Are Humans Animals?

A repost of a blog entry I made for Provisions Library on June 27, 2011:

Today n+1 posted some of the excerpt from the Laurie Anderson and David Rothenberg discussion on April 25th at the Explorers Club in New York. The conversation focused on music and exploration. Anderson is musician who explores unique sounds. Rothenberg is conducting research on the music of humpback whales in the Pacific Ocean. The conversation swayed from whale songs to dog concerts to evolution and Darwin to fashion and illusions. Here are some of the highlights:


humpback whales change their song as a group from year to year, from month to month. From week to week you can hear a difference. And why do they want to change it if they all want to sound the same? No other animal does anything quite like that. People are thinking, “Well, it is like pop music?”


Dolphins are always talking, not specifically singing, but really communicating. They talk day and night—they sleep with one eye open, one eye shut, and they just talk…they talk about hierarchy—who is top dolphin, who is second top, who is going to be the next top dolphin, just like any New York cocktail party.


each species of bird has its own aesthetic sense—its own sense of beauty that needs expression and that the function of the song does not totally cover…evolution really isn’t survival of the fittest, when it comes to these things, it is more like survival of the interesting, survival of the beautiful, survival of the weird, cool stuff that managed to evolve. And Darwin definitely knew all about this. That is why he didn’t stop with Origin of the Species; he had to write The Descent of Man, which has two chapters on birds. He says they appreciate beauty, that they have natural aesthetic sense. Sexual selection is about evolving weird, cool stuff, he didn’t quite say it like that, but he understood it.

This article discussion gave me some new perspective on a recent facebook post my friend made. In his post he shared his “morning water cooler” conversation topic on facebook: “Are we animals or not.” This topic drew high volume of comments in his virtual network. There were four individuals in the actual conversation. Two people believed we are animals and two disagreed. I wonder what my friends co-workers make of discoveries Rothenberg and Anderson presented in their conversation? Are humans superior to animals?


About John Costa

I am a farmer in training with a background in finance, organizational sustainability, and project management. My expertise is making the business case for local food enterprises.
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