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The world is an amazing place. It is filled with billions of life forms of various sizes and shapes. According to some, the most amazing life forms on the planet must be humans. They believe humans have revealed their astounding superiority over all other life forms with their many key traits and special abilities. In this film, we will journey through a list of highly referenced points, sourced from a variety of individuals and resources, that support the supposed inherent superiority of humans.

Having a large population

Humans do have a reasonably large population… for mammals at least. Other life forms outnumber people by the trillions, but perhaps the human population is just the right size for those believing in human superiority.
Population alone is not such an important factor to some human supremacists, though. Some believe humans make up for this by:

Having long life spans

But, not too long. Some plant species can live for thousands of years. Animals like sponges can also live thousands of years. But these species live their lives very slowly over a long duration instead of very quickly over a short duration like humans, so it is difficult for some humans to empathize with their lifestyles.
What about life forms that have faster lifestyles, more like humans? How long can they live?
There are tuataras, which can live for over 200 years, bowhead whales – about 200 years, Greenland sharks – estimated at 200 years, tortoises – 188 years, and others. Their life spans must be too long though, because they are still even longer than humans live. Humans must live just long enough in the eyes of human supremacists – around the age of some parrots, who we will forget for the moment.

Creating art

Humans can create art.
Other life forms can create art too, even human-like art.
But other life forms cannot make human-like art as well as some humans can. Thus, some people view this as proof of human superiority.


Other life forms can build things as well.
Beavers harvest trees and use the lumber to build protective homes with underwater entrances. The world’s largest beaver dam is about 850 meters long.
Honey bees build highly intricate hives in which they raise a vast number of young and store food.
Some termites build cities of complex skyscrapers. The buildings can be as high as 9 meters.
The human built Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai is 828 meters tall. That’s about 531 times taller than the average human. So how does the termite skyscraper stack up against the competition? Large termite skyscrapers are about 914 times taller than the average termite. That is like humans building an approximately 1,424 meter high building.
Their skyscrapers have rock solid walls, air vents, heating and cooling, royal chambers, and even areas where they literally farm food for themselves. Their cities can support millions and they have been building them for ages. But surely termite’s human-like civilizations cannot be older than human civilizations themselves… can they?
Termites have been building and living in their huge cities for the past approximately 50 million years. Compare that to humanity’s several thousand years of civilization.
Humans do something differently though according to human supremacists. Other life forms may have built twice as high as humans relative to their size, farmed, lived indoors, and had huge societies long before humans existed, but apparently humans still have a unique aspect of building which is more special and inherently superior to all others:

Living in houses

Not certain complex houses like bee hives and others mentioned, houses like the ones humans live in.
But what makes a human house special? Well, building materials, shape, size, and location may all vary drastically, however they all have one thing in common: They are all suitable to human living. If ants, termites, birds and others built houses suitable for humans rather than themselves, perhaps human supremacists would give them greater value.
It is also important to question the idea that living in a house makes a life form superior in the first place. Is being unable to live suitably in a natural environment a real strength? According to some, it is.

Having opposable thumbs

Other life forms have hooves, horns, wings, etcetera that have their respective uses, however the tasks that human thumbs can do appear to be more special.
Some people might say that some other primates, like Old World monkeys and great apes, have opposable thumbs as well and ask why human thumbs are better? It looks like some apes have opposable thumbs on their feet too, so are they twice as impressive as humans? The human supremacist answer is that human opposable thumbs are superior because they are used to build things which are useful to humans.
Humans do not only use their thumbs to build though. Sometimes they need extra help. This is where tools come to the rescue.

Using tools

Human beings are easily identified by our universal use of tools. It is true that chimpanzees, some monkeys, some birds and other animals are known to use tools, but their rate of tool use is much lower. They appear to rarely need tools and can live to old ages quite harmoniously with nature.
Some modern humans on the other hand seem to try to rebuild nature on a massive scale in a way that is suitable to their lifestyles.  Garbage, car exhaust, plastics, pesticides, smoke coming out of mills, and nuclear waste are all quick giveaways of a modern superior human civilization. Most of these things are not needed, but are part of the superior human’s culture of valuing virtual profit and symbolic material goods over things like the future promise of health and clean food.
Our tools are not only for building and expanding, however.  Arguably, the most precious human tools are arms.  Human countries spent a total of about 1.63 trillion US dollars on defense in 2010. If you spent one million dollars every day since the proposed date of Jesus Christ’s birth, you would still be far away from spending 1.63 trillion. For those who do not know who Jesus Christ is, he is a figure in humankind’s most popular current religion who taught peace to his followers. Getting back to the point, Human countries spent about 1.63 trillion US dollars on defense in 2010. What is “defense”, you may ask? Defense is a word many humans use to help describe their military arms, personnel and actions. Interestingly enough, most countries have “defense” budgets, but it seems nearly impossible to find countries listing “offense” budgets. It looks as though human militaries only exist for defensive purposes.
This defense seems to be very significant at times. Japan “defended” China during World War II and conducted a surprise “defense” on Pearl Harbor. Germany systematically “defended” Jews across Europe. The US and Soviet Union threatened to “defend” each other off of the face of the Earth during the Cold War.
Some humans have figured out that they can actually use arms like guns to hunt for food.  This remains quite rare though and guns are mostly still used for their original purpose: Killing humans… in defense, of course.
Other life forms should begin to push industry, exploitation of resources and materialism to their limits, build military industrial complexes, and reduce their guarantee of future necessities like clean food, water and air if they want to elevate their statuses to the level of some modern humans.

