Monkeys in the image of God


It would seem Creationists are much more comfortable with the idea that God specifically engaged in creating each and every Chromosome for the animals and plants of the world. But they are inclined to think there is a nice puff of smoke each time God did it. (< excuse me… I couldn’t resist conjuring up that bit of “woo woo”!).

Though I am more invested in Evolutionary history, I am just as adamantly certain as the Creationists that God specifically created each and every chromosome for the animals and plants of the world, but instead of an instant puff of smoke, we have millions of years to accomplish it (mostly via his engagement in the natural processes of Evolution).

So… what separates me from I.D.? I am just as convinced that Science is not able to prove God did all this designing… plus, I don’t really understand why it is necessary for Science to be able to do any such thing.

Of course, if I was opposed to the separation of Church from State, or less respected the accomplishment of the American Founding Fathers to wisely keep religion separate from our public discourse, I suppose there is always a chance I might have been sucked into the political hoopla that urges Creationists on with this flimsy notion.

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Thanks George for you comments. I appreciate your insights.

I agree with you that science cannot prove the intervention of God. Science relies on measurements and a miracle cannot be measured. I can think of three things that Science can do. It can disprove false religious concepts, such as a 6,000 year old earth. It can calculate the probability of a natural cause. It can validate or invalidate a sequence of events in a historical document such as the Bible.

Regarding the second case. If science can show that the probability of a natural cause is low, then this would leave open the possibility of a supernatural cause. Regarding primate evolution, there is a real problem at the beginning of primate and placental mammal evolution. DNA molecular scientists insist that placental mammals began to diverge in the Cretaceous due to the present variation of DNA among mammal orders. Paleontologists insist that there are no placental mammal fossils in the Cretaceous. Yet there are approximate nonplacental eutherian analogs to the placental mammals of the early Cenozoic. Based on my uneducated reading of journal papers, my understanding is that there are no good analogs (teeth) of primates in the Cretaceous. I suppose that someone could calculate the probability that several placental mammal orders are missing from the known Cretaceous fossil record.


Let me clarify the intention of my declarations in the postings above. I was not aiming to emphasize how unlikely primate evolution was or wasn’t. My aim was that the embrace of Christianity is rather somewhat like a bear hug. There’s not much room in Christian faith to think God just crossed his fingers and hoped humanity would eventually turn up… and that when it did, that it would turn up in the right way.

Using most any approach a serious Christian might take to the Bible, it doesn’t accommodate comfortably the idea that God is a “gambling man”! So even if all the estimates and guess of probability were evolution could easily create primates and the human branch coming off the primate trunk… I would still be compelled to accept that God was and is ultimately responsible for the appearance of humanity.

So when some researchers look at a scenario and point to what seems to be an inevitable result, I nod my head and think: “Precisely!”

And when some other researchers look at a different scenario and point to what seems to be a place where God’s assistance would be crucial, I nod my had and think: “I didn’t see that one coming!”

But it never occurs to me that I should somehow oppose the idea that God’s hand was not on the rudder during the whole course of primate evolution!

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We need to avoid trying to shoehorn the Bible into our modern sensibilities, that being said, I see it as a distinct possibility that Neanderthal’s and other early human species were in the Tselem Elohim.


I think it quite possible that God intervened with the evolution of man. I think though that it is more likely that this intervention was in regard to mental capacities vs the form of our body. That is, we’re "in the image of God because of our minds, not body form. However, this process began with a major change of our form, that being bipedaled vs walking on four legs. Walking on two legs opened up our world eventually facilitating a need to communicate which led to language.

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When you say mental capacities, are you speaking of a separate sort of spirit or soul that is endowed by God, somewhat separate from biological DNA? For example, Pope John Paul stated the following.

“However, the doctrine of faith invariably affirms that man’s spiritual soul is created directly by God. According to the hypothesis mentioned, it is possible that the human body, following the order impressed by the Creator on the energies of life, could have been gradually prepared in the forms of antecedent living beings. However, the human soul, on which man’s humanity definitively depends, cannot emerge from matter, since the soul is of a spiritual nature” (General Audience, April 16, 1986).

I am also open to that possibility. Neanderthal’s brains were certainly as large as homo sapiens. I think that this viewpoint would imply that the evolution of humans toward the image of God from primates was a gradual process.

