Let us begin.
One of the puzzles of our existence, as a race, is how we are distinguished from every other beast and creature. This is not something that takes a lot of thought: It is evident to a child that he is not a dog. Indeed, there is no other animal which appears at all congruous with human nature, so that that animal could be confused for a person.
Now, think of it: Why is that? Why is it that we never think a dog has the inherent dignity of a human being? (Ok, PETA notwithstanding…) Why do we never ask of a slug or a pig its thoughts, as though we might learn something?
For one thing, they do not ask such questions, or any questions at all.
For another, we keep them as pets, or as subjects of study, and not the other way around.
One more thing: No pig keeps a blog. They do nothing, not even remotely, of the kind.
Of course, this is so obvious as to be discarded or ignored. But before one reduces man to the stature of a beast, she must respond to such queries. She must answer, but lo: The answers betray her.
The Jews, by contrast, give us an answer which has survived the ages:
“God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Gen. 1:25-27
See: “Let us make man in Our image…”
This is known widely by the Latin rendering Imago Dei, the “image of God.” The distinctive thing about humans, according to this teaching, is that they reflect the nature of God in their very being.
Let us see the two views in contrast, and decide for yourself. On the one hand, man is just another beast, albeit it a highly evolved animal; on the other, man is different in kind than the other animals. He is still, clearly, an animal (and in this sense there is no conflict with our biological history, no conflict with evolution) and yet something more.
In thinking about that evolutionary history, in fact, it is the appearance of sophisticated tools and burial practices and other such innovations which marks the advent of humanity.* Anthropologists notice something different in kind from all preceding, human-like effects.
Now, if that seems like splitting hairs (splitting wood? On the evolutionary tree?), no problem. Consider that, given thousands of years, no animal has kept pace with our technological development. If it ever was near to equal in kind, any further argument is null and void.
For good and for ill: We have developed language and writing – then poetry, prose, law, declarations, scriptures, lyrics, novels, fantasies – even blogs.
We had tools and weapons made of stone – then swords and spears, plows and picks, arrows, catapults, the printing press, telescopes, watches, guns and cannons, cameras, computers, satellites, missiles and bombs, even the first run of an invisibility cloak.
We were on foot, then on animal back, in carts and wagons, on boat, on bike, over tracks, over road, through the air, and into space.
And you want to say dolphins are persons? Where’s my Willy Wonka meme…
*A related page makes my point for me. It assumes that only a human being could be reading it.