Monday, July 29, 2013

Someone Asked Whether Religion Was Bad For Animals

The answer is obviously yes: we're animals and religion is bad for us. It's also unfortunate that some religions teach that humans are fundamentally different from other life forms. I'm not an expert on Native American cultures, but I gather that some of them regard humans as just one part of life, no more important than other parts, an insight which Graeco-Roman Judaeo-Christian culture has resisted with much tenacity. And for all I know there many be many other human cultures in other parts of the world which lack these strange ideas about humans being unique, and about "nature" as something separate from humans. It amazes me to see how many biologists, although they've managed to shake the primitive belief in a deity or deities, still hang on to primitive ideas of human exceptionalism, insisting that humans are unique and separate from the rest of life, in the face of ever-mounting evidence that we are not. It's as if they haven't fully grasped the fact that all life forms are continuing to evolve, and that a paltry few million years ago our ancestors were creatures which human exceptionalists would not recognize as human, and that there's no reason to think that in a paltry few million years the descendants of dogs or cats won't be able to read or build computers or do other things which supposedly are "uniquely human." (What, you think dogs and cats aren't paying attention to us?) Not to mention assuming things such as that other species here and now have no human-like emotions, or that we actually comprehend their sophistication in other fundamental ways and are therefore qualified to compare them (disparagingly) with ourselves. Heraclitus and Nietzsche only got this one half right when they pointed out the similarity between apes and humans and said that people don't want to see the obvious similarities because apes are ugly and the similarity is insulting to us: some of the similarities between us and apes are insulting to the apes.

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