How to Be Animal: A New History of What It Means to Be Human by Melanie Challenger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
There is a tendency, both as individuals and as a culture, to perceive a greater difference between humans and other animals than may actually exist. When a chimpanzee mother cradles her infant, we credit maternal instincts. When a human mother does the same, we call it love. People, we often claim, have souls, minds, consciousness, reason, sentience, or some other poorly defined attribute that sets them apart from all other living things. We’re special. We’re unique. We’re better. But, when you think about it, does that really make sense from a scientific standpoint? This is the central question posed by this book.
Although it can come off a bit preachy and judgemental at times, I found it to be a fair overview of the idea of human exceptionalism. It’s not a detailed scientific or even philosophical treatment of the subject, but it does succinctly point out some of the obvious flaws in the idea.
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