Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Fearful Symmetry

More than usual, I have had animals on the brain. In particular, the tendency of people who employ "anthropomorphism" as a perjorative term when anyone speaks of animals as anything more than biological automata.

Humanity's desperate need to marginalize our non-human brethren is the same desperation that fuels humanity's need to confer absolute moral authority on Daddy God. Curious, isn't it, that the ID-types disparage natural selection because it supposedly reduces humans to biological automata [when nothing could be farther from the truth] clinging to a religion that makes them theological automata. Both stances seem to me a radical abdication of responsibility: of personhood. Saying "God gave me dominion" is as morally bankrupt as "it's just a stupid animal." Not to mention the elephant in the room: [ba dum-bump!]
The essential fact glossed over in the attack on anthropomorphism is that humans are animals. Our relations to animals is not a literary exercise in creating charming metaphors. As the philosopher Mary Midgley puts it: "The fact that some people are silly about animals cannot stop the topic from being a serious one. Animals are not just one of the things with which people amuse themselves, like chewing-gum and water-skis, they are the group to which people belong. We are not just rather like animals; we are animals." To act as if humans are a completely different order of beings from other animals ignores the fundamental reality. -- Jeffrey Masson
I was re-reading this passage on the train this morning, and then, lo! synchronicity: I offer you the featured story in today's Seed.

As a human woman, I don't feel one bit diminished in acknowledging the complexity, individuality and theory of mind of my fellow animals. If I did, I'd be no better than that girl who chooses only the company of girls she finds "non-threatening". Why go to a party where you are the only "smart person" in the room? What kind of "person" does that make you? Seriously, ask yourself.

I did


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