The World: A Stage for the Drama
THE WORLD was made for the body.” How true is this? It is a curious fact that man still makes the best “measure of all things,” to use Dryden’s phrase. It may be an outmoded philosophy to maintain that the Universe should have its significance ultimately and only in the light of man, because we are so repeatedly assured of man’s total insignificance. Nevertheless, virtually every assessment of every natural process or product is still being made ultimately with reference to man as a measure of its meaning. Perhaps it is not too surprising to find a Christian writer saying this kind of thing. For example, William Tinkle says, “We value plants and animals by the degree to which they can be exploited by man.” (252) But it is quite common also to find non-Christian writers using the same standard of reference. When Karpechenko’s attempts to cross a radish with a cabbage supposedly produced a mongrel vegetable that was said to be quite useless, (253) having neither the “useful” leaves of the cabbage nor the “useful” root of the radish, naturalists were unconsciously following the same principle of making man the measure, for in what other way could one define the term “useful” or “useless” in this context? To say that the leaves were useful to the cabbage
252. Tinkle, William, Heredity: Study in Science and the Bible, St. Thomas Press, Houston, Texas, 1967, p.137.
253. Karpechenko’s experiments: on this question see W. J. Tinkle and W. E. Lammerts, “Biology and Creation” in Modern Science and Christian Faith, edited by Russell Mixter, Van Kampen, Wheaton, 1950, pp.88, 89, along with Science Newsletter, Dec. 22, 1956, p.339 under “Biology.”
would really be meaningless, even though the cabbage could not live without them. But since the cabbage was developed to servc man’s needs and not its own, the leaves are only useful in terms of man. So great is the temptation to view everything thus that even Julian Huxley finds it difficult to avoid implying that the whole of evolutionary history has merely been a prelude to the appearance of man. (254) And L.eComte du Nouy is quite forthright on this point. (255) In one of the Doorway Papers we have set forth a proposal, a kind of reconstruction of prehistory of the earth before man, which is an attempt to shov that the stage upon which the human drama is performed was prepared by a slow, orderly, meaningful process, the evidence for which can be interpreted either as purposeless and evolutionary in the strictly deterministic sense or as purposeful and developmental, involving specific creative acts throughout. (256) How one sees the evidence depends upon the initial bias one has. In itself the evidence is not decisive, although if negatives can prove anything, the existence of many discontinuities would favour the idea of direct creation in the process.
One thing that has emerged from the tremendous amount of research which has been undertaken (more often than not to demonstrate that there was no purpose) is that man is quite a unique creature and that his uniqueness ï¿½ although it is often most easily defined in cultural terrns ï¿½ is nevertheless dependent upon his anatorny and physiology.
This conclusion is a very important one in the context of the present Paper because it shows that the world was made for the body. Man’s body, which I believe constitutes as important a part of his whole person as his spirit does, is what it is because of the total environment in which he lives ï¿½ an environment which allows him to be active in a certain way, to have certain kinds of energies, to enjoy certain functional capacities, to operate
254. Huxley, Julian, Evolution in Action, Chatto & Windus, London, 1953, p.144. His conclusion: “A second major concept is the primacy of the human individual, or, to use a better term, the primacy of personality. This primacy of human personality has been in different ways, a postulate both of Christianity and of liberal democracy, but it is a fact of evolution” [his emphasis].
255. Du Nouy, LeComte, Human Destiny, Longmans, Green, New York, 1947, 289 pp.
256.”The Preparation of the Earth for Man”, Part I in Evolution or Creation? vol.4 of The Doorway Papers Series.
chemically and electrically in a certain way ï¿½ in short, to be a human being. To enable him to do this, he needed a certain kind of central nervous system, (257) posture, hands and feet, vision and hearing and sound emission, life cycle, appetite, thermal regulation, digestive system, manual dexterity and tactile sensitivity, bodily manoeuverability, taste and smell ï¿½- indeed, to be special in virtually every aspect of his physiology and anatomy.
It is tiresome to hear so frequently the statement made that the differences between man and the animals are differences of degree only and slight at that. Those who study in depth some particular aspect of the functioning of the human body quickly discover that although the differences seem slight enough, they are so fundamental that they constitute man as virtually a different kind of animal altogether.
Take one single illustration. Apart from domestication, the territories of animals, including the primates, are surprisingly small. (255) Man is ubiquitous, a fact which enables him to have dominion over every part of the earth. What makes the difference possible? The difference is due to a number of factors including man’s superior intelligence, which has enabled him to protect himself artifically against extremes of climate. But in addition to this, in the simple matter of maintaining a normal body temperature apart from artificial aids, man is quite uniquely equipped. (259)
257. E. L. Mascall refers to this fact, quoting Julian Huxley as having said, “Conceptual thought on this planet is inevitably associated with a particular type of Primate body and Primate brain.” See his Importance of Being Hurnan, Columbia University Press, N.ew York, 1958, p.7.
258. S, L. Washburn and C. S. Lancaster, in a paper entitled “The Evolution of Hunting” in Human Evolution (editrd by Korn and Thompson, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York, 1967, p.73), wrote: “Social groups of nonhuman primates occupy exceedingly small areas, and the vast majority of animals probably spend their entire lives within less than four or five square miles. . . . Even for gorillas the range is only about 15 square miles, and it is of the same order of magnitude for savanna baboons; they refuse to be driven beyond the end of their range and double back. . . . In marked contrast, human hunters are familiar with very large areas. . . . Interest in a large area is human.” The Eskimo family may occupy a strip 250 to 350 miles long and even more. And men make tremendous migrations with a view to permanent settlements.
