Wouldn’t that be a stunner! Popular wisdom (whatever that may be) has it that Americans are exceptional, are special. Christians have it that Christians are special, Muslims that Muslims are special. Human Beings have it that among all of life’s creatures they are special.
Are Human Beings, let alone Americans, Christians, Muslims and all the rest really so special? Frans de Waal, a primatologist and professor of psychology at Emory University, the author, most recently, of “Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?” says that they’re not. And he writes:
The Greek philosopher Aristotle put all living creatures on a vertical Scala Naturae, which runs from humans (closest to the gods) down toward other mammals, with birds, fish, insects and mollusks near the bottom. Comparisons up and down this vast ladder have been a popular scientific pastime, but all we have learned from them is how to measure other species by our standards. Keeping Aristotle’s scale intact, with humans on top, has been the unfailing goal….
Here is a simplified version of Aristotle’s antiquated Scala Naturae, a ranking by presumed superiority that has been accepted in various forms for centuries. But advanced skills once associated only with humans are found in many animals, defying such rankings. Of these skills here is a selection.
See APRIL 8, 2016