far more faith to believe evolution than God.

          • Trilemma

            I think Jesus meant from the beginning of human existence. The soft tissue indicates that either soft tissue can last longer than thought or that dinosaurs became fully extinct only thousands of years ago rather than millions of years ago.

          • John Connor

            The soft tissue found in some dinosaur fossils is due to iron preserving the tissues prior to decay. The earth is many, many millions of years old.

    • JP

      Huh??? Its not obvious we evolved from a common ancestor. That is not proven. After all, how could the mindless-purposeless forces of nature create a cell from scratch let alone a human being. To believe that requires more faith than God created man from dust.

      What separates man from animals is the image of God. Without that, we would be just animals.

      • Trilemma

        It can never be proven that God evolved humans from an ancestor common with chimps, but that’s where the evidence points. Abiogenesis by purely natural processes is impossible.

        Why can’t animals have a bit of the image of God? How should humans relate to animals? Do you think humans should go to jail for not taking appropriate care of an animal?

        • Why can’t animals have a bit of the image of God? If God had chosen for that to happen, then there’s no reason it couldn’t have been so. But from His own statement, we know that humans were created uniquely in his image. So the question isn’t whether they could have bear the image of God, but whether they do; and the answer is, they don’t. Not in the unique sense that humans do.

          • Trilemma

            I agree that animals would not bear the image of God in the exact sense that humans do. But what exactly is the image of God that humans bear? The internet is full of different answers. What makes me wonder about animals are stories such as a dolphin that saves a human from drowning or a whale that puts its body between a diver and a shark. It’s natural for an animal to protect its offspring but doing it for what is obviously a different species makes me wonder.

          • Sure. I understand the wondering. But it’s certainly clear that humans are different in huge ways. It’s especially clear that we have moral responsibility and accountability, that we are worshiping creatures, that we are rational creatures. Intellect, emotion, will, and also I think an ability to recognize and appreciate beauty.

            The Internet is full of different answers to everything…

          • Trilemma

            If humans bear the image of God and animals don’t, is it acceptable for Christians to refer to other humans in a way that denies those humans bear the image of God?

        • JP

          No evidence of Abiogenesis. How could a mindless-purposeless force of nature create the first cell that is more sophisticated than a cell phone? What were the steps?

          No reason to think animals have the image of God in them.

          Yes, humans should take proper care of animals. They are critical for our survival.
          Depends what the crime is. Certainly poachers should go to jail.

    • Andrew Mason

      Actually it’s not obvious at all. Rather than common DNA being proof of common evolution it may equally be seen as obvious proof of common design. As for other animals having souls, there’s no scientific evidence for the concept of ‘souls’. Odd your double standard.

      • Trilemma

        Why is there such a huge number of ERV insertions common to both chimps and humans? Psychology is the study of the soul. Psychiatrists treat the soul for such things as depression.

        • Andrew Mason

          Actually psychology is the study of the mind or of mental states and processes. ERV as in endogenous retroviruses? I’d need to know more about the ‘huge number of common insertions’ to comment. I will note that since ERVs comprise about 5% of human DNA, and chimpanzees purportedly have significant DNA in common with humans, having a significant number of ERVs may not be proof of anything at all, unless of common design – it makes sense that common features will share coding.

          • Trilemma

            The soul is the part of you that consists of your mind, character, thoughts, memories, personality and feelings. These are the things psychology studies. Animals also have these things so they also have souls.

            Endogenous retroviruses (ERV) insert their DNA into the DNA of a host cell. If this cell is an egg or sperm cell, the inserted ERV DNA becomes part of the animals genome. All descendants of the animal will carry this inserted ERV DNA. If some of the descendants evolve into new species then all such new species will carry this inserted ERV DNA. Humans and chimps have thousands of these bits of virus DNA in common in the same chromosomal locations indicating a common ancestor.

            If God created man from dust then God would have had to create man with all these useless bits of virus DNA in the same chromosomal locations as chimps. Why would God engage in such deception?

          • Andrew Mason

            We’re defining soul differently. To me soul refers to the immaterial immortal you that will someday stand before God to be judged. Animals do not have souls. And Atheists contend humans are merely highly evolved animals.

            Except as research progresses ERV DNA is increasingly seen to be functional so common insertions may be a matter of logic rather than historical junk. Note too that the original viruses likely functioned different to the devolved fashion they now act in.

          • Trilemma

            Genesis 1:24 – Darby Bible: And God said, Let the earth bring forth living souls after their kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth, after their kind. And it was so.

            Genesis 2:7 – Darby Bible: And Jehovah Elohim formed Man, dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and Man became a living soul.

            According the Bible, both man and animals are living souls.

          • Andrew Mason

            What is the Darby Bible? From what I can tell it’s an archaic version and its Gen 1:24 translation is uncommon. Gen 2:7 is also uncommon, but less so. In comparing translations 2/26 versions of Gen 1:24 use soul, 12/26 Gen 2:7 versions use soul, and that ignores the agecommonality of the versions in question. The original Hebrew behind these 2 usages of soul are similar, but subtly different.

            Actually it’s really only the Darby Bible that says man and animal are both living souls, and the Darby is far looser with its use of soul than other versions.

          • Trilemma

            The Hebrew word nephesh is typically translated as soul when it applies to people and something else or not at all when it applies to animals. Most translations are clearly biased in this regard.

            Numbers 31:28 – KJV: And levy a tribute unto the Lord of the men of war which went out to battle: one soul of five hundred, both of the persons, and of the beeves, and of the aѕѕes, and of the sheep:

            In this verse the meaning of soul is exactly the same for humans and animals. It must be concluded from this verse that animals have souls the same as human have souls.

          • Andrew Mason

            Except in the concordance I looked up the word isn’t nephesh but ne-p̄eš in Gen 1:24, lə-ne-p̄eš in Gen 2:7, and ne-p̄eš again in Numbers. That’s a subtle but possibly significant difference. Note too that in English words can have more than one meaning so even if the word used were exactly the same, which isn’t the case, the meaning has to be determined from the context. And since the KJV is prone to archaic usage, you also need to consider now defunct usage.

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