What Is Man? -- By: Austin Robbins
BSP 9:1 (Winter 1996) p. 1
What Is Man?
Austin Robbins, DDS, recently retired from private practice in New Jersey. He was previously on the faculties of Georgetown University School of Dentistry, Temple University Dental School and University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. Dr. Robbins is a member of the Board of Directors of the Associates for Biblical Research.
Nearly 3000 years ago David, king and Psalmist of Israel, puzzled over this question. Today that question still grips the minds of men. Theologians and anthropologists propose answers which could hardly be more diverse. On one hand we are told that man is an animal, similar to, and indeed related to, the other primates as chimpanzees, orangutans, gorillas and baboons. On the other hand, we are informed that man is a uniquely created being, having no genetic relationship to any animal and possessing a spiritual nature unknown in the animal kingdom.
To answer the question “What is Man?” we must examine evidences on both a physical and a spiritual level. First, let us investigate the physical characteristics of humans to determine if any relationship does in fact exist between them and their so-called prehuman ancestors.
Taxonomists, scientists who study the relationships between various living things, have termed human beings Homo sapiens sapiens. The system of classification of plants and animals starts with a very broad designation, the kingdom. Humans belong to the animal kingdom by this definition. The next step is the phylum. We are labeled chordates or vertebrates, that is, animals with backbones. Next in the series is the class, of which man is said to be a mammal, breast feeding it’s young. Among the mammals, man is considered to belong to the order of primates, animals with flexible hands and feet having five digits. Man’s family is said to be hominid, primates with but two legs. Our genus is designated Homo, indicating man. The species of man is sapiens, wise man, with a subspecies designation of sapiens also, possibly meaning “wisest of the wise.”
It is evident, then, that taxonomy is the discipline which places living things into these various categories (taxons) based on physical characteristics. Animals which are more alike are grouped together and those which are less alike are separated. But, remember that the basis for taxonomic classification is always physical characteristics, be they anatomical, embryological, or biochemical, etc.
All living humans are designated Homo sapiens sapiens. The differences between living peoples are so slight as to evoke universal agreement that all, be they Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert in Africa or Inuit (Eskimo) peoples of
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