The Psychological Uniqueness of Man: A Rebuttal to Darwinism

by W. Blythe Robinson, Ph. D., Psy. D.

Dr. Robinson has been a good friend of Bill for many years. Dr. Robinson founded and directed a nationally accredited outpatient mental health clinic in two states based on Christian concepts. He is currently serving as a missionary traveling to many dangerous foreign lands to share the Gospel. The following are excerpts from a more extensive article by the same title, which is posted on our web site at billrudge.org under the Apologetics section. It was a “Paper” presented at the “International Conference on Darwinsim” in Ukraine.

Introduction

Charles Darwin’s 1859 “Origin of the Species” is based on four major philosophical presuppositions. The first is that materialism is the rock on which Evolution is founded. The second is that matter alone has the inherent ability to produce life. The third is the theory of random probability in which matter, plus time, equals biological evolution. The fourth is that Empiricism, or knowledge through the five senses alone, is the only scientific source of information. These presuppositions may also be viewed as Darwin’s “faith statements.”

Darwin’s theory of macro-Evolution proposed to prove the following: 1. Matter at some point became living matter. 2. Biological evolution differentiated and by transmutation evolved into different species. 3. This evolutionary process was both successive and progressive. 4. Animals are the highest life form and man is the highest form of animal life. In simplest terms Darwinism is essentially a theory of physical existence.

In 1871, 12 years later, Darwin published the “Descent of Man.” By this time he realized that his biological theory was in trouble. Because he clung tenaciously to materialism, he had to devise an explanation for the non-materialistic aspects of man. This missing link required him to devise psychological theories to bridge the gap. Consistency forced him to theorize that psychological functions are only manifest qualities of brain matter.  His presupposition of Empiricism would not allow him to acknowledge the existence of an intangible “mind” or “self,” especially a “soul” that had a distinct or eternal existence. Darwin rejected these entities as unscientific, philosophical, or religious. Consequently he denied the duality of man.

To counter Darwinism, a thesis will only be introduced but not completed because of space restrictions. The thesis is that “the psychological uniqueness of man constitutes a major rebuttal to Darwinism.” The full force of the completed argument would be seen in the variety, quantity and quality of man’s psychological distinctiveness. This uniqueness constitutes a “radical disconnect” and undermines Darwin’s critical theory that man is only an advanced animal, part of a continuous, unbroken chain of evolution. Only a few brief issues can be presented here. Hopefully this will motivate the reader to explore this argument further by consulting others such as Lee Stroble1, who provides excellent material for serious consideration in a popular format as well as additional research sources.

When this proposition is sustained, then its implications become decisive. Logic would argue that if Darwin’s conclusions about man can be disproven, then it becomes unnecessary to disprove all of the arguments behind those conclusions. This of course presupposes that logic, which is immaterial, would be acceptable to the reader. Stroble reports that “In Darwin’s notebooks he said if there was anything his theory can’t explain, then there would have to be another explanation –– a creationist explanation”2.

Instincts and Natural Selection

In his theory of instincts Darwin argues that “natural selection” must be the major component of the progression of life forms because it preserves the incremental variations of value. This is a necessary link in the chain of evolution. It laid the foundation for arguing that Instincts lead to Intelligence.  However even Evolutionist James Angell of the University of Chicago scoffed at this argument saying “that in not a few instincts this is an impossible assumption”3 [emphasis mine]. He called attention to the implausibility of the underlying assumption by pointing out that the whole value of the instinct depended on the appropriate execution of each step in a long series of acts, each one of which alone, and any group of which apart from the others, is useless. Natural selection could only furnish an adequate explanation provided the whole series of complex acts sprang into existence simultaneously. To suppose that this occurs is to assume the miraculous.4 [emphasis mine]

This comment could be applied to many of Darwin’s psychological assumptions and theories.

The Brain and Sensation

Man’s Brain has a Mind or “Self.” It has a conscious, continuous identity and function that distinguish it from the Brain. Darwin argues that the mind is merely the awareness of brain impulses or sensations arriving through the five senses. It is a biological machine governed by pre-existing laws. Thus the idea of a “mind” or independent “self” is considered an illusion, a metaphor, or a religious myth.

