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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: Is There a Difference Between Humans and Animals?

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Don Stewart
As we close our section on the creation/evolution controversy we focus on ourselves. What are human beings? Are we different from animals? Mark Twain said, "Man is the only animal that blushes - and the only animal that needs to!" Professor C.E.M. Joad noted that man is nothing but:

Fat enough for seven bars of soap; Iron enough for one medium-sized nail; Sugar enough for seven cups of tea; Lime enough to whitewash one chicken coop; Phosphorus enough to tip two thousand two hundred matches; Magnesium enough for one dose of salts; Potash enough to explode one toy crane; sulphur enough to rid one dog of fleas.

The Bible makes a clear distinction between man and animals:

All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fish, another of birds (1 Corinthians 15:39).

Man is different from all other animals in a number of ways:

1. Analytical Thought

Man can think analytically. He can analyze problems and come up with creative solutions. He is able to reason and philosophize about life. The reasoning powers in animals are limited.

2. True Language

Only man possesses true language and conceptual thought. He can communicate by using abstract symbols. The Bible says one of the first responsibilities given Adam by God was to name the animals (Genesis 2:19-23). Animals have no such capacities.

3. Record History

Another difference is that man can record and determine history. From the beginning of time, man has recorded his deeds for the benefit of future generations. There is no example of any animal recording their deeds for posterity.

4. Economics

Man is an economic being, able to transact complicated business and to administer goods and services under his control. God instructed Adam and Eve to take control of the earth and "subdue" it (Genesis 1:28). Animals do not transact business between each other.

5. Art

Man is an aesthetic being, capable of perceiving and appreciating beauty and intangible values. When animals build things, the process and resulting object serve a functional purpose. Animals do not create objects for the purpose of appreciation.

6. Morality

Man is an ethical being. He can distinguish between right and wrong. He can and does make moral judgments. He has a conscience. Only to man could God speak of "good" and "evil." Because of mans sense of justice and his ethical orientation, God could fairly punish him for his willful disobedience in the Garden of Eden.

7. Worship

Only man can experience faith. Man alone of all earthly creation can worship his Creator. He alone can put his trust in the guidance and leadership of God.

8. Bury Its Dead

Man is the only living creature that buries its dead. There is no example of animals doing any type of ceremonial burial as does man.

The above list, though not exhaustive, points out that there are many things that separate man from animals. We could also add such things as: creativity, invention, imagination, abstract reasoning, love (at various levels), a will, and a conscience.

Human Life Is Different

It is important to note the significant difference between humans and other life forms. Not only are humans different from plants, but humans are also different from animals. Only humans, according to the Bible, are made in "Gods image." Only humans possess the will and self-consciousness that distinguish us so sharply from even the most "advanced" and intelligent animals. Anatomist Kingsley Mortimer discusses that difference:

To the scientist, man is an animal, graciously self-designated as homo sapiens . . . If he is, at least, he is still the only one discussing what kind of animal he is. Few, however, would deny that man, animal or not has features without parallel in any other member of that kingdom. We are quite familiar with the physical evidence that marks out homo sapiens - the erect posture, the grasping thumb, the cerebral hemispheres. These are all acceptable criteria and have been with us for a long time. Few men take pride in them, but rather take them for granted . . . standard equipment. What puts man in the luxury class among all forms of life is his unique capacity for thought, and his possession of free will. He can do as he likes; he can go it alone. By his own choice, he can know the mystery of loneliness and solitary rebellion. Indeed, the very capacity to be rebellious or miserable is the property of man alone. For who ever hears of a miserable rose or a rebellious kangaroo? (Kingsley Mortimer, "An Anatomists Testimony," Why I Am Still a Christian, E. M. Blaiklock, editor, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, pp. 138,139).

From the Bible, as well as from observing both man and animals, it can be seen that there is a vast difference between the two. Francis Schaeffer comments:

Secular history can tell us much about our past as a human race, and therefore our own place in it. But no matter how much writing we turn up and translate, no matter how many excavations we make and how many artifacts we study, secular history has not unearthed a clue to help explain the final why of what we find.

All the way back to the dawn of our studies we find man still being man. Wherever we turn - to the caves in the Pyrenees, to the Sumerians, and further back to the Neanderthaler man burying his dead with flower petals - it makes no difference: Everywhere men show by their art and their acts that they observed themselves to be unique. And they are unique, unique as men in the midst of non-men (Francis Schaeffer, Genesis in Space and Time, Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1972, pp. 158,159).

Man - Made In Gods Image

The Bible says man has been made in the image and likeness of God. Man was the climax of Gods creation, having been created on the sixth day. Though last in order he is first in importance:

So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them (Genesis 1:27).

In the day that God created man. He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind in the day they were created (Genesis 5:1,2).

What does it mean that man was created in Gods image? To say that man was made in the image of God means that God and man have many things in common. When God created man He gave him such things as personality, choice, emotions, morality, and creativity.


Both man and God have personality, that is to say, they can both think and communicate as rational beings. They each have personal identity that is separate from other rational beings and from non-living things. Man and God also have the ability to communicate to other rational beings:

And have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him (Colossians 3:10).


A second common trait between man and God is choice. Both God and man are beings who have the ability to choose, though God does not have the ability to choose evil. Neither God nor man is programmed or forced to make any choices. This freedom was given to man by God and man is responsible for the choices he makes.

Both man and God have emotions. For example, each can give love and receive love. God, as well as man, can be angry. Both man and God have the capacity to feel and express emotions.

Man and God both have a moral sense of right and wrong. Each knows and understands the difference between good and evil. The Bible says:

And that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in righteousness and true holiness (Ephesians 4:24).

Another attribute that God and man have in common is creativity. The Bible says God created the universe and everything within it. Man also is a creative being, having been given this ability by God.


Man is different from the animals. Both biblical and scientific evidence demonstrate this. Man alone has the capacity to know and worship God because he has been made in Gods image after Gods likeness.
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