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If Creationists are 100% comfortable with the idea that when God uses special creation to establish all the ranks of the living, he is instantly defining and designing 100% of each creature’s DNA. Its unavoidable, correct?

And yet Christian Evolutionists seem to react negatively to any suggestion that God would 100% define the genetic outcomes of each evolved population.

There isnt any logic to the distinctions…

I don’t know what the nature of the soul is, I also will not claim the knowledge of when/how we got our souls. I’m quite sure that God was involved though.

This is an interesting point. My guess is that God established a process and intervened in the process by which humans evolved from primates. If so, then God defined the genetic outcome at most at 99.4%, since that is the variation of human DNA (20 million base pairs difference).

I am curious, are you a determinist? Do you believe that God predetermined the outcome of every atom in the universe?

My understanding is that we carry genes from each of these human species in various human populations. Neanderthals in European and I think the other is in Asian populations. It seems like each had something that God wanted to keep and incorporate into the Homo sapiens group. Did He manipulate the populations to encourage interbreeding? The idea is fascinating to me. Reminds me of a book that I never got through, “Clan of the Cave Bear”. I should watch the movie some time!

I really like those thoughts. This would possibly explain why God chose to work through a long process of evolution rather than just plop a few humans on earth. Possibly, we were able to adapt to different climates and conditions, probably resist disease more readily, and who knows what else, because of our long process of evolution and the various gene pools from different parts of the earth.

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I read the whole series years ago, but never saw the movie. The books were a little graphic, as I recall, but had some good research behind them.

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Interesting unfolding of the discussion!

1) I embrace one Behe’s most interesting scenario (which I am told he considers only hypothetical): sometimes referred to as God’s Miraculous Pool Ball Shot, it presumes that either of 2 possibilities -

A) that except for those times when God engages in miraculous activity, the Universe rolls forward by means of God’s design being expressed via orderly natural laws (Option A suits some Christians of a Calvinist inclination);


B) God compensates for his own miracles and for the often times non-orderly nature of Free Will, by knowing exactly when and where to pick up the threads of the unfolding universe after each time Free Will might divert the course of his design, and resuming the lawful and natural engagement of God’s ongoing work.

Behe personal use of this scenario appears to be his way of having God design the Cosmos without having to use Special Creation as described in Genesis 1 and 2. The design was established by God at the very moment of Creation… and that it worked just as he describes right up to the time that humans with Free Will were created. Embedded in this approach is the idea that only Image-Bearing humans have Free Will in the way the Bible presents choice.

My personal modifications to this scenario are intended to make it easier to see how Free Will can be accommodated in the Miraculous Pool Shot, which naturally allows (if desired) for non-human creatures to have a measure of unpredictability that some humans want to call kindred to human free will.

While Behe’s scenario seems to bump up to Genesis 2 with some question marks, I am happy to plow right on through the whole historical timeline, right up to the present day and beyond.

I am not a Calvinist; and have come to embrace Free Will because of my listening to Daniel Dennett’s several videos on Free Will (aka: “It’s not what you think it is”). I find this tremendously ironic since Dennett, (also known as one of the Four Horsemen of New Atheism), presents these videos to convince people Real Free Will doesn’t exist!

But I came to the opposite conclusion, because it would take the work of God to make Free Will conceivable; we can discuss the “frailty” of this idea in some other thread, some other day.

Now let’s quote one of your statements @PeterWaller:

I’m not sure this is a very helpful way to put this. Creationists seem to be delighted with the prospect that God designed 100% of the chromosomes of ALL creatures. That would make sense, right? If you have a couple of days to create millions of species, or even just thousands of species that could evolve into millions, you better get “snappy” with carving out the Chromosomes, right?

Some critics complain that it is odd that God took millions of years to get some of his creatures exactly right. But I see this as a thoroughly Human Complaint. These same humans are perfectly happy to place God in the context of being Out of Time … where the whole Universe exists in a single Instant… but as soon as Evolution is mentioned… then all of a sudden we are slogging through the timeline, like God is a slave to the metronome!

Whether God used Special Creation, or millions of years of Evolution, it is ALL an instant for him.

