we are animals


Today is no braining Tuesday, so I bring you this interview of de Waal

Why are so many people wedded to the idea that humans are special?

We’re raised with those ideas. It’s an old Christian idea that humans have souls and animals don’t. I sometimes think it’s because our religions arose in a desert environment in which there were no primates, so you have people who lived with camels, goats, snakes, and scorpions. Of course, you then conclude that we are totally different from the rest of the animal kingdom because we don’t have primates with whom to compare ourselves. When the first great apes arrived in Western Europe—to the zoos in London and Paris—people were absolutely flabbergasted. Queen Victoria even expressed her disgust at seeing these animals. Why would an ape be disgusting unless you feel a threat from it? You would never call a giraffe disgusting, but she was disgusted by chimpanzees and orangutans because people had no concept that there could be animals so similar to us in every possible way. We come from a religion that’s not used to that kind of comparison.

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About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

34 thoughts on “we are animals

  1. Mordanicus says:

    I believe you made a typo, as it should be “de Waal” not “da Waal” – “da” is not a word in Dutch.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Barry says:

    Interesting read. I’m surprised de Waal’s thoughts about religion are not that different from my own. I’ve always thought that religion is the result of an evolutionary process by groupings where not all individuals in the group were known by every other member.

    I still consider myself to be religious but I do consider religion to be an evolutionary and social product – there’s no supernatural existence except in our minds.

    I know several atheists have attacked my genuineness when I’ve me tioned I experience a sense of the divine, however I think de Waal’s description of transcendence is the same thing – just described in different language: one secular and one religious.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Barry says:

      I forgot to mention that I agree that we are simply mammals that have got to where we are by the throw of some evolutionary dice. Souls or kami (Japan) or mauri and mana (Māori) etc are human constructs brought about by biological and/or social evolution.

      Liked by 3 people

    • makagutu says:

      I know in the beginning I was hot on your case. Having grown up in and around religion that was so different from what you were saying, it was always difficult to wrap my head around your beliefs. Especially because they sounded more to the atheist side than religious for example your attitude towards god, bible and so on. It’s been a journey and now you are one of my favourite people. You should even the site’s official uncle and grandpa since arch decided to quit this life.

      Liked by 6 people

      • Barry says:

        I’ve simply been fortunate to have grown up in a society where we are (mostly) encouraged to question everything and where (mostly) diversity is welcome. I suspect that if I had grown up within a different family and/or society I might hold less inclusive views. If I can help reduce the distrust of “other” then I’m delighted. If it wasn’t for the fact that I was an undiagnosed autistic until I was 60, I might not understand what effect “othering” has on on the “otheree” and also on the “otherer”.

        Liked by 3 people

  3. jim- says:

    The queen wanted the grape ape—matches her gown. 🍇

    Liked by 2 people

  4. judyt54 says:

    And one early in the day thought: we think we’re special, and we think we are the only ones who think of our species as The Special one…surely any animal out there, perceives his own species as important enough to survive, to raise young, to fight for life or kill to survive…? Possibly not in a language we could comprehend, but still…they matter to themselves, as we do to us.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Swarn Gill says:

    It’s very interesting. I never really contemplated how the animals around you might shape one’s belief about where humans stand in context of other animals. Of course I didn’t grow up around primates either, but that is the value of education, something that certainly wasn’t happening at the time of the bible…at least in terms of educating kids about animals found in other parts of the world. As a proponent of environmental determinism, the idea expressed here makes a lot of sense.

    In Malay the name “orangutan” literally means ‘people mocker’. People who grew up around such creatures noticed easily the similarity to humans. Given that Malaysia is now an Islamic nation, I wonder how easily they accept evolution. lol

    Liked by 2 people

  6. shelldigger says:

    That’s something I noticed way back when I was a kid. How similar us special people were to all of the other animals. We all do just about everything the animals do, we all eat, drink, shit, procreate, pass gas, fight, communicate, just like most animals. We look very similar to many animals when you cut us open, we all have brains, blood, intestines, hearts, lungs (mostly,) stomachs, etc. We share the same body plan with a surprising number of animals (two eyes, two ears, two arms, two legs.) How anyone in their right mind would consider themselves NOT animals, is a case of absolute ignorance bordering on stupidity.

    Only one thing I know of that can do that to people.

    Religion.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I grew up around a lot of puppies and dogs. Thus, I can often be found humping table legs and the like when I’m horny. Now, needless to say, this has caused me countless lawsuits and endless legal strife throughout my life, but, it has also given me very meaty and powerful hip muscles, so it’s not all bad. 😀

    Liked by 3 people

  8. In the beginning…

    Man saw himself as superior because he stood upright on two legs – until he saw animals do it too.
    Then, Man looked at his opposable thumbs and saw that as superior – until he noticed it on other primates.
    Then, Man considered his tool-making skills as superior – until he observed many other creatures using tools.
    Then, Man looked at his clothing and saw that as something unique and superior – until his wife put a sweater on their dog.
    Then, Man perceived his penchant for war as a superior trait because it enabled dominion over others – until he witnessed Chimpanzees waging war.
    Then, Man viewed his social organization as indicative of his superiority – until he viewed the greater social organization of ants.
    Then, Man saw his ability to learn as superior – until he saw many other creatures excel at learning.
    Then, Man listened to his complex language which must be superior, he thought – until he listened to the sounds of whales which he could not understand.
    Finally, Man’s image of himself as superior rested solely on his capacity for abstract thought – until the day came when he saw a dolphin admire herself in a mirror.

    I think we are running out of rationalizations, don’t you?

    Liked by 4 people

    • makagutu says:

      In War and Peace, Tolstoy wrote

      It was necessary to renounce the consciousness of an unreal immobility in space and to recognize a motion we did not feel; in the present case it is similarly necessary to renounce a freedom that does not exist and to recognize a dependence of which we are not conscious.

      and I think we can add, in the present case, it is similarly necessary to renounce a superiority that does not exist and recognize a similarity of which we have too much evidence in its favour

      Liked by 1 person

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