Rudyard Kipling’s classic 1894 work, The Jungle Book, came to life onscreen in the very memorable 1967 Walt Disney animated film. It featured many popular characters like Baloo the bear, Bagheera the black panther, and of course Mowgli (an abandoned child raised by wolves), whose peaceful jungle existence is threatened by the return of the man-eating tiger Shere Khan.
But one of my favorites was always the kooky character King Louie, an ambitious orangutan with a bit of a chip on his shoulder, who wanted to move up in the world so to speak. And he had a specific way he thought he could do it.
You might remember some of the words to the song he sings to Mowgli after his minion monkeys capture and attempt to extract a special secret from him. Louie believes he’s at the top of the animal kingdom, but that’s not good enough—he wants to be a man and be recognized as one!
King Louie was depicted as a kind of scatter-brained, bebopping, jazz-singing character that Disney (according to their own disclaimers on the Disney+ streaming service) now considers an offensive caricature that utilized racist stereotypes of African Americans.
However, I want to use him to illustrate a variety of concepts that may also seem scatter-brained and disconnected initially (and I’ll be using a lot of rhetorical questions as well), but I will try to pull everything together toward the end of the article for a fuller understanding of our topic.
You see, what King Louie (or rather the writer[s] of his song) was really getting at was the issue of personhood. He was tired of “monkeying around” and wanted his “cuz” (cousin) to give him the secret of how to become human. And what did he think was that secret? The ability to make and manipulate the use of fire.
Now, where did the writers get this idea? Was it just a whimsical notion thrown into the story’s amusing side-plot? Not at all, it was a very specific point made to promote the materialistic and atheistic story of evolution through a commonly taught idea.
This is the notion that the ability to master fire was one of the major transition points in the supposed evolution of our apelike ancestors as they turned into modern humans. As a 2016 Royal Society article stated, “It is plain that fire control has had a major impact in the course of human evolution.”
This notion has roots right back to the father of modern evolutionary thought, as the author makes the point that fire “was regarded by Darwin as the greatest discovery made by humanity, excepting only language” in his 1871 book, The Descent of Man. And so, the “fire drove evolution” notion persists, as this quote from a Smithsonian science article makes clear.
Harvard biologist Richard Wrangham . . . believes that fire is needed to fuel the organ that makes possible all the other products of culture, language included: the human brain.
And lest some skeptics want to downplay its inclusion in The Jungle Book as simply an innocent accident, this admission by a PMLA article published online by Cambridge University Press in 2020 makes the point that Kipling himself embraced Darwin’s ideas and expressed them in many of his works, including his controversial book White Man’s Burden, where his biological views of white superiority (as per Darwin’s conclusions) and Social Darwinism were front and center.
Scholars have long described Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Books as a Darwinian narrative. . . . This essay contextualizes Mowgli’s narrative within a fierce late-nineteenth-century debate about whether the Darwinian theory of natural selection or Lamarckian use inheritance was the main driver of evolutionary change.
The fact is, artists and authors often embed their own beliefs into their works, and Kipling was not immune to that tendency. And this can often influence others.
The Evolution of Disney
Now Walt Disney, although in the past it portrayed itself as a company promoting “traditional family values” (which used to include portraying biblical morality), has long promoted the story of evolution in many of its movies and in its theme park exhibits—sometimes with more subtlety like in King Louie’s lyrics, and sometimes more upfront, such as the entire pond-scum-to-people finale in the animated feature Fantasia.
Of course, the Disney of today is hardly family friendly in any traditional sense at all; rather, it has “evolved” far beyond such notions and seems willing to sacrifice billions of dollars of potential profit just to promote so-called progressive values by including themes and characters in their content that offend many conservative-minded people.
Disney’s 100th anniversary happens this year, and although many (especially older) folks may have a tug of nostalgia for the “old Disney” and what it supposedly used to stand for, they recognize it as extremely agenda-driven today in many ways that it never was before. Why such a big transformation in such a short time?
It seems like they are not just keeping up with society’s acceptance of naturalism and its inevitable consequences, but rather are at the forefront of endorsing all sorts of unbiblical nonsense, such as the idea that people can change their God-given identity by sheer force of will (i.e., a person born A can become Z simply by “deciding it is so”)!
