Monday, April 2, 2018
What Does It Mean To Be Human? or The Question of Sentience
Most humans would say that being human is something that sets us apart from the rest of... everything. Being human is something that elevates us above the animals.
Even though we are animals.
"Christians" would say it's because humans have a soul, but what even is a soul? Some bit of "secret sauce" that makes us more than just a biological machine? I don't think I can buy that anymore.
I mean, there's nothing to say that animals aren't just as soul-full as man. Just because the Bible doesn't say it, doesn't mean it's not true. The Bible doesn't mention America, either, so maybe that's just a fantasy, too.
And there's nothing to say that a "soul" is what elevates humans. "Christians" have taken a lot of liberties and made a lot of assumptions about the phrase "breathed life into" Since man was last, there is nothing to say that God didn't go around breathing life into the "nostrils" of all the animals.
Personally, I'm tired of the liberties "christians" take. It's the definition of entitled.
However, it's not just "christians" who have long said that humans are elevated above the animals. Science has long held this to be true, too. And I get it. Man has done so much stuff that other animals have not: created art, built cities, murdered for fun. Man looks so much different than every other creature, not in physicality but in... accomplishment.
But what if it all comes down to opposable thumbs and a prefrontal cortex?
When I was growing up, what was said was that man is the only sentient animal. But what is sentience? Looking up the definition, now, it's pretty loose: the ability to think or feel subjectively. Basically, the ability to have a personal perspective.
So let's talk about my dog:
My dog doesn't like tall men wearing hats. There are few things that can make her flip out like a tall man in a hat walking by, well, other than the vacuum cleaner, but the vacuum cleaner is her nemesis. Now, it is objectively not true that tall men in hats wish her harm. My father-in-law is a very tall man who sometimes wears a hat, and she loves him, though she is giving him special dispensation. Clearly, something in her past (she was a rescue) has caused her to hate tall men in hats. It is her personal perspective. It is also her personal perspective that she doesn't hold my father-in-law to the same standard as other tall men in hats.
And, yet, dogs are not generally considered to be sentient.
So let's throw in one other factor that is often applied: the concept of "I am."
Humans like to think of themselves as the only creatures with a concept of individual identity, which is something I find highly amusing considering that most people spend their time trying to do nothing more than fitting in. And, while we're not sure if dogs have a concept of individual identity, we're pretty sure some other creatures do.
Take dolphins, for instance, who have names. They have fucking names just like we do as people, making it blatantly obvious that they not only have an awareness of their own selfhood but of other's selfhood as well, and I would be willing to bet that that extends to humans. They sound a little more evolved than we do, though.
I could go on with other examples, but I'm going to skip ahead to the part where I talk about elephants.
And, yet, Trump #fakepresident recently made it legal to once again bring elephant trophies into the United States. He might as well make it legal for ICE agents collect ears and scalps. Oh, wait... I better not give him any ideas.
Look, I'm not saying I have the answers about sentience and where or what that line is, but, then, I don't think anyone has that answer yet, What I am saying, though, is that if there is the possibility -- and there is EVERY possibility where elephants are concerned -- you should not be supporting the murder of said sentient species, especially when that species is already endangered.
But, then, Trump #fakepresident has a difficult time of recognizing the humanity of fellow humans (see Puerto Rico), so I suppose it's too much to expect that he would see anything beyond his own bloated sense of self-worth. And his gut and bucket of chicken.