Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: Humans = Animals ?? ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   11 Comments )
Subject: Humans = Animals ??
Category: Science > Biology
Asked by: appreciative-ga
List Price: $18.00
Posted: 05 Jul 2005 15:02 PDT
Expires: 04 Aug 2005 15:02 PDT
Question ID: 540280
Do people realize we are all animals or is there a documented belief
that humans are not animals?
Subject: Re: Humans = Animals ??
Answered By: hedgie-ga on 03 Aug 2005 23:39 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
An interesting  question. I hope you will appreciate this answer.
I would appreciate a rating in either case.

1) Technical answer:

This is not an issue of religion or science, but an issue in

                  taxonomy of taxonomy.

 Taxonomy is a discipline teaching about classifications:
 How we form categories and subcategories.
On this level, your question is of the same type as this one:

                  Is a square a rectangle?

Some people define categories exclusively, so that a rectangle is a
quadrilateral with four right angles that is not a square. This is
appropriate for everyday use of the words, as people typically use the
less specific word only when the more specific word will not do.

 But in mathematics, it is important to define categories inclusively,
so that a square is a rectangle. Inclusive categories make statements
of theorems shorter, by eliminating the need for tedious listing of
cases. For example, the visual proof that vector addition is
commutative is known as the "parallelogram diagram". If categories
were exclusive it would have to be known as the "parallelogram (or
rectangle or rhombus or square) diagram"!

 Categories form a tree (a technical term) which, 
in common language we call 'hierarchy'.

                  Examples of hierarchies:

 Theological: God, saved souls, angels, man, birds, animals, plants, rocks 
(See also Hierarchy of angels)
 Scientific classification of organisms: kingdom, phylum, class,
order, family, genus, species
 Social: monarch, nobles, gentry, yeomanry, peasants, serfs...
In geometry: shape, polygon, quadrilateral, rectangle, square
In biology: animal, bird, raptor, eagle, golden eagle

                How do we classify hierarchies?

A containment hierarchy is a collection of strictly nested sets. Each
entry in the hierarchy designates a set such that the previous entry
is a strict superset, and the next entry is a strict subset. For
example, all rectangles are quadrilaterals, but not all quadrilaterals
are rectangles, and all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles
are squares. (See also: Taxonomy.) 

                  So, in conclusion:

 It is a matter of convention to use a  containment or partition hierarchy.
 In containment hierarchy squares are rectangles and humans are animals.

 This is suitable in areas where mathematical reasoning is useful, as
in science and computer programming.
(see search term OO Obect oriented programming, e.g. )

In common life, including religion, it is convenient to use partition hierarchy:
If you are using just two kinds of polygons for something : let's say
 rectangular quadrilateral parallelograms, some regular and some not, you would
 want to partition that class into two exclusive subcategories:
rectangles and squares.
That way you can ask an assistant: "hand me a square", or "hand me a
rectangle", which is shorter then 'hand me a regular rectagle'.
It  is more efficient.

2) Philosophical answer:

 However, you may mot be happy with just the technical analysis given above. 
It is too dry and it skirts an interesting and fundamental question:  

             What are we, when where do we come from, ...

or more timely version: What are we doing  (in ..) .. Are we animals?

Relevant research is nicely summarized in this book:

The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (1992)
 ISBN 0060984031
by professor Diamond

 Diamond writes:

It's obvious that humans are unlike all animals. It's also obvious
that we're a species of big mammal down to the minutest details of our
anatomy and our molecules. That contradiction is the most fascinating
feature of the human species.

Jared Diamond states the theme of his book up-front: "How the human
species changed, within a short time, from just another species of big
mammal to a world conqueror; and how we acquired the capacity to
reverse all that progress overnight."

To the philosophical side of your questions,
this book provides many important clues and material:

We  (humans) share some 98% percent of genes with our nearest
relatives - the chimpanzees

Few changes (which Diamonds describes) caused big differences in phenotypes.

