“I Am Not an Animal!”
February 24 – 25, 2017
First in a series of short video backgrounders for the upcoming “I Am Not an Animal” symposium.
In this first video, we look at our deep need as humans to insist that we’re not animals – not part of the family of great apes – despite all the evidence to the contrary.
The French novelist and philosopher Albert Camus wrote that “man is the only creature who doesn’t want to be what he is.” And the thing we don’t want to be most of all is an animal.
According to those who believe in human exceptionalism, we humans are “above” the other animals. They reassure us that we have souls and minds and intelligence and empathy, etc., and that the other animals don’t.
We build these ideas into our religions and cultures and even our science, and we try to buttress them by treating our fellow animals as commodities and resources that exist primarily for our benefit as food and entertainment and as research subjects. It’s as if, by making tigers jump through hoops and killer whales take their trainers for rides around a concrete pool, we’re proving our superiority over these iconic species.
But what we’re actually doing is bringing about a mass extinction. Today, there are fewer than half the number of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles than were on the planet in the year 1970.
Author and ecologist Carl Safina calls us “a gigantic killing force for almost everything else that lives on Earth.”
So, what makes us such a destructive species? It’s the critically important, key question we’ll be exploring at the upcoming symposium (February 24-25, 2017, in Atlanta).
In the next video in this series, we’ll take a look at the work of the social psychologist who set out to answer this question in his 1973 Pulitzer Prize-winning book.
Next video in this series: Why we tell ourselves we’re not really animals.