Are Humans Really Superior to Animals?

This topic submitted by Justin Hendy, Bryan Glosik, Willis Okech ( wokech@hotmail.com ) on 2/18/05. [ Human Nature Team: Justin Hendy, Bryan Glosik, Willis Okech-Section: Cummins/Wolfe]


Human Nature Proposal
Cummins/Wolfe Section B
Justin Hendy, Bryan Glosik, Willis Okech

Are Humans Really Superior to Animals?

Introduction:
Purpose:
To determine if humans (Homo Sapiens) are indeed superior to animals on a biologic scale, by looking at the five senses. Another aspect of the study will look at how humans view themselves as being superior towards nature both historically and across cultures.

Hypothesis:
Biologically it can be proven that animals are superior to humans. Animals have stronger and more alert senses than humans. Throughout the history of humans and across various cultures, humans have always viewed themselves as superior over nature and animals. This can be shown through their treatment of nature and animals. The survey of Miami students will show that they have a strong feeling for superiority over nature and animals.

Fundamental Issue of Human Nature:
If it can be proved that humans have viewed themselves as superior to nature both across cultures and over history then it can be said that this view is part of our human nature.

What Is Planned to be Accomplished:
To prove that humans can be looked at on a more equal level as animals. That humans live in denial that they are indeed animals and that they are not that much different from animals.

Relevance towards course:
Our study will focus more on the scientific side of the course. In this course E.O. Wilson was looked at in terms of putting humans as just another animal. He also acted to elevate the intelligence of apes. This idea of humans being just another animal is exactly what our study will be looking at.

Relevance of Research Question:
Literature Review: Place Research in Context of the Literature:

Journal References:

Daly, Martin, and Margo I. Wilson. "Human Evolutionary Psychology and Animal Behaviour." Animal Behaviour 57 (1999): 509-519
Gives an evolutionary understanding of human information processing and decision making.

Davis H. Shelton ed. Indigenous Views of Land and the Environment.
Washington D.C.: World Bank, 1993. 1225-108
Offers an environmental view for various indigenous people.

Dolins, Francine L. Attitudes to Animals: Views in Animals Welfare. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 1999. 1-20
The book questions human views on human animal relationships. Provides a foundation so the reader can make ethical choices about animals.

Friedman, Batya, and Peter H. Kahn. "Along the Rio Negro: Brazilian Children's
Environmental Views and Values." Developmental Psychology 32 (1996): 976-98
Shows a striking similarity in environmental values between Brazilian children and African American urban children in the United States.

Henderson , G.H (1948). Physical Basis of Bird Navigation. Science New Series, 107 (2788), 597-598.
This short article touches on the issue of bird migration and asserts that birds do indeed have superior eyesight to humans.

Kormblith, H. (1999). Knowledge in humans and other animals. Nous, 33(13), 327-346.
This article ties in with the general topic of Human Nature. It talks about cognitive knowledge in humans and other animals. It views the general idea that cognitive knowledge has developed through natural selection but as the author asserts, this may not be the only case. The author argues that even Darwin had acknowledged that there's more to behavior and selection than just natural selection.

Martinez-Arizala, Alberto. "Methods to Measure Sensory Function in Humans Versus
Animals." Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development 40 (2003)
Compares spinal cord injuries in humans and animals. This relates to how humans and animals are able to recuperate from a major sensory injury.

"Merging of Modalities in the Optic Tectum: Infrared and Visual Integration in Rattlesnakes." Science, 199 (1978): 1225-1229
Provides and example on how animals have extra-sensory abilities such as infrared.

Minnich, D. E. (1929). The chemical senses of insects. The Quarterly Review of Biology, 4(1), 100-112.
Insects that mainly use chemical as opposed to vertebrates are looked into as ways of communication. This will help with comparing and contrasting such senses with those of humans to human senses.

Refinetti, R (1990). The Real Issue with Antivivisection controversy. Science, Technology and Human Values, 15(1), 122-123.
This article deals with our perception of animals. It looks at how even though we consider ourselves superior, and have equal rights humans have histories of slavery, apartheid etc. We are quick to research on issues pertaining to human diseases for example using animals since it is unethical in human nature to use human beings for such research.

Smith, B.K (1991). Classifying Animals and Humans in Ancient India. Man New Series, 26(3), 527-548.
Smith links human perception of animals in human culture whereby depending on what the animal qualities was then different classes (low or high) of the people would be associated with respective animals. This article touches on the general hypothesis of our research; if there are animals we compare ourselves to then we are equals.

