Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

The Relationship of Religious and Existential Variables to Scores on the Animal-Human Continuity Scale

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

The Relationship of Religious and Existential Variables to Scores on the Animal-Human Continuity Scale

Article excerpt

The present study determined the relationship of religious and existential variables to scores on the Animal-Human Continuity scale that measures the extent that the respondents view animals and humans in a dichotomous vs. continuous fashion. The 99 students at an evangelical Southern university scored in a more dichotomous direction than the 96 students at a secular Southern university. Also, the students who had more of a dichotomous orientation went to church more frequently, had greater belief in God and a life after death, and had greater certainty about God and life after death. On the existential instrument, the Life Attitude Profile-Revised, a dichotomous orientation was associated with high score on Purpose, Choice/Responsibilities, and Existential Transcendence. Although prominent existentialists have tended to be more humanistic than theistic, in the current study higher existential scores were obtained by participants with traditional Christian beliefs.

Today, in America, there is a split in the philosophical, religious, and scientific worldviews of modern man (Newman, 1987). One aspect of the split is between those whose world view is that animals and humans are dichotomous in nature and those who hold that human beings and animals are on a continuum. At one extreme are creationists who hold the dichotomous view that God created animals first and then created humans in God's own image in a literal week (Genesis 1:20-27). At the other end is a strict evolutionary perspective that suggest that humans only evolved from the lowest cell, a continuum that took hundreds of millions of years to develop, and that humans have no spiritual aspects. There are, of course, world views that could be regarded as a blend of the two. There are many people who believe that the human body can be viewed as a product of evolution but that humanness did not begin until God asserted a soul. Difference in these world views may determine how we treat animals and each other. Mahatma Ghandi said that "the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be measured by how it treats its animals" (Ridgeway, 2008). The purpose of the present study was to correlate church attendance, strength of belief, and existential life attitudes with the Animal Human Continuity Scale (Templer, Connelly, Bassman, & Hart, 2006), which assesses the extent to which animals and humans are viewed on a continuum versus a dichotomy.

Literature Review

This review of literature has two parts. The first part contains the traditional views of Christian theologians and philosophers that there is a qualitative difference between humans and animals with the former having a spiritual aspect and the latter not possessing such. These scholars often traced the roots of their ideas to Plato and Aristotle. The second part consists of the cognitive abilities in animal research. These two areas should not be viewed as contradictory. Since humans have body structure and functioning similarity with some animals, it is to be expected that brains and associated cognitive processes would have some similarity. An additional caveat is that the authors never conceptualized a one-to-one relationship between one's theological position and score on the Animal-Human Continuity Scale.

Religious and Philosophical literature

There is a wide variation of attitudes toward animals among naturalists, with some viewing them as genetic cousins, while others see them as inferior species (Darwin, 1859). The book of Genesis records that God created the world in seven days. God's creation of all species of animals on day 6 and then humans on day 7 implies distinct differences and importance. Providing humans with dominion over all living things also emphasizes a unique position of humans. Furthermore, the making of humans in the image of God implies a spiritual aspect to humans.

The Greek philosophers, especially Plato and Aristotle, dealt with the concept of the soul. …

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