What sets us, as human beings, apart from all the other animals, or created beings? Most people, probably more or less correctly, would immediately say something like, 'human beings have souls'. The human animal, one might say, unlike other animals, has learned to codify ( ? ) spoken language & to live morally, in civilization, but then, the tables could easily be turned, showing that many human beings act worse than any wild animal! There have been studies done that show that many so-called 'wild' animals seem to have more morality & live more civilized lives than many human beings.!
The phrase, 'all dogs go to heaven', though it has waned in popular use over the past decade or so, is still very much alive, in concept anyway! Ask most any pet owner nowadays, especially the older ones & they will tell you their pets are their 'kids'. In fact, some of them will tell you they like them better than most humans! In some sense, one can't really blame them! Over the past year or so, it has become popular when one's pet has died, to say that they have 'passed over the rainbow bridge' & will be waiting for them once they too, 'pass over the rainbow bridge'. No matter the case, whether or not these beloved pets will be reunited with their owners in some sort of after-life or not, one thing is abundantly clear to anyone who 'owns' one of these animals; they ARE possessed of some sort of spirit & while they might not possess the intelligence & abilities we, as human beings, do, it is evident they do communicate with each other!
Human beings, while in most cases a step or so above the other animals, have traditionally been regarded as special, largely because of a misunderstanding of the first chapters of Genesis! The misunderstanding is that the creation account in Genesis 1 & 2 is a record of the beginning of Time. The 'creation' of Adam & Eve has always been understood by the majority of Christians as the actual foundation of the human race. Science has proven beyond any reasonable doubt, however, that human beings roamed the planet long before the genesis of biblical history!
When Genesis 2:7 records that the Creator 'breathed into his nostrils the breath of life', we should understand that, like in the prophet Ezekiel's vision ( Ezekiel 37:9 & 10 ), it was not biological life that came over Adam & Eve, but spiritual, or covenantal. It was awareness of the Creator that came upon them that 'day', awareness that the Architect of the universe was not a cold, faceless Being, but one that sought blessed relationship with those He ( She/It ) had created.
Human beings have doubtless been endowed with the Spirit of Life! While Scripture tells a Story of that Life being awakened within humanity, it also gives us what might be noted as a clue, a glimpse into the whole concept that even animals, as creations of the Great Architect, are not without the blessings of the Spirit of Life! Humankind could, in fact, learn many an important lesson from what we have traditionally called 'dumb' animals; some have noted these important lessons & embraced their more or less elevated status, while others have chose to remain ignorant & hopelessly flounder in what might be called 'the primordial ooze'!
The Human Animal, having been chosen, biblically speaking, as the engine through which the Creator would become One with His ( Her/Its ) Creation has a larger brain capacity than most domesticated animals, to be sure, but there are many yet in the wild who's brain capacity is much larger than ours! Although it cannot be proven, I believe that the brain is the physical manifestation of the spirit, so therefore, according to that reasoning, the bigger the brain, the higher intelligence manifested by the controlling spirit. This theory, of course, is not 'water-tight', but one has to wonder why some humans seem to have 'pea-', or even bird-brains', while some of these 'dumb animals', whether domesticated or yet wild, seem possessed of greater intelligence?
As a race, humans have enjoyed an ascendancy, especially with 'The Dawn of Civilization', over the other animals; indeed, Scripture itself tells the Story of how Adam & Eve were given dominion over the rest of the 'creation', including the animals. With the advent of such life-changing concepts as Covenant Creation & the notion that Adam & Eve were not the progenitors of the human race, one might begin to wonder; 'if the animal mentioned throughout Scripture were not actually animals at all, but human beings of lesser intelligence, or awareness, then maybe we were not necessarily given the dominion over these 'dumb animals', as we thought, but rather, maybe we should understand that it's really just a Story about how Israel was the Creator God's tool whereby He brought all into subjection under Him!'
If we can get past the notion that wild or domesticated animals ( as opposed to the human animal ) are there only for our pleasure, maybe we can begin to to learn from them how to be truly civilized! Although human beings normally have a larger brain capacity than most domesticated animals, it is by no means a given that they use it to its full capacity; some animals, on the other hand, seem to exceed their brain capacity! We could learn a lot from what we call 'dumb animals' & while some have learned some life-altering lessons, others have failed to see this most important of truths, continuing to treat their fellows, whether human or 'mere' animal, as simply their next 'meal-ticket'!
Charles Haddon Shank