Using reasoning

Squirrels and other life forms have shown a remarkable ability to reason, even through complex obstacle courses, but human supremacists believe the specific human type of reasoning is better. Human reasoning helps humans complete tasks beneficial to humans.

Walking upright

Some view walking upright on two legs as a sure sign of human superiority.
If we can simply agree that animals, such as birds do not exist, perhaps it is. Walking upright is seen by some as a remarkable skill and a clearly civilized behavior, which brings us to our next point:

Living in societies

Other life forms have societies larger and smaller than humans’ and they are structured in many different ways. Termites are the oldest social animals by far, evolving complex societies even before ants. They may live in the same buildings for generations and termites from older generations help raise the younger generations. But human society is superior to these, and all other societies in the eyes of human supremacists even though it has been around for a very short time compared to the tens of millions of years many billions of insects have been living in their bustling societies.
Perhaps for societies to be deemed successful by certain humans, they need to be relatively new and grow to a reasonably large size in a rapid population explosion. This is an interesting hypothesis that I would like to see tested. In the meantime, let’s continue our journey in search of some more fundamental evidence of human superiority.

The ability to kill all other life forms

Now this is something we can talk about. Taking life is one thing we definitely excel at. Quite recently, the human species has become incredibly destructive. We are so destructive; we can wipe out all life on Earth. Well, not all life, but a large amount. Let me rephrase: Humans can kill just the right amount of other life forms.
So how valuable is this skill? Imagine a group of humans hiding deep underground in a shelter before triggering the explosion of nuclear bombs scattered around the planet. What would victory look like once they emerged from their shelter? For them, victory would look like a vast wasteland with no edible food and no readily drinkable water.

Teaching and learning

Other life forms can teach and learn as well, however human supremacists believe humans use the perfect balance of verbal, written and body language to teach and learn, which brings us to:


Not using scents, complex hormones, animal body language, or animal verbal language, but a certain combination of specific human body language, human verbal language and written language.
Koko the gorilla and Washoe the chimpanzee have learned American Sign Language and have used it to communicate with humans.
A male bonobo named Kanzi is able to understand about 3,000 human words, as well as simple sentences. Bonobos have also been shown to use reason, a trait supposedly unique to humans, to invent new phrases from the words they have learned. Some argue that the accomplishments of the apes are not equal to humans on the basis that they are simply learning human sign language and inventing new words based on the human sign language.
So, it looks like human supremacists need to study bonobos in the wild to see them use communication that they originally developed. Some scientists are, and have been studying how bonobos naturally communicate and have explained some of it in human language. But they do not speak one of our current, popular, verbal languages, so it is unlikely that certain people will be interested.
What about dolphins? Dolphins communicate in a variety of ways and can even conduct ultrasound scans of life forms using their echo-location ability. They have even been able to find abnormalities, such as tumors in people who did not know they had them.
Prairie dogs have complex verbal language which they invented themselves and use to talk to each other. They have words to describe size, speed, color, direction, and more. If they see a person walking by, they can tell another prairie dog that a person is walking by, how fast he is walking, how big he is, what he is wearing, and even what he is carrying. They also have words for abstract shapes, such as triangles and ovals. An example of a sentence a prairie dog can say is: “The short man in the blue shirt is coming and he is holding a gun”.
Not only do prairie dogs have a complex verbal language with adjectives and nouns like human language, they may have something significantly unique. In an experiment in which six prairie dogs isolated from each other in sound-proof rooms were shown a European ferret – something none of them had ever seen before – they spoke a new, identical word to describe the ferret. The experiment has been repeated several times by showing the prairie dogs new animals and has produced similar results.
How can one prairie dog that is shown something it has never seen before, call it a word that is the same word another isolated prairie dog will call it? Some people trying to figure out the phenomenon say it’s as if once a prairie dog invents a new word, all other prairie dogs instantly learn the word without even being in contact with the inventor. Slobodchikoff, the scientist who performed the experiments, ponders if the prairie dogs have some kind of neural template with certain sounds describing certain features. This way, the prairie dogs would speak the same words when seeing objects with the same features. Surely there is a logical explanation behind this, but we have yet to discover it.
Don’t get excited too quickly, though. Some linguists are not yet sure whether prairie dogs have words to describe time, and they use this as an excuse to say that prairie dogs do not have language at all. So to have language, a species apparently needs to have words for time. However, this presents a minor problem to some humans. The Amondowa tribe in the Amazon also lacks words to describe time.
I am sorry Amondawa tribe; you are no longer people according to these linguists.
Besides prairie dogs, dogs and cats use language as well. They also have such finely tuned senses of smell; they can even know when a person is nearing death by picking up traces of specific chemicals from their bodies.
On top of that, cats and dogs can learn human language. Some dogs can learn over 1000 different human words for their toys. Can a human learn 1000 forms of dog communication? Can a human pick up faint smells and measure their chemical components to know what another life form is going through without even having to ask it?
So why do some people think that human verbal and written communication is special? How is it different from the other forms of communication mentioned? Well, that is simple. Humans vibrate their necks while they slap their wet tongues around in their mouths and move their lips. The various slap patterns and lip movements are attributed to meanings we think they mostly agree on.
This tongue slapping and lip moving can be very time consuming, as it may take several complex maneuvers just to convey one word.
Humans have even invented devices that can transmit our tongue slaps at a distance so that time and place have less detriment to this awkward, time consuming ritual.  These devices require substantial electrical power and manufactured parts, but are worth it for humanity’s sake.
Why are we so dependent on communication? It’s possible that since we rely so heavily on tool use and social cooperation, we require a large array of references just to manage our lifestyles. It may not be the best strategy for all life forms, but it seems to work for humans.
Let’s see how effectively our communication ability functions in the following scenario: Imagine going to visit your best friend who is not feeling very well and is taking a day off from work. You make noises from your mouth in a pattern which tells him you want to know what is wrong. He recognizes the sounds you make, smiles, and tells you he is just not feeling very well and needs to stay home for the day. You smile back and tell him you are glad it’s not serious, then you leave to go home and relax. What you don’t realize is that your pet dog you brought with you is not relaxed. While your friend was smiling on the outside and convincing you he was okay, your dog could sense strong fear and tension in him. Your dog also quickly knew that he was not just sick… he had cancer. Your friend has been diagnosed with cancer some time ago and was trying to fight it on his own. It’s time for him to abandon his pride, however. Your dog knows something that your friend does not: His cancer is more serious than he thinks. He is quickly approaching death and requires urgent medical attention.
Like many dogs, your dog has an incredible sense of smell that is so great, while you were viewing the outside of your friend’s body and asking him if he was okay, your dog was already deep in the process of studying his fundamental bio-chemistry which was detectable in the air. As unlikely as this story sounds, it is technically possible. This is a very real skill that many dogs possess. Dogs can be used to sniff out cancer in patients, predict seizures, and more after only a couple weeks of simple training. But is training even necessary?
In 2007, the New England Journal of Medicine reported on a cat named Oscar who was being kept in a nursing home to provide company to the residents. Whenever Oscar the cat went and curled up next to a patient, the patient died shortly afterward. The nursing home staff eventually concluded that the cat must have somehow known when certain patients were approaching death, so he would go to comfort them. The staff found Oscar’s ability to be so precise that they began using it as an alert to which patient was approaching death.  Oscar the cat has been correct at least 25 times by now.
It’s a pity dogs and cats cannot trade their nearly telepathic smelling ability for the symbolic, superficial vocalizations that humans use. Until they can, they are destined to remain seen as inferior to some humans and it seems unlikely that people will stop using thousands upon thousands of them every year in experiments fit for inferior life forms.

