AR Philosophy > Morality Index

An Unnatural Order: Discovering the Roots of our
Domination of Nature and Each Other
~ Continued

By Jim Mason
Animals intrigued human beings with their size, speed, strength, habits and other features. They were believed to have powers humans did not. For primal humans - especially those with the flowering mind, consciousness and culture of modern Homo sapiens about 45,000 years ago - the animals in their foraging lands were the most impressive, the most fascinating living beings in the world. Measured in terms of the amount of human wonder they caused, animals were the most wonderful things out there in the world. The primal relationship with the powers of the living world was more of a partnership in which human beings had interactions and a strong sense of interdependence with them.

Other things in nature impressed us, too, like dark forests, violent storms, rivers swollen by flood waters. Yet animals impressed us in ways that the rest of nature could not. Why animals? Why do animals figure so centrally to the process of mind formation? Why isn't the child moved by stuffed plants and figures of trees and rocks? Animals, like us, move freely; and they are more obviously like people than are trees, rivers and other things in nature. Animals have eyes, ears, hair, and other organs like us; and they sleep, eat, defecate, copulate, give birth, play, fight, die and carry on many of the same activities of life that we do. Somewhat similar to us yet somewhat different, animals forced comparisons, categories, and conclusions. Animals made us think. Animals drove and shaped human intelligence. They are fascinating to watch. Of all the things in nature, then, animals stand out most in ways needed by the developing brain/mind. Animals are active, noisy, colorful characters - all of which makes them most informative. In contrast, the rest of nature is background - relatively amorphous, still, inscrutable, and not much help to the budding brain/mind, whether that of the species or the individual.

As movers of the mind, thought and feeling, animals are very strong stuff to human beings. No wonder our ancestors believed they had souls and powers.