Introduction (More than animals)
"What the heck am I?" is a thought that has crossed most of our minds. Some say that I am just the product of a blotch of goo with time, energy and chance added to the mix. Others say that we are gods or potential gods. Most churches teach something in the middle: We are in the image of God, and therefore have value.
These are not satisfactory answers.
If I am just a lucky blotch of goo, then there is no such thing as love. It is just an ingenious illusion created by the manipulation of chemicals by the same things by which we were created: time, energy and chance. It cannot be a surprise that those who's thoughts lead them this way have difficulty in finding meaning to life and relationships. As the goo changes with time, so fades love. The one who is a goo knows his own hypocrisy when he is angry. His belief does not match his actions. If circumstances are just haphazard occurrences, then anger is senseless. Though he can justify using others for his own survival, resents when he himself is used.
If I am a god, then I too have a disconnect between my belief and my experience. God's don't suffer. God's don't lie. God's are self-sufficient and do not covet or need assistance.
The Christian answer is no more satisfactory. I am made in the image of God and therefor have worth. Yet no one recognizes my worth. I feel alone. People don't respect me or my choices. And should I visit a mega church, I may be among thousands of people who say I have worth, yet they do not recognize their own members, cannot identify me as a visitor and I stand alone after the service hoping to dialog about the God they claim to know. Many small churches are no better as people flee to the parking lot to continue the day with their preconceived notions of how their day should progress.
It would appear that being in the image of God allows you to be a God as you determine what is good for you.
Since no one seems to know, it appears that we can make our own choices of life and death, good and evil. We can consciously make choices or flow with our instincts. We are told to ask God. That is a convenient dodge when you don't have an answer. Everyone is allowed to talk to God; but if you hear back from him you are deemed insane.
Those who are sane appear insane to the insane. The answer is not to ask God, but to hear God.
Here is a secret. I don't know why it is a secret. You would think that churches would want to teach it, and that everyone would want to know.
It means that God created us knowing that we did not understand him. He wants us to know him so that we can believe (trust) him and understand.  Before you can hear God, you must believe he wants to be heard and you must wish to listen. This is just like anyone else. Before you can understand your neighbor, you must believe that he is, and wants to be heard. 
|We ARE animals but...
In many ways we share a nature with animals.
2. Adam gave the animals names based on their reputations.  The Hebrew word for 'name' is the same for 'reputation'.  The behavior he saw in them was used in the law of cleanliness as examples of behaviors observed in men. Dinner Theater in the Dietary Law examines this more closely.
3. Both men and animals have spirit. 
4. We have similar instincts to preserve ourselves. We choose what is good and evil by instinct and usurp God's position as the one who defines Good. 
|We are NOT animals
Though we share many attributes and characteristics with animals, we are not animals. This goes beyond the 'opposable thumbs' and the use of tools.
1. When Eve was tempted, she was tempted to live by her instincts like an animal.  By choosing what was good for her, using her instincts, she usurped God position of declaring good and evil.
When she was cast out of the garden, she was not cursed, but confronted in her sin. "If you wish to live like an animal, try bearing children without increased pain." 
2. The spirit of animals goes to the earth and the spirit of man returns to God.  Without needing to debate what the spirit is, we know that the destination of the spirit of animals is different than that of the spirit of man.
|We ARE gods but...
The word translated 'gods' is 'Elohim'. As seen previously, Elohim means 'God separated from man by ignorance'. God is not elevating man to the position, stature or nature of God. He is declaring that man is separated from him by ignorance.
It can be said either way: "God separated from man by ignorance" or "Man separated from God by ignorance". It is an improper translation to say 'Elohim' means God. It is more proper to say it as "God, who is separated from man by ignorance". But that is tedious, so it got shortened and forgotten.
The Psalmist said, "I have said You are 'men separated from God by ignorance; you all are sons of the 'teaching ל of the flesh ע' , and so you will die like men."
Adam chose to make God a peer. "If God can make rules...", he thought, "so can I". God acknowledged that the man had become like God.  The translations say 'knowing good and evil', but the word 'knowing' is also 'declaring'. The man had made himself to be like God by usurping God's position of the one who declares good and evil.
Eve sinned by following the flesh, and Adam sinned by following his pride. We are gods (those separated from God by ignorance) and will die like men. Real Gods don't die.
|We are NOT gods
There is only one God.
Ge 1:1 ¶ In the beginning [the God who is separated from man by ignorance] created the heaven and the earth.
When translated properly, there is no debate if 'Elohim' is a plural form of God, as some would say. When translating it as "God who is separated from man..." "El" אל is unambiguously singular. "Man" is plural since it refers to creation י which is everything or a plural.
He created the heavens... The word is 'hashamayim' השמים. Your Hebrew dictionary is in error because it drops the hei ה and lists the word as 'shamayim' שמים.
Hei is a prefix meaning 'the', so it is understandable why they do so. But in Hebrew, words get their meaning from all the letters in them.
What we miss in the translation is that he created 'ha-shem-im' ה-שמ-ים or 'the names'. Some people believe that you aren't allowed to say the name of God. This is silly. God told Moses to call him YHVH יהוה. Instead of calling him God, they call him 'the name' or 'Ha-shem'.
In Dinner Theater in the Dietary Law we saw that Adam gave the animals their names or reputations based on their behavior. The name 'Ha-shem' means 'the reputation of God. In plural, Ha-shem-im, it means 'his reputations'.
John says that the one God told us he had three reputations in the word for 'the heavens' השמים : Father, Word, and Spirit. The word for 'the heavens' tells us that God has revealed himself in the Trinity. The three are one God. There is only one God. We are not God. 
|We are the image of God but...
The Bible is a literal history. It speaks of real things. But the purpose of the Bible is not to give us a history lesson. It's purpose is to make known the invisible God through the word, works, life, death, resurrection, and indwelling Spirit of the Word of God.
God is Spirit  When he created Adam he was created in his image. What does this mean? "Image' מלם also means idol. Man was a false god, an idol. Not knowing God, the natural man thinks he is a God. The natural man, the carnal mind is war with God. He was made this was. This simply says he was made and was ignorant of God. He did not know God. 'Elohim' means 'God separated from man by ignorance."
Many words in Hebrew express two sides of something. Fire destroys and purifies. Water drowns and gives life. 'Image is like this. It can refer to either side of the issue. Christ is the express image of God.  We are false gods. 
|We are NOT the image of God
Read closely what God said:
▸ ± Ge 1:26 ¶ And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
He has a diminishing scope of what he accomplished:
This is a prophetic riddle, not a poetic redundancy. One cannot solve the riddle until more information is known.
The solution to the riddle
|We ARE the likeness of God
A quick word study is warranted in order to understand 'likeness'.