Other life forms rely on instinct

Instinct drives many creatures to eat, drink, bond with some of their peers and compete with others, find a mate, start a family, and protect their young. According to some people, humans apparently do none of these things based on instinct and learn them all from a previous generation. Perhaps they believe that a human’s DNA, as well as the rest of its biological makeup are simply decoration and do not contribute at all to how a person functions. Is it really possible that our desires to survive, eat food, thirst for water, and even fall in love are simply learned behaviors. Do you need someone to teach you to be thirsty? It looks like human supremacists have some questions to answer.


There have been historical cases of feral children found in the wild. Some children were actually raised by other animals. The results were quite interesting. They had trouble speaking with people, they were unable to have normal social interaction, and they had difficulty learning. In a relatively recent case of a feral girl who was raised by dogs, she did not even walk upright.
Was this dog girl void of culture? Was her life damaged by being raised by dogs? Being more accurate, it’s not that she had no culture; she actually had the culture of the dogs. It appears other creatures do actually have culture. Unlike the little girl’s mother, dogs do not have alcoholism in their culture and did not neglect the little girl. The abandoned little girl who would have most likely died on her own was assimilated successfully into the culture of a group of dogs and survived to tell her story.
Other animals raised in a human culture can also have serious problems when put back into their natural cultural environments. Chimpanzees raised by humans can lack survival skills and risk being ostracized and even killed by other chimpanzees for their unique way of communication. It may seem that human culture is not helpful to all species and is actually only fit for humans.

