Humans are Animals

The title of this post should be an obvious statement to most of you. Humans are mammals, members of the Animal Kingdom. Our cells are animal cells and our DNA is very similar to the DNA of other primates, which are also mammals and animals. There is, however, this notion that humans are distinct from other animals because we have morality, abstract cognition, and the ability to use arbitrary symbols in place of objects or meanings. Yes, these things are true. Yes, these things may set us apart from other animals…

But all species have features that set them apart from other animals. Octopuses don’t have skeletons or shells, sponges don’t have tissues or organs, bats are mammals that fly, echidnas are mammals that lay eggs. All of these are interesting features that set these animals apart from most other animals. Perhaps one could argue that the human features mentioned above set us apart from ALL other animals, even more distinctly than they are from each other, but this has not been definitively proven, since there is still a lot of ongoing research into the behavior and intelligence of primates (monkeys, apes) and cetaceans (whales, dolphins) in particular.

Even if it is true that morality, abstract cognition, and the ability to use symbols are unique among humans, these are still just biological, neurological features of our species. That doesn’t mean we can’t be proud of it. Admitting that at the end of the day we are just animals doesn’t mean we should revert back to the “animalistic” instincts of eat, sleep, and reproduce devoid of these complex thoughts and abstract emotions — we can eat, sleep, and reproduce while constantly analyzing how and why, and when to make exceptions based on our moral compass. It doesn’t mean we’re not special. We are special. We are also animals. It’s okay to admit it.

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