I hope that everyone had a thankful Thanksgiving Day as we continue to have so much to be truly thankful for, despite the ferment in our world. Now we move into the Nativity season, where we remember the wonderful tidings of great joy that God has come into our world, putting on flesh to save mankind from our sin. For the Christian believer, the birth of Jesus Christ is a great miracle. But upon reflection, the miraculous birth of Christ was further amplified in my mind and heart from some recent reading. For instance, this past weekend, I read an interesting essay by Alison Gopnik. In her short essay, entitled “Gratitude for the Cosmic Miracle of A Newborn Child,” and published in the Wall Street Journal, Ms. Gopnik rejoices in the birth of her newest granddaughter, Georgiana. Ms. Gopnik enthuses about the beauty of the miracle of life in which, “Amino acids combined to make just the right proteins, which sent out instructions to make just the right neurons, which made just the right connections to other neurons. And that brought a new, utterly unique, unprecedented consciousness – a new human soul – into the world.” Ms. Gopnik continues to observe:
The coordination of amino acids and neurons that brought Georgiana to life is a stunning evolutionary achievement. . . . The amino acids and proteins miraculously beat back chaos and create the order of life. . . It may seem that science depicts a cold, barren, indifferent universe – that Georgiana is just a scrap of carbon and water on a third-rate planet orbiting an unimpressive sun in an obscure galaxy. And it is true that, from a cosmic perspective, our whole species is as fragile, as evanescent, as helpless, as tiny as she is.
Further, a leading geneticist, Professor Eugene McCarthy of the University of Georgia, recently published a paper in which he hypothesized that the human species began as the hybrid offspring of a male pig and a female chimpanzee. In his paper, he presents what he considers compelling evidence in support of his hypothesis. He notes that human beings have many features in common with chimpanzees, but we also have a large number of distinguishing characteristics not found in other primates. Although many scientists view chimpanzees as the closest living evolutionary relation to human beings given similarities in their respective genomes, Dr. McCarthy observes that humans also have numerous anatomical differences with primates. These anatomical differences disappear when humans are compared to pigs. For example, humans have mostly hairless skin, a thick layer of subcutaneous fat, lighter-colored eyes, protruding noses, and heavy eyelashes, and a number of similarities between human and pigs in the structure of the skin and organs. After all, we do know that pig skin tissues and heart valves are often used in medicine because of their similarity and compatibility with the human body. Of course, Dr. McCarthy’s hypothesis has been, and will continue to be, challenged by many more “orthodox” evolutionary biologists and Creationists. In his conclusion, Dr. McCarthy writes:
I must admit that I initially felt a certain amount of repugnance at the idea of being a hybrid. The image of a pig mating with an ape is not a pretty one, nor is that of a horde of monstrous half-humans breeding in a hybrid swarm. But the way we came to be is not so important as the fact that we now exist. As every Machiavellian knows, good things can emerge from ugly processes, and I think the human race is a very good thing. Moreover, there is something to be said for the idea of having the pig as a relative. My opinion of this animal has much improved during the course of my research. Where once I thought of filth and greed, I now think of intelligence, affection, loyalty, and adaptability, with an added touch of joyous sensuality — qualities without which humans would not be human.
Yes, it does seem hard to explain the miracle of the birth of each human being apart from God. After all, evolution alone cannot explain the origin of our, or any other, species. After all, if DNA can only replicate, where did it originally come from? As the famous polymath Douglas Hofstadter once famously observed, “It turns out that an eerie type of chaos can lurk just behind a façade of order – and yet, deep inside the chaos lurks an even eerier type of order.” This Christmas season, I rejoice in the wonderful biblical truth that we, along with His other creatures with which we share a planet, are fearfully and wonderfully made, as the Psalmist teaches us.