Thursday, March 10, 2016

People and Animals

Hey all,

So as I was surfing through YouTube, I found an interesting video that goes over the reasoning behind why humans keep and treat pets the way that they do. They include a historical background on humans and animals and many theories as to why we treat them the way we do today.

The video starts off telling us that, for the most part, humans were on equal terms with animals in the beginning of our existence. A widespread world view that we carried by our "hunter-gatherer" ancestors was animism which is the belief that non-human entities had spirits or souls. Humans respected these non-entities by having things like elaborate rituals for killing other animals for food.

The video then moves to the time period of Aristotle, where there was a new belief that everything in nature served humans and their goals. This lead to movement for using animals mostly of entertainment purposes. Some animals that were used for entertainment in places like the coliseum went extinct due to over-use.

Even more, the development of the geocentric model of the universe further strengthened the view that humans were the most significant creatures. Individuals like Galileo were persecuted for questioning these beliefs and tried for heresy. This persecution however, didn't just end with humans. Animals such as cats were branded as familiars that help witches perform magic. This, along with the widespread fear of witchcraft led to the execution and public massacre of creatures that were thought to be related to magic or supernatural forces.

An important philosopher named Rene Descartes also helped with bolstering the view of the superiority of the human mind. He referred to beasts similarly to inanimate objects that worked more like clocks than life. This continued view of superiority and objectification devalued the existence of non-human creatures around us.

The developments of science in the Age of Reason brought about developments in biology and zoology and returned a perspective closer to our roots with animism. Individuals like Darwin and Wallace created theories of evolution that put us on equal terms with the other species around us. By understanding the mechanisms of evolution and how different species came from common ancestors and how we were all related in some way, humans began having more respect for the animals and creatures around them.

These concepts, facts, and discussions continue further and in more detail in the video and I highly recommend watching it!

-Mitchell Hee

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