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 Vol. 4, No. 7 

July, 2002

Associate Editorial

~ Page 3 ~

I Am Not a Toaster!

By Steven P. Smithbauer

Image Those who know me best know that I love science fiction. I was a Star Trek fan long before I ever heard the word "Trekkie." I suppose I enjoy reading and watching science fiction because it is highly imaginative and stimulating, not that I agree with every conclusion the characters in a science fiction story reach. I remember a particular Star Trek episode in which an android (or artificial life form, appropriately named "Data"), was called upon to prove he was a sentient being, or else be returned to a lab for study against his wishes. Yes, the plot was far fetched, but one memorable line in the episode was uttered by one in supposed authority, an Admiral, wanting the mechanical man to be returned for examination. She said, "Data is a toaster. Have it report to me." With that, the ranking officer ordered the crew and captain of the Enterprise to send their android friend back to Starfleet because he was really nothing more than a machine and had no real rights as an individual.

It occurs to me, that many in our society today are saying essentially the same thing about human beings. To the organic evolutionist, we are merely the product of chance -- the result of millions or billions of years of mindless evolution. (This is the theory that espouses what some call the "particles to people" or "goo to you" concept!) According to this model of origins, we came, supposedly, from less complex forms and the entire human race is just a rung or two above the apes on the evolutionary "ladder."

When confronted with the obvious difference in intelligence and sentience, the evolutionist simply shrugs and states that the thought processes of animals are not that dissimilar to the thought processes of humans. In fact, humanists believe that the makeup of humanity is purely physical. Even our thoughts, dreams and desires are merely the firing of neural synapses, electrical impulses and chemical reactions within the brain. In other words, YOU ARE A TOASTER! All you are is a machine, a biological one to be sure, but a machine nonetheless. Is this true? If so, what are the ramifications?

Well, it is true that at least part of man's nature is physical. Genesis 2:7 states, "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground." The bodies we have are not the product of chance, however, they are marvelously designed to function in this world. David said, "I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well" (Psalm 139:14). Medical science has just begun to map the human body and all of its myriad parts and systems, and is only now beginning to comprehend its complexity and design. A machine? Well, speaking from a strictly physical standpoint, yes -- but what a marvelous machine! Where we must part ways with the evolutionist though, is when it is stated that man is only a machine.

While it is true that the Lord "formed man of the dust of the ground," it is also true that he "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (Genesis 2:7b). There is within every man something eternal -- something beyond the physical. And, man is also made after God's image. That is, man is like God in some way. It can be argued that even the animals have spirits or a life force. Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3:21 stated, "Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth." But, there is still a difference. Men and animals can be said to possess a soul or nephesh in the Hebrew language. That is simply a life force that leaves when the body dies. But, it was never stated in the Scriptures that the animals were made in the image of God. This is applied only to man. In 1 Corinthians 15:39, Paul writes, "All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds." Stuart Walker wrote in the Journal of Biblical Ethics in Medicine:

Genesis 1:26-30 and 2:7, 21-25 clearly states that man was a special creation with no phylogenetic relationship to any other creature. Thus, there is a phylogenetic discontinuity between man and animals -- we are not physically related.

This statement is in line with the biblical narrative. When Adam was given the task of naming the animals, among them there was not found one that was his equal, or that could be considered a suitable companion, ("help-meet"). For that, Adam needed Eve. Only a human female could complete him and deliver him from the isolation he felt among all of God's creatures (Genesis 2:18). Man, rather than being related to the animals, is indeed peculiar among the creatures of the earth.

At least part of the way man is made in God's image is that he has within him something that will survive the death of his body. He has a soul or spirit that is immortal. (See Matthew 10:28.) He also has a conscience and a sense of morality that is unique to him and not found among those of the animal kingdom. Consider our own human brains again for a moment. (Do you realize that only human beings can do that? Consider our brains, that is!) The brain is a marvelous piece of engineering that our modern computers can only imitate. Dr. W.S. McCullough, a renowned computer scientist, said in comparison to the human brain: "...actually, computers are clumsy, stupid beasts... They haven't the brains of a retarded ant."

And yet, marvelous as it is, the brain of man is not the mind of man. There is a part of man that is beyond the physical and defies explanation. To borrow Dr. Bert Thompson's illustration: "...the mind is to the brain like a librarian is to a library. The mind inhabits the brain, uses the brain, just as a librarian inhabits and uses a library, but the mind is no more the brain than the librarian  the library." Simply stated, there is more to the mind of man than the mere physical processes of the brain. It is commonly believed that when the measurable brain functions are "flat-lined" on an electro-encephalogram (EEG) screen, a patient is "brain-dead" and all hope is gone. Yet, although it's a rarity, people have been "brought back" from such a condition with their memories intact. What does that tell us about the nature of the mind of man?

So, what if all we have said here is not true, or even perceived not to be true? What if, after all, we are only "toasters" -- highly evolved biological machines or animals with no morality and ultimately answerable to no one? Well, then we might see more drug abuse, rape, murder, drive-by and in school shootings, abortions, homosexuality, and the list goes on and on. It seems that only Christians are seeing the pattern here, but as the late David Lipscomb reportedly said, "If you convince a man he came from a monkey, it won't be long until he begins to act like one." It is certainly past the time that we need to remember where we came from, who it is that made us and what we are destined to achieve, namely, eternal life. I, for one, am not a toaster!

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