Apparently, a majority of their decision makers are attempting to push their Marxist views of personhood through this entertainment giant now, whereas in the past, there were probably fewer with that bent, so it was less obvious.
What Is a Person?
Now what’s interesting is that up until the last few hundred years, everyone in the West seemed to know exactly what a person was. A human being was considered a special creation—different from and superior to the animals—made in the image of God. Why? Because that’s what the book of Genesis in the Bible plainly said about man’s origins, and the Bible was held in high esteem by most.
But that conceptualization of what a human being is and what personhood means began to change as the story of evolution began to take root among naturalistic influencers in the early 1800s. For example, as early as 1846, promotional material for a Barnum circus sideshow performer touted as a “man-monkey” (a man named Harvey Leech) asked,
Is it an animal? Is it human? . . . Or is it the long sought for link between man and the Ourang-Outang, which naturalists have for years decided does exist . . . ?
You see, this idea that humans are nothing more than hairless apes linked to our hominid forerunners began to be accepted, popularized, and taught as science in academia and eventually to the average child in public schools. Genesis became mythologized for many (even within the church), and this of course radically changed what people believed about what humans are and what personhood means.
No wonder King Louie eventually got the memo that all he needed to do to be like the “other humans” was to inch his way up on the evolutionary scale.
People Championing Personhood for Apes and Other Animals
And his message seems to have made an impact over the years, as at least one of his kind (an orangutan named Sandra) has attained what he was looking for (although not in the same way he’d been trying). An NBC News article reported,
Judge Elena Liberatori’s landmark ruling in 2015 declared that Sandra is legally not an animal, but a non-human person, thus entitled to some legal rights enjoyed by people, and better living conditions. “With that ruling I wanted to tell society something new, that animals are sentient beings and that the first right they have is our obligation to respect them. . . .”
Now (aside from the biblical notion that we should care for animals) this certainly is something new in Western society and puts us in a situation that raises the question, “What is a non-human person?” Is the qualifying factor for personhood being sentient (“able to perceive or feel things”)? Because lots of creatures could be considered sentient, and that’s likely why Sandra isn’t the only animal that people have tried elevating to human status.
For example, Happy the elephant (a resident of the Bronx Zoo) may have been denied personhood (in a recent New York court case testing the boundaries of applying human rights to animals) but the decision was arrived at by a 5-2 vote.
And that means 2 out of 7 of New York’s top court judges were in favor of assigning an elephant personhood and accompanying human rights. Let’s think about this from a modern societal view.
Evolutionists often argue that humans aren’t special in any true sense because we are just evolved animals. For example, a 2004 Australian Broadcasting Corporation TV production promoting the story of evolution had the following narration.
Once we believed we were unique, blessed with a soul and lovingly created by God in His image. Today, evolution says we are just a product of Natural Selection, the descendants of primitive bacteria, not the children of God.
However, if we’re ultimately just overgrown bacteria, why is it then that many want to give animals “human rights”? What makes our rights so special?
Back to Sandra the orangutan—she has now been declared not to be an animal; however, the reason is not because she’s a human, but because she’s a non-human person? But if she’s not an animal, and not a human, what is she then? And how can whatever she is be called a person with “human rights”?
Under this “new information” being doled out to society by this judge (and by the way, who gave her the authority to change the “old information”?), what then does the concept of humanity or personhood even mean? In the big picture of things, where did all of this word salad quackery we now have to deal with come from?
The Evolution of Personhood
Well, the adoption of the story of evolution (including how we supposedly became human) by many has changed the perception of personhood across the entire cultural landscape.
If everything we experience can be traced back to a cosmic explosion, then we are simply the result of random chance processes. And if everything is in a constant state of flux and change (despite us apparently not being able perceive it, because according to many, evolution supposedly takes place so slowly no one can see it), there can be no absolute and permanent definition of anything.
If there is no God who created male and female, cats and dogs, trees and flowers—each with a uniqueness about them—then everything is just a current form that flowed out of something else. So who knows what it may eventually become? And, without the concept of created norms, it seems that the concrete certainty of what personhood means may eventually slip away entirely.