Being at the top of the food chain

Some popular topics for school children in western countries to learn about are food chains and food webs.
Many children are taught that there is a hierarchy system among life forms and are shown diagrams revealing their various ranks. Plants are often on the low end, herbivores appear above plants and predators are at the top.
When kids learn about food chains, which are often simplified and called “the food chain”, some students ask “what about humans?”  A common conclusion seems to be that nothing eats humans and that they are at the top of the food chain.
This is quite satisfying, and it’s apparently true, isn’t it?
Well, there are creatures that live in an estimated 85% of humans and slowly rob them of their nutrients, such as food, or blood. Some can live for decades and others can kill the host quite quickly. Certain humans have classified these creatures as parasites though, so they apparently do not matter as much as humans. Even though parasitism is the most common animal lifestyle, it is not given much attention.
What some humans seem to worry about being eaten by are things like lions, who are not able to eat humans anymore… usually.
So, if we conveniently exclude the most popular lifestyle group of animals on the planet, nothing really does eat humans. Humans appear to be the ones doing most of the killing eating.
Media tends to pick up where school leaves off and presents children and adults with a world where big fish and little fish compete to be on top of the food chain. The big fish always wins.
What’s interesting is that some of the same outlets that tout the big fish as having an advantage also seem to show concern over the environment at times.
But, if being able to eat other life forms is ideal, who cares about the little guy?
Is it possible that species of consumers not only dominate and devour their prey, but are dependent on them? After all, how can a wolf survive with no prey and what would a cow do without plant life?
It looks like food chains and food webs are not just one way transactions all leading up to a victor at the top. They are more like networks of interdependence. In fact, the point of food webs is to show interdependence, but popular media seems to find the simplified, hierarchical food chain idea to be more attractive.
Even Darwin described nature as a “web of complex relations”.
Something some people do not seem to realise is that for a consumer to survive on a species of prey, the prey’s total bio-mass typically needs to be ten times greater than its consumers. So, if a big fish eats a smaller fish, the population of smaller fish will typically have at least ten times more bio-mass than the population of the big fish. And, if the smaller fish survive by eating algae, the algae population will typically have at least ten times the bio-mass of the smaller fish population.
Consumers are very dependent on their prey and require them to be highly populous and successful in order to survive off of them. If the prey is having problems, it’s very likely that the creatures who consume them will share their problems. The following example clearly demonstrates this relationship:
A trout caught in a fresh water lake may have ten thousand times the concentration of polychlorinated biphenyls in its flesh than the water it swims in. How is this possible? Life forms that are low in the food chain absorb the toxic chemical, mistaking it for a similar needed one. After that, the tiny life forms are consumed by a predator and the toxins from each tiny life form are concentrated in one body. Another predator then eats many of the previous predator, concentrating the toxins even further. The trend continues all the way up the food chain to the trout. By the time we reach humans, who top this particular food chain, the fish is ten thousand times more toxic than the lake water.
This is only one example of how the pollutants dumped into nature by irresponsible humans end up being concentrated and put into their own food supply.
Since consumers are so dependent on their prey having large, healthy populations, it only seems natural that some consumers would even strive to protect their prey. Some do, as a matter of fact.
Take chili peppers for example, the fruit from plants in the capsicum genus.  These plants are native to the Americas, a fairly small area compared to the total area of the Earth.  Chili has evolved a spicy flavor that prevents many mammals from wanting to eat it.

This spice does not seem to deter humans however… – quite the opposite.  Chili turned out to be a spice in high demand among humans, so surely the capsicum plants must have had their terrible fates sealed once humans came into contact with them.  They would surely go extinct and humans would be left victorious… this is not what happened.  In fact, humans enjoyed eating chili so much, they have spread it around the planet, rapidly growing its population and elevating it to a prominent global status.

Humans have exerted substantial energy in acquiring land for capsicum plants, clearing other plants to give them more room to grow, and buying fertilizers to help maximize their health. I have to ask: Who is working for whom here?  This story has repeated itself with many other different types of species around the world.
So why do some people tend to place those who eat above those who are eaten? Why is the complex food web we all seem to know about ignored in favor of simplistic, hierarchical food chains that are arranged with humans on top? Could it be that since human supremacists view themselves as being at the top of the consumption aspect of many webs and chains, they tend to focus on a chain in which consumers are given the most value?
What would they think if plants invented something called a “production chain” in which they were at the top and the insignificant creatures who depended on them were near the bottom?
All the arguments for human superiority over other life forms have been highly debatable so far, but we have yet to reach our greatest reason for why some believe humans top a hierarchy of life forms. The following factor appears to be the largest reason for why humans are apparently superior to all other species:


Intelligence seems to be humanity’s most prized talent. Having the brain highly developed rather than other parts of the body, such as muscles, noses, ears, eyes, etcetera seems to make humans better in the minds of some people.  Scientists might mention cases of some chimpanzees being smarter than humans in certain intelligence tests. They might also mention Dolphins’ huge brains, or the fact that houseflies can process visual information at such incredible speeds, that if one were watching this film, it would see the frames going by one-by-one like a slideshow, unlike humans who are so slow that some think they are receiving a solid stream of video.
The good news is that none of those details matter to those believing in human supremacy. That is because the average human brain is better at performing “higher” thinking. But what makes “higher” thinking higher?  Would other life forms be more successful if their refined mental or physical abilities were replaced with human-like brains? Imagine a cheetah trading its running ability for a large, heavy brain. How about a grey squirrel trading its incredible ability to remember precisely where hundreds of its nuts are stored for a different human-like mental ability, like not being able to remember where one set of car keys is?
Let’s see what someone regarded by many as being highly intelligent has to say about intelligence:

(Quote on screen)
“I believe that intelligence is probably overrated. It’s not necessarily a good thing for a species’ survival”.
-Staphen Hawking

On the contrary, some people do not believe intelligence is overrated. Some believe that intelligence is the most important attribute of a life form, and that it can be used to measure a life form’s value. This means that a heroic fireman with great physical strength and bravery is worth less than an accountant whose IQ is one point higher.  For those of you not familiar with IQ and how it is tested, it is a system some people created that asks a very small series of culturally biased questions to find out the mental worth of a human being. French psychologist Alfred Binet was arguably the first person to create this type of test and he warned that they were not able to measure human intelligence. So what were the results of his warning? The tests were named “intelligence quotient tests” and began being used to measure intelligence.
Is there any problem with measuring the value of all other creatures against humanity’s supposed greatest ability? Using similar logic, could dogs be deemed superior from their perspectives?  After all, a human’s sense of smell is a fraction of the average dog’s sense of smell. This means that it takes a number of humans just to equal the value of one dog. Some may argue “but wait, why is a sense of smell valued as the most important trait?”  I wonder if dogs, who are often mercilessly experimented on in laboratories, might have the same question about intelligence.
I have learned something about this attitude before. This type of attitude allows people to treat others differently, simply for being different. It doesn’t matter if they have their own unique abilities. It doesn’t matter if they are equal in some way. Being different is enough reason to treat them terribly. This is the ugly face of discrimination.
Many humans are masters of discrimination and demonstrate their hate by committing war, genocide and subversion. Once some humans are done finding reasons why they are superior to other life forms, it is only natural for them to continue to find reasons why some humans are superior to other humans.
There is one final reason commonly used to argue human superiority. This reason it quite difficult to understand, even for humans. However mystical it may be, it is extremely important to the subject of human superiority.

