About apes and men


   I have just seen an exhibition of the stages of evolution. As might be expected, it is suggested that apes are our ancestors, a hypothesis supported by the latest findings on the chimpanzee genome. The team which has deciphered the sequence of DNA units has shown that less than 4% of that genome signals the differences between this animal and a man, but it has said nothing about the reason for these differences and about how these show themselves in their respective behavior. I understand that this 4% may be the cause of morphological and physiological differences, but not of the great gap existing between both beings from the cultural and spiritual points of view. Rationality, freedom, and the ability to advance are manifestations of the human spirit which cannot be explained by the scientific method based on sensory experimentation; however, I neither believe that they are only the result of this biological substrate where we coincide, nor that they are a mere consequence of evolution.

   I am well aware that among those differences between the human and the chimpanzee genomes there might be the structure of the cerebral cortex to which some abilities in Primates are attributed, but I find it difficult to believe that the power of self-determination exceeding one’s own instinct and ethical consciousness should depend on the gyri of the brain. What distinguishes man from irrational beings is not a difference of degree but something substantial. Nevertheless, many have trouble accepting the existence of a spiritual and rational human soul. They argue that this is a far from scientific concept which only believers’ minds have identified. They overlook that science is not the only form of knowledge and that, many centuries before Christ, and throughout all ages, there have been non-Christian, non-believing philosophers who have discussed and studied the rational soul as essentially different from the sensitive soul and the vegetative soul.

   However, I do not wish to be held as denying the theory of evolution. I admit and I am convinced of it, but I do not see it as contradicting God’s existence, or God’s involvement in the evolutionary process and in the creation of the human soul. Darwin himself, the father of evolutionism, said: “I have never denied the existence of God. I think the theory of evolution is entirely compatible with belief in God. The chief argument for the existence of God is for me the inability to establish that the universe (…) and man have been the result of chance.”

   Science cannot justify everything. Other forms of knowledge are necessary for finding a meaning to life. As Viktor Frankl said, this meaning can only be found in transcendence. And transcendence cannot be detected in the bones at Atapuerca, or in the microscope, or in the telescope. But one might certainly catch a glimpse of it, for, as Einstein said, “Every researcher deep into nature cannot help being overwhelmed by some kind of religious feeling, because he finds it impossible to conceive himself as the first to have seen the extremely delicate relations he sees. Through the incomprehensible universe an infinitely superior intelligence manifests itself.”

   Through these findings related to the chimpanzee genome and its scarce differences from man’s, I am myself led to catch a glimpse of the greatness of that spark of divine intelligence which is the human soul.

Federico Gómez

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