Human beings possess a capability far beyond animals. Many have attempted to explain what makes our minds so special, but few understand the truth.
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Both evolutionists and religionists agree that there is something about mankind that makes us different from animals. Each group offers explanations, certain the other side is wrong.
How can we know the truth?
More questions arise: What is the human mind? How does it relate to the brain? Why do we not see animals with minds? Most people do not understand the plain answers that have been available for thousands of years.
The argument can be summarized as the mind-body problem. It has been recognized that merely the physical characteristics of the human brain do not warrant the extreme creative and processing power that defines human ingenuity. The difference must be caused by something else.
The answer is spiritual in nature—it can be explained no other way.
Unique to Humans
Consider just a few of the qualities man possesses that are unique among all living creatures. These attributes are so common and taken for granted that few give them much thought. Yet it should become clear how unique human beings really are.
Ask yourself: Why does man have so many distinctive characteristics?
Humor: No other creature can appreciate, create and express humor. Not only does this require creativity, but humor also requires the ability to detach oneself from their surroundings to see the odd, surreal or ironic.
Appreciation of beauty: Humans are able to appreciate all kinds of beauty. This can be as simple as a sunset, a work of art, or the intricate design of a flower.
For example, take someone to see New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. They will likely feel emotionally moved by the seemingly limitless number of paintings and sculptures on display, dating back hundreds of years. Take a dog to the same museum, and it will be more excited about the ride and seeing a lot of people walking the halls than anything else.
Self-consciousness: Beyond a simple recognition of self, as exhibited by a few animals, man can step back and become a spectator, critic or admirer of the world around him. He can see his place in the greater picture and analyze what needs to be done to affect his role.
Awareness of death: While animals do have a survival instinct, a human being is able to consider that he will one day die. The awareness that his days will not last forever allows for a deep respect of his mortality. In fact, nearly all cultures perform some form of funeral ritual. This is not found in the animal world.
Understanding time: Animals are only able to relate time to themselves—they have no ability to relate time to third parties. People can wonder, speculate and search history for lessons and apply them to short, medium and long-term goals ranging far into the future.
Connections between words: While animals can understand simple words or tones, they do not comprehend syntax or communicate in complex sentences. Human beings have created hundreds of languages and thousands of dialects, even though they are born without any way to communicate.
Meaning of life: The simple act of asking about life’s meaning and purpose makes man unique. No animal contemplates its reason for living—nor would it be willing to live or die for specific values and ideals.
Malleability: Humanity adapts to its surroundings far beyond the ability of animals. We wear clothes, build shelters and modify our environment to suit our needs.
Lack of harmony with nature: When left alone, nature reaches balance and harmony. Only man disrupts that natural balance. Think of deforestation, changing the course of rivers, pollution, over-mining for resources, and more.
A sense of morality: Animals always take the path of least resistance. They do not have a sense of right and wrong—a conscience. On the other hand, man will go so far as to control his thoughts based on what he considers right or wrong.
Character: This is the ability to know right from wrong, and turn away from wrong to do what is right—even in the face of pressures and temptations. The desire to build character can only be found in human beings.
Free moral agency: Unlike animals, man can deviate from his course of thinking and living however he sees fit. Animals react through instinct—programming.
Capacity for wisdom: Without self-awareness, animals cannot weigh situations with previous experiences. While animals can develop behavioral patterns based on positive or negative stimulation, they are completely unable to analyze actions before they are performed. This ability, known as wisdom, is unique to human beings.
Desire for worship: No matter what part of the world or culture, man exhibits a desire to seek, follow and worship a higher power. Animals do not.
Love: While some animals do form lifelong relationships for the purpose of reproduction, none exhibit a parallel with the human characteristics of love, in which a couple shares experiences, goals, dreams, hopes and aspirations.
This array of differences between people and animals dramatically separates us from the animal world. More could have been cited. Think: There must be a reason for why the human mind is different from the animal brain.
Most evolutionists will not even attempt to explain what makes the human mind so special. Simply put, the physical differences between our brain and that of animals are insufficient to explain the differences in ability we looked at. Three aspects of the human brain demonstrate this point.
Weight: Human beings do not have the heaviest brains in overall weight, or even weight in proportion to their bodies.
Anatomy: Correlations differ between man’s brain and that of animals.
Cerebral Cortex: The nerve center of the human brain is only slightly more complex than that of animals.
