Colin A. Chapman and Michael A. Huffman, Why do we want to think humans are different?


As Chapman & Huffman state, creating divisive human categories has rationalized atrocities committed against the “other.” Labeling neighboring warring villagers as “animals” is considered a despicable insult. Yet contemporary scientific views of many animals grant them thinking and conscious faculties, and the capacity for impressive achievements, many unattainable by humans. Robots, too, can accomplish many similar feats. But the essential reason we must protect animals is not because of their admirable abilities, but their capacity for consciousness, for suffering. Robots are not conscious. Participants in the human-animal debate should not complain about changing criteria for determining human uniqueness. New and refined hypothesis-making is the stuff of science.

Author Biography

Carolyn A. Ristau is a cognitive ethologist whose research includes field studies of cognition and communication in primates and plovers. She also investigates human ethno-political conflict and cooperation, primarily in Africa. Currently, she is writing a biography of Donald Griffin. Website