30 Bananas a Day!

this discussion was prompted as a result of interesting exchanges in the
can you just eat 100% fruit thread.

it is an area that needs to be explored because many people are not aware of the discoveries which have been made in animal cognition over the past 3 decades.

my personal contention is that it is a bit tautological to argue that humans are unique since
a) they are
b) so is every other species

hence, if every species is unique, being unique is really not all that unique. it's a bit like the line in gilbert and sullivan's gondoliers "when everybody's a somebody, no one's anybody" :D

however, let's examine the idea against the backdrop of research and see where we go because sometimes the implications can get ugly with notions of human superiority arrogantly creeping in.

in friendship,

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I would say that you answered your own question. Saying "are humans unique" is like saying, "are bunnies unique" the answer to both is of course "yes" if you look at the micro, a possible "no" if you look at the macro in that both are sentient beings with similar needs for survival and reproduction (sleeping, eating, creating waste matter, having sex etc.)
That being said the easy answer is all things are unique.
i like easy answers, but the question is what's important. ;)

in friendship,

Along this discussion here are a couple of interesting quotes.

If a group of beings from another planet were to land on Earth - beings who considered themselves as superior to you as you feel yourself to be to other animals - would you concede them the rights over you that you assume over other animals? ~Attributed to George Bernard Shaw

Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals. ~George Orwell, Animal Farm

Take Care,
I really love the Bernard Shaw quote. I think I'll use this on non-vegans. Thanks for posting it!
superb posts harrison!

you write:
When we discover a unique ability in another animal scientists get into the lab and try to adapt it to human use.

this is sometimes known as the bambi syndrome:
the issue of pain and suffering gets murky. it cannot be denied that bees have senses and cognition and even self-awareness. however, pain and suffering become a problem because some people don't seem to understand the feelings of another being unless it a near duplicate of their own. as nollman writes in this interesting account of experiences with yellowjackets which everyone wanted to pass off as pheromone response:

"Here we are faced with an example of the Bambi Syndrome: scientists can not accept the reality of animal language or animal consciousness until an animal possessed of certain key attributes of both human language and human consciousness appears on the scene."


yes humans are curious creatures indeed ... and some of them have been munching on too many doritos as bigG would put it. :D

in friendship,
Here is an interesting quote from Schopenhauer's 'Critque of Kant' on the subject which I find very forward thinking for it's time (1839). Sorry about the length of the quote but it is a fascinating read.