No physiological explanation exists for man’s mind! Biologists have no irrefutable evolutionary evidence. Psychologists are stupefied by the human brain. And, if they are honest with themselves, evolutionists are left with only one conclusion: There is no scientific answer to the mind-body problem!
An Immortal Soul?
If the differences between animals and human beings cannot be explained by physical means, we must look for a spiritual explanation. Most professing Christians would quickly agree there must be a spiritual component to the human condition. The most common explanation they offer is that the non-physical component is an immortal soul. Supporters of this approach even cite the Bible for proof.
Certainly, if man has an immortal soul, this would help explain the immeasurable capacity of his mind. But what does the Bible really say?
The word “soul” appears in Scripture over 400 times. The first instance is during the account of man’s creation. Notice Genesis 2: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (vs. 7).
The phrasing here is important. Note that man became a “living soul.” The Hebrew word from which “soul” was translated is nephesh, which means “a breathing creature.” This passage states that man became a living, breathing creature.
However, was the soul that man received different from that of animals, in that it was immortal?
Again, let’s allow the Bible to speak for itself: “The soul that sins, it shall die” (Ezek. 18:4, 20). If a soul dies, then it cannot be immortal! How can so many believe that people have immortal souls when just two passages from God’s Word prove this to be absurd?
If the immortal soul concept does not come from Scripture, what is its origin? Even the briefest look at the historical record makes this plain: “The belief that the soul continues its existence after the dissolution of the body is a matter of philosophical or theological speculation rather than of simple faith, and is accordingly nowhere expressly taught in Holy Scripture…The belief in the immortality of the soul came to the Jews from contact with Greek thought and chiefly through the philosophy of Plato, its principal exponent, who was led to it through Orphic and Eleusinian mysteries in which Babylonian and Egyptian views were strangely blended” (The Jewish Encyclopedia, “Immortality of the Soul”).
Early Catholic writer Tertullian (AD 155-220) details where the immortal soul doctrine has its roots: “For some things are known even by nature: the immortality of the soul, for instance, is held by many…I may use, therefore, the opinion of a Plato, when he declares, ‘Every soul is immortal’” (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Chapter III).
If the mind-body conundrum cannot be explained by the popular immortal soul doctrine, then what is the answer?
The Spirit in Man
The Bible does provide the answer to the mind-body question, but this has been missed by the masses. It reveals there is a spiritual component to man that elevates him above the physical.
Notice a passage in the Old Testament: “The burden of the word of the Lord for Israel, says the Lord, which stretches forth the heavens, and lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him” (Zech. 12:1). This reveals that God created a spirit inside every human being—including you.
Proverbs 20:27 sheds light on the purpose for this spirit: “The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly.”
God uses the spirit in man as a way of interfacing with humanity. This is further expounded in the book of Job: “There is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty gives them understanding” (Job 32:8).
Putting these passages together clarifies that God uses the “spirit in man” to impart understanding. Through this spirit, God can teach a physical human being a degree of spiritual knowledge. However, he is spiritually incomplete—he needs another spirit.
Physical and Spiritual
Man is a physical being with a spiritual component. For centuries, mankind has reached awesome progress and advancement, but—at the same time—continues to suffer ever-worsening and appalling evils, troubles and ills. This is because society’s problems are spiritual in nature.
Great leaders have recognized the link between humanity’s problems and the need for spiritual answers. While attending the signing of imperial Japan’s surrender, General Douglas MacArthur said, “Men since the beginning of time have sought peace…Military Alliances, Balances of Power, Leagues of Nations, all in turn failed leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war. The utter destructiveness of war now blots out this alternative. We have had our last chance. If we do not devise some greater and more equitable system Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advance in science, art, literature and all material and cultural developments of the past two thousand years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh” (The Reports of General MacArthur).
Over 70 years have passed since General MacArthur uttered these words, yet problems worsen. Man is desperate for spiritual knowledge—a real solution to his problems. But he can only achieve this by turning to God. Again, man is spiritually incomplete—he needs another spirit.
The apostle Paul wrote, “For what man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God” (I Cor. 2:11).
God’s Spirit, when combined with the spirit in man, enables us to know “the things of God”—and to build holy, righteous character.
The spirit in man also records the events, experiences and lessons of the life of each person, and returns to God at death: “Then shall the dust [man] return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Ecc. 12:7).
God stores this most vital ingredient of man until the resurrection.
The human spirit allows man to reason, analyze and create. We are able to greatly exceed the capability of animals only because of this special, unique spiritual component.
If you would like to learn much more about humanity’s incredible future, read our free book The Awesome Potential of Man.