Human reason and experience overthrow this argument. If Darwin’s theory were true, man would be a helpless victim of competing sensations. Instead there is a “self,” an intangible person who is present and active. As “persons” we decide which of the competing impulses to ignore. We separate them into highly cognitive categories such as space, time, and priority. We divide them between those which require thought and/or those which require action. Sensations do not operate as individual, separate, sequential messages, but can flood the mind collectively and simultaneously. The “Self” is a decider. It can stop a train of thought and initiate a new thought unrelated to any previous impulse. The Brain has a “Person” in charge.

Man and Animals

Darwin tried desperately to keep linked the mind of animals and man. He was threatened by any radical distinction between the two. This effort drove him to extreme positions. Here is just one example. He argued that animals, like man, made tools and cited chimpanzees’ use of stones to open nuts and elephants’ use of branches to swat flies as examples. A simple rebuttal is that only man’s mind can fashion utensils, create machine, form concepts, demonstrate abstract reasoning and build fires, etc. Animals fear fire in a manner that man does not. It is man’s tool of service.

Darwin’s attempt at sophistry collapses under the weight of the massive elephant’s Brain in two respects. First, since Brain mass is the basis of Intelligence, then the elephant should be vastly superior to man intellectually. Comparatively, elephants should have gotten to the moon ahead of us. Second, evolution’s creation of the elephant is a frustrated mistake because the elephant wasn’t “created” with the dexterity to fully utilize its massive brain size.

Consider man’s memory ability compared to animals. We can’t conceive of Chimpanzees performing on stage the memory feats of man as in “The Merchant of Venice”, “Romeo and Juliet,” or “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” No animal can act as prompter to the actors of a grand opera. The memory feats of man mark him as far above animals as the moon is above the earth. The man who cannot sing may be able to write an entire philharmonic concert. Man not animals, have the power to render musical expression by some instrument of mechanical construction. These things demonstrate that the creative genius of man disconnects him from animals.

The Language Issue

Language demonstrates Intelligence. Because about 98% of human and chimpanzees DNA are reportedly identical, they are considered the closest animal to man. However Man’s use of language is a major argument for the radical disconnect between them. Evolutionists argue that chimpanzees can use language just as man does by training them to use “sign language.” From this evolutionists conclude that animals attach meaning to symbols and can string them together in meaningful patterns just as man does. Consider issues that are ignored regarding these studies, which support the radical disconnect. 1. It is unnatural. No explorer ever encountered undiscovered chimpanzees communicating with sign language. 2. It requires human intelligence. Training is often done with chimpanzees raised by humans in a human environment. Sign language originated in the mind of man, not animals. Only man could conceive the symbols and attach the meanings to them. 3. It is restricted to instinctual needs and rewards focus on biological issues such as food, not abstract thought. 4. It is based on imitation, not initiation. Chimpanzees must first watch humans sign and then attempt to imitate it. 5. It is difficult to learn. Pavlov’s techniques require hundreds of trials of repeated conditioning and shaping of behavior. 6. It is non-transferable. A trained chimpanzee cannot be taken to a zoo and conduct sign language classes for other chimpanzees, who pass it on to others. 7. It is temporary because it extinguishes easily. Chimpanzees require repeated rewards of various kinds. Sign language ceases with separation from humans or restriction to other chimpanzees. 8. It has limited use. Chimpanzees’ memory capacity for symbols is seriously limited. Also, if they sign to an untrained chimpanzee or other animals, their signs are meaningless. 9. It is a restricted language. Their concepts of sign language are shallow, simple, concrete, specific and tied to specific word order. Chimpanzees cannot conceive of grammar nor generate alternative ways of signing the same sentence. Columbia University Psychologist, Dr. Herbert S. Terrace5 has demonstrated these and other significant “radical disconnects” between animal and human minds. Researcher Eric Lenneberg6 has demonstrated that there are certain unique universal aspects of human language alone, such as transformational grammar, and that all human cultures use language structures that function as nouns and verbs. 10. Humans, not animals, are the only known beings in the universe to possess and rely upon written language. Collectively these facts constitute a radical disconnect between the mind of man and his alleged relative.

The Soul of Man

In general Dualism argues that there is a real person (soul) in the human body. This non-materialistic being has many various terms. The author, a former Psychologist, prefers the term “soul” because the word “psychology” means “the study of the soul.” There are evidences for the existence of a “soul” that should be considered; however only a few can be presented here.

