Church of God, New World Ministries

Animal Brian vs. Human Mind - Part 2

What is man? What is the human mind? What is the relationship between man’s mental activity and his physical brain? Is “mind” the same as “brain” or is it something more?

The first article in this series, we began by asking these all-important questions. In this article we continue our investigation of human beings and animals. We do this on two levels 1) mental activity, and 2) physiological brain.

In these first two articles, we focus on the materialist’s primary point: that the human “mind” is not really different from the output of animal brain.

In the previous article, we discussed those mental characteristics which the materialist uses to show that humans cannot be differentiated from animals.

In this article, we show how humans can be differentiated from animals that indeed the human mind is unequivocally and irrevocable distinct from animal brain. We will answer the following question: What mental characteristics clearly differentiate the output of the human mind from the output of animal brain? And we will demonstrate that these characteristics, as described in the following sections, are utterly unique to human beings and are not found in any animal.

We will define and examine in detail each mental characteristic. We will demonstrate why the human mind exhibits each one of them and why the animal brain does not.

Some of the areas will overlap. Don’t let that bother you. Consider each as a distinctly individual expression of the uniqueness of the human mind. But don’t just passively agree. Think about it. This is serious business.

The human mind is far superior to animal brain. But this will not be easy to prove. Because all of these mental characteristics are subject to as many interpretations as there are minds to read them. Why? Part of the difficulty is semantics: what do these often-repeated and much-abused words really mean. The other part of the problem is preconceived ideas: What is the particular bias of the individual evaluator?

We are interested in truth. And, in truth, man is NOT an animal. But prove it.


Expression of Humor

Laughter is uniquely human. Comedy has no equivalent in the animal kingdom. This is openly admitted by many evolutionary psychologists. Darwin reasoned that the smile had evolved from the animal snarl, ignoring the opposing meanings.

What is humor? How can it be defined? It is difficult to put into words. Yet nothing is more easily understood by every human being.

Humor necessitates the comprehension of an odd or incongruous situation. When we laugh, we are comparing what did happen with what normally would have happened under similar circumstances. To input the sense of incongruity to such an occurrence, we must be sufficiently detached from the situation. Animals often react to unexpected events - such as a cat playing with a ball of string and although that may be funny to the human observer, it is surely not funny to the animal. (The kitten is actually practicing catching prey. It sharpens its reflexes and perfects its skills for the unexpected twists and darts of the mouse it will later catch.)

Animal brain does not become detached enough to reflect upon any unexpected event as incongruous, and therefore cannot appreciate humor. (The laughing hyena is not really laughing.)

Appreciation of Beauty

Beauty, to be beauty, must be appraised on its own merits not by a possible relationship to a future reward. A beautiful sunset, woman, painting or sonata may well be associated with sensual satisfaction - but that association is not necessary. Beauty can exist irrespective of any functional value.

Beauty cannot be beauty in its true human sense if there is some other “payoff” which is making it “beautiful.” The animal considers only the potential fulfilment of its basic drives and needs, food for its hunger, water for its thirst, etc. “Beauty” in an object or goal contributes nothing to the appeal.

The appreciation of beauty requires quiet, perceptive contemplation. Aesthetic pleasure more than supersedes sensory stimulation, it demands the inhibition of such extraneous stimuli. Could any animal ever ignore drive-satisfying stimuli food, water, sex to focus on a beautiful sunset?

Beauty is a whole, more than the sum of its parts an organic unity derived from underlying order and harmony. It is an abstract integration which is privately perceived and subconsciously blended within the individual psyche. Beauty is recognized only by man.

Feeling of Ecstasy

Is the ecstasy experienced from listening to the last movement of Mahler’s Second or Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony just the evolutionary advancement of the basic animal desire to satisfy the self, or to be a bit more technical, “the sophisticated enhancement of animal drive reduction”? That is what some skeptics think.

What about the ecstatic reaction experienced by millions when the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 World Series? Was that simply the “enjoyment” of gratifying a physical urge? Hardly.

The most “ecstasy-like” reaction in an animal occurs when a male gets excited as he senses a female in heat. But any comparison to human ecstasy is absurd. Ecstasy, by definition, must transcend specific sensations and satisfactions. It is, rather, the instantaneous emotion of supreme exultation.



