Wanting to differentiate ourselves from animals presupposes that we have nothing good in common with them. But we know that our cooperative propensities are common to many other species, and that the ideas of reciprocity, retribution and equity were not an invention of the French Revolution but are present in primates, elephants, rats, birds and many other animals (De Waal , 2016).

 

There are similarities and differences between  different species, and when analyzing a trait or a study, one must evaluate the evidence and not assume that there is nothing in common.

 

Leaving aside religious thinking, another objection to the idea that human beings are animals comes from environmentalists who argue that we are the only species that can transform the planet into a polluted hell. But that has already been done by the cyanobacteria, a blue-green algae that developed about 3.5 billion years ago and quickly began to fill the atmosphere with oxygen. We are not the only species that uses the land for its own purposes. Newitz gives the example of beavers, who build dams that completely transform the way water moves through forests, flood some areas and dry out others. The ants build enormous underground cities, full of farms where they "milk" aphids and grow mushrooms. So we are not the only polluting way of life, nor the only ones in transforming landscapes with construction and agriculture. Finally, we are not the only species that occupies the entire planet either. Newitz points out that we share this honor with other invading animals such as rats, crows and cockroaches.

Yes, we humans

are animals

 

 

​Roxana Kreimer

@feminiscience

@RoxanaKreimer

"How is it possible to compare a person

with a peacock? "or " Free me from

defining a person by his instincts and not

by reason! "Both expressions are very

common, and are usually accompanied

of the accusation "¡biological determinist!"

We present some reasons to evaluate

that we have more in common with the rest

of animals than we usually believe.

"Even if you read this in a sophisticated electronic device, you are an animal," writes Annalee Newitz. "This radical idea comes from Charles Darwin's studies on evolution, and even today, it suprises some people." We are animals, specifically a category of primate, and while culture changes many of our propensities (for example, men kill less men to dispute a woman), others are common to many animals: for example, in a famous publication of 1972, Robert Trivers reports on dozens of studies that show that females of different species prefer to mate with males that offer them food, a nest or protection, a behavior that is also observed in human females of more than fifty very different cultures  (Schmitt, 2005).

 

The other nonreligious objection to the idea that we are animals comes from the idea that we differ substantively from other species. Newitz mentions great human achievements such as language, the construction of hanging bridges, pipes inside houses. "Thanks humanity! That's true," he exclaims. Like any other species on the planet, we have our own rules and rituals. We are partly animals because we have a repertoire of behaviors of our own, but this does not deprive us of sharing many traits with other animals. Darwin wrote on this subject in his book "The expression of emotions in man and animals." Today hundreds of scientific studies provide solid evidence that animals ranging from chimpanzees to rats share the same emotions and many of the motivations that humans have. We have known for some time that other primates have used tools, but recently it was discovered that they are used by dolphins, ravens and even sea otters (Man and Patterson, 2013). There aren´t  two species that have exactly the same repertoire of behaviors. But we share many traits with other species to pretend that we are beyond the status of animals.

The consideration that we are of a completely different and superior nature to animals comes at least in part from the beginnings of philosophy, when the human attribute of reason was presented as the truly peculiar trait of human nature. And, indeed, it was the tool that allowed us to collaborate like no other species, on a large scale, with strangers and distant, but also the instrument that led to organize a genocide, a large-scale murder, the tool which allows us to feed on others animals, and the one that can also free us from genocidal practices and create technology that offers nutrients that exempt us from the sacrifice of sentient beings.

 

But to consider ourselves outside the animal kingdom and with a special status for having this attribute is objectively false (we share many traits with other species) and ethically questionable (each group tends to think that its attributes are superior to those of the neighboring group).

 

Finally, those who question that we are animals often argue that if we admitted that we are just another animal, then all the atrocities committed by animals, such as sexual coercion, would be justified and that Human Rights would be a failed attempt to counter Darwin's theories. First, Darwin's theory is an analysis of how species have evolved and how we descend from a type of primate. Human Rights do non´t contradict Darwin's theory. They raise the imperative of equal rights, which should not be confused with identity. In this case, Human Rights limit certain aggressive natural impulses and favor other natural cooperative impulses. Human beings are a highly malleable species and the education and progress of civilization have objectively reduced sexual violence, as well as other forms of violence. Knowing our propensities, on the other hand, can help us to dismiss and limit undesirable behaviors.

To confuse the study of what exists with the declaration of what should exist is one of the forms of what is known as the Naturalistic Fallacy. If we said that women should dedicate themselves only to raise children because of  the division of labor, we would be committing that fallacy, since human beings can change many of their natural propensities. Whether or not there are limits to these changes should be the subject of future research .

 

In short: we are animals, we have special attributes like any other animal, as well as a tribal bias to declare an alleged (and doubtful) superiority. To mention our animality should not promote the anger of many of those who deny it, emulating the worst traits of the animals with whom they declare having nothing in common.

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Mann, J., & Patterson, E. M. (2013). Tool use by aquatic animals. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B, 368(1630), 20120424.

Schmitt, D. P. (2005). Fundamentals of human mating strategies. The handbook of evolutionary psychology.

Yes, humans are animals. Analee Newitz