Are humans superior to animals?

Discussion about scientific issues as they relate to God and Christianity including archaeology, origins of life, the universe, intelligent design, evolution, etc.
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Turgonian
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Are humans superior to animals?

#1

Post by Turgonian » Mon Oct 30, 2006 11:35 am

People who know me somewhat are aware that I don't know much about science. Now, I am currently having a debate with an American girl a little older than I. She just conceded she could not win the philosophical and religious debate (but still clings to her 'all religions are one big happy family' view, even saying that some people need Jesus for comfort, but other people have other ways -- yeah guys, Jesus died for our emotional problems! :cry: And she even believes that man can establish utopia... :roll:)
However, the debate also has a philosophical and scientific dimension, in particular with regard to the position of humankind as compared to animals. I quoted from the Ape Language article on the main board here and raised the 'metaphysical' issue (only humankind has art, wisdom, religion, &c.). She responded:
Caitlin/Elfhild wrote:I like the “anthropomorphic fallacy”. So Washoe misunderstood something. I misunderstand things all the time. I like animals. I wouldn't put men so high above them. Sure, we might be smarter, but that's the way we've adapted to survive — brains. Other animals are stronger, faster, taller, etc. I don't think anyone truly knows what goes on in an animal's mind. What about all of the stories of people being saved by their pets? What about all of the stories of cats being able to call 911 to help their owners? There was even a cat that called 911 for itself, because it was choking. Sounds like there is more going on inside their minds than an obsession to immediately acquire a banana.
Animals do have speech, just not human speech.
Animals do make progress and learn, and pass down their knowledge from one generation to the next.
Animals do have knowledge of relations.
Maybe animals have knowledge of immaterial things. How is anyone to know for certain?
A prime example of at least the first three points would be dolphins and whales.
I would dearly like some response from you scientists out there.
The Bible says they were "willingly ignorant". In the Greek, this means "be dumb on purpose". (Kent Hovind)

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Re: Are humans superior to animals?

#2

Post by Canuckster1127 » Mon Oct 30, 2006 1:56 pm

Well, I certainly don't qualify as a scientist, but as I'm working on a Master of Science I'll try and impersonate one.
Animals do have speech, just not human speech.
Animals do make progress and learn, and pass down their knowledge from one generation to the next.
Animals do have knowledge of relations.
Maybe animals have knowledge of immaterial things. How is anyone to know for certain?
A prime example of at least the first three points would be dolphins and whales.
If someone were to make these statements to me in the course of a debate, I'd want to have them substantiate the claims.

Some animals do communicate. There are several examples of which I can think in addition to dolphins and whales.

Animals learn. Behavioral modification by reinforcement or consequences are powerful in animals and sometimes even in humans. ;) There's a pretty significant difference between that and abstract thought and the ability to communicate or understand such abstract thoughts. I've seen some articles from time to time dealing with apes or chimpazees claiming that such a concept has been demonstrated. There's usually some element of behavioral reinforcement involved which to my mind would make it questionable. Again, I'd have to look a lot closer at it before I'd debate it, but that's my initial reaction there. Passing down knowledge from one generation to another is a stretch as proof of this. Instinct perhaps is what she is talking about? Certainly behavioral reinforcement and punishement is used to reinforce things from one generation to another. Abstract, collective knowledge building and progressing from generation to generation is quite a different thing.

I'm not sure what she means by relationships. Long term matings perhaps?

Postulating that animals have knowledge of immaterial things, in the absence of communication on an abstract level is pretty much a stretch and I'd push that point, in terms of demonstrating the claim and then examining the studies for possible elements that could contribute to the appearance. Parrots can certainly be trained to say abstract things for instance, but that doesn't mean they are self-generated or comprehending statements.

Dolphins and whales do have a fairly complex method of communication, that to my knowledge (which is admittedly limited) relate to distress, food source, etc. In other words association of certain noises with certain conditions.

There's certainly a tendency at times to attribute human characteristics to animals. A wise old owl for example. A fox as clever etc.

If she's coming from a post-modernistic, new-age type position, which I think is what you're describing she may be looking at animals in a pantheistic type way which attributes a spark of "god" to all living things and coming from there.

