Humans and chimps
On a Thursday afternoon at the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, Michigan something rather unexpected happened while observing the chimpanzees. It is not unexpected to find the promotion of evolutionary ideas that contradict Scripture at a zoo. Christians are used to being confronted with the reality that in public places they will find the assumption that the world is billions of years old and that human beings evolved from animals. So, to read plaques at a zoo that make such claims is unsurprising. But on this Thursday afternoon, while observing the chimpanzees, my family encountered a member of the zoo’s educational staff who was eager to share “facts” with us about the chimpanzees. He helpfully explained some of their habits and how the zoo cares for their needs. Then he asked the question that raised my suspicion, “How similar do you think chimpanzees are to humans?” “Guess,” he said, “give me a percentage.” He asked my unsuspecting children to throw out numbers, and some of the younger ones obliged (amusingly, our five-year old’s guess was over 100%).
Before the zoo’s employee answered his own question, I knew what was coming. In 2014 my family visited the Creation Museum in Kentucky, where the information about the origin of humans and animals is biblical and more scientifically accurate than what one commonly finds in zoos and museums. During this visit I sat through a lecture by Dr. Georgia Purdom that dealt in part with popular (scientific?) claims about the similarity between human beings and chimpanzees (for me this was the highlight of the museum visit). She referenced Jane Goodall as the one who has popularized the idea that 98% of chimpanzee DNA is similar to human DNA. A search of Goodall’s website (janegoodall.ca) reveals that she continues to make this claim. On a page that shares “10 things you probably didn’t know about chimpanzees,” the number one heading is that they are “So like us.” Under this heading it is claimed, “Chimpanzees are our closest living non-human relatives. We share 98% of our DNA. As many experts say, we are 98% chimpanzee and chimpanzees are 98% human. This shared genetic make-up reveals itself in physiological and behavioral traits that give us an incredible look into human evolutionary history.”
Sure enough, the zoo employee shared the popular belief that chimpanzees and humans are similar and told us that there is only a 2% difference between us. Then, addressing mainly my young, impressionable children, he stated, “We are primates.” Well, that was enough for my wife and me. We moved our children along and explained to them that human beings are not primates! The relationship between us and animals is that both are creatures of God. But human beings were uniquely created by God and are much different from chimpanzees.
I decided not to confront the zoo employee at that time. I thought about asking him how offended he would be if I walked around the zoo proclaiming the Bible’s teaching about how God created animals and human beings. It struck me that in this age in which we live it is not permissible publicly to proclaim that God is the almighty Creator of all things in heaven and on earth, but it is permissible to stand in a public place and tell people to their faces that they are basically animals. So accepted is the lie that human beings are animals that this young man made this claim in such a matter-of-fact manner that I am certain he would have been shocked that anyone would disagree or be offended by it.
It has been demonstrated, scientifically, that the claim that human and chimp DNA are 98% similar is false. Dr. Purdom demonstrated this in the lecture I heard. She explained that the research the claim was based on is flawed and deceptive. Basically, she explained that researchers cherry-picked the DNA sequences that they had reason to believe would be similar to human DNA, ignoring the sequences that would have been dissimilar to human DNA. and then published their findings. I have not been able to find a transcript of that lecture. But there are other articles available on answersingensis.org explaining that studies show there is a greater difference between the DNA of humans and chimps than is popularly claimed. One article explains on the basis of honest research that “genome-wide, only 70% of the chimpanzee DNA was similar to human under the most optimal sequence-slice conditions” (emphasis added). This means that “overall there is extreme DNA sequence discontinuity between the two [human and chimp] genomes.” Scientific data does not support the “standard evolutionary time-scales and dogmatic presuppositions about a common ancestor.” Science does not support the idea that humans are primates.
Not that we need science to tell us that humans are different from (not familial relatives of) chimpanzees, since we have the testimony of Scripture. God created the first primate. When we observe the chimpanzees and other marvelous animals at the zoo, we do well to think about the wisdom and power of their Creator. He also specially created the first human, Adam. We are descended from him and his wife Eve. Originally created in the image of God, elect human beings are now renewed in His image, through the wonder-work of His only begotten Son becoming a man to serve as our Mediator, something no primate could do.
