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


We share Chapman & Huffman’s views on the importance of promoting animal welfare and conservation. We disagree with their implication, however, that reverence for life and concern for the wellbeing of global ecosystems depend on a belief that other living things are similar to humans in any of their capacities. Humans exhibit special traits — language, cumulative culture, extraordinary capacity for cooperation when we are at our best, and ever-advancing technological developments — that enabled them to dominate the planet, resulting in the current conservation crisis. It is precisely the fact that humans have become unique that provides hope for finding conservation solutions.

Author Biography

Michael L. Wilson has studied primates in East Africa since 1992, working on topics including aggression, communication, and conservation. He is a Principal Investigator of the Gombe Research Consortium, which coordinates research at Jane Goodall’s study site in Tanzania, and is currently a Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Toulouse, France. Website

Clarence L. Lehman spent much of his career developing computer software and hardware before returning to academia to study ecology, evolution and behavior. As an ecologist, he applies mathematical and computer modeling to questions in conservation, ecology, epidemiology, economics, and other branches of science. Website