I'd concede the obvious points but contest the demonstration of abstract thought as unprovable and unlikely in the absence of direct evidence. Science can't make an absolute statement in that area, so be wary of expressing an absolute based on Science alone. Of course, I think the Scripture has some things to say in that regard, which I would be more inclined to rely upon in the final analysis, in term of the image of God and souls, etc.

Hope this helps.

I hope some of our resident scientists with better resources than me can add some things and perhaps we both can learn some more.

Blessings,

Bart
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#3

Post by sandy_mcd » Mon Oct 30, 2006 4:03 pm

The comments about cats seem overdone. I read of one cat which probably called 911 when its owner collapsed (there had been attempts to train it). But even so, learning a response to some event is not the same as thinking about what it means.
In the examples given, humans are far superior to animals and the claims about animal abilities are most likely exaggerated.
The key question is, is that what is meant by superior? Animals are certainly superior to humans in other areas.

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#4

Post by Swamper » Mon Oct 30, 2006 4:53 pm

Now, this isn't as scientific as what you're probably looking for, but I can differentiate humans from all other animals with a single word:

Art.

Humans alone have the capacity to create and appreciate art for its own sake. Sure, birds will look for shiny stuff to put in their nests, but that's solely for the purpose of finding a mate.

Edit: I'm using the term "art" to apply to all art forms, including music, theater, etc., not just visual art.

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#5

Post by godslanguage » Mon Oct 30, 2006 5:12 pm

Swamper wrote:Now, this isn't as scientific as what you're probably looking for, but I can differentiate humans from all other animals with a single word:

Art.

Humans alone have the capacity to create and appreciate art for its own sake. Sure, birds will look for shiny stuff to put in their nests, but that's solely for the purpose of finding a mate.

Edit: I'm using the term "art" to apply to all art forms, including music, theater, etc., not just visual art.
Another good word might be creative.

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#6

Post by Gman » Mon Oct 30, 2006 9:26 pm

My understanding is that animals can have soul life. As an example, in Genesis 1 and 2 both animals and humans were created as living souls (nephesh) or as having "breath life". But if the word “soul” is used to refer to an immortal soul then not.. So the question is what kind of soul life is it? Who knows..

I believe however that humans are superior to animals because we are made in the image of God. Also man and animals do not share kinship (not what the evolutionist may think)...

I thought this article had some interesting to say about it...

http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/448
The heart cannot rejoice in what the mind rejects as false - Galileo

We learn from history that we do not learn from history - Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things. -Philippians 4:8

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#7

Post by godslanguage » Mon Oct 30, 2006 10:06 pm

Next thing you know, a fly has a soul, a ant has a soul or maybe even a crocodile has a soul

Since people sin, God judges them based on they're soul. That would be my interpretatiion on it.

Here is the summary or conclusion for anyone who is too lazy reading the whole article:

But do animals have souls? Animals may be said to have souls—if the word “soul” is used as the Bible employs it in discussing members of the animal kingdom (i.e., to describe only the physical life force found within all living creatures). But if the word “soul” is used to refer to an immortal soul that one day will inhabit heaven or hell, then no, animals may not be said to possess a soul. This is the only conclusion that can be drawn, respecting the instruction on the subject found within the Word of God.

I don't know, but does soul have the same meaning as spirit? Or is the spirit part of the soul?

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#8

Post by Gman » Mon Oct 30, 2006 10:19 pm

godslanguage wrote:I don't know, but does soul have the same meaning as spirit? Or is the spirit part of the soul?
I think in humans the spirit and soul are similar. For humans all life is spirit, but not all life is eternal-life spirit. Soul life is spirit but not eternal, but the spirit from God in a man is eternal-life spirit.

With animals there is no spirit life so they are not the same as humans.. Therefore their soul life is just a physical life force devoid of any spirit...
The heart cannot rejoice in what the mind rejects as false - Galileo

We learn from history that we do not learn from history - Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things. -Philippians 4:8

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#9

Post by puritan lad » Tue Oct 31, 2006 6:23 am

Turgonian,

It seems to me that all of the users in this forum are humans, so your question is kind of slanted. You should post a similar question on a message board that is being used by apes. If an ape ever posts a response in order to stand up for his status in society, I guess you'll have your answer.