Consciousness and autonomy

Let us begin with some history.  Cartesian Dualism is the belief that the mind and body are somehow separate entities. The belief was created by a French philosopher born in the late 1500s named Rene Descartes. He formulated that consciousness and self-awareness came from some sort of non-physical spirit. He believed the body was a machine, however the mind was something more spiritual.
Descartes believed that non-human life forms did not have this mind. They were simply the machine part of a life form without the non-physical mind. When a human sustained an injury, the spiritual mind realized the pain and the person suffered. When another life form sustained an injury, they were simply machines who felt no real pain. Even as Descartes cut animals open while they were still alive – a hobby of his that is still practiced today – he rationalized that their struggling and whimpering was simply a machine reaction and the animal was in no real pain.
Descartes was eventually criticized and questioned as to how such a mystical and disconnected mind could interact with a physical body in the first place. Many of his followers began to reject his ideas and Cartesian Dualism is now generally unaccepted in the academic world. But could Descartes have been right? Have any other influential individuals come to the same conclusions before him? Let’s ask Professor Bernard Rollin, an expert on animal consciousness.

To my knowledge, in the history of thought, from ancient times up to the time of Descartes, no one denied that animals could think and feel. It was so close to common-sense, that it just didn’t occur to anybody to question it. That does not mean that people drew ethical consequences from it. People acted towards animals in many cases as if they were wheelbarrows more than as if they were people. But Descartes actually had an axe to grind, of course being a religious Catholic he wanted to prove that the mind i.e. the soul, same thing for him, were unique to humans. He was also the first guy to say that biology should be part of physics, that essentially everything is made up of matter, except humans who are made up of mind and matter, and therefore if you want physics to explain biology, in other words, anticipating molecular biology, you have to say that animals don’t have a mind in the sense humans do. Their behavior is simply the result of mechanical interactions of the matter that makes them up. And people who were followers of Descartes believed that if you literally cut up animals alive – vivisection – which now means animal research to a lot of people, but in that time it meant cutting up alive “vivi”: alive, “section”: cutting. They didn’t have any anesthesia, so they used brute restraint and the animals were cut up alive to see how this works and that works, the heart is a pump, it’s mechanical, blah, blah, blah. We actually have a place, we know of a place where the people did biological experiments following Descartes and we have reports of travelers who visited there and saw the animals chained to tables, chained to walls with rings in the wall so that they couldn’t move being cut up. And Descarte’s followers told the students “even though it looks like they’re feeling pain, they’re not because if humans can build a cuckoo clock or a mechanical person that”– you know the famous clock in Germany of a milkmaid milking a cow – “certainly God can build organisms that act like they feel pain but really don’t”.

Interesting, but some in Europe seemed to be falling under the spell of Descartes at the time. If there was no major opposition, then he must have had valid points, right?

David Hume, the philosopher who was the greatest skeptic in human history, he denied mind, body, God, causality, miracles, consistency, and everything, but he says somewhere that the one thing that only an idiot would deny, meaning Descartes, is that animals have thoughts and feelings. And the first ethics for animals in modern time came out of the utilitarian philosophers who based ethics on pleasure and pain and it was obvious to them that animals felt pleasure and pain. This really became a crisis at the end of the 19th, beginning of the 20th century, where a lot of philosophers and scientists wanted to demarcate science from everything else, like religion, metaphysics and so forth, and some of that stuff was getting mixed in with science, for example there were biologists who said what made matter living was – it sounds better in French. Bullshit always sounds better in French – “élan vital” – “Lifeforce”. And so there were a whole bunch of philosophers in the late 19th century who said “no, we have to stick to what’s observable, measurable, quantifiable in science” and developed the position known as logical positivism which is if you can’t experience it, essentially, it isn’t real. Since we can’t experience animal thought, we can deny it’s reality. Since we can’t prove killing is wrong by gathering data, we can deny its reality. And those two components of what I call “scientific ideology” reinforced each other: Science has nothing to do with ethics, so you don’t worry about animal pain and if you wanna worry about animal pain you say it isn’t really pain; it’s mechanical.

So, whether Descartes was an idiot or not, it still looks like some humans went on believing that they were the only creatures capable of thinking and feeling.
Where are people today in their thoughts on this topic?

