Are we more than just animals?

We as humans belong to the Animal Kingdom and are mammals. We are of the highest intelligence and dominate this Earth in terms of our intellect, amongst other things.

Does an atheist feel that, since there is no belief in soul, spirit or God, we are just like animals roaming this world, only to end up worm food after we die?

Are we just like any other animal or do you think, at the very least, we are of a higher level of worth than animals?

Posted: October 2nd 2008

flagellant www

Most atheists would claim, I venture to suggest, that our morals are derived pragmatically and do not stem from any imaginary authority figure. (In Genesis 9, 'God’ purports to give humans dominion over the animals.) Given that we have developed to be more intelligent and capable than other animals, we have the practical option of exploiting them and we do this routinely in e.g. farming.

The heavily subsidized food and farming industries, through their lobbying power, and advertising strategies, distort our choices in favour of food that is artificially cheap and – to the non-discriminating – tasty. However, it is nutritionally poor and damaging to health.

This does not have to be the pattern for the future; in Europe, strategies are changing. Animal welfare has, for example, been covered by regulation and we are beginning to restrict the promotion of junk food.

You may think that this is irrelevant but it demonstrates that a secular approach to food and eating in general, and to animals in particular – unlike the highly prescriptive and cruel treatments specified in e.g. kosher and halal food preparation – permits of change. Situations change in the light of better knowledge; we do not have to inflict pain on animals in perpetuity.

I am not arguing for better animal welfare and nutritional standards, although I am personally in favour of them. The point is that we don’t have to be bound by inappropriate 'instructions’ from religious zealots; we can modify our positions in the light of new scientific knowledge about animal suffering and nutritional standards.

It is this very openness to change which make the atheist/secular approach to our relationship with animals realistic. I am not going to ascribe relative values to human and animal life. However, I’ve indicated to you how some atheists might derive their attitudes. You must decide for yourself in the light of prevailing knowledge. There isn’t a unique atheist attitude in this matter.

Posted: October 3rd 2008

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Reed Braden www

We are certainly the most intelligent species on the planet (although we’re still fairly stupid as a whole) and we clearly dominate in the field of having the highest capacity for intelligence in the animal kingdom. However, bacteria eat us. Cheetahs outrun us. Most birds and insects can effortlessly fly above us. I’m sure those animals, if they have the capacity to reflect on their position in the world, would consider their species the best on Earth because they excel at something more than any other species. We see ourselves as the greatest species on the planet because we’re the ones doing the seeing.

And, without a soul, what else are we but thinking meatbags? I’m okay with that. I don’t plan on having a non-biodegradable casket lined in cement, nor do I plan on my blood being replaced by chemicals; I’d much rather give back to the nitrogen cycle as the worms and bugs recycle my body. Does that make it hard to get up in the morning or diminish the beauty of a dark sky full of millions of stars? Not at all.

Be careful about assigning worth. Worth is entirely objective, and therefore only in the eye of the beholder. Meaning, no, there is no concrete worth of human life, there is only what worth you (and the collective, us) give it.

Posted: October 3rd 2008

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Stefan www

No we’re not inherently different from other animals, however imagine an alien observer visiting Earth. He would quickly see that there is a difference between us and other species.

It’s through our actions that we set ourselves apart and I don’t have any problems with calling that the human spirit. The only difference to the Christian view is that it’s not something god-given, but something that we have to earn – every single one of us – again and again.

... Which is a bit of a recurring theme in atheist thought. It’s your responsibility to do something that gives your life meaning. It’s our responsibility as a species to do things that make us special and have meaning to us. Conquer space, unravel the laws of the universe, build a more just and moral society, whatever it is.

Posted: October 3rd 2008

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SmartLX www

Exactly what is wrong with being an animal?

If you’re working from a perception that animals are somehow below us, and atheism or whatever then leads you to realise that we are animals, your very definition of “animal” changes. It’s no reason to devalue humans, but it’s an excellent reason to improve your opinion of animals. Finally, comparing us to animals becomes nonsensical, like comparing tulips to flowers.

Animals are capable of deep thought, self-awareness, mathematics, art, philosophy and much more. We, as the sole practitioners of most of this stuff, are of great value to the animal kingdom. We enrich it with our presence and our (so far) unique abilities. By many criteria you could pick, we are the most successful animals in history.

Posted: October 2nd 2008

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