BTW, apes did beat us into space, so maybe...

:lol: :lol: :lol:
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#10

Post by Canuckster1127 » Tue Oct 31, 2006 7:19 am

puritan lad wrote:Turgonian,

It seems to me that all of the users in this forum are humans, so your question is kind of slanted. You should post a similar question on a message board that is being used by apes. If an ape ever posts a response in order to stand up for his status in society, I guess you'll have your answer.

BTW, apes did beat us into space, so maybe...

:lol: :lol: :lol:
PL

I rather enjoyed that! Nicely done! ;)

Bart
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Re: Are humans superior to animals?

#11

Post by Turgonian » Tue Oct 31, 2006 10:48 am

Canuckster, thank you very much for your response! It put things in perspective for me and sounded coherent.
Canuckster1127 wrote:If she's coming from a post-modernistic, new-age type position, which I think is what you're describing she may be looking at animals in a pantheistic type way which attributes a spark of "god" to all living things and coming from there.
Not quite. She's not a New Age pantheist; she is more of a humanist 'Christian' who thinks science can solve all of the world's problems, but religion is beautiful, nice and comforting. Plus, God exists as a supernatural being distinct from creation, but it's a postmodernist kind of god. You know, the 'every religion seemeth good unto Me' type.
sandy_mcd wrote:The comments about cats seem overdone. I read of one cat which probably called 911 when its owner collapsed (there had been attempts to train it). But even so, learning a response to some event is not the same as thinking about what it means.
Thank you... But what about the cat calling 911 for itself? Same thing?
Gman wrote:I think in humans the spirit and soul are similar.
At the moment, I believe the spirit (ruach) is the immaterial part of a human and soul (nephesh) is body + spirit, but I'm not quite sure about that.
puritan_lad wrote:You should post a similar question on a message board that is being used by apes. If an ape ever posts a response in order to stand up for his status in society, I guess you'll have your answer.

BTW, apes did beat us into space, so maybe...
:lol: Yes, very nice. Elfhild wouldn't disagree with the statement that we're technologically far more advanced than apes. She just thinks animals are 'smart' -- so smart that they might even know metaphysics... :roll:
The Bible says they were "willingly ignorant". In the Greek, this means "be dumb on purpose". (Kent Hovind)

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#12

Post by FFC » Tue Oct 31, 2006 2:33 pm

Thank you... But what about the cat calling 911 for itself? Same thing?
Yeah, and what's next? Ordering in sushi on the owner's credit card? :shock:
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#13

Post by godslanguage » Tue Oct 31, 2006 5:52 pm

I don't know, I have the opinion of the obvious... the obvious is, that humans are far superior to animals. You can circulate around that all you like, such as: but a tiger is stronger than you, or an ant can go places you can't or a rat can survive floods and fires etc... The problem with this is, given that humans lock tigers in cages, can avoid getting stomped by an elephant or can put a space shuttle on the moon this is indicative of human superiority. Like sandy_mcd said, it depends on what you mean by superior as well. Another example would be thinking about the future, avoiding catastrophies, such as the (controversial) Global Warming issue etc... When you look at it from the intelligence perspective, there is no competition. But when you look at it from say if something wipes us out, bacteria will survive, so bacteria is more superior. When you start comparing something like bacteria to humans, your no longer comparing the superiority, but survival. Thats my interpretation on it.

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#14

Post by Gman » Tue Oct 31, 2006 8:34 pm

I just wanted to add here that just because we are superior to animals doesn't mean that we have the right to lord over them in an abusive manner... There are many laws from God that protect animals from man's actions.. And yes the problems that man brings to the world need to be checked and corrected continuously.. Not just assume we are right all the time..
The heart cannot rejoice in what the mind rejects as false - Galileo

We learn from history that we do not learn from history - Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things. -Philippians 4:8

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#15

Post by sandy_mcd » Tue Oct 31, 2006 9:37 pm

I'd respond, but godslanguage already wrote everything I would have.

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