An extreme example comes from my home country of Canada, with a 2022 National Geographic article titled “This Canadian river is now legally a person.”
“The Innu Council of Ekuanitshit and the Minganie Regional County Municipality declared the Mutuhekau Shipu a legal person in 2021. Now the river has nine rights, among them the right to flow, maintain biodiversity, be free from pollution, and to sue.”
Who Determines Personhood?
People need to understand this isn’t simply allusion or allegory—this is now part of Canadian law (as the article explains). But isn’t it astonishing that so-called modern culture has done away with the idea of legal personhood for actual persons (the unborn) and yet is willing to assign personhood to a body of flowing water?
You see, under Canadian law (in Section 223 of the Criminal Code), a child is only a person,
When it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother, whether or not it has breathed [or] . . . has an independent circulation, or the navel string is severed.
That’s right, in Canada, the person who cuts the umbilical cord somehow magically imbues personhood upon a human being. And yet preborn babies are self-aware, feel emotion, can hear Mom’s and Dad’s voices and respond to them, react to music, smile and cry, and do all of the things that babies outside of their moms do. So why is there this arbitrary assignment of personhood in this case?
Meanwhile, rivers aren’t even sentient beings like Sandra the orangutan—they don’t have a personality or emotions whatsoever. As a matter of fact, from minute to minute at any given location, they aren’t even the “same” thing, and the sand and dirt and wildlife and vegetation surrounding them can constantly change as well.
I guess one could suppose according to a naturalistic worldview that perhaps rivers (or portions of their constituent parts) could eventually change and become sentient beings over time—so why not give them “human rights” in advance?
However, again, if people (human beings) aren’t special, why should we be able to determine whether anything else is or if it should be assigned our own status—that of a person? And which people (based on what criteria) should be given the authority to do so? Because as new people with different ideas come and go, then the definition of what a person is could also constantly change.
Can you see how utterly absurd people’s thinking has become? It’s as Romans 1:21 describes: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (emphasis mine).
Nature Ruling Man
It has now become a Western-world phenomenon to have animals and nature elevated to a status above humans. In many countries, it is illegal and punishable by huge fines or imprisonment to kill or destroy the eggs of endangered species, pollute a specific area, emit a specific greenhouse gas, etc.
We are supposed to obsess over whether driving our cars might make the climate change (literally its job description!) because of the possible harm to “mother earth”; however, it is perfectly legal and acceptable to murder a human child in the womb, and in some cases, after they are born!
Why is it that millions of people are comfortable with supporting organizations and individuals committed to destroying actual living people through abortion, many of whom will also attend gala fundraisers and donate millions of dollars to preserve all sorts of plants, animals, and eco-systems?
Why, instead of placing a high value on all human life, has our culture shifted its focus to make animals and the environment the highest priority? It’s quite simple—it’s because of their spiritual condition. People have knowingly rejected God as Creator and have embraced the idea that nature itself is god by accepting the story of evolution. As Scripture describes,
Romans 1:20, 22-23, 25, 28 KJV – “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse… Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things… Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen… And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.”
Church, It’s Not “Just Science”!
Brothers and sisters in Christ, it’s time to come to terms with what is happening in our culture. Often, when looking at the utter clown show of sheer confusion we see in society today regarding personhood, identity, and morality, many Christians don’t seem to be able to connect the dots between what is going on out there and the fact that the majority of the church has abandoned its Genesis foundation and accepted the story of evolution.
As a matter of fact, many of our church leaders, Christian authors, Bible colleges, and seminaries have bought into evolution as the supposed “scientific” explanation for how God created us as well, which not only encourages people’s belief in the false story of evolution, but also signals to the world that the Bible can’t be taken as plainly written.
Adopting theistic evolution weakens the Christian’s ability to imitate our Lord Jesus in quoting Scripture as the final authority (remember his habit of saying, “It is written” or “Have you not read?”). Because let’s face it, the Bible makes no mention of millions of years or evolution but explicitly teaches that God created in six literal days ex nihilo—from nothing.