I wrote a book, I published a book in 89 proving that animals feel pain and I remember going, there was an article about it in the local paper, and I went into the Harley shop and these bikers all said “well, congratulations on the new book. What’s it about?” And I said “well, I’m trying to prove to scientists that animals feel pain” and they looked at me like I was out of my mind, you know what I mean? Like, “who has to do that?” You have to have that ideological conditioning that spurs your skepticism; otherwise nothing is more obvious than that animals feel pain. You step on the dog’s foot; it howls. One time, I called a veterinarian. You know veterinarians had been very bad on pain control til’ the Federal law of 85 required the control of pain in research, and then they started looking at pain. Before that, I did a literature search for Congress for analgesia – you know, pain control – there were only… Analgesia for lab animals: There were no papers in the literature. Analgesia for animals in general: There were two; one which said there ought to be papers. So, you know, even veterinarians who were dealing with animal suffering weren’t paying attention to animal suffering and animal pain. So, Like I say, when I looked in 82 there were two papers. I looked a few months ago… There’s now 11,664, probably 12,000 by now. And so, what we hoped would happen; federal law mandating control of pain would make scientists re-appropriate common sense. (Filmed September, 2011)

Perhaps history is less important than modern research and experiments. If animals really could think and feel pain, there must be some kind of experiment we can do to prove it.

Oh yes, I called one of the few veterinarians who said that animals feel pain and tried to address what you should do about it, and he was a guy from, I think the Bronx or Brooklyn – an Italian guy – so I called him up and I said “look, I’m working on this issue and you know there’s a lot of people in your field who deny that animals feel pain”. He says “yeah, I know”. I said “so, when you encounter these people, what do you do?” He was a pretty colourful guy. He says “well, I’ll tell ya”. He says “I encounter one of these guys that denies that animals feel pain; I tell em here, you got a little experiment you should run. Put him up on your examining table, oh yeah, make sure it’s like a big, male, in-tact Doberman… Big one, you know? Put him on your examining table. Get a vice-grip, and then adjust the vice-grip to fit his nuts, and then squeeze it, and he’ll show you he feels pain, he’ll rip your god-damn face off”. Which is, essentially, a common-sense response. (WARNING: Do not attempt this)

Are dog’s balls the real answer to whether or not other life forms can think and feel? How does one know if a dog is reacting to physical agitation due to conscious pain, or if it is simply a machine programmed to react a certain way and does not really “feel” anything in the human sense of the word?
Well in my writing I say look, behavior is similar in animals and people when they’re painful. They guard the limb, they vocalize, this, that. The physiological substratum is the same: what happens with the nerves, what happens with the biologically active chemicals. Anesthesia and analgesia work on animals. You can train animals with pain and pleasure – negative and positive reinforcement. So, really, all the evidence that militates in favor of your feeling pain, Descartes notwithstanding, militates in favor of the animals feeling pain.

That Descartes, Rene Cartesian way of looking at animals like they’re machines; it is outdated and quite frankly 100% insane. Because, if we all understand that animals can use their eyes to see, ears to hear, noses to smell, mouths to eat, legs to walk, feathers to fly, fins to swim, genitalia to procreate, bowels to defecate, I’m always perplexed that most people don’t believe that they can also use their brains to think, feel, be rational, be aware, and be self-aware. Am I supposed to believe that every body part on an animal functions just like it’s supposed to, except the brain?

So, how can one prove conclusively if other life forms, such as animals, have consciousness?

Are animals conscious? Well, sure. Now, can you prove conclusively that animals are conscious? No. Can you prove conclusively that I’m conscious? Can I prove conclusively that you’re conscious? Or, to use the great philosophical example; can we prove conclusively that that chair exists independently of our perception? When we leave this room, what is the chair like? Well you wanna say it’s this and this color, but that depends on it interacting with the rods and cones of the eye, right? Or, as Bertrand Russel once said, how do we know the whole world wasn’t created ten seconds ago, and us with all our memories and the fossils and everything? You can’t know that. Science is not skeptical that we can trust each others’ perceptions, though it should be, or at least it could be. Therefore, it shouldn’t be skeptical about when animals show all the signs of pain, whether they really feel pain, because that’s special pleading for the things that they want to specially plead for and not use the same standards of evidence for animal mind as they use for the existence of an external world. I mentioned earlier to you that Hume – the greatest skeptic of all time – said you can’t deny animals think and feel. Darwin said that if physical traits are follow genetically continuous and evolve, and metabolic traits and physiological traits, then so too are thinking and feeling. And he, in fact, has a book called The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animal showing that that’s continuous. You know, if you’re an evolutionist, you gotta believe it’s continuous. Strangely enough, even though modern biology in the 20th century is evolutionary, the evolutionary point that Darwin makes that animals have to be conscious and capable of feeling and so forth; that drops out under the ideology that I mentioned.

Let’s retreat back to experiments and make this easier. Some define consciousness as being self-aware.  So how could we test to see if a life form was self-aware? Arguably the best human sense is sight, so humans test other humans by placing them in front of mirrors and seeing if they recognise their own reflections. Canines cannot see very well, but have exceptional senses of smell. Naturally, they display self-awareness by recognising their scents and can distinguish between their territorial marks and the marks of others, including their packmates’.  Wild dogs and wolves survive on this skill of self-awareness, as a mistake could mean a violent confrontation. So how do some of humanity’s top scientists test the self-awareness of canines?
Well, they put them in front of mirrors.
Using this logic, it may be fair for canines to conclude that humans are not self-aware for not recognising their own urine scents, or for some insects to conclude the same, since humans cannot recognise their own hormones. It’s a good thing that some humans are discriminatory creatures and are able to hide from points of view that may undermine a temporary sense of comfort. But what if human supremacists did try using logic to put their superiority to the test?  What do you say we try it just to see what happens? We can start where one logically should start.
Are “superior”, “better” and “higher” specific features, or are they opinions at a fundamental level? Wouldn’t all species view themselves as the best species since life forms naturally value their own traits? Let’s imagine what it would be like talking to another life form that shared the way of thinking of some humans.

