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Discovery Magazine 7/1/2002

Man, Animals, and Technology

by  Bert Thompson, Ph.D.

How would you like to have lived 200 years ago? Covered wagons. Foods cooked over an open fire. Farming alongside a mule. No indoor plumbing. No televisions. No VCRs. No DVDs. No antibiotics.

Doesn't sound very exciting, does it? But people who lived in the 1800s were humans just like us. Why is it that we have made so much progress? Have people changed that much?

No, people haven't changed. But technology has. Man, unlike animals, has the ability to speak, write, improve his education, and develop amazing technology. Man has always been incredibly intelligent and inventive. But while people of long ago could construct the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11), they could not build the Empire State Building. Why not? Part of the answer has to do with the fact that people (again, unlike animals) have the ability to collect knowledge and build on past achievements. As a result, we know more today than we did 200-or 2,000-years ago. And we can do more with that knowledge. For example, we have begun to crack the human genome, constructed the Hoover Dam, and landed a robotic rover on Mars (to name just a few of our accomplishments).

Now, compare mankind's achievements to those of the animals, who possess no greater knowledge today than they did 200-or 2,000- years ago. Animals today fare little better (if any) than their ancestors. Humans, however, not only learn from their past but also build for their future. No animal does that. Man, because he was created in the "image of God" (Genesis 1:26-27), has the ability to invent technology that allows him to improve and progress-a trait obviously lacking in the animal kingdom.

Man is also creative. Consider Michelangelo's paintings, Mozart's music, or Shakespeare's writings. Man has built spaceships that travel to the Moon; he has made artificial hearts for the sick; and he has constructed computers that perform billions of calculations in a fraction of a second. Animals lack the built-in creative ability to do such things. Beavers build huts, birds construct nests, and spiders weave webs, but they are guided by instinct. They work by a rule furnished to them, not as architects that design something from their own mental resources. Animals possess neither the intelligence nor the ability to develop technology. But man possesses both. A huge gap separates man from animals. Technology is evidence of that gap, and of the fact that humans are indeed "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14).

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