SEARCH TERM : chimpanzees, genome human (for more on this)

The differences are not just a language (or to be more exact, the
grammatical language) which all humans share (for more see
Search terms: Pinker Chomsky, language, chimp
but also a striking difference in rearing of the young. Chimps do not
worry about the 'cost of college education' but many human parents do.
This leads to the most basic difference between humans and all other

                      The preponderance of memes over genes 

SEARCH TERMS: memes, genes

which is a topic for $200 question itself. I am running out time here
:-( and need to cut this short and move to a conclusion:

This preponderance is manifested in the issue of adoption:

".., the problem of adoption is a thorny one -- at least when the
adoption occurs outside of genetic relatives. Adoption requires a
person to devote resources and energy to the upbringing of a child
that carries unrelated genes..."

                 People are Herd Animals (search term, too)

 In a herd (wolves, apes ..) but also in barbarian human societies, a
dominant male has a nasty tendency to kill the younglings when he
becomes a new 'king of the heap'. That preserves resources 'including
eligible females' to propagate his genes. (Please do note - that is
not my view of females: I am describing 'logic' of the animal natural

 In human behavior, children are often saved and adopted, even if they
have (again not my view) genes of an  'inferior race'. This is
illustrated in fairly recent 'human behavior' of Nazisáky#Lidice_Massacre
in which adult males were shot on the spot, but children were 'saved'
and kidnapped to Germany, to be brought up, equipped with proper set
of memes.

 The human history has many examples of such inhuman behavior,
including multiple genocides,some well described in above quoted
Diamond's book (e.g.
     which all, leads me to the following conclusion:

                        We, humans, are 98% animals

Through the history, and to these days. We are guided mostly by
instinct, to acquire resources, to reproduce 'our kind' and destroy
the others.

Our 2% non-animal part, leads to realization of our common humanity:
realization that we are one (endangered) species,
as evidenced by the fact that al humans can mate and produce fertile offsprings.
We (human animals) are on the cusp of evolving from Homo sapiens to a
new specie, (perhaps Homo Civilized?) which does not regard their
females as a property and their fellow humans as competitors. It does
not see other nations, even those having less advanced weapons, as
inferior, or as living in 'failed states', and having a smaller set of
'human rights'.

The 'Homo Civilized' will consider it 'sef-evident' that all people
have been created equal. He will means all people, all humans.
The progress from monarchies to democracy,
from colonial empires to independent states and to UN, 
from despotism and totality, to freedom,
all that marks this painfully slow evolution from animals to humans...

As an opinion, I would add, that
So far, this 2% of purely human genes is  manifested practical
politics in less than half of population of the most advanced nations
as recent elections seem to indicate ..

but that is subjective. Every human has to decide that for himself or herself.
That is one thing which makes us human.

Hedgie (may be I should say : -it  makes 'you guys' human?)

Clarification of Answer by hedgie-ga on 04 Aug 2005 00:01 PDT
There is non-working link re Nazi attrocity:

 In human behavior, children are often saved and adopted, even if they
have (again not my view) genes of an  'inferior race'. This is
illustrated in fairly recent 'human behavior' of Nazisáky#Lidice_Massacre

 That link got scrambled due to latin-1 , latin-2 differences.
Coorected link is here.

BTW by 'recent' I mean on scale of human evolution. 
It happened durinh WWII, and many times in the earlier wars..
appreciative-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $19.00
Thank you for a well researched answer.  The key in the question
(which you understood completely) is whether people "believe" humans
are not animals.  Certainly, our human-made language regarding and
actions toward non-human animals implies that humans believe
themselves superior to "animals" and that "animals" are for humans to
use, abuse, control, etc.

Thanks again for your research response.

Subject: Re: Humans = Animals ??
From: pinkfreud-ga on 05 Jul 2005 15:06 PDT
I think everyone realizes that humans are animals (rather than being
vegetables or minerals, for instance). The problem arises when people
say that we are "merely" animals with no more meaning nor significance
than other animals. Religious teachings often give man a special place
in the Universe.
Subject: Re: Humans = Animals ??
From: efn-ga on 05 Jul 2005 19:52 PDT
There is a documented belief that humans are not animals in the sense
that there is a documented meaning or usage of the word "animal" that
excludes humans.  The multiple meanings of the word "animal" make the
question hard to answer, since two people who appear to disagree about
whether humans are animals may be using different meanings of "animal"
rather than disagreeing about the facts.
Subject: Re: Humans = Animals ??
From: appreciative-ga on 05 Jul 2005 20:02 PDT
Hi pinkfreud- would love for you or a colleague to answer my Q  but
only if you are not automatically jumping to the religious view.  It
is that view, in my opinion, which has gotten us in this predicament
in the first place!