Grizzly bears are superior to humans.

Humans are superior to grizzly bears.


Grizzly bears have an incredible sense of smell.

Humans have incredible intelligence.

What makes that trait so superior to others?

Grizzly bears are great and they have an incredible sense of smell.

Humans are great and they have incredible intelligence.

But why are you great?

…We have an incredible sense of smell.

…We have incredible intelligence.

You both seem to have good traits.

But, humans walk on two legs, have dull teeth, are overly reliant on shelter to survive, and are dependent on tools to support their insufficient bodies.

But, bears walk on four legs, don’t live in houses, can’t use tools, and rely on their brute strength to survive.

But would your skills even be useful to the other animal?

No, because humans are lower life forms.

No, because bears are lower life forms.

What does “lower” mean? Do you mind telling me what makes a higher species so high?

I’ll enlighten you: We have full fur coats, sharp claws, we are very big, can run 56 km/h, we live about 25 years, eat fish, have four legs, large ears, and there are many more reasons.

We wear clothes, stand on two legs, live in houses, we aren’t so hairy, we use tools, we have big brains, we have thumbs, and there are many more reasons.

There are creatures with more or less fur, sharper and duller claws and teeth, bigger and smaller brains compared to their body size, who eat more or less fish, run much faster or slower, and live in all kinds of houses, or no houses at all. What makes your traits at the perfect level?

We are higher life forms and that’s what it took to make us this way.

We are higher life forms and that’s what it took to make us this way.

Why are you higher?

Well… we have an incredible sense of smell…

Well… we have incredible intelligence…

If people base the success of a species on how human-like it is, humans will always appear to be the most successful.
Basing overall success on the characteristics of one particular species may provide occasional comfort to that species, but at the cost of an equal value of side-effects. One immediately recognizable side-effect to this belief is a heavily biased moral outlook.

In 1970, I coined the term speciesism to describe the prejudice against the other species and to draw the analogy with other prejudices like racism and sexism. The point I was trying to make was that we’re all related. All species are related biologically and through evolution, and instead of treating the other species like objects, we should be treating them as our evolutionary cousins, as our kindred. We should stop exploiting them in laboratories, in factory farms, in the wild, and elsewhere. I felt that speciesism was a unintelligent, out-of-date sort of prejudice. Since Charles Darwin came along and told us that we’re all animals and we’re all related through evolution, we haven’t really drawn the proper moral conclusions from that. It’s like it’s taken a hundred years or more for the penny to drop. We’re really all in the same boat, morally speaking. Darwin himself said this. Darwin worried about the way in which the human animal treated the other animals as our slaves. And, indeed, there is a moral similarity between speciesism and slavery. The important thing about the other species of animal is that they can suffer pain, and there’s growing scientific evidence that other animals do suffer pain. They have similar nervous systems to ourselves, they have similar bio-chemicals in the brain associated with the experience of pain in ourselves, so we can be fairly sure that they experience pain and distress in the same sort of way that we do – hundreds of other species of animals. And I’m saying that morally, it’s important that X amount of pain in a dog, or an elephant, or a cat matters as much as X amount of pain in human beings. So, it doesn’t matter what species you’re from any more than it matters what race or gender you’re from. The pain is the same. So we shall all have the same sort of respect, morally speaking. Some people argue that because human beings allegedly are more intelligent, or more religious, or more independent, or autonomous than some of the other species that therefore that gives us some moral superiority. Well I argue that all these alleged differences, which are probably exaggerated anyway, all these alleged differences are morally irrelevant. They aren’t relevant to the moral situation at all. The important thing is that we all suffer pain. Jeremy Bentham said this, the famous British philosopher in 1789 when he said “the question is not can they reason, nor can they talk, but can they suffer?” Suffering is really the important criterion for morality, not somebody’s intelligence. I mean, we don’t give special extra rights to professors because they are intelligent, or to priests because they are very religious. We wouldn’t want that to happen within our own society, so why do we do it across the species barrier, allegedly giving us more moral privileges, more rights than the other species merely because we seem to be a bit more intelligent? It doesn’t make sense.

