What is Man? Book Review.

It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this. – Bertrand Russell

What is man that You [take thought of him,

And the son of man that You care for him?

– Psalm 8:4.

The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.

⁃ Richard Dawkins.

Man is the measure of all things.

– Protagoras.

Edgar Andrews, author of “Who Made God?” in his recent book, “What is Man?” discusses who man is. How did we come about? Does it matter? Are we the product of time plus matter plus chance? Are we, as the Scientologists purport, a result of alien seeding? Indeed, some astrobiologists have argued this. Or are we a more unique member of the world order? What is our place? Is it unique, or are we just another, yet highly evolved member of animalkind on our planet?

How we view our origins certainly determines how we view who we are and what our place in the universe is. If we see ourselves as merely being higher on the evolutionary scale, Dawkins and Aristotle are quite correct.

Andrews argues from our place in the cosmos in the first 5 chapters. Was the cosmos a place that was put here for life to emerge, or was it just a happy coincidence that out of the array of possible universe ensembles one contained life permitting conditions? It is on this note we should pay attention. I once thought that these sorts of design arguments were fallacious because they were data selective. After all, it is easy to say the universe has all the life permitting values, and that our planet has all the right conditions. We are here making such observations, aren’t we? To me this was painting the target around the arrow after it was fired then saying we had a bullseye. Andrews notes, however, that just because a universe ensemble has life sustaining conditions that this does not mean life should arise from those conditions, it only means life can arise from said conditions. These are two entirely different things. Here he covers the arguments from natural theology, such as cosmological and design arguments. He, like others such as Alvin Plantinga, do not seem to suggest evolution is at odds with theism, only that naturalism is. I won’t get into this, as I am not as well learned in evolutionary biology as many other reviewers of this book will be.

The chapters which caught my attention were 9-14.

Chapter 9, Aristotle and the Snowball, discusses epistemology and the mind body problem, although briefly. But in this chapter he raises the problem of ‘if all we are is a product of naturalism, what gives rise to true beliefs?’ Does materialism account for there being true beliefs delivered by our senses? Why should we trust the deliverances of our senses? What guarantee do we have that they are, at all, suitable for interacting with the world we live in?

Drawing on the works of Patricia Churchland, she notes, that the successes of our behaviour will be determined by our final outcome. So, if you mistake a stick for a rattlesnake, you won’t get to pass your genes on, which seems silly, because in life or death scenarios you only get to get it wrong once. So, here, Andrews isn’t attempting to discredit evolution, rather he is attempting to demonstrate naturalism just doesn’t account for the present state of affairs, or the intentionality of our intellects.

Andrews further touches on the mind, body, soul identity problem. What is our nature? What gives us our consciousness? Where do my beliefs about food, sports and politics reside? Are they a composition of neural networks in my brain, or is there something more basic interacting with my brain, some essential component of who I am?

He touches on the question, “How can immaterial mind interact with matter?” Here he offers no hypothetical mechanism, such as the pineal gland, all he says is, “Just because we can’t explain something doesn’t mean it can’t happen” which is far better than arguing from ignorance. He does note, however, how immaterial thoughts already interact with the physical by bringing up placebo drugs, and one’s belief that they will be effective.

In Chapter 10, The Nature of Reality, Andrews discusses the knowability and accessibility of reality by our minds. While we all know the world via experience, we do not know it through direct experience. In this chapter the discussion turns towards axioms and the analogy which stands between the observer and the observed.

Andrews draws upon the “model-dependent realism” discussed by Hawking and Mlodinow in “The Grand Design.” While these authors deny, at the beginning of their book, they later affirm metaphysics by getting into how how our mathematical constructs of the universe, even our best ones, are not fully representative of what they are attempting to account for, rather they partly represent what the universe obtains. It is from these models we yield predictions—or, if they fail to obtain, we will yield no predictions.

So, can we know reality, at least in part? It seems, as Andrews argues, that a theistic worldview is what best provides the initial conditions to account for our ability to do science and theology.

Andrews further argues that the Christian worldview best accounts for this, as the divine revelation provided shows God to truly be a maximally great being. He then notes the Bible is unique when compared to other holy books, because it does not claim to be written in isolation from the world in which it took place, it offers real, testable statements, which are historically factual and can be rejected if false.

In Chapters 11&12,Andrews discusses and rejects any type of theistic evolution, or a series of Adams, rather he treats Adam and Eve as real historical figures, not as mitochondrial progenitors to the human race, or metaphorical figures. How we view Adam and Eve may cascade into how we view the nature of the fall and its impact on our minds. As Nietzsche proclaimed “God is dead, and we have killed him.” Is God dead, or is God merely dead to us? Andrews draws attention to the passage in Genesis where we were initially created, and at this point creation was at its height of perfection, lacking nothing. It was both a created order, with an intellectual caregiver. It seems, in conclusion to this chapter, Andrews says that if Adam and Eve were the caretakers of the world, and if we are alienated from our creator, it would show we are also alienated from creation in a distorted fashion. However, not all is lost, he nowhere concludes that the image of God has been lost (which is what is God seeks to restore) rather the image of God is only distorted.

Andrews argues that we haven’t lost our rational, moral and creative capacities, and we have not been relieved of the duty to be caretakers of the created order just because humanity has fallen, only that the fallenness of humanity is reflected in our efforts here.

In Chapter 13, Andrews gets into the second Adam, Jesus Christ. Some argue that He was a type of Adam who attained perfection by obedience, and serves as our exemplar, and elder brother in the faith. Groups which teach this are Biblical Unitarians. Others teach He was an angel, which served in a similar role, and was incarnate in the man, Jesus, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, none of this accounts for what is required to atone for our sins, past, present and future. To deny the deity of Jesus is to deny the adequacy of His death on the cross and we remain dead in our sins and to deny His personhood/humanity is to deny that He can mediate between humanity and God. And to relegate Him to the status of a good teacher does nothing about restoring the image of God which, as previously noted, was effaced in us.

Andrews concludes with one final, and the most important issue, the resurrection. So what if the cosmos was designed just for us and if God exists? As William Lane Craig notes in “The Son Rises” man needs God and immortality for life to be truly meaningful. It is by means of the resurrection that God has demonstrated that He has interacted with humanity, and that we too can share in immortality with God. It is only by the resurrection, if and only if Jesus is divine, that our sins can be forgiven, as it vindicates all the, otherwise, absurd things which Jesus said about Himself, such as “I am the way, the truth and the light” or “Your sins are forgiven.”

Here, Andrews not only discusses the implications of the resurrection, but briefly outlines the arguments in favour of it, such as the changed lives of the disciples and how it i the best explanation for the rapid success of the early church.

This book was highly accessible and an outstanding introduction to apologetics. Although not exhaustive, it is well referenced if one wishes to further follow through with his arguments. It briefly covers the arguments which apologists such as Hugh Ross would discuss regarding origins, and design, and then it goes into what other apologists like JP Moreland are well known for arguing for, such as the existence of the soul. It concludes with what others, such as Craig and Habermas contend for, the resurrection.

This book would make for a good introduction to apologetics, and is not overwhelming. Andrews has a unique writing style, full of illustrations. One may have to get used to some British terminology, but if one can watch an Austin Powers or James bond movie, one can certainly have no problem with his excellent writing style. Andrews does not write as an ivory tower apologist pretending to know about science and philosophy. Rather, he both draws from his own expertise in the field as a Ph.d in physics, as well as the expertise of other renowned secular and Christian thinkers.

I received a free copy of this book, and was not at all required to write anything favourable about this book, nor was I given a criteria of what I was supposed to discuss.

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