259. This is an area of particular interest to the author who h,as done years of laboratory research into human thermal equilibrium. “Sweat as Part of the Curse” (Part III in The Flood: Local or Global? vol.9 of The Doorway Papers Series) treats the subject in some detail and in relation to Scripture. A useful basic bibliography will be found there.
This is especially the case for man at high temperatures. Scattered over his body are about two million eccrine sweat glands. Each of these is composed of a little glomerulus deep in the skin which is connected with the surlace via a small spiral tube. No animal, not even the horse, is supplied with this mechanism for the maintenance of body temperature. This spiral tube carries the purest watery fluid in the body from the little glomerulus reservoir to the surface where it spills out and evaporates, cooling the skin in the process. The movement of this fluid to the surface is mechanically effected by a peristaltic wave of contraction which moves from the root of the gland to the surface thus pushing the fluid ahead of it. Thousands of muscle fibers are probably involved in this peristalsis and it is likely that their refractory time is about 1/100 of a second, so that the wave can move along the tubule with a very high frequency if necessary. It should be borne in mind also that these fibers must contract in precisely the right order to ensure unidirectional movement of the fluid. The spiral of the tube is a necessary structural feature which serves the purpose of preventing its over-stretching and rupture if the skin is moved relative to the tissue beneath it. It is analogous to the cord on the telephone which is coiled for flexibility. One of the differences between human and animal skin is that the former is stretched comparatively tight while the latter tends to be loose. In the wild, an animal wound that causes a tear in the skin does not gape open and will heal without suturing. But this very looseness makes it impossible for a sweat gland system which man has to be workable in animals, even in the primates supposedly nearest to man. For a tubule supplied with muscle could not be constructed to accommodate itself to the tremendous freedom of lateral movement observed in animal skin.
But there is much more involved in this mechanism. Skin with a low fluid content is a remarkably good insulator, having about the value of cork in this respect. Thus the mere chilling of the external surface by evaporation of sweat, while it might give a comfortable feeling ï¿½ since the cold receptors would be stimulated — it would not substantially remove heat from the body. Thus in conjunction with this whole mechanism is another which is so designed that blood which is over-heated deep within the body transports its heat load to the surface of the skin where it is then cooled by conduction before the venous system takes it back to the centre again. This is known technically as vasodilatation. Animals do not appear to have this mechanism in the way
that man does over the whole periphery. They may have it in the ears (rabbits), or in the tail (some rodents), and so forth, but it is not systemic; and as a consequence of its limited effectiveness, animals are restricted to the kind of environment for which they have been designed.
When one considers that man has this vasomotor adjustment over the whole skin surface accompanied by a “tight” skin which allows a duct system for some two million sweat glands enabling him to survive for a limited time temperatures of even 260° F, and when it is realized that this system of sweat outbreak is so sensitively geared to deep body temperature that a rise of 0.1° C is sufficient to trigger a precise and measurable increase in sweat rate within a second or two over the whole body surface, the organization of the central nervous control will be seen as something amazingly complex and sophisticated. The signals going to each of the two million sweat glands at a rate of up to 100 impulses per second involves an organization that is unimaginably complex. Moreover, in man there is the further physiological complication that this system is functionally parasympathetic but anatomically sympathetic in its control. This mechanism makes it possible for man to live in every climate on the earth. Yet very few people are even aware of the significance of the function except in so far as it helps the sale of deodorants, etc. Animals do not have this, for they do not need it. The difference between man and animals, therefore, even in such a mundane thing as thermal regulation is structurally about as great as it is possible to conceive. I am convinced that when we really know enough about the functioning of the human body we shall be appalled at how mistakenly man was equated with the animals, or even for that matter ï¿½ one animal species with another.
For all this, man is an animal in the sense that his body, for the purposes of investigation, can be treated at certain levels as an animal body. In our own laboratories we have had many occasions to observe how remarkably aptly it can be treated simply as a heat engine. Thus for all his uniqueness as a creature poised between the purely spiritual and the wholly material, he does live and move and have his being within the framework of chemistry and physics. He is related structurally to the world in which he lives and is not able to live unless he takes it with him to some extent ï¿½ as he does in space. The earth at the present time is his proper home. Huxley states quite simply that man’s uniqueness,
a uniqueness which he equates not withoult reason with man’s ability for conceptual thought, “is inevitably associated with a particular type of Primate body and Primate brain.” (260) In other words, man is not an angelic creature who happens to have the kind of body he does and who might just as easily have been equipped with any other kind of body. He is a creature whose uniqueness from the point of view of his manhood, both in terms of culture and aspiration, is as much dependent upon the structure of his body as it is upon the nature of his soul. It is quite wrong to imagine that man’s body is incidental and that he might have been structured like a giraffe, a mouse, or even an ape, and still fulfilled the role for whic.h he was created. The fact is that God’s purposes for man required that he have a certain kind of physiological and anatomical structure, and the preservation and maintenance in health of this particular body which he indwells required in turn a certain kind of environment. This environment involved not only the right kind of atmosphere but the right kind of temperature, the right kind of seasonal variations, the right kind of gravitational forces acting upon him, the right kind of materials at hand or extractable for his building a civilized life, the right kind of food, the right kind of shelter, and even the right kind of territory to challenge him and to call forth his wonder, and to allow him to exercise his ability to dominate, to order, to arrange, to govern and to beautify the earth, and to turn it into a garden — and thereby to become a co-worker with God.
The world was “made for the body” indeed, and therefore in the final analysis the world with its time and space co-ordinates and its laws of physics and chemistry, is as essential to God’s plan as man himself. The world was created for man, as man was created for God. Was perhaps the Universe created for the world?
260. Huxley, Julian, Importance of Being Human, Columbia University Press, New York, 1958, p.7.