Thomas Ramey Watson

Animals possess wide-ranging cognitive, emotional, and moral capacities

The ramifications of how we view other animals in relation to ourselves are wide-ranging and greatly influence how we treat them.

There are social, political, and environmental implications when we ignore who other animals

are and think of ourselves as above and better than them. An essay by philosopher Steven Best provides a penetrating analysis of why human exceptionalism, the belief that human beings have special status based on our unique capacities, is a false view and has serious consequences because of how we (or at least some of us) conduct ourselves when we view ourselves as “members of a distinct species in relation to other species and Earth as a whole…” Best provides a comprehensive review of recent research in cognitive ethology to support his argument that we do indeed share many traits with other animals.

The database grows daily and science is supporting many of our intuitions about the cognitive, emotional, and moral capacities

of a wide-range

of animals.

Clearly, we need to rethink human “uniqueness” and dispense with speciesism.

Best notes that humans do indeed show unique capacities such as writing sonnets, solving algebraic equations, and meditating on the structure of the universe, and he also points out that other animals have abilities and traits that we don’t have. Speciesism, “discrimination against or exploitation of certain animal species by human beings, based on an assumption of mankind’s superiority,” involves assigning different values or rights to individuals on the basis of species membership and constructs false boundaries among

species.

Speciesism doesn’t work because it assumes human exceptionalism and also because it ignores within-species variation that often is more marked than between-species differences.

Read full article by Mac Beckoff.

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