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Thoughts on the value of life


So last Sunday, I watched the serious theriantropy discussion chat (STDC). One of the questions discussed was whether nonhuman animals could possibly experience shifting phenomena. We've discussed the same question in an earlier thread. In both discussions opinions were divided on the subject. In the STDC chat, the discussion quickly went into the direction of whether the human mind would be different or have special features when compared to other animals, especially the ability for introspection and having self-awareness. The usage of language and writing were given as examples of unique human mental skills. The discussion was quite lively, and again opinions were divided. It inspired me to re-think and get more aware of my own opinion.

Now, first of all, I'd agree that the human brain has amazing and impressive capabilities. But still, I basically don't feel at all well attributing any of those to be generally unique or fundamentally different from other animals. In my view, society (especially christianity) has always used this for reasoning why humans would be superior to all life, and more valuable than other animals. This is a stance that I, to put it lightly, find extremely dangerous and totally dislike. In my view it has led to justifying every thinkable and horrible misdeed against animals. Hence I don't like the attitude of thinking that humans are superior or the greatest beings on Earth. I think life is the most valuable thing we have on the planet, and I tend to assign the same value to every lifeform.

In history, animals were oftentimes assumed to not have the ability of feeling, being intelligent or being self-aware. Modern science has shown that this assumption is wrong and all of that is actually not unique to humans. Yet, I'm always stunned by seeing people who would fight for having such uniqueness, as if it would be a vital neccessity. In my experience, stating the belief that such uniqueness doesn't exist oftentimes leads to the label of "humanizing" animals, which is typically meant to be negative.

I seem to generally underestimate that therians would oftentimes take great value in having a human mindset. I don't think this is bad, only I have to say that I don't do so. For myself, being a dragon in a human body, I think I'm still an animal. Having a big brain or being able to use language doesn't make me a better being. Language for example is nice to have, but not at all needed for thought processes; thinking without language is way faster. So to me the question is rather what all of these mental skills are used for. I think living a life that respects other beings and nature is better as opposed to destroying or polluting the natural environment. That's also why I always had extremely high respect of cultures that life in harmony with nature, and likewise high respect of wild animals. At the moment, despite trying my best, I honestly don't score much better in this than any other member of human society. So all in all, I don't think having a human brain makes me better or more valuable than any other animal.

One of the reasons why I believe I came to this world was to understand why humans would have such a hard time living in harmony with nature. What is intelligence worth if, at the end of the day, it doesn't prevent the society to destroy their natural habitat? I think I've gained sufficient understanding in the reasons, but I also think that this mindset of mine is different from society's standard.

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Hello Amber, it's me again! Hope you don't mind, I genuinely enjoy debating with you, even though neither of us are going to change our stances anytime soon, but it's always interesting to see how someone else thinks on matters of philosophical theory! So here I am! 😄

I don't really participate in Therian discussions, as I'm not a Therian, and I think very... differently... than most Therians, so I figure it would be a waste of my time to try to just watch these days without participating. So I didn't see the original conversation you mentioned, so I'll just be talking from my own observations.

I personally think that shifting is a human only phenomena, solely because we don't have any evidence that non-human animals have the same sense of self-awareness that humans do. I would actually be most likely to accept dolphins, and maybe whales, close to that subject as they are intelligent, and have complex forms of communication and language. But I do believe a sense of self-awareness, and language are the cornerstones of sapience.

Yes, non-human animals are sentient, but I don't believe they are sapient, and as such a divergent sense of identity just doesn't seem logical, nor realistic, in my opinion. If it did show up, it would mean a sense of complex understanding of self versus others, individual identification, as well as the ability to communicate the difference.

Perhaps our differences in opinions result from the different beliefs we have towards language, and communication. A species that cannot communicate complex thoughts to others just isn't self-aware to me. One needs complex language to be able to think to oneself. Think of feral children, if they aren't found young enough, then they'll never be able to assimilate back into society because their brain can't comprehend the complex languages of humans and how to communicate.

So yes, thinking without language would be fast, it wouldn't be very specific, and wouldn't allow for abstract thought, which is a sign of higher awareness, and sapience itself.

A good example would be death. Animals don't understand death like a species that utilizes language would. They avoid death because biology tells them to. Perhaps, (A very hard perhaps) individual examples of animals might show signs of understanding far different than their average counterparts, but that hasn't been proven. Humans (and by extension any other truly sapient species should we come across them in the future) can think about the abstractions of death, about the moral and philosophical quandaries of death. Yes animals have been shown to mourn, but the communication needed for that to become self thought isn't there.

That isn't to say that animals are inferior to humans, because that would imply an outside, objective scale of worth towards humans, which as far as we know just doesn't exist. Humans are not better by nature of being humans, but by the fact of our sapience, that does make us more advanced socially. 

I think romanticizing animals in harmony with the environment is a bit of a fallacy, because any species will take full advantage of the environment it finds itself in, to the point of killing all other species in their ecological niche, and destroying the local biome. And this isn't forced by humans, the only reason isolated biomes have a sort of harmony, is that multiple species are predating upon each other. It's less harmony, and more just structured destruction. (a paradox yes, but I find those fun)

Also, I find it really intriguing about environmental protections that most world powers are actually the best at it, considering that people like to claim first world countries are the worst. It's countries like India, and China, places people like to act like are the best at it, that are the major pollution and environmental destruction centers. Modern culture is actually very concerned with environmental protection, as well as animal conservation, with a few outliers that are just more noticed. Look at how people react to animal abuse, very violently in most cases.

Yes, most people in modern countries aren't going to give up their comforts on a crusade for the environment. Yes, that's good and all, but as far as people are sure of, they only get one life, and wanting to live it comfortably is, in my opinion, understandable and quite acceptable. 

I, personally, think that intelligence is worth its prices. We are coming up with beautiful tech to save the environment. We are beating the capricious cruelty of biology with science, medicine, and social awareness. Children, both human and animal, can live lives happily when without intelligence to create these solutions, would have died either in the womb, or as a child. We can raise a child with disabilities, again both human and animal, that animals would have left for dead, with love and make their lives happier, and less painful.

We save animals that we find and give them lives of peace and love with no real expectations except to be loved in return. Most people will save their pets over people (human and animal) who aren't a part of their family. Most humans consider their pets their family, and will spend a lot of money making sure they are happy and loved.

Scientists and veterinarians spend their time, energy, and money, coming up with ways to save animals, to care for them when no one else will, which is something that barely any animal would be willing to do in the wild. Almost all cross species friendships are not in the wild, and occur only because humans give these animals lives where they can seek happiness, not constant survival.

Whereas animals will just abandon the sick if they aren't getting better. Weak and sickly babies will either be abandoned, or killed to make room for healthy children. Animals that don't fit the mold die just as much from their own species as other species. Look at swans, they will drown the babies of other water fowl to make sure their children have a better chance of survival. Animals aren't perfect, and are in fact, much more cruel than humans by and large. Yes, humans can be evil, and it does mean more because it's a choice, but evil humans are not as common as the cold brutality of animal nature. 

The rampant romanticization of animals is, to me, naive, considering the kind of acceptance that Otherkin (As a whole) claim they want to receive from humans would never be given by animals. If an animal were to experience shifts like that of Otherkin, then they would be shunned, and probably die, or go insane if they were truly aware.

Humans are in a lot more harmony with animals than people give them credit for.

Again, I like discussing this kind of thing with you Amber, because you have such a different frame of mind than I do, and it's always intriguing to me.

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