"The moral incentive advanced by me as the genuine, is further confirmed by the fact that the animals are also taken under its protection. In other European systems of morality they are badly provided for, which is most inexcusable. They are said to have no rights, and there is the erroneous idea that our behavior to them is without moral significance, or, as it is said in the language of that morality, there are no duties to animals. All this is revoltingly crude, a barbarism of the West, the source of which is to be found in Judaism. In philosophy it rests, despite all evidence to the contrary, on the assumed total difference between man and animal. We all know that such difference was expressed most definitely and strikingly by Descartes as a necessary consequence of his errors. Thus when the philosophy of Descartes, Leibniz, and Wolff built up rational psychology out of abstract concepts and constructed an immortal anima rationales, the natural claims of the animal world obviously stood up against this exclusive privilege, this patent of immortality of the human species, and nature, as always on such occasions, entered her silent protest. With an uneasy intellectual conscience, the philosophers then had to try to support rational psychology by means of the empirical. They were therefore concerned to open up a vast chasm, an immeasurable gulf between man and animal in order to represent them as fundamentally different, in spite of all evidence to the contrary. ... In the end animals would be quite incapable of distinguishing themselves from the external world and would have no consciousness of themselves, no ego! To answer such absurd statements, we can point simply to the boundless egoism inherent in every animal, even the smallest and lowest, which shows clearly enough how very conscious they are of their ego in face of the world or the non-ego. If any Cartesian were to find himself clawed by a tiger, he would become aware in the clearest possible manner of the sharp distinction such a beast draws between its ego and the non-ego. In keeping with such sophisms of philosophers, we find a popular peculiarity in many languages, especially German, of giving animals special words of their own for eating, drinking, pregnancy, parturition, dying, and their bodies, so that we need not use the same words which describe those acts among human beings: and thus we conceal under a diversity or words the perfect and complete identity of the thing. Since the ancient languages did not recognize any such duplication, but rather frankly and openly denoted the same thing by the same word, that miserable artifice is undoubtedly the work of European priests and parsons. In their profanity these men think they cannot go far enough in disavowing and reviling the eternal essence that lives in all animals, and thus have laid the foundation of that harshness and cruelty to animals which is customary in Europe, but which no native of the Asiatic uplands can look at without righteous horror. In the English language we do not meet with this contemptible trick, doubtless because the Saxons, when they conquered England, were not yet Christians. On the other hand, we do find an analogy to it in the strange fact that in English all animals are of the neuter gender and so are represented by the pronoun "it," just as if they were inanimate things. The effect of this artifice is quite revolting, especially in the case of primates, dogs, monkeys, and the like; it is unmistakably a priestly trick for the purpose of reducing animals to the level of things. The ancient Egyptians, whose whole life was dedicated to religious purposes, put the mummies of the ibis, crocodile, and so on, in the same vault with those of human beings. In Europe, however, it is an abomination and a crime for a faithful dog to be buried beside the resting place of his master, though at times, from a faithfulness and attachment not to be found among the human race, he there awaited his own death. Nothing leads more definitely to a recognition of the identity of the essential nature in animal and human phenomena than a study of zoology and anatomy. What, then, are we to say when in these days [1839] a bigoted and canting zootomist has the audacity to emphasize an absolute and radical difference between man and animal, and goes so far as to attack and disparage honest zoologists who keep aloof from all priestly guile, toadyism, and hypocrisy, and pursue their course under the guidance of nature and truth? One must be really quite blind or totally chloroformed by the factor Judaicus not to recognize that the essential or principal thing in the animal and man is the same, and that what distinguishes the one from the other is not to be found in the primary and original principle, in the archaeus, in the inner nature, in the kernel of the two phenomena, such kernel being in both alike the will of the individual; but only in the secondary, in the intellect, in the degree of the cognitive faculty. In man this degree is incomparably higher through the addition of the faculty of abstract knowledge, called reason. Yet this superiority is traceable only to a greater cerebral development, and hence to the somatic difference of a single part, the brain, and in particular, its quantity. On the other hand, the similarity between animal and man is incomparably greater, both psychically and somatically. And so we must remind the Western, Judaized despiser of animals and idolater of the faculty of reason that, just as he was suckled by his mother, so too was the dog by his. Even Kant fell into this mistake of his contemporaries and countrymen; this I have already censured. The morality of Christianity has no consideration for animals, a defect that is better admitted than perpetuated. . . .

Since compassion for animals is so intimately associated with goodness of character, it may be confidently asserted that whoever is cruel to animals cannot be a good man. This compassion also appears to have sprung from the same source as the virtue that is shown to human beings has. Thus, for example, persons of delicate feelings, on realizing that in a bad mood, in anger, or under the influence of wine, they unnecessarily or excessively, or beyond propriety, ill-treated their dog, horse, or monkey—these people will feel the same remorse, the same dissatisfaction with themselves as is felt when they recall a wrong done to human beings, where it is called the voice of reproving conscience."
I think he was critical of any religion that would purposefully separate humans and animals for their own doctrines and was critical of most religious dogma although I do believe that he was a bit of an anti-semite at times. I think this was quite a common attitude at the time unfortunately.
Thats a fantastic piece of writing Tom, thanks for posting that. I really enjoyed his clear expression of an evidently fervent passion for equality between animals and humans in the way we perceive and treat them.

Take care

Adam x

I don't really think his is commenting on Jews as much as on Jewish doctrine. One of the limitations of religions is that they become fixed 'truths' and concepts, rather than ever-changing and increasingly flexible ideas, which adapt to context and time.

For example, all religions have been created to some degree as a response to at least three primary functions for human individuals and most importantly, to the society which they comprise:

1) A desire to understand the nature of life, nature, history and purpose.

2) Communities are easier to ensure the behaviour of each individual is of benefit to the whole community; mutual support, intimate relationships and familiarity with each individual, spending time engaging in activities which directly benefit both the self and everyone else and therefore the fear of rejection from society becomes legitimate, because there is a direct emotional investment in continued membership within a community. This ensures that people feel connected to others and their needs, and therefore themselves and their own needs. This ensures that their morals and behaviour become self-evident. There is no need for laws or external morals, because the individual can use their innate emotional intelligence to experience their own.

