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Thread: Humans as Non-Animal: Can any inferences be drawn?

  1. Top | #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by bilby View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    I've been thinking about this thread some more. One needs to wonder if many of our belief systems, as well as technologies, are built to stand in contrast to as well as control nature. The world we lived in when many of our ideas were developed was likely quite terrifying in a lot of ways, so there'd be a huge psychological benefit in the idea that a) someone is watching out for us / we're special, and b) we'll be relieved of our struggle when our life is over.

    It's comfortable to think of ourselves as distinct from nature, and also build things that protect us from nature.
    Comfortable it may be, but from an evolutionary perspective, our structures, technology and civilisation are no less part of nature than is a beaver dam or a termite mound.

    Life shapes its environment, and environments shape life.

    Even having oxygen in the atmosphere is an unnatural phenomenon, resulting from the exploitation of carbon dioxide and sunlight by living organisms.

    There's no coherent schema wherein automobiles and skyscrapers are artificial, but an atmosphere containing ~20% oxygen is not.

    If we say that humans are separate from the natural world because of the changes made to the world by humans, then that's just question begging. Microbes have made vastly greater changes in the world than humans ever will.
    Right, I'm not arguing that we, or what we've built, is distinct from nature. I'm making a comment that our entire worldview and cultures are predicated on the idea that the natural world is hostile, and our desire to separate ourselves from that hostility (you could say like any other animal).

    I think that would account for a basic desire to see ourselves as not an animal. Even those who aren't religious, I think there is still a very deep belief that we are somehow different, apart from the natural world. This kind of abstracts the very real pressures we face and makes them seem more bearable.

  2. Top | #32
    Tricksy Leftits Angry Floof's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    I came across this New York Times op-ed a few days ago: Humans Are Animals. Let's Get Over It, and thought it was an interesting view. I haven't read the article in depth and am not that interested in it's contents, but it does raise an interesting question: over the idea that humans don't see themselves as animals, and believe themselves distinct from the rest of the animal kingdom.

    Even looking at something as fundamental as our scientific name, sapiens, we've framed ourselves as particularly more capable than other species, and not under some other context. This idea that we are special permeates much of our history.

    So that's a starting point for discussion. I don't have any firm opinions about this, but I wonder what kind of inferences we could draw from this fact?

    - is it true that all cultures view themselves as non-animal? If not, which cultures deviate?
    - was there any historical delineation when some of us started seeing ourselves as distinct from nature?
    - what can this artifact of our culture tell us about our collective psyche and human nature?

    Looking forward to responses!
    I think religion has had a big hand in making us believe we are separate from nature and other life, or different in some fundamental way, as if we are special creations and not highly sophisticated, intelligent social mammals.

    I think self awareness has a lot to do with it as well. Free will arguments notwithstanding, the experience of being human is the experience of being an independent, free agent self. We can do a lot of things that no other animal can.

    It hasn't yet killed us to believe we are special creations and not just clever primates, as closely related to other forms of life as any. And we've developed virulent religious memes based on this belief and expounding on it.

    It's easy to understand how easy it is to fall into such a delusion. We generally have no reason to question our reality when it doesn't come back to bite us in the ass, and questioning everything uses up fuel for the brain, so most people will opt out. Brains generally like saving energy until something threatening or unpleasant comes up, or something delicious needs to be chased.

  3. Top | #33
    Tricksy Leftits Angry Floof's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by bilby View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    I've been thinking about this thread some more. One needs to wonder if many of our belief systems, as well as technologies, are built to stand in contrast to as well as control nature. The world we lived in when many of our ideas were developed was likely quite terrifying in a lot of ways, so there'd be a huge psychological benefit in the idea that a) someone is watching out for us / we're special, and b) we'll be relieved of our struggle when our life is over.

    It's comfortable to think of ourselves as distinct from nature, and also build things that protect us from nature.
    Comfortable it may be, but from an evolutionary perspective, our structures, technology and civilisation are no less part of nature than is a beaver dam or a termite mound.

    Life shapes its environment, and environments shape life.

    Even having oxygen in the atmosphere is an unnatural phenomenon, resulting from the exploitation of carbon dioxide and sunlight by living organisms.

    There's no coherent schema wherein automobiles and skyscrapers are artificial, but an atmosphere containing ~20% oxygen is not.

    If we say that humans are separate from the natural world because of the changes made to the world by humans, then that's just question begging. Microbes have made vastly greater changes in the world than humans ever will.
    Right, I'm not arguing that we, or what we've built, is distinct from nature. I'm making a comment that our entire worldview and cultures are predicated on the idea that the natural world is hostile, and our desire to separate ourselves from that hostility (you could say like any other animal).

    I think that would account for a basic desire to see ourselves as not an animal. Even those who aren't religious, I think there is still a very deep belief that we are somehow different, apart from the natural world. This kind of abstracts the very real pressures we face and makes them seem more bearable.
    What bilby said, basically, but I'd like to add that natural/not natural concept is useful within some contexts. But it doesn't make sense when talking about our fundamental nature as a species. It's easy to think a tree is natural but a car is not, and within human experience, that is what I mean by useful in some contexts. The difference only really being one is produced by nature without humans needed, and the other one couldn't exist without humans creating it. Cars don't grow out of the ground. But cars are still the artifacts of nature because their human makers are nature.

