Why do humans see themselves as different from animals?

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Mega85
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Why do humans see themselves as different from animals?

Postby Mega85 » Fri Apr 14, 2017 10:29 pm UTC

While humans are scientifically classified as animals, we frequently see ourselves as being something different from the animals. Why is this?

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Re: Why do humans see themselves as different from animals?

Postby Xanthir » Fri Apr 14, 2017 11:16 pm UTC

We're the only animal that has invented message boards, obviously.
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Re: Why do humans see themselves as different from animals?

Postby commodorejohn » Fri Apr 14, 2017 11:49 pm UTC

Because people get mad when I urinate in public.
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Re: Why do humans see themselves as different from animals?

Postby Deva » Sat Apr 15, 2017 12:03 am UTC

Likes feeling important. Guesses a tribal-like effect too. Views your group as better than others.

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Re: Why do humans see themselves as different from animals?

Postby ivnja » Sat Apr 15, 2017 3:40 am UTC

Does this question really have a scientific answer?

Conjecture: I don't know when the idea would have really started, but by the time any of our ancestors would have worried about consciously classifying things as plants and animals (and from there, bird, beast, fish, etc), there would clearly have been something different about us - societies would still have been tribal, but humans were wearing clothing, using tools, and building structures, and societies would have been growing increasingly complex. It's not a particularly unreasonable position for early humans to take, especially without the scientific knowledge of cells and DNA and all that we have today. At some point, the belief in humanity's uniqueness was codified in religion (for example, in the Abrahamic traditions God creates man in His image, gives us dominion over the animals, etc), and from there it's an article of faith for a lot of people, tied in with disbelief in evolution and all that, so even people who you could argue should know better see us as something separate.

Plus, even knowing where we do fit in the animal kingdom, it's not difficult to look around at what we've built and say that we have reached a unique level of development.
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Re: Why do humans see themselves as different from animals?

Postby Copper Bezel » Sat Apr 15, 2017 4:05 am UTC

Needn't be anything philosophical or hierarchical. "Non-human animals" is a commonly useful category of things. We usually exclude animals and people from the category "objects" and so on as well. We know what is referred to.

At a basic level, the way in which conspecifics are useful or notable is not generally the way in which members of other species are. Brain wants to know right away whether it can be fucked or eaten.

Christian religious tradition also has a very low place for nonhuman animals in its hierarchy, though. That is bound to have an effect in Western culture.

Does not strictly correlate, though. "Living things" is a common enough phrase obviously including both humans and other animals. We're no more or less likely to think of humans as fundamentally similar or dissimilar with other animals based on the use of one term or another.
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Re: Why do humans see themselves as different from animals?

Postby Soupspoon » Sat Apr 15, 2017 7:55 am UTC

It's just egocentrism, at a given scale. Tighter and broader egocentrisms exist.

(At times, those guys living across the street are beyond the pale, despite all their similarities to us in so many respects. Whilst if energy beings from the universe next door turned up, however, we'd probably even feel fraternal kinship with the gasbag-blimp-things from 51 Pegasi b and team up with them against the (stranger) strangers, if push came to shove.)

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Re: Why do humans see themselves as different from animals?

Postby Copper Bezel » Sat Apr 15, 2017 9:19 am UTC

Egocentrism on this level of abstraction is just practical, though. In an everyday context, when we need to invoke the concept of "animals", it's rarely useful to include human beings.

God, the vast majority of people rarely think of birds as dinosaurs most or any of the time and birds aren't even us. It's just about practical categories.

A van is a kind of truck, but if you call a van a truck, you will be corrected, because it stops being a truck when it's a van.
Quizatzhaderac wrote:Our perceptions add an imaginary component to our real friends, making the relationship complex.

Soupspoon wrote:Even my real real friends are pretty much all irrational.


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Re: Why do humans see themselves as different from animals?

Postby Soupspoon » Sat Apr 15, 2017 12:49 pm UTC

It may be a more practical separation, but only by current standards. During the heady days of the slave-trade, the region of "us" was far more restricted than now, and at various times of war it could be pulled yet further in as 'Johnny Foreigner' or 'The Other Within' is dehumanised for the sake of either practical warfare or impractical genocide. Heck, sometimes it seemed that the gender-gap ("women are not capable of rational thought and are only creatures of habit") or the class one sufficed to render bonefide humans as little more than animals, or cherished pets at best.

There's various Primate Rights campaigns being seriously attempted to bring 'personhood' to (currently) the pan homonids, with no real reason to stop there when there's at least gorilla and pongo in the line to gain such recognition, as long as there's still time to do so.

I know we can't breed with them (well, definitely not naturally!), but that's never been the (sole) limit on a clade, let alone a kingdom. It'd be made more interesting if there were any way in which neanderthalensis, or floriensis were encountered, somehow. (Especially if they were the visitors from the dimension next-door, especially especially if they were the ones who had actually worked out how to get here...)

But, even without that last bit of fantasy, "My fellow humans" might well be intended as "My fellow non-animals", but its the size of the noose thrown around that determines how much the speaker may be destined to hang himself.

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Re: Why do humans see themselves as different from animals?

Postby Copper Bezel » Sat Apr 15, 2017 1:20 pm UTC

Perhaps so, and perhaps the usage communicates or reinforces our illusory separation from the animal kingdom. I don't think that's the cause of the usage, at the very least.

On your aside, I'd have every reason to believe that at the very least H. neanderthalensis would be very difficult to think of as a nonhuman animal in person. I know "human" can be treated variously as just our species or the entire genus in a scientific usage, but ... there are other members of homo who would seem like "apes", while Neanderthals were a race of people with brains our size and larger who had culture and with whom we occasionally interbred. I imagine they were psychologically somewhat different from us, but.
Quizatzhaderac wrote:Our perceptions add an imaginary component to our real friends, making the relationship complex.

Soupspoon wrote:Even my real real friends are pretty much all irrational.


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Re: Why do humans see themselves as different from animals?

Postby madaco » Fri Apr 21, 2017 9:43 am UTC

Humans ask why humans see themselves as different from animals.

"It is customary to insist that man resembles the other creatures. Yes; and that very resemblance he alone can see. The fish does not trace the fishbone pattern in the fowls of the air, or the elephant and the EMU compare skeletons." - G. K. Chesterton , in "The Everlasting Man"

Or, if you want another source for the same general idea, take this smbc:

http://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/we-are-special

"Humans, alone among all creatures, are obsessed with whether or not they are special."
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