Dr. Wilder Penfield7, a neurosurgeon from McGill University in Montreal, amazed the world in 1951. He had examined the brains of thousands of epileptic patients. Using an electric probe he stimulated different parts of the human brain to determine which parts of the brain controlled specific human functions. He stimulated the precise part of the brain that controls hand movement. The arm moved. The patient replied, “I didn’t do that.” He then instructed the patient to stop the stimulated arm with the other arm. The patient did. He thus demonstrated that there was an independent “self” or person inside the mind that could choose to oppose the directions of the human brain. Penfield came “to believe, that the consciousness of man, the mind, is something not to be reduced to brain mechanisms”8.

This “soul,” or self, can alter brain chemistry through thoughts. If we choose to think scary thoughts, the brain’s neurotransmitters respond by sending a chemical message to the adrenal glands for flight or fight responses. University of Pittsburgh researchers used this ability of the “soul” to develop “Cognitive Therapy.” They tested the biological versus psychological treatment of depression. They randomly selected patients to be put into two different groups. One group was taught how to change their thoughts. The other group was only given an antidepressant. In the psychological group 15 out of 19 recovered completely. In the medical group only 5 out of 25 recovered completely.9 Medical researcher Sam Parnia, M.D., Ph.D., from Southhampton, England, wrote an article entitled, “Near Death Experiences in Cardiac Arrest and the Mystery of Consciousness.” After extensive research he wrote, “The occurrence of NDE and out of body experiences in cardiac arrest would support the view that mind, ‘consciousness’ or the ‘soul’ is a separate entity from the brain”.10 He noted that about 10% of NDE patients “included an ability to ‘see’ and recall specific detailed descriptions of the resuscitation as verified by resuscitation staff.” They presented “lucid, well-structured thought processes with reasoning and memory formation”.11 This supports the soul’s surviving death.

Conclusion

Evolution is rich in promise, bankrupt in accomplishments. It begins with a perhaps, proceeds with a maybe, and ends with a theory. It confuses assertion with proof, similarity with identity, description with explanation, sometimes with always, possibility with probability, something from nothing and life from non-life. It substitutes the desire for eternal life with eternal death. Its psychological gift to Humanity is depressive Nihilism resulting from loss of meaning. Only Man conceives of God and seeks to worship Him. Freud12 applied Evolution to the concept of God based on a study of pagan religions founded on the vain speculations of men. He never considered the historical and empirical evidences of Christianity as a “revealed religion” in which God came to man in human form giving the world such overwhelming empirical evidence of Himself that the world could ask for no more. He alone will determine the soul’s eternal fate.

Works Cited

1. Stroble, Lee. The Case for a Creator. Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 2004.
2. Ibid, p.269.
3. Angell, James Rowland. “The Influence of Darwin on Psychology.” Psychological Review 16 (1909): 155.  <http://www.brocku.ca/MeadProject/Angell/Angell/ 1909.html>
4. Ibid, p. 155.
5. Terrace, Herbert S. “How Nim Chimpski Changed My Mind.” Psychology Today 13 (1979):  65-76.
Terrace, H.S. Nim. New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1980.
6. Lenneberg, E.H. Biological Foundations of Language. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1967.
7. Penfield, Wilder. The Mystery of the Mind.  Princeton:  Princeton University Press, 1975.
8. Restak, Richard M., MD. The Brain. Toronto:  Bantam Books, 1984, p.349.
9. Burns, David, MD. Feeling Good: the New Mood Therapy. New York:  Penguin Books, 1980, p.14.
10. Parnia, Sam. “Near Death Experiences in Cardiac Arrest and the Mystery of Consciousness.”  <http://www.scimednet.org/library/articlesN75+/N76Parnia_nde. htm> (accessed June 29, 2009).
11. Parnia, Sam. “Near Death Experiences in Cardiac Arrest: Visions of a Dying Brain or Visions of a New Science of Consciousness.” Resuscitation 52:1, January 2002, p.10.  <http://horizonresearch.org/resusrv.pdf> (accessed July 11, 2009).
12. Freud, Sigmund. Moses and Monotheism. London:  Hogarth Press, 1964 (1939).
---. Totem and Taboo. London:  Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1950 (1913).
---. The Future of an Illusion. Garden City, NY:  Doubleday, 1927.