Does it ever bother you that, as non-scientists, we are deemed too ignorant to disagree with scientists? Well it does me. Some scientists, it seems, can easily shift into philosophical musings launched from their observations and their subsequent suppositions. They don’t seem to allow us “mere mortals” the same freedom. Well, it may be poorly stated on my part, but I reserve the right to shift to the philosophical from just plain observation. Admittedly, my thinking is colored by my faith, but I don’t think that’s much different from the faith required to believe the stuff some scientists do.
I am presently listening to a book called The Botany of Desire on my two and a half hour drives between Abilene, my home, and Lubbock, where I teach. In his preface the author, Michael Pollan, considers life the result of a series of propitious accidents modified by natural selection. The thesis of the book is that plants have been in control of humans as much as humans have been in control of plants. I have only listened to one section, but for a plant lover such as me, it is fascinating listening. I just mentally weed out the nonsense. Talk to me later to see if I would recommend it for others who have an interest in popular botany. But it set me to thinking about humans as much as plants.
Humans, we are told by Darwinians also arose from that same primordial accident and subsequent beneficial mutations. They like to remind us that our nearest animal relatives, the chimpanzees, differ from us by only a tiny amount of DNA (we share 98%!). Be that as it may, the more obvious differences are so vast as to render the words, “amazing,” and “awesome” as terrific understatements.
As a human, I was driving an air-conditioned automobile fueled by highly refined petroleum at a high speed (legally…really!) passing and being passed by equally amazing machines. I was driving down a smooth highway toward my dwelling built out of timber and brick over 50 years ago by highly skilled craftsmen. I was (and am) wearing clothing consisting of amazing blends of wool, cotton and synthetic materials woven or knitted into cloth and skillfully transformed into shirt, trousers, socks, etc. I was listening to this book wirelessly downloaded from some distant source to my computer and thence to my little digital listening device. As I listened, I contemplated my own existence and thought of the past, present and future. When I got home, I retrieved my laptop from its carrying case, plugged it in and connected it to the internet to check my email (there were no messages from apes as we usually think of them). I thought about art, spoken and written languages, agriculture, spirituality, and the sciences. Does any other animal even come remotely close?
My next thought was of my chimp “relatives,” at home in some jungle or zoo, whose tools are rocks to break open things to eat and sticks to collect delicious termites as a special treat. Their communication consists of gestures, howls and screeches. Do they contemplate their own existence? Do they have plans for the future? Do they ever think of the past? Do they ever write articles no one reads? What a huge, yawning gap! (Does that mean that humans never act like chimps? No, just check out the Bonobos (Pan paniscus) whose sexual behavior bears a remarkable resemblance to some humans).
Even though we frequently don’t behave like it, everything about humans screams “special creation.” I know, I know…I’m not a scientist. But, I can observe and then I can study, and then I can think and draw my own conclusions. William H. Calvin, of the University of Washington, has done so on his website (that’s where I got the picture) in which he maintains that the great apes (they are not monkeys) are “almost us.” Really? OK, I see some similarities but…almost us? Bill, say it ain’t so! In that immense chasm of difference, the link is…well…it’s missing.