THE ANTHROPOMORPHIC FALLACY
A strange bird? Oh no, it's
a homo-tomato snoozing in bird's nest.
click thumbnail to enlarge
This photo was able to arouse some feelings to its viewers only because I
drew a human face on a tomato that has an odd shape (with a nose) and named
it 'Homo Tomato'. It was the anthropomorphic appearance that made a
difference in our response to the picture. What if I didn't draw a face on
this tomato, would we then simply see it as arrangement, a tomato placed in
a bird's nest without the projection of certain sentiments.
myths from antiquity all privilege human interest over other animals, and
had led to the way we treat them as inferior. Because their appearances are
unlike ours. Anthropomorphism is the pre-curser to Speciesism.
Perhaps with the same reason one can explain why in places of worship, the
sentiments are built upon human images as supreme beings. Religious stories
are filled with anthropocentric hermeneutics. Belief systems in Egypt,
Syria, Greece, Rome, India and China are based on human psychology, fitted
with a "for human alone teleology" which means the universe is built upon a
hierarchical order and human is the supreme. Why would a universal spirit
only concern itself with human affairs but not the rest in the universe? say
the chimpanzees, the great whales or chickens and cows?
To erect a
human centered cosmology is an act of self-inauguration, as backward as the
cosmology of Ptolemy, which views the earth as the center of the universe.
In this sense, the animal rights concept is equivalent to the Copernicus
revolution, it changes from a human centric view of the universe to the
sanctity of all that exist.
Our species is only one among billions,
our civilization occupies only a small portion of the planet, and the earth
is only a speck of dust floating in the universe. If there is a cosmic
consciousness, it would hold every part of the universe and every planet and
animal in safety. But, apparently each life must fend for itself, human's or
non-humans, flowers and trees, desert and rivers, are all at the mercy of a
stable climate and the healthy functioning of the eco-system.
idea of spirit, soul and its reincarnation and migration are formulated by
one species may not match up the view of other intelligence living on other
planets. The metaphysical projections into the unknown is basically a
self-fulfilling gesture: the projection of a godhead with human features and
has similar temperament, persona and intelligence such as cognitive ability,
memory. Such guess work can fool the brain to translate myths into facts.
This explains why people tend to mix up mythical imagination with reality.
Even if we acknowledge the presence of a cosmic intelligence, it is
unknowable and cannot be thought of.
Kant, the philosopher of the
Enlightenment, has made this explicit that behind the phenomenal world (that
which can be observed), is limited by our mental and physical
apparatus; we could never know the noumenal, the thing-in-itself, or
positing a transcendent being with human like consciousness.
The inner aspect of contemplative practice is truly valuable in providing
moral guidance and a tranquil life. The main reason to have a belief system
for most people is that it satisfies our emotional needs-a soul watcher is
able to share our emotions-love, anger, revenge, approval and disapproval-
who intimately understand what we think and feel. The attempt to explain the
unfathomable and to search for eternal life was common among early
civilizations. In the Vedic myth, it describes the whole universe as divine
fire, the Agni that permeates in everything including our human
Is it true that religions of antiquity were from a
golden age? According to records, the golden age of great teachings was also
a dark age with chaos and wars. Great mind of the axial age like Chuang-Tze,
Socrates, Confucius, Jesus and Buddha, their emergence was a desperate
response to the brutal sights of murders and slavery that they were
witnessing. One such example is demonstrated in the ancient story of
Mahabharata, the dialogue between Arjuna and Krishna, as the latter urging
Arjuna to gather all his strength to fight and defeat Karna, their enemy.
The two great epic poems of Homer: Iliad and Odyssey of the Trojan war are
sufficed to convince us that our history is plagued by violence. Such
violent nature is also the cause of animal suffering, humans and non-humans.
Julian Huxley, an eminent biologist and philosopher, who prefers a
rational explanation regarding the origin of human history, he said:
"Research (natural history, genetics, psychology...) has proved that
pre-history emerges from biological evolution, not from the will of divine.
The essence of human life is observed and understood mainly through social
Our concept of time, of eternity has no relevance
to the world at large. It matters only within the confine of human affairs.
The mystery of the universe is made of unpredictable forces, the galactic
activities of burning and exploding, have nothing to do with our needs and
The essential teaching of Buddhism is that all sentient
beings are equal and the main practice is compassion. Buddha was a role
model for living simply and kindly including a non-violent vegetarian diet.
Buddhism is essentially a non-theist meditative practice, but in some parts
of China and India, it has been mystified as folk religion, with ceremony
and worship, although Buddha was a historical figure.
analogy in religious ontology reflects the fallacy of anthropomorphic
reasoning. Demons, evil deities and the hell realms are portrayed in beastly
forms where as angels and gods or super beings are given human forms, with
the assumption only humans go to heaven, non-humans go to the inferno, a
purely human centric psychology.
But what one wishes or imagines has no
correspondence to what really IS. The purpose of my arguments is that our
way of valuing and structuring priority has a lot to do with the way we
treat non-human animals.
Schopenhauer, whose philosophy was
profoundly influenced by Buddhism, tells us that the idea of a personal god
or a soul, both is recognized by its human personality, is merely a manmade
concept based on anthropomorphism. Without the brain and its conceptual
thinking, all that man-made reality would cease to exist.
human-centered worldview is strategically designed to give us power over
other animals and led to the holocaust of the animal kingdom. Once we are
free from the psychology and mentality of anthropomorphism, the world would
open to us, the wonder of �the others�, their intelligence, wisdom, love,
joy and struggle; their extraordinary abilities to care, cooperate,
communicate with one another, their magical skills to swim, fly, run, burrow
or even to transform (like the jelly fish?).
Edward Gibbon, author
of the book, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, is the
greatest English historian of the 18 century. He commented, with a
pessimistic view of human events: "History is a little more than the
register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind!" History
clearly demonstrates our violent nature. The technology of war have
evolved from the use of spear and bow, swords, gunpowder to marine warfare,
chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. When Heidegger said : "Only a god
can save us now!", was he hopeful? A heart without compassion, even a god
cannot save us or the planet.
The living planet is made up the
changing phases of land and sea, species emerging and evolving, in that
there is no death, only the appearing and disappearing, no after life, or
reincarnation. Such grand scale of things is beyond our linguistic ability
or imagination to describe. It is unknowable, has no ears, eyes, nor
sentiments to hear our cries, our wishes.
Humans must turn to each
other for consolation. As autonomous moral agent, we make our own choices
base on rational thinking, by that I mean being reasonable and responsible.
Our sense of humility comes from being part of a greater process, with a
good will for all earth dwellers, in sky, ocean and forests.
an over arching story, one can still appreciate the teachings of Buddha, the
Gospels and the non-violent path of the Jains. Meditation does bring
tranquility and clarity to our lives. One can still join a monastic
community and practice simple living. The longing for the sublime cannot be
the rationale for a transcendent spirit. The earth, along with her children,
with its struggle and beauty, is where we all belong and we as care giver
must tend to those in needs. We practice kindness and true justice for all:
our kind and those others look different from us.
drawing of a human face, we then see the tomato simply as tomato; its
mystery is ineffable as ours.
August 30, 2009Raining outside