Is there a categorical difference in us and animals?



John J. Shea

John J. Shea Professor
Ph.D., Harvard University, 1991

2nd Annual Human Evolution Symposium PART ONE

Uploaded on Nov 23, 2010

“Out of Africa: Who, Where, and When?” Sept. 27, 2005. Stony Brook University.

Convened by Richard Leakey.

1. Welcome – Bob McGrath, Provost, Stony Brook University
2. Opening remarks – Richard Leakey, Stony Brook University
3. Introduction of Speakers – William Jungers, Stony Brook University
4. “Out of Africa Again and Again: Some Thoughts about Hominin Dispersals” – Marta Lahr, Cambridge University
5. Meave Leakey, Stony Brook University – “Early Pleistocene Mammals from Africa: Background to Dispersal”
6. John J. Shea, Stony Brook University – “The Levant: A Corridor and a Cul-de-Sac?”


clip from “APEMAN”

Uploaded on Feb 25, 2011


Dr. John J. Shea appeared on the TV series APE MAN with Walter Cronkite back in the 1990’s and claimed that there is only a degree of difference between monkeys and humans and not a categorical difference. After that program aired I had the opportunity to correspond with Dr. Shea and he was kind enough to send me a two page response to my questions. (This correspondence took place back in 1994 and 1995.)

Dr. Shea also suggested that I read SHADOWS OF FORGOTTEN ANCESTORS by Carl Sagan and his wife Ann Druyan, and I did so. Here are my thoughts on the question.

First, only humans lie in the sense we are held morally responsible. Sagan wrote, “Deception in the social relations of animals…is an emerging and productive topic in biology…” (p. 379). This may be true, but are animals responsible to God? I think not. Romans 3:23 teaches that “All MEN have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Animals may deceive but they are not morally responsible.

Second, only men feel guilt. Sagan refers briefly to the fact that men feel guilt (p. 4.14), but he does not spend a lot of time on this. Romans 1:19 asserts, “For that which is known about God is evident to them and made plain in their inner consciousness, because God has show it to them” (Amplified Bible).  Here Sagan turns to  Thomas Henry Huxley who he quotes:

On all sides, I shall hear the cry–“We are men and women, not a mere better sort of apes, a little longer in the leg, more compact in the foot, and bigger in brain than your brutal Chimpanzees and Gorillas. The power of knowledge–the conscience of good and evil--the pitiful tenderness of human affections, raise us out of all real fellowship with the brutes, however, closely they may seem to approximate us.”

To this I can reply that the exclamation would be just and would be most just and would have my entire sympathy, if it were only relevant. But, it is not I who seek to base Man’s dignity upon this great toe, or insinuate that we are lost if an Ape has a hippocampus minor (in its brain). On the contrary, I have done my best to sweep away this vanity… 

WHY DID SAGAN AND HUXLEY FACE SUCH A LARGE CHORUS THAT WAS OBJECTING TO THIS VIEW THAT WE DON’T HAVE A GOD-GIVEN CONSCIENCE? The answer is very simple and it deals with the consequences of Social Darwinism. Chuck Colson said that Larry King was not very impressed with his long talk on the historical accuracy of the scriptures, but when he touched on this subject things got interesting:

Larry King invited me to dinner. “I don’t believe in God,” Larry told me straight out. “But tell me why you believe.” I responded, “Have you seen Woody Allen‘s movie CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS

Yes, he loved it, in fact. It’s about a doctor who is haunted by GUILT after hiring a killer to murder his mistress. His Jewish father has taught him that God will surely bring justice. In the end the doctor suppresses his GUILT, convincing himself that LIFE IS AN DARWINIAN STRUGGLE WHERE ONLY THE RUTHLESS SURVIVE.

I asked Larry, “Is that our only choice–to be tormented by GUILT or else kill our conscience? Larry, how do you deal with your conscience?” He dropped his fork. I said, “What do you do with the GUILT that is in here? What do you do with what you know you have done wrong?

Then he was ready to listen. I went on and shared with him from Romans which teaches about the voice of conscience that God has given us. 


Third, men have a longing for significance which expresses itself most clearly in the fear of non being.

Fourth, I would point to the fact that only people worship.

Fifth, men are not satisfied unless they have their spiritual needs met. Carl Sagan quotes the poet Walt Whitman, “Not one (animal) is dissatisfied…Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth…” Sagan comments, “On this basis of the evidence presented in this book, we doubt if any of Whitman’s  six purported differences between other animals and humans is true…” (p. 389).

I read Sagan’s book cover to cover and made over 15 pages of notes, and I have yet to find any of the “evidence” that Sagan speaks of on page 389. I find the comments of NOAM CHOMSKY more logical. He calls animal language an “evolutionary miracle” akin to “finding an island of humans who could be taught to fly.”

I like Francis Schaeffer‘s term “Mannishness” of man. He defines it as those aspects of man, such as significance, love, rationality and the fear of non being, which mark him off from animals and machines and give evidence of his being created in the image of a personal God.

The scientist Blaise Pascal is quoted by Sagan on page 364 and then Sagan notes, “Most of the philosophers adjudged great in the history of western thought held that humans are fundamentally different from other animals…”

As you know Pascal was the inventor of the barometer and he lived from 1623 to 1662. Pascal also observed, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man,and only God can fill it.”

What is the solution? “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The scriptural directive is not for us to work harder to achieve God’s favor (Romans 3:20), but to accept God’s mercy through our repentance and receiving Christ as a free gift (Ephesians 2:8-10).

The Bible and Archaeology (1/5)

The Bible and Archaeology (2/5)

Is the Bible historically accurate? Here are some of the posts I have done in the past on the subject: 1. The Babylonian Chronicleof Nebuchadnezzars Siege of Jerusalem2. Hezekiah’s Siloam Tunnel Inscription. 3. Taylor Prism (Sennacherib Hexagonal Prism)4. Biblical Cities Attested Archaeologically. 5. The Discovery of the Hittites6.Shishak Smiting His Captives7. Moabite Stone8Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III9A Verification of places in Gospel of John and Book of Acts., 9B Discovery of Ebla Tablets10. Cyrus Cylinder11. Puru “The lot of Yahali” 9th Century B.C.E.12. The Uzziah Tablet Inscription13. The Pilate Inscription14. Caiaphas Ossuary14 B Pontius Pilate Part 214c. Three greatest American Archaeologists moved to accept Bible’s accuracy through archaeology.

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