Of course humans are in the animal kingdom (7th/8th grade biology) but
the fact of the matter is that in advertising, in writings, in common
beliefs, we humans state the case as if 'other animals' (dogs, cats,
etc) are lower than us & we tend to categorize ourselves (in language)
as more important than those other animals.

Can you provide some research on this?
Subject: Re: Humans = Animals ??
From: myoarin-ga on 06 Jul 2005 03:34 PDT
Hi Appreciative,
I think that it is just convention, stemming from very long usage from
times when we  - human -  masters of the language had no problem with
considering ourselves superior to other animals.  It is a tradition
that goes right back to the book of Genesis  - not to bring in
religion again but just to document the tradition.

Sure, it is very egocentrical of us, assuming that we are "more
important than those other animals", but we don't know what the other
animals are thinking (about couch potatoes, for example ;).

Until the time of Darwin (not to give him all the credit), humans in
the Christian world were happily convinced that they were something
different and better than the other animals  - made in God's image. 
Maybe that is the available "documented belief that humans are not
BELIEF being what it is, some do, others don't.

Since then, for lack of another word and based on the convention of
usage, we just keep on speaking about animals with the common
understanding that in the immediate context we are not including
humans (Efn's comment).
It's convenient; it's understood; it is perfectly adequate communication.
If the animals could talk back, we might change our usage  - as we
have when speaking about humans from other continents (like that
choice of words, after discarding "races" or any physical description

Far Eastern religions that believe in transmigration of the soul are
much better at respecting other animals as equals, the Jains
especially, some of whom wear face masks to avoid breathing in insects
and sweep in front of themselves to avoid stepping on any.

I wonder what the flowers think about girls named Rose, Violet, Lilly
(Susanna in Hebrew), and other flower names in other languages?

Subject: Re: Humans = Animals ??
From: pugwashjw-ga on 06 Jul 2005 23:57 PDT
Would you appreciate a Biblical view. Genesis states that Almighty God
created everything, animate as well as inanimate. Every living thing
has to comply with the conditions on the earth. The major one being
oxygen breathing. Genesis states that animals were created first and
man last. Man is similar to animals only in the fact that his body has
to comply with earth conditions e.g. heart, lungs etc. Man is separate
from all animal life in that he can think and plan for future events,
and communicate those thoughts to his fellow man. something no animal
can do. They function solely on instinct.
Matthew 6;26 "Observe intently the birds of heaven, because they do
not sew seed or reap or gather into storehouses ; still your heavenly
Father feeds them. Are you not worth more than they are?"
Matthew 12;12" All considered, of how much more worth is a man than a sheep?"
Luke 12;24 ....of how much more worth are you than birds?...
Appreciative, the important point here is God's feelings for you, not
the formalised form of religion constantly shoved at us via the media
and movies. Too much damage has been done ' in the name of religion'
and it has turned many away from the basics. God made us, God loves
us, and God will sort it out.
Subject: Re: Humans = Animals ??
From: toufaroo-ga on 08 Jul 2005 11:38 PDT
One interesting way I like to look at it is as follows.  We haev four
kingdoms; the mineral kingdom, the plant kingdom, the animal kingdom,
and finally the human kingdom.  Each kingdom has a property that makes
it unique.

The mineral kingdom has the property of cohesiveness.  Nobody really
knows all too well what keeps the atoms in a piece of iron for
instance all connected together without just breaking apart.

The next kingdom is that of plants.  These guys have the power of
growth.  Likewise, they also carry the property of the lower kingdom,
so plants also have the property of cohesiveness.  The converse is not
true, as rocks do not have the power to grow.

Next are animals.  The animal kingdom has the property of senses. 
Animals have eyes and ears and respond to their environments.  Sure,
you can argue that plants respond to stimuli, but I'm sure we'd all
agree that there is a huge difference between the two.

