037 What is Humanity?
The discovery of Homo Naledi, a new species human ancestor, who shows signs of burying their dead and using fire challenges the very foundation of what separates man from animal. With this discovery, and everything we know about animals, what does “being human” even mean?
In This Episode
We have a new ancestor, Homo Naledi, who is our most primitive ancestor. An intriguing mix of human and primate traits, the recent discovery in the Rising Star Cave in Johannesburg, South Africa of 1,500 fossils has broken our entire concept of what it means to be human. Though primitive, the Homo Nadeli bury their dead in safe, sacred spaces – which is why so many were found in the cave – and also presumably knew how to use fire to navigate the caves dark tunnels.
This, along with many things that we know about animals, from experiments or observation, show that we share a lot more “human” traits with animals and our primitive ancestors than we have been led to believe.
Peter Singer discusses these arbitrary and mistaken presumptions at length in his groundbreaking novel, Animal Liberation, which was published originally in the 1970s. A lot of the arguments for why humans are above animals fall short when looked at closely. Intellectual capacity, empathy, compassion, friendship, plans for the future, potential, consciousness are all traits that were thought to belong only to humans, but have been proven to be situational or false.
This is a fascinating discussion, one we hope to hear from our listeners on!
Links and Information
- Landmark Ruling: Animals Can Legally Be Considered Victims, Just Like Humans (The Dodo)
- California Becomes First State to Label Monsantos Roundup as a Carcinogen (Care2)
- Homo naledi: New species of human ancestor discovered in South Africa (CNN)
Interesting Videos and Links
- Animal Liberation by Peter Singer (Amazon) – details animal experimentation and delves into the philosophy of what it means to be human vs animal
- Rats Save Friends From Drowning (BBC)
- Dawn of Humanity Documentary (PBS)
- Leopard Cub Adopts Her Prey’s Baby, Shows What We Can Learn From The Animal World (Huffington Post)
- Vegetarian Lioness Little Tyke (Vegetarismus.ch)
- Highly recommended: Animal Odd Couples on Netflix.com