We Could Have Been Reptiles

I ran across this gem in Francis Collins’ book, The Language of God:

If you rewound the clock several hundred millions years, and then allowed evolution to proceed forward again, you might end up with a very different outcome. For example, if the now well-documented collision of a large asteroid with the earth 65 million years ago had not happened, it might well be that the emergence of higher intelligence would not have come in the form of a carnivorous mammal (Homo sapien), but in a reptile.

How is this consistent with the theological concept that humans are created “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27)? Well, perhaps one shouldn’t get too hung up on the notion that this scripture is referring to physical anatomy – the image of God seems a lot more about mind than body. Does God have toenails? A belly button? (Collins, The Language of God, 140)

5 thoughts on “We Could Have Been Reptiles

  1. Eileen says:

    “the emergence of higher intelligence would not have come in the form of a carnivorous mammal (Homo sapien), but in a reptile.”

    Well, that is a very interesting counterfactual which I had not considered. I wonder if such intelligent reptiles would believe that they were highly-evolved microbes? I’m guessing no.

    Must. Not. Make. Obvious. Joke. Which. Screams. From. Reptilian. Portion. Of. My. Brain. When. Highly-educated. Homo sapiens sapiens academicus. Makes. Serious. Scientific. And. Deep. Theological. Point.

    Amen to ReformedSinger’s observation.

    Seriously, Rachel, it is getting difficult to keep the players and positions straight. I think I need some kind of spreadsheet or flowchart or something. Is there anything that these guys all agree on other than the “fact” that we owe our existence to evolutionary processes? Seems basically like baptized animism/ancestor worship except that our ancestral lines do not stop at the boundary of “human,” whatever that means to these guys.


  2. B. N. Seeley says:

    What comes to mind is that famous quote from that imminently quotable movie, “Oh, Brother Where Art Thou?”. In the scene where the prisoners are all marched into the movie theatre,

    “We thought you was a frog!”


  3. Rachel Miller says:

    Reformed Singer~ that crossed my mind too.

    Eileen~ I’m working on a post along those lines, but there are definitely things they agree on: the earth is billions of years old, common descent and natural selection resulted in the diversity of life we see (including humans), and there was never a time when there were just two humans on the planet.

    B.N. Seeley~ that’s one of my favorite movies. Thanks for the laugh.


  4. reformedsinger says:

    B.N. Seeley . .. that’s a good one! I think Pete’s line from the movie is applicable to this discussion: “No, they never did turn me into a toad.”


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