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Dr. Randall Isaac, Ph.D.
Executive Director Emeritus
American Scientific Affiliation
Thoughts on Human Origins
The basic foundation for integrating science and Christian faith is the two-book model of God’s revelation. One is the book of God’s Word, which in the Christian tradition is the Bible, and the other is the book of God’s works, which is the entire universe. The source of both books is God the Creator. The Christian view is that Jesus Christ is the incarnate Son of God, the common link between the two books. The purpose of creation is for the incarnation of Christ to redeem humankind so we can glorify God forever.
From a scientific perspective, we see evolution of the universe from its big bang origins to the appearance of galaxies and second-generation stars with planets like earth that spawn living species. Science can tell us what happened but not why. From the faith perspective we see a Creator who sustains all things at all times and caused this grand universe to develop in such a way as to lead to human beings. These two views are linked through Christ who created the process which we observe as our origins.
Reflections on The Age of Humans (the Anthropocene)
“What Are Human Beings That You Are Mindful of Them?” Psalm 8:4
The effort to formally designate our current age as the Anthropocene Epoch can be seen either as a paean to humanity or as an expression of self-exaltation. The latter view considers each extant species to be a successful culmination of billions of years of evolution with no species having superiority. The former view sees our species as a distinctive species worthy of praise for its accomplishments.
The psalmist looks at the grandeur of the heavens, marvels at the moon and the stars, and exclaims how remarkable it is that God would be mindful of human beings; by comparison, they are hardly worthy of note. Yet the psalmist continues with amazement that God “… made [human beings] a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet …” (Ps. 8:5–6).
The biblical perspective resonates with the scientific Anthropocene Epoch designation in at least two ways. First of all, humans are related to living creatures and, like them, were made from the ground. The creation account of Genesis chapter one emphasizes that all plants, fish, and animals emanated from the land and sea. “God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth vegetation …’” (Gen. 1:11), “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures …” (Gen. 1:20), and “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind …” (Gen. 1:24). Similarly, the creation account in Genesis chapter two states that “… the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground …” (Gen. 2:7) and “… out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air …” (Gen. 2:19). The kinship between humankind and animals is also indicated by the prospect that among the animals, there might be found a suitable helper as a partner for Adam, although each one falls short (Gen. 2:20). The scientific understanding of the evolutionary process fills in the details and, like the biblical account, documents the same origin for humans as for animals. The adaptive development of life on Earth led to a human species highly tuned for survival on Earth.
Secondly, both the biblical and scientific accounts speak of the uniqueness of humans. God specifically gives humans the attribute of having the image of God (Gen. 1:27). Adam is given the responsibility of naming the animals when assessing them for suitability as a partner (Gen. 2:19–20). This implies a namer/named relationship in which humans have the ability to study and discern the characteristics of the animals. God also explicitly commands humans to have dominion over all creation, expressing both a responsibility and an ability to care for all other species and their environment (Gen. 1:26). Our scientific recognition that humans have a global impact, whether for good or for bad, shows how we cannot escape this responsibility. The designation of an epoch reflecting our impact on the earth is a powerful reminder that we are responsible for sustaining all life on Earth. May we all do our part to nurture and care for our world.
All Scripture references from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.