Finally comes humans.  From a religious perspective, you could say
humans have souls, and that is what makes us stand out above the
animals.  However, you specifically said you are looking for a
non-religious view.  If that's the case, then humans have the power of
rational thought and communication.  Humans are aware of self, display
rational thought (we don't do things based on instinct, but on logic),
and we are able to communicate with one another.  Sure, some animals
display rudimentary communication skills, but nothing on the level of

So, humans are to animals as plants are to minerals.  Sure, we have
animalistic properties, but I believe we are in a class by ourselves.
Subject: Re: Humans = Animals ??
From: pforcelli-ga on 08 Jul 2005 20:06 PDT
Is there a documented belief? Yes.  Aquinas and Augustine in Christian
philosophy, the Medieval notion of a Great Chain of Being -- sure
there is a documented belief.

However, it is bogus. 

And to comment on some of the other answers...

Man is separate
from all animal life in that he can think and plan for future events,
and communicate those thoughts to his fellow man. something no animal
can do. They function solely on instinct.
 -- and---
...humans have the power of
rational thought and communication.  Humans are aware of self, display
rational thought (we don't do things based on instinct, but on logic),
and we are able to communicate with one another.  Sure, some animals
display rudimentary communication skills, but nothing on the level of

Where does the notion that homo sapiens opperates on something more
than instinct come from?  IF you are a philisophical materialist
(belive that there is only the physical and no "soul") then this is
bogus.  The only seperation that can be made between man and other
animals is an artficial and asinine one.  We might have more advanced
circuitry for communication etc, but I can tell you - the notion that
other animals can't communicate is nonesense - through posturing, and
vocalizations a great deal of info is transfered.  As for the comment
that we don't do things based on instinct - I beg to differ. 
Furthermore, the notion that animals are unable to plan for future
events is utterly baseless. Let me wrap this up -- we might be the
most "advanced" of animals, but in the end - we are animals
Subject: Re: Humans = Animals ??
From: toufaroo-ga on 11 Jul 2005 07:02 PDT
While you could argue that humans simply have more advanced curcuitry
than "other" animals, the difference between our circuitry and even
the smartest animals' circuitry is so profound that while your view is
possible, it is more likely that humans are in a class all by
Subject: Re: Humans = Animals ??
From: pforcelli-ga on 11 Jul 2005 17:58 PDT
That is completely asinine. I can see that you really don't know much
about the nervous system or neuroscience in general, but the
differences really aren't profound, thats why we can use dogs, and
cats, mice and rats as models of human disease, function, behavior...
Subject: Re: Humans = Animals ??
From: toufaroo-ga on 12 Jul 2005 06:25 PDT
By circuitry, I think we both meant brains and not just nerves, and
the like.  While the brain is part of the CNS, the human brain is so
advanced for its size that it begs the question as to whether we are
actually different.

For typical animals, you notice a gradual increase in intelligence
between animals.  Just within mammals even.  A dolphin is somewhat
more intelligent than a monkey for instance.  A monkey is somewhat
more intelligent than an elephant, or whatever.  These are just
examples; don't take the actual animals too literally.  But humans are
extremely more intelligent than any animal you will find.

Either way, there's no sense arguing over this; whether we are animals
or not doesn't really make a difference in the grand scheme of things.
 I don't think it's going to offend anyone either way.  It's a
definition, really.  We can define ourselves to be whatever we want.
Subject: Re: Humans = Animals ??
From: dops-ga on 13 Jul 2005 11:04 PDT
I'm not sure where toufaroo-ga gets his four Kingdoms from, but there
are generally 5 Kingdoms widely accepted by most Biologist. They are
Plant, Animal, Fungi, Monera and Prostista. Humans fall into the
Animal Kingdom. The classification of Humans as something other than
Animal does not have it's roots in Biology, but rather Religion.
Instead all of the data being compiled from the multiple sequenced
genome indicates that Humans are definately Animals sharing an
estimated 97 and 99 % of their genome depending upon whether you
consider non-coding DNA.

Also as pforcelli-ga pointed out to say that humans are necessarily
more complex (and somehow different than) other animals is unfounded
nonsense. These ideas are based upon human constructs for measuring
complexity and intelligence. Also as pforcelli-ga points out  many
animals are so close to humans that " we can use dogs, and cats, mice
and rats as models of human disease, function, behavior... " This is
also true for studies involving learning and communication.

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy