Man - Mammal, Machine or More?
Hamlet Act 2, Scene (ii)
“What a piece of work is a man!
How noble in reason! How infinite in faculties!
In form and moving, how express and admirable!
In action, how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god!
The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals!
And yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust?”
The human eye can detect just a few photons, the nose can distinguish a difference of a single atom in certain molecules and there are more possible interconnections between the billions of neurons in the brain and more possible human individuals than there are particles in the known universe. Given all that, the biggest wonder is how we all make such a mess of it all.
But, what is it all for? Why should a savannah hunter/gatherer evolve the capacity to deal with calculus or write a symphony or put a man on the moon? Is man just the product of evolution? Just another, more clever, ape, a glorified biological machine?
If this is all man is, then we would have no more value than any other animal. A cat or dog or even a blade of grass, which would just be made up of other chemicals, different to ours. Some people believe this, and the result is either to raise animals, ( and plants even) to human level so that it becomes wrong to kill or eat them (for example, the animal Liberation Front or Jains, extreme Hindus in India who sweep the path ahead of them rather than tread on an ant and have gauze over their moths rather than accidentally swallow a fly), or to lower humans to animal level so that it is not wrong to kill them in abortion or euthanasia. In India devout Hindus sometimes say that they would rather eat the flesh of their parents than that of a cow! The Bible, ( and most people’s consciences) maintains the unique sanctity of human life.
If man were only a biochemical machine, there would be no real meaning to love or goodness as these would only be the product of electric impulses in the brain with no more meaning or value than any other chemical reaction. How many people actually live like that? or are consistent to their views if they say that they believe that?
Senses of Personal existence would also be an illusion as it would just be so many moving electrons.
Genesis 1 and 2 is consistent with the evolution of plants and animals (with the Hebrew word translated “day” probably meaning “period of time” and “made” meaning “make out of what is already there”), but is very clear that man is a special creation.
The Bible views man as having a spirit - 1 Corinthians 2:11
“ For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no-one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” -made in the image of God who is a spirit. (John 4:24).
I Thessanlonians 5:23 - man is spirit, soul or mind and body.
What is the difference between Spirit and Soul or Mind?
Question that has exercised philosophers down through the ages.
Spirit - Dictionary definition something like “Disembodied person” - is the basic person who says “I am”, (when God introduces himself to Moses it is as “I am who I am”), and therefore NOT my memory, thoughts, intelligence, will, emotions etc. Such a person has a capacity for relationships, selfishness, altruistic love, good evil and conscience.
Soul or Mind - product of the brain - thoughts, intelligence, memory, will, emotions.
Very often difficult to distinguish what is just a product of our brain rather than genuine goodness, for example, some people are naturally more patient than others or more anxious than others. The Bible in Hebrews 4:12 says “ the word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit”.
Jesus said "not to judge or condemnn others" and that evil thoughts were also sin, for example two equal insults given to a London Stock-Broker and a street kind in Mexico City result in the Stock-Brocker resolving to prevent the person's career progressing but the Mexican with equal hatred goes out and kills him because he is used to violence. Equal hatred in the heart but one is a muderer and one is not.
Man is a Spiritual being - opertating personal, moral choices and decisions through the soul or mind to control thoughts and actions.
The Bible says that man is born with a sinful nature
Psalm 51:5 "Surely I was sinful at birth, Sinful from the time my mother conceived me"
No-one ever has to teach their children how to be selfish, proud or greedy, only how to share and be humble, being selfish comes naturally to us - we say that greed, pride, anger are "only" human nature.
When we grow up, we find that this nature prevents us from following our more noble desires, what we know to be utimately right.
Romans 7:8 & 24 "I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out".
"What a wretched man I am! who will recscue me from this body of death?"
Consequences of this are seen in the world around us
Four words to describe what motivates the world - money, pride, lust and power.
Whether nations businesses or individuals.
The Bible in Romans 1:29-31 puts it like this:
“They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and
depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They
are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful;
they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents, they are senseless,
faithless, heartless, ruthless.”
And Romans 3:14-17:
“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.
Their feet are swift to shed blood;
Ruin and neglect mark their ways,
and the way of peace they do not know.”
Consequently, there is enough food and wealth in the world to feed everyone and give all mankind a
healthy and reasonable standard of living but less than 5% of the world’s population in USA has
approximately 40% of the world’s wealth and in most countries the top 10% own 90% of the wealth so
that millions suffer malnutrition and deprivation in the world - approximately 250 million in India alone.
India and Pakistan spend some of the highest percentages of GDP on weapons of any countries in the
world and have become nuclear powers whilst millions suffer in their streets. The West is no better
keeping the terms of trade in its own favour, for example E U tariffs keep out goods from the Third
World, for example they will buy raw coffee beans but put a tariff on processed coffee so that that is
done in E. U.
The Bible says in Isaiah 59:2: “ Your sins have separated you from your God.”
Which is the basic biblical idea of hell - separation from God forever.
Romans 6:23 says “ The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our
Jesus can set us free from this sinful nature
Jesus said, John 8:13-34: “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.......if you hold to my
teaching, you are really my disciples, then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”
As we give in to temptations, they get a stronger hold on our thoughts, actions and habits.
Sow a thought, reap an action.
Sow an action, reap a habit
Sow a habit reap a lifestyle.
By God’s power, through faith in Jesus, the power of our sinful nature to control us can be broken.
The Bible says that all those who trust themselves to Jesus die to their old life and live a new life by the
power of his Holy Spirit within them; Romans 6:4: “we were therefore buried with Christ through
baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the father,
we too may live a new life.”