Communities differ insofar as that they invariably are small. Usually no greater than 150 in the most original forms. Many indiginous groups are known to separate as numbers approach 150, to ensure that populations do not become unmanagable, and that group harmony and synergy is continued.

Societies on the other hand involve larger groups of people. This means that people often find themselves surrounded by people to whom they are not emotionally connected. They may be surrounded by strangers even. Because of the need to support the entire society, people may engage in activities which they do not see direct benefits of. People feel less connected to the world around them, and therefore themselves. Their own needs may often be compromised in order to benefit needs of a greater society, which can lead people to feel less connected to their own sense of needs. When people are not connected well to themselves or to others, it becomes less easy to stay in tune with our own internal sense of morals, since the investment in maintaining relationships with everyone in society is less strong-because their is no direct relationship with may people within the society. Consequently, people as their needs feel less met, may become increasingly frustrated, impatient or intolerant. They may not see everyone as being of equal worth or importance, or may not treat themselves as they would like to be treated, because there is no rapport- and because they themselves are not treated in the way they would ideally like to be treated either. Apathy, disconnection or disillusionment, as well as conflict may eventually become prevalent for a minority group. If this spreads, it could directy decrease the chances of survival of the society as a whole.

This is particularly risky, when we look at some of the challenges faced by people as they moved across the world; risks of famine, drought, dehydration, severe hot and cold temperatures, predation. There could be all sorts of problems occurring.

People need to make sure that their behaviours, if not self-governed by their own internal moral compass, are kept in line to benefit society as a whole. Religion may have evolved to ensure that people were motivated to control themselves. Indeed we look at the old testament and we see that many laws that were mentioned within those scriptures, were the same as the laws of those times. Religion may have evolved then as a political tool to ensure the survival of the society.

3) To provide people with a sense of purpose, a common goal or aim, a common uniting factor to keep people inspired and motivated to contribute to society.

If we look at the view of animals, particularly in the context of point number two, we can see that it may have been useful in that context, to have people think of animals as different to humans. To ensure that people did not feel guilty about killing them, or exploiting them for labour or food. Judaism came about when people were living in deserts. They are pretty harsh conditions for anyone to endure. Food would often be scarce and people would need to ensure they were able to take advantage of any opportunity to survive. In order to get enough food in, animals were consumed occassionally, and were also exploited, whether as a form of transport, or for labour (eg. carrying or pulling things), to make life a little easier. Empathy or seeing animals on an equal level to humans, may not have been useful in that context.

The problem with religion comes about when we take it to be containing 'eternal truths' or gospel, to be carried across into any and every context and civilization. Rather than seeing it for what it is; something which was considered, rightly or wrongly, to be of use to society as a whole at the time, but which needs to change and adapt with time, as our understanding and experience of the world changes.

Take care

Adam x
this is very good, lucid writing - thanks for posting it treehugger!

there is a story james campbell tells in his power of myth about a zen priest who was asked to speak at a judeo-christian conference. he started with some thing like this:

"man against nature, nature against man. nature against god, god against nature. god against man, man against god. very strange religion."

i don't know what or if he said afterwords. perhaps he left it as a koan for the inquisitive. :D

in friendship,
You're welcome Prad. It seems that religions have to take some responsibility when it comes to how we see animals compared to humans. The idea that God created man in his own image says a lot about this attitude as well as the idea that man should have dominion over the animals. The zen priest was very perceptive!
thank you jon for such a fine post!
your story is indeed remarkable - as is your resistance to environmental pressures as outlined on your home page.

i think one can move away from religious beliefs without moving away from religion. there is generally much nobleness in the latter, but considerable convenience in the former. eventually, one sees that beliefs, like opinions, don't really matter - or as yogananda's guru put it: "the universe doesn't wait for the sanction of our beliefs". :D

capra put forth a particularly interesting 'world-view' in the tao of physics, which many affected by "scientific hardness" denigrate as coincidence or even foolishness. i'm not so sure it is wise to be neglectful of coincidence. if the universe is a machine, there is a good chance that its working parts fit together with a built-in logic. in fact, possibly with a built-in morality, as touched upon in this discussion with appleman that you may find interesting:

as an engineer, you may also find this statement by physicist percy bridgeman meaningful:
"And in the end, when man has fully partaken of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, there will be this difference between the first Eden and the last, that man will not become as a god, but remain forever humble".

a belated welcome, jon, to 30bad.

in friendship,



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