Did I miss an opportunity by not speaking to the young man that Thursday afternoon? Should I send a letter to the zoo? Should I go back, having had time to think things over, and seek out the young man to testify to him about the truth? I am not sure what the right answer is to these questions, but I know that these are things that I need to pray about, as I also pray that God will grant that my children, along with all the church’s children, will be firmly established in the truth in these last days when the lie is so prevalent.
The Bible versus the Qur’an
Catechism students ask important questions. One of the most common questions I have been asked when discussing the doctrine of Scripture is, How do we know that the Bible is true and that the writings or books that other religions hold sacred are false? How can we know that the Bible is the Word of God? How do we know that the Book of Mormon is not? How do we know that the Qur’an is not? It is because of such questions that an article entitled “Differences Between the Qur’an and the Bible: An Introduction” by Eric Davis (so far the series consists of five articles) caught my attention. This article (and the rest of the series) provides an opportunity for us and our young people to think about and appreciate what a uniquely blessed people we are to have the true Word of God while so many others are deluded by lies.
Our conviction that the Bible is the Word of God is not based on empirical evidence or irrefutable logical arguments. As the Belgic Confession explains in Article 5, “We receive all these books [the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments], and these only, as holy and canonical…because…the Holy Ghost witnesseth in our hearts that they are from God, whereof they carry evidence in themselves.” The last phrase is of primary importance. God determines what is His Word. The Bible is the Word of God because God says so. Over against those who reject this as sufficient reason to accept the Bible as the Word of God, the Christian church believes that it is only right that a book written by God would include the self-testimony that it is His Word. So, the ground for believing that the Bible is God’s Word is not scientific evidence or impeccable human reasoning, but the testimony of God Himself.
At the same time, the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts is indispensable. Sinful man will not receive the testimony of God that the Bible is God’s Word. The rejection of the Bible by man is not because there is insufficient reason to believe that the Bible is God’s Word. God’s testimony is better than any other testimony. God’s testimony is the best reason for man to receive the Bible as His Word—and the reason why it is damnably inexcusable for man to reject the Bible. Man refuses to acknowledge the Bible as the Word of God because he is morally corrupt. He hates God and His Word. The only remedy is for man to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit so that he will be able to know and believe the Bible is the Word of God. Without the testimony of the Spirit in a man’s heart, he will not believe the Bible is the Word of God no matter how much scientific research is done to support the claims of the Bible. The believer both hears and believes God’s testimony that the Bible is His Word because of the faith worked in his heart by the Spirit of God.
Because the believer receives the twofold testimony of the Bible and of the Holy Spirit, it is unnecessary for the believer to do a study of the Bible over against the “sacred” writings of other religions or cults to conclude that the Bible is true and the other writings are false. However, there is still some profit in comparing the Bible to the writings of other religions. While such a comparison is not necessary to convince believers, it can help increase our appreciation for the Bible and our conviction that it is indeed the very Word of God. In addition, it can serve to prepare us to witness intelligently to Muslims, if God should provide us with such an opportunity.
Davis’s first article compares the origins of the Bible and Qur’an. I leave it to those who are interested to read the article rather than summarize the points that Davis makes. His concluding analysis demonstrates
what we would expect to be true, that the Bible is full of evidences that are consistent with its claim to be of divine origin, which evidences are entirely lacking in the Qur’an. He writes,
The 66 books of the Bible were inspired by the Spirit of God through about 40 different authors from differing times and cultures over a time span of about 1500 years. The Qur’an came through one man, Muhammad, over about 20 years.
The most significant biblical events—the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ—were recorded by four separate witnesses. Following his resurrection, Christ was seen by over 500 individuals. These central events to the Christian faith were historical in that they occurred and were observed by many. Today, we have this inerrant, God-breathed text called the Bible.
Again, this is not the reason that we receive the Bible and reject the Qur’an. But it does confirm for us that the Bible’s claim to be God’s Word is true and that the Qur’an is simply the work of a fallible human being.