HumanApe

Humans Are Better Than Animals

5 ¼ min

Most readers upon seeing the title of this article likely thought, “Well duh.” However, The New York Times opinion page apparently needs a reminder of this basic fact of metaphysics, as philosophy professor Crispin Sartwell argues that this idea is “a good candidate for the originating idea of Western thought. And a good candidate for the worst.”

There is so much wrong with this train of thought that a complete dissection of the editorial is not possible in this limited space.

To start with however, we can examine Sartwell’s question: “If we truly believed we were so much better than squirrels, why have we spent thousands of years driving home the point?”

Well, for one thing people like Mr. Sartwell keep claiming that humans aren’t better than squirrels.

Humans alone are beings created of both spiritual and physical realities. When any human rejects the spiritual reality and chooses instead to indulge his every physical desire, it is a cause for sorrow both for God whom they have rejected, and for the entirety of humanity who might have benefited from a proper application of the individual’s will and intellect.

Allowing oneself to be consumed by animalistic urges is not an enlightened virtue or an exercise in freedom; it is a selfish choice that draws its maker further into the slavery of his own impulses. In such a manner, believing that man is no better than animals is practically tautological. Anyone who believes such has no reason to act differently, and they will become more like an animal than those who aspire to higher things.

Sadly, there are people who would agree with Sartwell’s position just to avoid the responsibility of an enlightened life and to focus on the same base animalistic urges.

Contrary to Sartwell’s assertion, animals’ “similarities to humans” have not “constituted insults,” nor are they “disconcerting.” In the grand scheme of things, the similarities are simply irrelevant because the differences are too great. Squirrels (Sartwell’s preferred point of comparison) do not ponder life after death, they do not create art or currency, and they do not send scientific instruments to distant planets. Squirrels are concerned only with finding food, avoiding becoming food, and mating.

As regards eating, Sartwell claims that the connection of the idea of human superiority over animals “to the way we treat animals — for example, in our food chain — is too obvious to need repeating. … In this scheme of things, we owe nature nothing; it is to yield us everything.”

Our food chain? What about the peregrine falcon’s food chain? How cruelly this bird devalues the lives of—heaven forefend—the squirrels it eats! What about the brown bears who feast on salmon as the fish swim upstream to spawn? Do they not realize they owe nature something in return?

Awareness of our ecological impact on the world around us is itself a uniquely human trait. Neither the Burmese python, the emerald ash borer, nor any other invasive species care about the ecological havoc they wreck when introduced into an environment unprepared to deal with them. They eat and breed without a thought for the rest of the world. Humans, on the other hand, have a whole day dedicated to planting trees.

If humans are not better than animals, then Jonathan Swift’s modest proposal for solving the problem of Irish poverty should have been taken more seriously. After all, many female praying mantises eat their partner after (or during) the reproductive act, and scientists have discovered that those who do so produce more eggs. Plenty more eating to go around as a result.

Furthermore, Mr. Sartwell’s claim that the idea that humans are superior to animals has been “a useful justification for colonialism, slavery and racism” is patently ridiculous. If anything, the opposite has been true. Far more interesting than the similarity that Sartwell identifies between men and squirrels—“we poop”—is the similarity between men and chimpanzees: War.

The Gombe Chimpanzee War was a separatist conflict between the Kahama chimpanzees and the Kasakela chimps from whom they had split. This conflict, waged over a period of nearly four-and-a-half years, was recorded by Jane Goodall. The Kasakela chimps killed every male member of the Kahama chimps, and of the females, one was killed, two went missing, and the remaining three were beaten and kidnapped by Kasakela males.

This is no isolated incident in the Animal Kingdom either. A 2014 study labeled chimps “inherently violent,” while lions are well known for conquering a pride of females from rival males, and then killing cubs sired by the previously dominant males.

War, genocide, cannibalism, sexual violence… tell us again how great it is to be animals?

The idea that humans are of greater value and import than animals has led human society to reject these behaviors. That is not to say that tribal preferences do not exist and wars do not happen among humans. But when murders, wars, genocide, and infanticide do occur, a shared belief in human dignity causes most of the world to look upon such actions with horror.

But if we are to view ourselves as mere animals, well, the chimps and lions do it. Why shouldn’t man?

The answer of course is that man is not an animal, and we are called to higher and better things. We are called to respect our fellow man and treat each individual with the inherent dignity of a creature made in the image and likeness of the Creator.

If we stop recognizing that inherent dignity, if we fail to strive to achieve our higher calling, it is only then that we will slip into being more animal-like.

--

Dear Readers,

Big Tech is suppressing our reach, refusing to let us advertise and squelching our ability to serve up a steady diet of truth and ideas. Help us fight back by becoming a member for just $5 a month and then join the discussion on Parler @CharlemagneInstitute and Gab @CharlemagneInstitute!

Image Credit: 

Pixabay

Anders Koskinen

Anders Koskinen

Anders Koskinen is an Editorial Associate at Intellectual Takeout. He earned his BA from the University of Minnesota in December 2016 where he graduated with a double major in Journalism and Political Science.

Add a Comment

 

Join the conversation...

You are currently using the BETA version of our article comments feature. You may notice some bugs in submission and user experience. Significant improvements are coming soon!

or

Account Photo
Ozarks Tom
-
His whole essay can be refuted in just one sentence: We're not afraid of vacuum cleaners.
 
 

or

PaleRider
-
We humans are a species of animal. We are the homo sapiens, the wise or rational man. We can control animal instincts and behavior because Reason has led us to establish Moral Codes. That is the primary difference between the human animal and other species, who are ruled only by instincts, fears and wants. I am extremely fond of most other animal species and believe that we who have overcome by means of Reason most of the Natural world should have a care for the other species by providing large Wildlife Sanctuaries where they can live as Nature intended. The idea that any other species would do the same for us or any other group of animals is idiotic. This Sartwell character is most likely a poseur, a fraud pandering to people even more mentally negligible and irresponsible than he is or someone in dire need of psychiatric care.
 
 

or

Insectman
-
Evolution is a lie.
 
 

or

Account Photo
Kalikiano
-
As a confirmed pessimist in the Schopenhauer mold (not to mention a huge H.L. Mencken fan), I've always felt that so-called 'dumb animals' get an undeserved slam from human intellectuals...especially those who boldly emphasise the erstwhile 'spiritual' qualities of humanity's arguably advanced and questionably 'moral' sentience. Humanity is, in my considered opinion, a grossly 'failed' attempt by Ma Nature to evolve a superior critter, given our pathetically scant several thousands of years of effort to control the destructive tendencies of our species that constitute fully half of our whole make-up. The fact that we've achieved the heights of sublime brilliance, only to negate just about every aspect of them by the wreaking of utter depravity, devastation, brutal violence and unthinkable savagery ...most often in the name of someone's favorite 'supreme being'...for me bespeaks volumes about our ineluctable insuitability to assume the top slot on evolution's uppermost plateau. Accordingly, I've always felt that the planet would be far better off if someone finally pushed the big red button, eradicate Homo sapiens and let the world restore its natural balance and rhythm of existence, free of humanity's infuriating desire to establish 'spiritual' hegemony. Reason be damned, I say! It's waaaay overrated. QED.
 
 

or

stephenfeldman@msn.com
-
If there were only squirrels, who would be concerned about comparative value? Now assume there is life on other planets. The life there develop interstellar travel. They perceive all cognition within a range of proximity. Humans do not develop these skills. The 2 modes meet approximately 111 yrs from today. Which is better? Who decides? Most important question, why does it matter?
 
 

or

X