So… if Creationists are happy with God designing all chromosomes everywhere… then I am equally content with God doing the same with evolution:

namely, God designed 100% of the non-human primate genes… and 100% of the human genes.

Thanks for sharing this. I wasn’t aware of it. I like A and B.

What do you think about this? God finely tuned the universe at the scales of particle physics and the entire universe to form an old universe, stars, planets, life, plants, and lower animals. However, planetary systems are not naturally habitable and life does not naturally evolve toward intelligence. Thus, God intervened and adjusted the process of solar system formation to make our solar system habitable, and God adjusted life at certain key points to make it intelligent. Then, the solar system and life were free to evolve again according to natural processes. Nevertheless, God still needed to make adjustments, such as the End Cretaceous Extinction that wiped out all the dinosaurs and opened the gates for primates and other placental mammals. I think that God is still active in human affairs and allows long periods of free will but might periodically need to engage in some End Cretaceous Extinctions.


You don’t need my “ok” on your speculations… but I am not really inclined along those lines. I am comfortable with a God who is making all the choices (except for Human free will), because they are the best choices available given the alternatives (which we humans don’t know anything about).

So… given my mindset, there is no “God needs to make adjustments”, or “God intervenes”. While I am sympathetic to the fine-tuning, and is something that we attach to per our faith, the logical inevitability that the creatures living closest to the margins are going to feel most certain there is a God does not escape my notice.

But as a Unitarian Universalist, I share one point with the Mormons. The Mormonism is also a form of Universalist faith (they just happen to believe in THREE levels of Heaven). I support the Chess Master analogy, where God can be compared to a Chess Master on exhibit, playing 100 players all at once, taking his turn and then moving on to the next board, around and around and around, until he has check-mated all opponents.

He does so without violating the other player’s free will … but who really thinks they can outsmart God?

Ancient Near Easterns had a very specific idea of what it meant to be made in the image of God. It wasn’t just that we looked like God or shared many common character traits with God, it was primarily about rulership.

For example in Egypt, the Pharaoh was considered the image of their chief God. He was seen as an avatar for God executing his rule on earth.

There could also be a statue of the god or king in an area away from where he lived and that was a reminder that his rule extended to that area even if he wasn’t physically present.

This is why the scripture says let US make man in OUR image, this isn’t some obscure anachronistic reference to the trinity but talking about God and his divine counsel (roughly what we usually call angels today), who are also God’s image bearers because they execute his rule in the Spiritual Realm.

This is also why immediately following that statement, they are given a mandate to take dominion over the earth.

So monkeys may have some character traits similar to God just like humans, and we may share a common ancestor biologically, but they were never entrusted with the task of ruling God’s creation which would make them not image bearers.

Do you think that “Let us make” could refer to a process? I realize most people on this blog do not think that Genesis 1 is meant to refer to actual history, but possibly you do. I view the other divine fiats, “Let there be light,… let there be an expanse,… let the earth bring forth vegetation,” as the command for natural processes to take place. I am not a Hebrew scholar, but my understanding is that the jussive verb in Hebrew, which the divine fiats use, normally is used as a giving of permission rather than a direct command, which to me could God commanding a natural process of evolution to take place. A similar use would be a king saying, “Let Ruth have success in her journey.” In this case, it was God who would begin and seemingly superintend the process. If God somehow created a monkey with hands, keen eyesight, and a placental mammal brain, then God might know that it would only be a matter of time before a human would evolve. This is also the only possible point in evolutionary history at which the fossil and DNA record would allow for a pair of male and female beings from which all humans evolved. There is a real gap in the paleontological story of mammal evolution at this one point. Scientists have no idea where placental mammals, let alone lower primates, came from. Let me just say that I don’t think that Adam and Eve were these monkeys.I may be wrong, I am just proposing this as something to think about.

I don’t think that is true.

Though the problem might be that you are getting mixed messages from them and that isn’t uncommon. So perhaps the truth is that SOME Mormons are universalists.

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it sounds ridiculous - because it is ridiculous.

if you buy into the whole evolution thing, then monkeys evolved from something else, which evolved from something else… which ultimately came from single cell organisms, and prior to that amino acids.

So presumably (according to your logic) all of these are created in the image of God

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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