People naturally end up thinking, “If I can’t trust what’s plainly written in the Bible at the beginning, then why should I trust it anywhere else?”
No, the story of evolution is not “simply a scientific theory” as I have heard so many of my brethren say; rather, it is a concept that claims nature made everything and there’s no need for a Creator.
The Universal Acid of Darwinism
Spiritually and morally, it is a cocktail for utter chaos—and one that has been poured out and served through our schools and media outlets for years now, weakening the fabric of society in unimaginable ways.
As the atheist Daniel Dennet (in reference to the concept of a metaphorical “universal acid” that could conceptually disintegrate anything) once said,
Little did I realize that in a few years I would encounter an idea – Darwin’s idea – bearing an unmistakable likeness to universal acid: it eats through just about every traditional concept, and leaves in its wake a revolutionized world-view, with most of the old landmarks still recognizable, but transformed in fundamental ways.
And he was correct. Today—even with the remnant of church influence in society—many people’s understanding of the world has been turned upside down, including even the basic concept of what it means to be a person.
Who Has the Authority to Assign Personhood?
Even the average child understood what made King Louie’s brief appearance and performance so amusing in The Jungle Book. It was ultimately his autonomous decision to try to assign himself personhood, but as every child knows—apes aren’t people!
Or are they? Now many aren’t sure. Are humans animals? If we are, are we the only animals entitled to fundamental rights such as liberty, autonomy, equality, and fairness? If so, who decides? Who has the ability to define what a person is and give them rights?
Do elected officials that change from year to year have the authority to decide what personhood means for the rest of us? Because if they do, we might not be very happy with how the next one that comes along defines us based on their personal (pun intended) point of view.
As a matter of fact, almost all genocides committed against groups of people began with campaigns to dehumanize the victims to some extent, so that their eradication could be justified by their oppressors. If our standard of personhood is not absolute, there’s no guarantee any of us won’t fail to meet the criteria some other person later decides upon.
Only God Can Decide What a Person Is
One can try and point out specific attributes that separate us from the animals as a reason that we’re special, such as the fact that only humans can think abstractly, are able to use complex language to communicate, and use tools to make tools. But those characteristics alone are not what determines that humans have personhood.
Only God can define who and what we are (and what the rest of reality is), based on his sovereign authority as Creator and Sustainer of everything. And his written revelation to us shows he has created us separate from the animals and has given humans certain rights that he has not given to animals. And he also declared that we are called to care for creation and steward it kindly and correctly.
What makes us unique is described in Genesis 1:27:
Genesis 1:27 KJV – “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”
We are image bearers of God, distinct from animals and given dominion over them.
Genesis 1:28 KJV – “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”
The very idea that men would have the audacity to believe they should grant personhood to animals and even nonliving things like rivers while denying their own children that right is utter madness. But it’s the result of a degenerate culture that has turned its back on the Creator. As atheist Jeremy Rifkin once said,
We no longer feel ourselves to be guests in someone else’s home and therefore obliged to make our behavior conform with a set of pre-existing cosmic rules. It is our creation now. We make the rules. We establish the parameters of reality. We create the world, and because we do, we no longer have to justify our behavior, for we are now the architects of the universe. We are responsible to nothing outside ourselves, for we are the kingdom, the power, and the glory for ever and ever.
Biblical Creation: A Return to Reality
It is doubtful that most people watching The Jungle Book’s debut in 1967 would ever have imagined the implications King Louie’s idea of attempting to turn an ape into a man would have on society’s future. But the full weight of dismissing the idea of a created world with absolute meaning, structure, normality, and reality has finally hit home.
Christians, it is time to stop messing around with ideas like millions of years of supposed evolution and attempting to insert them into the Bible where they don’t belong and where they do great damage to biblical understanding.
People are watching reality unravel and will be looking for those who can provide a consistent worldview, which is what Bible believers have. Indeed, what we see in the world matches what we read in God’s Word when we view the world through the plain reading of Scripture.
However, we must stand on the authority of God’s Word from the very first verse and use it as the plumb line for all of our human experience lest the very meaning of personhood be washed away.