Were Humans Specially Created, or Did They Evolve from a Hominid?

Were Humans Specially Created, or Did They Evolve from a Hominid?

Some of the most frequent questions I get asked on Twitter are about human origins. Here is an example of a question and my answer in slightly more than 140 characters.

Q: I was taught humans and Neanderthals evolved from a common ancestor. You say humans were created. What evidence shows my teachers are wrong?

A: Where your teachers and professors are correct is that humans, Neanderthals, Homo erectus, and several other bipedal primate species share a lot in common. They are all primates, and they all walk on two legs. Like chimpanzees today, they all used tools and formed social groups. These common features, plus the similarity of Neanderthal DNA to human DNA (the DNA portions that geneticists have compared so far are about 99 percent identical), explains why the vast majority of anthropologists believe that the human race is the product of evolution from a common ancestor with Neanderthals. Keep in mind, however, that within the anthropological research community there is tremendous pressure to conform to naturalistic interpretations of life’s history.

A few of the many scientific reasons why we at Reasons to Believe are persuaded that humans are the result of special creation by God (as opposed to common descent with Neanderthals from a hominid ancestor through some evolutionary process) are as follows:

  1. Only humans of all animals, both living and extinct, possess capabilities for symbolic thought and symbolic communication. In a fairly recent paper, three brain science researchers wrote, “There is a significant discontinuity in the degree to which human and nonhuman animals are able to approximate the higher-order, systematic, relational capabilities of a physical symbol system.”1 For example, only humans have developed and used letters and numbers to produce books and algebraic expressions that potentially can be read by all members of its species. Only humans can understand and respond to stop, yield, and railway crossing signs. The three researchers concluded in their paper that “this symbolic-relational discontinuity pervades nearly every domain of cognition.”2
  2. Only humans of all animals manifest spiritual capabilities. While some nonhuman animals, like elephants, will bury their dead and mourn for days on end the loss of their social group member, only humans engage in philosophy, only humans worship a higher Being, only humans are concerned about establishing and living up to a moral standard, and only humans seek redemption.
  3. The intellectual capability and brain structure of ravens, crows, and jays are much more similar to humans than they are for chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas.3
  4. The 1 percent observed difference between human and Neanderthal DNA is large enough as to leave no doubt that humans and Neanderthals are distinct species.
  5. A human can tame a member of any nonhuman bird or mammal species to do his or her bidding. It never happens the other way around.
  6. Only humans of all animals demonstrate technological capability and the capacity for technological advancement. The earliest humans used tools far more sophisticated than those developed by the hominids that preceded them. Simple spears and rocks were superseded by axes, sewing needles, serving bowls, and flour grinding implements. The development of tool and implement technology for humans is not static. It advances from generation to generation.
  7. Only humans of all animals possess language complexity that includes grammar, verb tenses, and vocabulary sizes reaching into the tens and hundreds of thousands of words.

From a biblical perspective there is a reason why we humans share so many features with the higher animals. Genesis and Job describe how God created nephesh (soulish) animals to relate to, serve, and please human beings. For relationships between these animals and humans to be possible and for these animals to serve and please humans, they must share many features in common with humans. The Bible not only teaches that humans are exceptional compared to all other nephesh life, it also teaches that all nephesh life is exceptional compared to all non-nephesh life.

These 700 words are barely the tip of the iceberg of scientific evidence establishing that humans arise from special creation rather than evolutionary common descent. I kept this short so that it would be easy to share. For those needing or desiring the full story, I recommend the latest edition of our book Who Was Adam?4

  1. Derek C. Penn, Keith J. Holyoak, and Daniel J. Povinelli, “Darwin’s Mistake: Explaining the Discontinuity between Human and Nonhuman Minds,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 31 (April 2008): 109–30, doi:10.1017/S0140525X08003543.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Johan J. Bolhuis and Clive D. L. Wynne, “Can Evolution Explain How Minds Work?,” Nature 458 (April 2009): 832–33, doi:10.1038/458832a.
  4. Fazale Rana with Hugh Ross, Who Was Adam? (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2015