In the Image and Likeness….of Nature
Of the many institutions and organs that evolved out of the past seven thousand years of western civilization, none has relied more heavily on the arbitrary manufacturing of ideas than the Catholic Church. That’s what a belief system is; the synthesis or conjuring of ideas and images, most originating in the ‘dark ages’ of Church history that are now viewed by dialectic and rational thinkers as having little or no basis in reality. (I can’t speak for other religious groups or sects but having been a card-carrying member of Roman Catholicism for the first sixteen years of my life I feel I have some authority to speak on this issue). Take for example the concept that man is created in the image and likeness of God. The scientific and biological facts regarding this popular religious belief appear to point 180% in the opposite direction. It is we who have created a God in the image and likeness of ourselves…what else can you expect from a navel-gazing sub-species of super-humans prone to intellectual centrisms. No slight to Michelangelo but I’ve visited the Sistine Chapel on a number of occasions and his rendering of God and Adam look awfully similar to an old Italian-looking gentleman and a younger looking Italian man. Michelangelo was just doing what he was paid to do which was to render in oils and ceiling tiles the then-current concepts held by the Church. Besides imposing our physical characteristics on this imaginary God, we have also imposed our idiosyncratic frailties and our foibles on what should’ve remained a noble and non-malicious deity. I’m speaking of course about the patently human disposition towards being judgmental, vindictive, spiteful and vengeful. Hey, aren’t those uniquely human traits?
Here’s a more plausible way of looking at this ‘image and likeness’ issue. Due to the magic of covalent and ionic bonding the electrons of certain atoms align with the electrons of other compatible atoms (hydrogen and oxygen for example) to form molecules and this process, conducted on a massive, massive scale then forms the basis of the material world we live in. If not for the bonding properties of atoms there would be no matter, pure and simple. The biosphere we call Earth is made up of giga-tons of this material ‘stuff’ which acts and expresses itself in the following five basic ways.
Sensory Receptor #1…Feeling.
Thanks to this covalent and ionic bonding, our biosphere is chocked full of solid, liquid and gaseous matter which is tactile, shaped and potentially sensitive to touch. In order to best function and maneuver their way though such a biosphere living organisms have evolved (via genetic adaptation) a system of receptors (nerve endings) underneath their outer layer of skin (epidermis) which are connected to the brain (on-board computer) allowing them to ‘feel’ their way through the three-dimensional landscape. Throughout the course of evolutionary history organisms – including placental mammalians – have done exactly this. Along with the other four senses, it is this ability to respond and adapt to environmental stimuli, over a long period of time, that governs what organs we develop, their placement, function and our overall appearance.
Sensory Receptor #2…Sight
Do human organisms have ‘eyes’ because we were created in the image and likeness of God or because we have simply adapted to one of the key elements in our universe (and our biosphere)….this element being light. The light bouncing off reflective surfaces and myriad shaped objects in our world is the impetus for the evolutionary development of eyes. The human eye, for example, has approximately 25 million photo cells lining the retina which receives and transmits light waves (coming in through the lens) along the optic nerves to the brain which allows the organism to ‘see’. This basic sense has nothing to do with God and everything to do with the organism’s need to function and adapt to a biosphere filled with three-dimensional objects and light.
Sensory Receptors #3…Hearing
The interaction of physical matter produces sound waves and frequencies prompting organisms to develop (or evolve) sensory receptors (sensitive ear drums capable of receiving and transmitting sound wave and frequency data to the brain). And thus we now have ears.
Sensory Receptors #4 and #5….Smelling and Tasting
There is no need to go into a long, over-drawn explanation of the two remaining senses. In both cases there is are biological/scientific reason for the evolution of taste buds and olfactory glands. What is essential is to understand that the senses of hearing, smelling and tasting were evolved – as in the case of feeling and sight – as a direct response to natural and environmental stimuli coming in from the world around us and these simple facts help to quash the notion that we were created in the ‘image and likeness’ of a distant and imaginary God. As far as the ‘image and likeness’ issue goes, one could say that the physical and functionary characteristics of all living organisms have evolved and are fashioned by the dictates and influences of nature (naturally occurring stimuli).