What Makes Man Unique?


What Makes Man Unique?

The Philadelphia Trumpet, in conjunction with the Herbert W. Armstrong College Bible Correspondence Course, presents this brief excursion into the fascinating study of the Bible. Simply turn to and read in your Bible each verse given in answer to the questions. You will be amazed at the new understanding gained from this short study!
From the November 2011 Trumpet Print Edition

Why is there such a vast difference between animal brain and human mind, and what could possibly account for it? The Bible reveals the answer!

There is a great, impassable gulf between animal brain and human mind. The evolutionary theory assumes that humans are animals. But one thing evolution can never explain is the vast difference between animal brain—equipped with instinct—and the human mind, with its creative reasoning powers of intellect.

Some animals have physical brains as large or larger than man’s brain, and with similar cerebral cortex complexity—but none has the powers of intellect, logic, self-consciousness and creativity that man does.

The physical brain of a dolphin, whale or elephant is larger than the human brain, while a walrus’s is slightly smaller. Qualitatively the human brain may be very slightly superior, but not enough to remotely account for its vastly superior intelligence and output. The output of the human brain is indescribably greater. Let’s understand why.

The Difference Between Man and Animals

1. Were animals created in God’s image—or was each created after its own kind? Genesis 1:21, 24-25. Who was created in the “image” and “likeness” of God? Verses 26-27.

Comment: In God’s pattern for physical life, like reproduces like. And just as each plant or animal reproduces after its own kind, so humans reproduce humans. But unlike any of the animals, man was created in God’s likeness.

Each animal was created with a brain suited for its particular animal kind. But animals do not have the potential of mind that God gave only to man. No animal was ever given the gift of mind power—the ability to think, to reason, to make choices and decisions—as was man! God’s purpose in making mortal man after His own image demanded mind power in man patterned after God’s own mind.

It is this very special attribute of mind and character that separates men from animals.

Animals do not have reasoning, self-conscious minds. They possess instinct: God has “programmed” their brains with particular instinctive aptitudes to live and perform in a certain way. They follow instinctive habit patterns in their feeding, nesting, migration and reproduction. Thus, beavers build dams, birds build nests, and so on. These aptitudes are inherited—they are not the result of logical, cognitive or thinking processes.

For example, millions of birds flock south each year as winter approaches in the Northern Hemisphere. They don’t stop to reason why, they don’t ask themselves whether they should, they don’t plan an itinerary for the trip. At a given internal signal—like the preset alarm of a clock—they leave their summer feeding grounds in the north and travel hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles south. Scientists don’t fully understand how or why—they merely observe the operation of this amazing animal instinct.

Each species, or kind, of bird builds a different type of nest and feeds on different foods; many migrate at different times to different places. But none of these actions is planned by the birds. They merely have the capability and proclivity to do what Almighty God built into the instinct of each at creation.

Man’s mind, by contrast, is vastly different. Man is able to devise various ways to do any one thing or to achieve a predetermined goal. Man can acquire knowledge and can reason from it. He is able to draw conclusions, make decisions, and will to act according to a thought-out plan.

Each man can design and build a different type of house, using a different design and different building materials than other people. Men also eat different foods, prepared in many different ways. They may live entirely different lifestyles from one another. And if a man wants to change his way of life—he can!

Man can choose: He has free moral agency. He can devise codes of conduct and exercise self-discipline. He can originate ideas and evaluate knowledge. And all because he has a mind that is patterned after God’s own mind! Man can devise, plan, and bring his plans to fruition because he has been given some of the very creative powers of God!

Man alone can wonder, “Why was I born? What is life? What is death? Is there a purpose in human existence?” Man, unlike the animals, not only “knows” how to do certain things, but he also knows that he knows—that is, he is aware that he has “knowledge.” He is self-conscious, aware of his own existence as a unique being.

These attributes of mind and character make man God’s unique physical creation. God has shared some of His own qualities with man. And God expects man to develop and become conformed to the spiritual “image” of His perfect mind and holy character (Matthew 5:48)—just as man now is formed in the physical “image” of God.

Man Created in God’s Likeness

Only man, of all God’s physical creatures, has the ability to think, reason, plan, design and come to conclusions based on acquired knowledge. Only man was created to have a very special relationship with God.

What is it, then, that gives humankind this God-plane power of intellect, utterly nonexistent with animals? What separates man from the animal kingdom?

It all boils down to a nonphysical component in the human brain that does not exist in animal brain. It is what makes man truly unique!

1. Unlike God, who is composed of spirit (John 4:24), is man a physical being, subject to death? Genesis 2:7; Ezekiel 18:20 (first part). Nevertheless, does the Bible speak of a “spirit in man”? Job 32:8, 18; Zechariah 12:1; 1 Corinthians 2:11.

Comment: The physical man is a mortal soul that can die. However, many passages of Scripture show that there is a “spirit” in man! This spirit is not the man—it is spirit essence that is in the man. Joined with the physical brain of the man, it forms the human mind. It imparts to man’s brain his unique powers of intellect and personality—the ability to think rationally and make free-will decisions. It imparts the ability to learn mathematics, languages or other types of knowledge, such as music, art, carpentry and flying.

But that is all. The spirit that is in man has no consciousness of itself. It is not an “immortal soul.”

2. Is this “spirit in man” clearly distinguished from the Holy Spirit of God? 1 Corinthians 2:11.

Comment: The spirit that is in man can be called “human” spirit, for it is in each human, even though it is spirit essence and not matter. It is not a “ghost,” spirit being, or the Holy Spirit. This nonphysical component in the human brain does not exist in the brain of animals.

Thus animals, like humans, see, hear, smell, taste and feel, but they have no spirit to cause the physical brain to function in the process of thinking, reasoning and acquiring knowledge. Animals can be trained to perform actions based on rewards—but even then they are acting on the instinctual desire for food or safety. Mankind, on the other hand, has imagination and creative mind power far above that of any animal. Man can compose and produce music and fine art, build phenomenal skyscrapers and construct magnificent telescopes that peer into the depths of the universe. The human spirit makes this possible.

A Second Spirit Needed

It is true that mankind, compared to animals, has astounding intellectual capacity. Yet, he has also proved over thousands of years that he cannot solve this world’s evils, like war and poverty. Why is this so? Because this world’s problems are spiritual in nature, and the natural man simply cannot come to grips with spiritual problems. In producing a computer or in flying to the moon, he is dealing with physical matter that he can comprehend because of the human spirit within him. But he cannot solve problems with fellow humans because this involves knowledge, understanding and application of spiritual principles he cannot truly grasp or implement without the addition of another spiritual element to his mind!

1. Can the human mind—having only the human spirit—understand the spiritual things of God? 1 Corinthians 2:9-11. What must be added before a man can really comprehend spiritually revealed knowledge? Verse 11, last part; verse 14.

Comment: Man was made to need another spirit—the Holy Spirit of God! Just as a human could not know the things of human knowledge except by the human spirit within him, so he cannot know the things of God—spiritual knowledge—except by the addition of the Spirit of God (article, page 4).

Just as surely as no animal brain—such as that of a cow, for example—can comprehend or understand human affairs without the human spirit, so no human mind can fathom spiritual truths on the divine plane without the Holy Spirit!

When fully understood, the fact that man was created in the image and likeness of God, with a spirit component within him, reveals that mankind’s potential is staggering beyond belief. To learn more, request our free booklet What Science Can’t Discover About the Human Mind.