Are humans really biologically and socially different from the rest of the created world? Are there definitive characteristics that separate humans from other forms of life, or are humans simply an improvement on the body plans of other animals, the result of random processes that have occurred over millions of years? The answers to these questions may seem obvious to a Christian, but defining what characteristics separate man from the animals that closely resemble him, such as chimpanzees and gorillas, still has not been completely resolved by secular science. Is this an answer that can be derived by studying the physical and biological creation, or can it only be understood in light of Biblical truth?

There have been many attempts to answer these questions. Paleontologists have identified many features unique to human skeletons, enabling them to distinguish between human and ape (chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans) fossils. For example, apes and man share the same tooth pattern in their jaws; two incisors, one canine, two premolars, and three molars. But the tooth-bearing mandible (jawbone) in humans is smaller in relation to the skull and V-shaped, while that of an ape is U-shaped. Another skeletal feature, the human pelvis, is more bowl-shaped than that of an ape, providing support for the abdominal organs as a result of the constant upright position of humans. But these skeletal qualities can’t fully define “what makes us human.” They only describe some of the attributes of the “vessel” that “houses” a human.

Anthropologists have looked for cultural evidence to identify and describe human remains and help determine “what makes us human.” Humans have been described as tool users, once thought to be a quality unique from all other animals. However, extensive studies over the years by many researchers has identified tool use by chimpanzees, and more recently gorillas, indicating that use of crude tools is not necessarily a unique human feature. Even a sea otter uses a crude tool, such as a rock, to crack open shell fish. The use of fire and burying the dead are also cited as evidence of “what makes us human.” It certainly could be argued that using fire and evidence of burials are unique to humans, but these activities result from the spiritual nature within humans. Fire use and religion (funerals) do not fully explain “what makes us human.”….

 

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