Waldvogel, J.A (1990). The Birds Eye View. American Scientist, 78, (4), 342
This article compares the sensory capabilities such as acuity between birds and humans.

Website References:

Four Environmental Viewpoints. Villanova College. 17 Feb. 2005

Discusses four human based environmental viewpoints.

Menashi, Steven. Humans, Animals, and the Human Animal. 17 Feb. 2005
.
It exposed human individuals who believe that there is an absolute equality among humans and animals.

Mott, Mary Ann. Did Animals Sense Tsunami Was Coming. 4 Jan. 2005.
National Geographic. 17 Feb. 2005

Talks about how animals seemed to exhibit a sixth sense of some kind that let them know the tsunami was coming and allowed them to run and hide.

Stringer, Dr. Phil. Environism: The Environmental Movement as a Pagan
Religion. 17 Feb. 2005
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Argues that environmentalism is a pagan godless movement. Shows an example of how some people view nature and the environment as insignificant to humans.

Super Sense. National Geographic. 17 Feb. 2005

Discusses various animal abilities in the five senses.


How Does Research Relate to the Larger Question:
A major part of our study is to gather together facts from various different fields to try and paint an accurate picture of why humans view themselves as superior to nature and animals even though biologically speaking humans are really the inferior animal. Gathering together historic and cultural data to better understand if humans' view of superiority is part of human nature or if it is simply imposed on us through social means. A lot of data exists on these individual topics of the five senses, historic views, and cultural views, but our study will act to put all of this data together to answer our specific questions and to prove how humans are inferior to nature and animals. If humans are able to better understand that they are inferior to animals in some ways then maybe they will be able to accept humans as being just another animal on this Earth. If humans are able to accept this idea of equality it may lead to better treatment of nature by humans.
However, if it is simply human nature for humans to view themselves as superior to nature and animals then it will be necessary somehow to convince humans to overcome their inherent nature and to respect animals and nature. These viewpoints by humans are a basis for the degradation of nature. These viewpoints must first be overcome if humans are to not degrade nature. It is the purpose of our study to help break down this viewpoint and to put humans on a more equal level with nature and animals.

Interdisciplinary Approach:
By looking at the differences and similarities amongst humans and animals concerning the five senses the ideas of biology, ecology, and various other natural sciences will be brought into the study. History will also be looked at to determine if the human superiority idea is a historic idea. By looking across cultures we will examine the issue of human superiority using a cultural lens.

Specific Research Design:
This study will focus on using research as the focal point of the study. A survey will also be used to add an experimental aspect to the study. This part of the study will help to prove the point that humans do in fact view themselves as superior to animals.
The research part of our study will focus on answering the questions of, 'are humans biologically superior to animals' and 'do humans view themselves as superior to nature and animals both historically and across cultures.'
To determine if the statement of human biologic superiority over nature and animals is true, similarities and differences between humans and animals pertaining to the five senses will be examined. Sight amongst humans and animals will be looked at in terms of sight clarity, distance, nocturnal vision, infrared, eye structure, and evolving to not rely on sight. Hearing will be looked at in terms of pitch, distance or range of hearing, ear structure and hearing clarity in all directions. Smell will be looked at in terms of how strong the sense of smell is, distance of picking up a smell, and nose structure. Taste will be looked at in terms of sensitivity towards hot and cold, tasting bad or possibly dangerous food. Touch will be looked at in terms of sensitivity, sensing vibration,
Another thing that will be examined in this study is the ability of animals to communicate using various different methods such as all the senses. Humans will be looked at on similar terms to see how humans compare to animals in communication skills.
On the issue of humans' view towards nature and animals will focus on two distinct areas. The first idea is of how humans have viewed nature and animals historically across cultures. The second idea is of how humans have treated nature and animals historically and across culture. These two ideas are closely tied together, however a difference could arrive if on one hand humans have a view of nature that is respectful but on the other hand act to degrade nature.
This view held by humans will be examined through research to see if it holds true across cultures and throughout history. If this view of human superiority holds true across cultures and throughout history then it could be said that this view is an aspect of human nature. If this view doesn't hold true for all humans then it could be said that this view is socially constructed.
On top of our research we will be conducting a survey to ascertain how Miami students view themselves in relation to nature, and animals. This survey will become more complete upon further discussions with the professors on how to develop a good survey.

Materials and Methods:
A survey will be given out to a large sample of Miami students. This will be completed upon further consultation.
Our team will work together by being supportive of each other while constant interaction is a must.
The statistics part of our research has not been finalized yet. However, percentages will most likely be used in some form. The actually survey questions are still in the process of being formed. The time-line of when this survey will be executed is yet to be determined.

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