The self-consciousness of man may not at first seem to be very different from the consciousness of animals. But the difference between the self-consciousness of man and the consciousness of animals is perhaps the most crucial distinction between the human mind and animal brain.

We all know what consciousness involves thought, planning, decision, action, reaction, feedback, new thought, etc. and indeed animals are conscious. But self-consciousness is one extra step the critical jump.

Self-consciousness is the conscious awareness of the process of being conscious. It demands the innate ability to observe our own minds in action. It requires the awareness of “I.”

Who but man can step back and become a spectator, an inquisitor, a critic or an admirer of his own thought patterns? Who but man can watch the spectacle of his own self go through the machinations and manipulations of mental deliberation?

The noted psychiatrist, Erich Fromm, put it this way: “Man has intelligence, like other animals, which permits him to use thought processes for the attainment of immediate, practical aims; but man has another mental quality which the animal lacks. He is aware of himself, of his past and of his future, which is death; of his smallness and powerlessness; he is aware of others as others as friends, enemies, or as strangers. Man transcends all other life because he is, for the first time, subject to its dictates and accidents, yet he transcends nature because he lacks the unawareness which makes the animal a part of nature as one with it.

The self-conscious human mind constantly monitor itself in action and at any moment, for any reason (even for “no” reason), it can stop or alter the action which would have been predetermined by the animal brain in the same exact circumstances. Perhaps the closest way to approximate how an animal “feels” when carrying out its thought and actions is the way a sleep-deprived, drugged or hypnotized human would feel when carrying out some simple physical task at the command of another person.

Man knows that he is going to die. You know it. And I know it. That’s rather remarkable all by itself. Death seems illogical and absurd to a rational, vibrant human being. Yet every man knows, as sure as he knows anything, that his scant few decades of self-conscious life will be followed by a cessation of that life.

Death! This stark reality is what a man realizes throughout his life while animals remain blissfully ignorant. The difference is fundamental.

For with Theodosius Dobzhansky, a famous biologist, this distinction is made manifest by the way in which animals care for their dead: They don’t!

Burial of the dead is a cultural universal in mankind. The burial rituals vary widely, from internment to cremation or exposure to predators or birds of prey. No known human group does, however, simply throw out its dead without any ritual or ceremony. In stark contrast, no animal practices burial of dead individuals of its own species. Ants throw the dead out of their nests together with other rubbish. Female monkeys may stubbornly carry their dead and even decomposed infants. Some animals practice cannibalism and necrophagia. None of these forms of behavior suggest burials. The contrast between the human concern for the dead, and the unconcern shown by animals, is, however, so glaring that an explanation is called for. The explanation that suggests itself is that man, and man alone, knowns that death is inevitable.

Thinking in Time

As he is climbing a tree, a chimp probably “knows” that he will soon pick a banana, and that immediately thereafter he will peel it, bite it, chew it, swallow it and satisfy his hunger. The chimp is thinking some minutes into the future.

But how long can an animal think into the future? Do animals think ahead to their future migrations or hibernations or do they only react to the stimuli at the appointed time? In either event, animal brain is still limited it thinks in the sphere (domain) of time only in relation to itself.

The uniquely unrestrained human mind is totally different. It can envision the absolute certainly of an eternity of time both before and after its own particular existence. This ultimate awareness may express itself in an awareness of death. But it is not limited to an involvement of the self. Economists and sociologists are visualizing the 21st century. Astronomers have calculated the number of billions of years it would take for the sun to become cold.

As former ethnologist, W. H. Thorpe, stated: “Man has a language which can denote and specify the past and the future far beyond his own life span.” It was Dostoevski who wrote: “Man needs the unfathomable and the infinite just as much as he does the small planet which he inhabits.” And what animal could ever comprehend enough about the concept of past and future epochs of time to wonder what the 17th-century philosopher, Blaise Pascal wondered:

“When I consider the short duration of my life, swallowed up in the eternity before and after, the little space which I fill and even can see, engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I am ignorant and which know me not, I am frightened and am astonished at being here rather than there; for there is no reason why here rather than there, why now rather than then. Who has put me here? By whose order and direction have this place and time been allotted to me?

Here, then, is the human mind racing through the endless corridors of time before and beyond its own life span, wondering, speculating, searching.


Abstract Thinking

Thorpe expressed it well: “What are the features in which man differs from animals? Man can internalize relations perceived in the external world to a vastly greater extent than the animals. In other words, man can manipulate completely abstract symbols to an extent far beyond that possible in the animal world; it’s on this ability mathematics is based. I do not believe that animals will ever be able to do mathematics.”

“As far as we know for certain, no animal language, however much information is conveyed, involves the learned realization of completely general abstractions.”

The great linguist, Eric H. Lenneberg, shows that humans not only understand the symbolic meaning of sounds which animals may also do but humans also construct and identify the relationships between these symbolic sounds. In other words, humans understand sentence structure syntax the connection between words.

The acquisition of words by themselves does not create the human language. A real language must select from the myriad computations that the human mind performs when interacting with its surroundings. Lenneberg concludes that “Whether the brain of a chimpanzee has the same or similar properties must yet be demonstrated. It is possible but not probable.” Suzanne Langer asked:

“If we find no prototype of speech in the highest animals, and man will not say even the first word by instinct, then how did all his tribes acquire their various languages? Who began the art which now we all have to learn? And why is it not restricted to the cultured races, but possessed by every primitive family, from darkest Africa to the loneliness of the polar ice?”

What about the “languages” of animals? Philosopher Ernan McMullin explains why they must be sharply distinguished from the languages of human beings:

“In recent times, much has been made of the “languages” of honey-bees, ants, dolphins and other highly-organized animals. But several features of the “languages” mark them off sharply from the languages of man. First, they are species-specific, inherited, not learned. Their use is instinctive, not reflective. Honey-bees of one species will not be able to “follow” the language of another species, nor can they learn it. Genetic differences can even arise within species due to geographic separation; an Italian honey-bee cannot follow the cues given by a hive of German cousins. Once an Italian honey-bee, always an Italian honey-bee. The individual can in no way modify or unlearn its “language” because of its being (so far as we can tell) entirely genetically determined, entirely instinctive in origin. Second, all of the signs used are signals, strictly speaking, that is, they elicit immediate action. There is no reason to attribute to them a propositional character. They are not being used to make statements about the sugar-source, but rather to serve as stimulus for an instinctive response on the part of other bees that will send them to the right place. Third, these languages are entirely limited to a single type of situation, one that is of biological significance to the species, food gathering, for example or courtship.

Animal languages stagnate. Human languages adapt. McMullin stresses the differences:

“Man does not inherit a language; he has no endowment of language-signs. Thus, human languages have to be learned. To the child, they come extra-ordinarily easily and quickly; for the adult, it may require a great effort to acquire a new language. But just because they are not programmed into the human brain, man’s languages possess a feature that more than compensates for the effort it takes to learn them. They are capable of being modified at will, to respond to new kinds of situations. There is a creative element here, an implicit demand on human creativity that is selfdom recognized.”

Is the spoken human language unique? Dobzhansky says yes but then leaves us hanging as to a reason why:

“The fascinating work of C. Hayes, who attempted to bring up a chimpanzee child by treating it as if it was a human child, is relevant here. The ape has leaned all manner of things which no other ape in the world ever did, excepting that it was unable to learn to speak. And yet its vocal capacities seemed adequate to produce all the sounds of which human language is composed.”

Many social scientists are perplexed by the singular existence of the human language. And they can’t understand why many animals haven’t “developed” this capacity.

Historical Communication

Historical communication has bestowed upon man the capacity to pass on to the next generation the amplified mistakes of all past generations. Animals are severely limited in communicating from one generation to the next (because they do not have a symbolic language). However, whatever they do transmit is (at least “thought” to be) beneficial to the individual off-spring (as well as to the species itself).

Man is different. He has the remarkable talent for endowing succeeding generations with the lessons of history - though generally colored with irrational bigotries and prejudices.

What living creature besides man knowingly builds upon the proven error of his predecessors, and then strives to make things worse, so that as a result, he can take pleasure in passing the whole mess on to his descendants?

The development of culture is the outgrowth of language and historical communication. The changing culture of human society is dramatically different from the stagnancy of animal society.

Not even the cleverest ape can equal a human child as an acceptor of culture. This capacity is not present in any non-human form of life, certainly on earth and almost certainly in the Cosmos. It is the basis of the uniqueness of men, and also the bond between all men, no matter how much they may differ among themselves in other respects.


Control of Emotion

For human society to exist, man must exercise control over his biological emotions and cooperate with his fellows.

Remember, it’s not that human beings do not go into rages, it’s just that humans can control the impulse. (If they want to.)

Animals raise their offspring according to preset patterns every animal, in every location, in every “family,” in every generation, is, has been, and will ever be, raised exactly the same, like the similarity of bottles of Coke coming off the assembly line.

Humans have had real families as old as history itself. And humans rear their children as they themselves determine, and every child is utterly unique.


Aspiration to Higher Levels

Many human beings are never satisfied. Some people are always striving and struggling to increase their influence over their surroundings. Whether we refer to awareness, wisdom, understanding, knowledge, influence, money, possessions, power, prestige, status, looks, sexual attraction, etc., human beings continuously aspire to augment their present level of achievement. (This does not mean that every human being will do so. But every human being does have the potential and option of doing so.)

Animals, on the other hand, strive and struggle to fulfill their basic physiological needs and drives and that’s it that’s all they want. (And this does mean every animal animals have no option and no choice.)

Meaning in the Universe

Man’s quest extends far beyond his own miniscule environment of satisfying his bodily and mental needs. Man’s mind is his vehicle and he travels every order of magnitude from the sub-atomic distances of angstroms (one ten-millionth of a millimeter) and times of nanoseconds (a billionth of a second) to the astronomical distances of light years (estimated at six trillion miles) and the cosmological times of billions of years

Meaning in Human Life

“The ultimate questions which man asks about himself are partly answered by the very fact that they are being asked.”

This statement from the chapter “Man” in The Great Ideas A Synopticon of Great Books of the Western World-- says it all in one short sentence. Because the ultimate question “Is the human mind unique?” is answered “unequivocally yes” by the simple fact that the question is posed at all!

Man’s search for meaning operates on a wholly different order of magnitude from the compulsive drives of animals. The question “Is there an ultimate meaning in life?,” “Where is humanity going?,” “Why was I born?,” “What’s it all about?” have inflamed every generation of human beings from time immemorial. The desire to understand “the purpose of it all” gnaws at the innermost being of every thinking person throughout his or her life.

And there is absolutely no equivalent in all of the animal kingdom. An animal can see no more than specific bits and isolated pieces of its life at any one time. In momentous contrast, a human being can not only visualize the entire scope of his own life, but he can also comprehend the whole expanse of all human life as one unified concept.

“No animal asks questions about the meaning or purpose of life, because animal life cannot be doubted, it can only be embraced and enjoyed. Man is unique, certainly on earth and probably in the Cosmos, who asks such questions. (Dobzhansky)

It does not matter for the purpose of this article what answers the individual human being gives himself in response to his own crying need to attain some meaning for his own personal life. By the simple fact that his need to know exists, man has already demonstrated the transcendent uniqueness of the human mind: its knowledge and ignorance, its awareness and loneliness, its grandeur and wretchedness. “Man knows that he is wretched. He is therefore wretched, because he is so; but he is really greater because he knows it” (Pascal).

Victor Frankl developed an entire school of psychotherapy around man’s search for meaning. And he refutes the claim of those who say that man’s search for meaning is just a “secondary rationalization” of the instinctual drives of minds.”



In contrast to animals, who are restricted by specific geographical, physiological and psychological circumstances, human beings are almost infinitely adaptable.

“It is true indeed, that man, in contrast to the animal, shows an almost infinite malleability; just as he can eat almost anything, live under practically any kind of climate and adjust himself to it, there is hardly any psychic condition which he cannot endure and under which he cannot carry on. He can live free, and as a slave. Rich and in luxury, and under conditions of half-starvation. He can live as a warrior, and peacefully; as an exploiter and robber, and as a member of a co-operating and loving fellowship (Erich Fromm).

Out of Harmony With Nature

All animals contribute to the balance of nature. Only man, among all the creatures on earth, disrupts the balance of nature. The proof? Pollution and pesticides; the crisis in ecology.

Need To Work And Trade

Man rises above the animal kingdom because he produces. No matter how primitive the technology, all human beings work even society molds and permanently changes its environment. What animal could be called a “craftsman” - with, to quote C. W. Mills, “No ulterior motive in work other than the product being made and the process of its creation?”

Once man completes his own work, he trades for the products of his fellow man’s work. No animal does this.

Able To Be Bored

Human beings can become bored. Animals cannot. No animal could realize that “I’m bored.” The difference is fundamental. Animals are content when their basic bodily needs are satisfied. Few men are really content under similar circumstances. Human beings demand variety in their lives change creates interest. Animals, on the other hand, avoid variety in their lives change creates anxiety. (Animals, of course, do experience variation in their lives but it’s a planned variation within very structured boundaries.)


Moral Sense

Animals will do anything if it will benefit themselves. Humans, in contradistinction, can act in accord with a higher sense of what (they at least “think”) is “right” and “good.” We are not presently concerned whether there is, or is not, an “Absolute Right” and/or an “Ultimate Good.” Our point is that man “thinks” there is and therefore tries, or pretends to try, to live in harmony with it. Animals don’t’ try and don’t pretend to try they live by taking the path of least resistance.


Character is totally unknown to animals. Only man can appreciate the concept of character, judgment and self-discipline the capacity to make and stick to a difficult decision in the face of personal hardship.

What animal has even envisioned, or will ever envision, the broad range of human characteristics from boorish to charming, vulgar to gracious, sneaky to upright, sadistic to compassionate, perverse to noble? (Send for our FREE DVD “Diversity” to learn more about character development).

Free Will

Free will demands the absence of predetermined actions. Animals exhibit stereotyped instincts which operate by means of genetically preprogrammed pathways. Human beings can consciously make decisions at any time - even irrational ones.

What animal has ever committed suicide with even a partial realization of what it meant? Animals have been known to sacrifice their lives for their young or to run of cliffs en masse, but these events did not involve a cognizant decision to forever cease to exist.

At the other end of the freewill spectrum is the capability for self-control self-control for its own sake, without any other related reward being considered. Free will is a unique, human-level experience.

Capacity For Wisdom

Do animals have wisdom? The materialist would answer “yes” and then offer the following experiment as his proof: “Animals can be conditioned to choose quinine (an unpleasant stimulus) instead of sugar water (a pleasant stimulus) after learning to associate the sugar water with a painful shock (an unpleasant reward) and the quinine with a sexually receptive female (a most pleasant reward).”

And that, to the materialist, is supposed to be rudimentary “wisdom.” But it’s actually the involuntary transference of drive-satisfying stimuli to other stimuli. Nothing more. There is no discernment of what is “Right” or “Good” or “Fair” that capacity belongs exclusively to man.

Wisdom implicitly requires the consideration of other people’s welfare in the decision without any surreptitious plan or ulterior motive for “kickback welfare” to “the self.” Animals can only consider (what they do not even know as) “the self.” They are not concerned with any other animal’s welfare except as it would produce a directly beneficial result for themselves. So do animals have wisdom? NO!

Obsession for Worship

The worship of a “higher reality” has characterized every human society. This worship has, more often than not, been irrational. But that’s irrelevant for the present purpose. It is likewise irrelevant whether the desire to worship has been due to heredity or environment.

The point is that animals don’t worship. And man does. Every known human society has been characterized by some form of worship directed toward a “higher” level of existence. This does not mean that every human being in each society has “believed.” As far as the individual is concerned, the choice is open. But no choice is open for animals. Animals don’t worship.

Now an animal does exhibit a fervent respect for a group leader or will permanently follow its mother (the “imprinting phenomenon”). But in all cases, there exists a tangible object which draws the animal’s subservience.

Man, though often using tangible objects, looks to a higher source of power which defies investigation by the physical senses. Whether or not this “higher reality” this non-tangible object of worship really exists is presently inconsequential. It does exist in the human mind, and it does not exist in the animal brain.

Higher Purposes

The word “purpose” allows for many interpretations. Animals have “purpose” in that they search for food, desire to mate, avoid bodily pain, protect their young and strive for every creature comfort. These same “purposes” in life epitomize the struggles of the human race. But, in man, these need not be so. Animals have no choice. Human beings do.

Ultimate Capacity For Love

Love, properly defined, is a selfless, outgoing concern for others. Human beings have the potential though rarely expressed in attaining it: mercy without self-gain, compassion without guile, charity without self-righteousness.

Animals are surely attracted to “things,” but this attraction is simply a self-centered craving for, and association with, their compulsive needs such as maternal instinct, sex, food, attention, etc. This is the direct opposite of outgoing love.

The fact that man can even comprehend the possibility of selfless love is remarkable in itself, and unequivocally sets us apart from the animal kingdom.

Be watching for the next installment in this series. Coming soon.

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