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Man: Just an Old Animal? — Notes from the Editor

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Man: Just an Old Animal?

According to some anthropologists, the human being is essentially an animal. “It is clear that we are an extremely old animal, perhaps three million years old, and we were evolved to live as hunter-gatherers,” says a Rutgers University anthropologist with the ironically bestial name Lionel Tiger. In a recent essay in Newsweek, Professor Tiger claims that many social and psychological problems arise when we imagine that man is something more than a biological creature. “Oddly enough,” he says, “seeing ourselves as animals may make the future more humane.” But we cannot see how Tiger’s view of man can actually benefit humanity.

Tiger takes Darwin’s theory as axiomatic truth. But at the risk of being heretical, we must point out that Darwin’s theory, one of the foundational beliefs of the modern age, has always been only that—a theory. What’s more, it is a theory fraught with difficulties (see “Evolution—a Theory in Danger of Extinction,” page 30). In the same issue of Newsweek that features Tiger’s essay, we find a review of a new book by paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey. Dr. Leakey has developed his own theory of human evolution, based on a few skull findings in Africa. “Still, the evidence is sparse,” says the reviewer. “All known remnants of our ancestors from one million to five million years ago could be spread out on two large trestle tables.” Allegedly, fossils provide evolutionary theorists with their proof positive, but no one has any fossil record for the evolution of fish, or anything substantial for the evolution of birds. Even Darwin admitted that his theory had its holes, and that he had filled them in with guesswork. The data he had gathered on the voyage of the Beagle only “seemed to throw some light on the origin of the species.” So, he says, “After five years’ work I allowed myself to speculate on the subject and drew up some short notes; these I enlarged in 1844 into a sketch of the conclusions, which seemed to me probable.”

Nor has the theory of mutation (which states that species can suddenly produce better-adapted offspring) ever proved itself in life. And, of course, there are many other counterarguments that destroy the credibility of Darwin’s theory. Yet although these counterarguments are well known and based strictly on empirical data, they are never discussed seriously in scientific journals. Apparently, the scientific community views as anathema any idea that puts the origin of life into a theistic light.

Even if we suspend the debate as to how and when man got his superior brain and consciousness, still we have to admit he is highly developed beyond all other forms of life. And it’s clear he has to use his higher intellectual development for something more than just polishing the animal techniques of hunting, gathering, and mating. Actually, human consciousness enables us to gain spiritual enlightenment and free ourselves from karma (the natural cycle that forces unGodconscious people to devolve back into animal species).

We can grant Dr. Tiger that modern industrial society has developed an artificial way of life, but does Dr. Tiger know what the natural way of human life actually is? As Srimad-Bhagavatam (2.3.19-20) describes, the human body is meant for self-realization-and if this use of the body is neglected, then indeed the human is to be considered an animal.

Men who are like dogs, hogs, camels, and asses praise those men who never listen to the transcendental pastimes of Lord Sri Krsna, the Personality of Godhead, the deliverer from evils. One who has not listened to the messages about the prowess and marvelous acts of the Personality of Godhead and has not sung or chanted loudly the worthy songs about the Lord is to be considered to possess earholes like the holes of snakes and a tongue like the tongue of a frog.

The Bhagavatam also describes a saintly king who used his human faculties for cultivating God consciousness:

Maharaja Ambarisa always engaged his mind in meditating upon the lotus feet of Krsna, his words in describing the glories of the Lord, his hands in cleansing the Lord’s temple, and his ears in hearing the words spoken by Krsna or about Krsna. Re engaged his eyes in seeing the Deity of Krsna, Krsna’s temples, and Krsna’s places. He engaged his sense of touch in touching the bodies of the Lord’s devotees. He engaged his sense of smell in smelling the fragrance of the tulasi leaves offered the Lord, and he engaged his tongue tasting foods offered to the Lord. engaged his legs in walking to the the places and temples of the Lord, his head bowing down before the Lord, and all I desires in serving the Lord twenty-four hours a day.

For this age the Vedic literatures recommend one process of self-realization—sankirtana, glorifying God through chanting His names and dancing. Engaged in the yoga of sankirtana, all of us can dance and vibrate hymns, eat foods offered to Krsna, and thus become liberated from transmigration down to the animal species. It is not a fact that if the human being neglects cultivation of transcendental consciousness and tries to live like an animal he’ll be happy. Whether predator or prey, an animal suffers constant anxiety. Only by reviving our original, spiritual consciousness—and not by trying to live in savage industrial society or savage animal society—can we be happy.

If the atheistic theory of man and his purpose remains the foundation for civilized society, then how can we expect relief from war or crime or sexual in. morality? Aren’t all these bestialities simply outpourings of the survival-of-the-fittest mentality that Tiger would have us embrace as part of man’s inner nature? But the Vedic literatures describe ancient societies and enlightened governments that promoted peaceful living through realization of self and God.

This is the responsibility of man: to cultivate self-realization, to raise himself above junglelike terrorism and “Might-Makes-Right” exploitation, big animal-nations over small animal-nations. If we reject our identity as spiritual souls, emanations from God, if we reject God’s plan for us on this planet and in the eternal, spiritual world-if we reject self-realization and God consciousness as the essential human commitments-then Professor Lion Tiger is right: we are no more than lions and tigers. And by nature’s law of transmigration, a man who neglects his higher purpose in this life will get all facility in later lives to enjoy himself as a lion, and then as a tiger, and then a mouse, a lizard, a bug, a tree . . . life after life after life.

-SDG

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