How different are humans and animals really?
The differences between humans and animals are fewer than many people imagine
Posted on: 20th February 2012
Those who have read Tales for Great Grandchildren may guess that I am very interested in animals, and I have great respect for them. Living with animals is enjoyable and instructive. I also love wildlife (and always have done). And I have always had a corresponding awareness that the differences between humans and animals are fewer than many people imagine (humans are, of course, a kind of animal).
For example, it is often said that prescience is what makes humans unique. But the suggestion that all other animals operate simply on an instinctual basis is observably wrong. Many animals have a capacity to learn, and to apply their knowledge in a way which suits them best. In wildlife films, we can see crocodiles in South African rivers lying in wait for wildebeest as they migrate. That is something that is learned, rather than being instinctive. I have no doubt that animals teach their own progeny skills such as this.
I have said before that Jung’s idea of a ‘collective unconscious’ among humans is persuasive to me: the same sorts of mythology crop up all over the world in all sorts of different cultures. What fascinates me even more is the question of whether animals experience such a thing too.