    Depends on how meta you want to get. In the grand scheme of things there is no such thing as unnatural, but human made is a thing. It just doesn't separate us from nature to do any of that.

  4. Top | #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angry Floof View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    I came across this New York Times op-ed a few days ago: Humans Are Animals. Let's Get Over It, and thought it was an interesting view. I haven't read the article in depth and am not that interested in it's contents, but it does raise an interesting question: over the idea that humans don't see themselves as animals, and believe themselves distinct from the rest of the animal kingdom.

    Even looking at something as fundamental as our scientific name, sapiens, we've framed ourselves as particularly more capable than other species, and not under some other context. This idea that we are special permeates much of our history.

    So that's a starting point for discussion. I don't have any firm opinions about this, but I wonder what kind of inferences we could draw from this fact?

    - is it true that all cultures view themselves as non-animal? If not, which cultures deviate?
    - was there any historical delineation when some of us started seeing ourselves as distinct from nature?
    - what can this artifact of our culture tell us about our collective psyche and human nature?

    Looking forward to responses!
    I think religion has had a big hand in making us believe we are separate from nature and other life, or different in some fundamental way, as if we are special creations and not highly sophisticated, intelligent social mammals.
    My perspective is that this is a part of it, but I have trouble calling religion ipso facto cause. If you look at social science theory it'll say that we are in a constant process of creating, re-creating, and reifying our cultures. With regards to religion this means that man is a cause of religion, we existed before it did. So I think this largely tells us that most world religions throughout history were created to fit our needs, and not vice versa. But, toward the religion as cause point I believe once you set a certain ideological framework in motion it will reinforce itself in a kind of positive feedback loop. We want to be unique / believe we are unique and so this becomes reflected in our cultures, and because it's reflected in our cultures the belief is reinforced, and because the belief is reinforced it continues to be reflected in our cultures.

    I think self awareness has a lot to do with it as well. Free will arguments notwithstanding, the experience of being human is the experience of being an independent, free agent self. We can do a lot of things that no other animal can.
    This is likely a factor that I'm understating, and I generally agree with. In a lot of ways we are distinct, or at least it would appear that way to an animal that doesn't fully understand itself.

  5. Top | #35
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    To put it very simply, the more I read about the other large apes in the world, the more I realize that we have a lot more in common with our ape relatives than most people realize. We are apes and we share most of the good and bad qualities that define us as humans with our ape cousins. In fact, as time goes on and more research is done, it becomes more obvious that our ape cousins are far more intelligent and self aware that we realized in the past.

    Apes uses tools, and while human built tools and machines may be far more sophisticated compared to the tools that apes use, our tools and machines have had a far more negative impact on the world. It's hard to see what we build as part of nature, but I get the point made by the other posters. Still, no other animals have done the harm that we humans have collectively done to the world. There is no denying that.

    We could blame this on religion, but then the question must be asked, what is it about human nature that makes us want to believe that there is some higher power that created us to be at the top of the food chain? What is it about humans that allow us to believe that some higher power is watching over us, judging us, creating a list of moral rules for us to follow? Why do our sophisticated brains allow us to be so taken in by falsehoods? Is it because we know that we will eventually die and we have difficulty accepting our own mortality, so religious beliefs give us a sense of purpose and the promise of a joyous after life. Even the term after life is an oxymoron.

    It's hard to know if other animals are aware of their impending deaths, but we do know that some other animals grieve over the loss of a loved one. Since they don't speak our language, it's hard for us to know what they are thinking, but many animals are excellent at reading body language, and understanding human languages. Maybe we are the dumb asses when you really think about it. Maybe the other apes understand us better than we understand ourselves. Sometimes I tend to think that's the case.

    One last rambling thought. Humans can mentally masturbate endlessly about all kinds of things, but humans don't seem to be able to know how to establish peace or to keep our habitats from being destroyed by our own actions.

  6. Top | #36
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    A skyscraper is the product of human cultural evolution. It is not innate.

    A bird's nest is the product of natural evolution. It is innate.

    Two completely different processes at work.

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    Quote Originally Posted by untermensche View Post
    A skyscraper is the product of human cultural evolution. It is not innate.

    A bird's nest is the product of natural evolution. It is innate.

    Two completely different processes at work.
    For may Savannnah ungulates, eating grass is effectively the culmination of cultural evolutio: There'd be shrubland with barely any grass if it weren't for generations of ungulates grazing before them.

  8. Top | #38
    Tricksy Leftits Angry Floof's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by untermensche View Post
    A skyscraper is the product of human cultural evolution. It is not innate.

    A bird's nest is the product of natural evolution. It is innate.

    Two completely different processes at work.
    A dam is a part of beaver evolution. It is not innate.

  9. Top | #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by untermensche View Post
    A skyscraper is the product of human cultural evolution. It is not innate.

    A bird's nest is the product of natural evolution. It is innate.

    Two completely different processes at work.
    How so?
    "Banish me from Eden when you will, but first let me eat of the tree of knowledge."

  10. Top | #40
    Mazzie Daius fromderinside's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by southernhybrid View Post
    Humans can mentally masturbate endlessly about all kinds of things, but humans don't seem to be able to know how to establish peace or to keep our habitats from being destroyed by our own actions.
    Is that really a question where being or not being an animal is important? The universe is a process of self destruction.

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