I'm enjoying Melanie Challenger's book, "How to Be Animal: A New History of What It Means to Be Human." Here's some excerpts about our dental that we're animal.
The point here is that life is neither straightforwardly good nor progressive. This might be unbearable if it weren't for the possibility that humans are special. Something important saves us from the threatening parts of earthly life.
We're told this comes from the heart of human nature, some essential part of us. We can't see it and we can't measure it, but it marks us out as the most important life form on Earth.
For those with deep belief in a creator, we have a soul that is unique to the human body. For secular humanist thinkers, we have soul-like mental powers that are unique to the human brain. Each is a reason for why humans aren't truly animals. At least, not in any crucial way.
...This idea -- or something like it -- has been a source of profound solace for countless human lives. Whether it's the soul or some other property, these are ways to take humans out of a bewilderingly anarchic nature.
They are methods to save humans from the difficulties that nature's amorality presents to us. The idea may take on different hues in different times and places. But there's always something transcendent about humans that rescues us.
In this way, the major theories about the significance of human lives have the distinct whiff of psychological necessity rather than rational clarity.
...Hundreds of years of denying that we're an animal has left us with inconsistencies and confusion.
...It is a testament to the depth of our denial that we are animals that we still can't admit this. All that we do, we do as animals. But we justify it as humans. The way we've structured the world is little more than the intuition of an animal whose greater interests lie with its own kind.
But we almost never confess to this. We tell ourselves instead that we have a soul. Or, if we don't want to call it a soul, we say there is a person inside us that is more important than the body from which it's made.
In this way, the bodies of other animals mean nothing. They are bits of machinery, spare parts. We may use them as we wish.
...It's worthwhile to note that no matter how deep into the physical substances of organisms we go, we never find an edge. There's no absolute dividing line between us and other animals, nothing that can offer us an unassailable moral category.
Science now shows us not only that the lives of other organisms are far more complex and sentient than we've sought to admit, but also that our traits -- to lesser and greater degrees -- are things that nature can reinvent.
A blow to God, perhaps. A far greater threat to a rational animal convinced it's the centre of things.
While the slightest insight into our experience shows how necessary it is to care about human lives, this doesn't separate us from the rest of our planet's life. Human life remains an animal life. Our awareness and our exchanges of ideas make us a powerful and sensitive animal, but none of this brings our animal life to an end.
That this idea has had such extraordinary influence across our societies is only now becoming clear. It is surfacing because it matters now more than it ever has that ten thousand years of modernity have delivered an animal that doesn't think it's an animal.