is clear from the Genesis account and the Bible as a whole that humans are at
the centre of Gods plans for Creation and that they are distinct from the rest
of Earths fauna. Humans were created separately, in the image of God, as the
last act on the last day of the creation week before God rested. The New
Testament tells the story of Christs incarnation - as a human being - for the
purpose of redeeming Adams descendents.
if we look at nature through the eyes of evolutionary biology we see a very
different picture. Homo Sapiens Sapiens is just one more mammal that has branched
off rather recently from other primates. Even today the most visceral reactions
to Darwins theory are provoked by the implication that we are descended from
ape-like ancestors. Few have been more eloquent in their repulsion at this
suggestion than Bishop Samuel Wilberforce. In his anonymous review of Darwins Origin he famously stated:
supremacy over the earth; mans power of articulate speech; mans gift of
reason; mans free-will and responsibility...
- all are equally and utterly irreconcilable with the degrading notion of
the brute origin of him who was created in the image of God....
it is clear to everyone that humans are not identical
with Chimpanzees or Gorillas, evolution did open the way for critics to
question the theists claim that humans are unique and central to the cosmic
scheme of things. Later developments in evolutionary biology and related fields
would continue the challenge to theological anthropology. While nineteenth
century commentators were horrified by our newfound commonality with apes,
contemporary genetics has revealed that we share as many as 40% of our genes
with the humble banana. Various disciplines have also begun to provide
naturalistic accounts of the qualities that Wilberforce considered uniquely human
and show how they are present to some degree in other animals.
thinking also contradicted deeply rooted concepts of order in the cosmos such
as the Scala Naturae or great chain of being. Rather than occupying an
elevated place in the scheme of things, humans were just one branch on the tree
of life. In recent years Harvard palaeontologist Stephen J Gould railed against
even the tree model since this still implies an upward, if diffuse,
directionality: I cannot understand our continued allegiance to the manifestly
false iconographies of ladder and cone except as a desperate finger in the dike
of cosmically justified hope and arrogance. Dennett
considers this refutation of what he calls the cosmic pyramid and humankinds
banishment from a privileged position within it to be one of the reasons
Darwins idea is so dangerous.
| Feedback | Contributed by: Adrian Wyard