It seems that some humans need to stop defining words like “superior”, “success” and “better” as being human-like in the first place and take a more objective approach. From a more Darwinian viewpoint, “superior” could possibly mean more able to survive and procreate. Let’s see how humans match up against other life forms now that we have a more objective form of measurement.
The answer: Compared to many other species, humans are losing miserably. Cyanobacteria have been around for several billion years and had such powerful domination over the Earth that they dramatically transformed its atmosphere. Horseshoe crabs have been around for approximately 445 million years – about 200 million years before dinosaurs. Triops cancriformis has been around for over 220 million years with no signs of visible change. Even great white sharks are thought to be at least 16 million years old. These are just several types of super successful life forms.
In comparison, anatomically modern humans are only about 150 to 200 thousand years old. Humans are nowhere close being able to call themselves a successful species.
But, just because humans have only been around for such a short time does not mean that they will go extinct before outdoing other species, right? Surely humans won’t “go the way of the dodo”.
Actually, Dr. David M. Raup has studied past extinction rates and come to the conclusion that the average lifespan of vertebrate species seems to be around 2 to 4 million years. So it looks like humans have about 1.8 to 3.8 million more years to live if everything goes as usual. His findings showed that well dispersed species were less susceptible to extinction, however one factor that lowers lifespan is if the species in question is high on the “food chain”.
Perhaps living between 1.8 to 3.8 million more years is the best that the human species can hope for because it looks like probability is suggesting that humans will go the way of the dodo… save for one minor detail: The dodo bird, which some humans have jokingly named and relentlessly mocked as being an idiotic, extinct species with little knowledge of survival, has been estimated by some to have lived for several million years or more. That means that if humans live another 1.8 or possibly even 3.8 million years, that might not make us successful enough to “go the way of the dodo” in terms of survival time. We may actually be around for less time than the dodo bird: one of humanity’s most well known examples of extinction.
But wait, there’s more! Assuming the human species may live at least 1.8 million more years is only taking typical natural processes into consideration. We have yet to include the fact that we have nuclear weapons. Is there any chance that humans would be foolish enough to use them? Actually, there is more than a chance.
Shortly after the first nuclear weapons were created, people used nuclear weapons… on their own species… twice.
One of the only differences between then and now is that now, nuclear bombs are up to 3,800 times or more powerful and there are many more of them. Using a nuclear bomb in an act of defense or aggression today would be much different than in the past, since many countries now possess nuclear weapons. The use of a nuclear weapon today could easily escalate into a nuclear war.
Even though the US and Soviet Union showed the world that nuclear war was impractical and could lead to mutual assured destruction, some countries around the world are still working very hard to acquire nuclear weapons, or perfect the ones they already have.
Are the countries trying to acquire and perfect nuclear weapons actually planning on using them, or are they just willing to spend millions, or even billions of dollars for fun? Let’s not forget to add in biological weapons and also new, deadlier forms of viruses created by the experiments of some scientists.
It’s interesting to think that some humans view themselves as the ultimate life forms, which rule the planet like gods even though many people have trouble managing their own species and are working very hard to accelerate it towards what looks like a quickly approaching death.
So how on Earth did the belief that humans are inherently superior to all other life forms emerge? Have humans always thought this way? Do all humans currently think this way?
Some, earlier hunter-gatherer societies around the world viewed humans as a part of nature, or at least relatively equal to it.
Some experts believe that in Australia, “Aboriginal people learned from their stories that a society must not be human-centred but rather land centred, otherwise they forget their source and purpose…. humans are prone to exploitative behaviour if not constantly reminded they are interconnected with the rest of creation, that they as individuals are only temporal in time, and past and future generations must be included in their perception of their purpose in life.”
It’s not only Australian Aborigines, or people living before the years of Rene Descartes that did not strongly believe in human superiority. Research suggests that Far-Eastern, Indian, Greek and many indigenous cultures have higher levels of reverence to other life forms than Abrahamic religions, such as Islam, Judaism and Christianity.
Plenty of recent Western thinkers also held views in sharp contrast to human superiority, including Darwin, who thought it was absurd to think of some animals as higher than others.

Homo sapiens is an animal that is considered to be radically unique. Now, that’s redundant because by definition a species is a species that is unique from other species, so to say that human beings are unique, as people like to say, is to say nothing. Of course we’re unique. A squirrel is unique, a rat is unique, a dog is unique, by definition. But somehow, we are so unique, we’re different from all these other animals – radically different. And, we are unique by defining ourselves in a certain way and that is as a rational essence and this has been so well articulated in the Western philosophical tradition from Plato, to Aquinas, from Aristotle, to Descartes, Kant, and beyond. We still think this is common sense; we are the rational animal. If we say that our essence as humans is rational, and we can identify a certain class of human beings as less than rational, they’re less than human. You go through Western history books and re-read what the greats had to say and they will mostly conclude that women were deficient in rationality. Rousseau, for instance, said women have practical rationality, but not theoretical rationality, they can’t be philosophers. It’s nonsense but this is how the classic thinkers thought. So, if we can say women don’t have rationality we can say they’re subhuman and they belong at the bottom of the hierarchy. If we can say people of color, people from Africa, if Europeans can go on colonial missions and say these aren’t rational people, they’re savages, they’re animals, they’re beasts, they’re subhuman, then we can put them in the category of animals where they have no value and we can do anything we want to them, and there’s no moral question about it. And every time there’s a war, first the enemy has to be reduced to the status of animal. This is again part of the politics of human identity: who gets to be called human and what are the consequences of that. Notice, we are talking about an error, a mistake, an illusion, because it was Nietzsche who taught us that as soon as human beings begin to think, they immediately make mistakes. They immediately make mistakes in cause and effect, in all the different fallacies that you identify in logic class. They immediately think to posit a god, they anthropomorphize: sun god, moon god. They immediately think that somehow they are privileged in the universe. They have irrational fears, etc. Some of these lies are corrected and vanish forever. Some stay with us. The lies that stay with us, the errors that we retain are the ones, he says, are the ones that add utility. They serve our purposes, our pathetic, psychological purposes to be demigods on this earth.

What are humans left with? Are we superior to other life forms in any general, objective sense? From what we learned on this journey, evidence suggests equality between all life forms, that advantages do not come without disadvantages, and that all life is interconnected. Life’s unique features, such as flight, speed, human-like intelligence, and transformation of matter all work together like components of one machine – interdependent and interlocked. As the machine constantly changes and certain components lose their value, they evolve or become extinct. The human component is very new to this machine… let’s see how long it can remain useful.