Here’s a brief lecture by Robert Sapolsky, a neurobiologist at Stanford who also studies baboons and other primates. In this lecture he talks about aggression, theory of mind, the golden rule, empathy, anticipation, and culture as examples of human behaviors that also overlap with animal behaviors. Then after showing you how animal-like our behaviors really are he highlights how humans abstract or elaborate upon each of these behavioral qualities in ways that exceed animals.
He’s a great story teller and speaker! You’ll enjoy this. It’s only about 30 mins. You can watch it on your phone if you want. Cue it to 4’50″ in and you can skip the guy who comes out to introduce him.
Now, your assignment is to leave a remark in the comments section below. The website will prompt you to leave your name. Be sure to do this! That is how I will see you’ve completed the assignment. The deadline for leaving a thoughtful comment is Monday morning at midnight.
I want you to reflect on the place of humans in the natural world.
- Which do you think is more significant? Our similarities to the other animals, or our differences?
- How does it make you feel to consider that humans are not so different from the rest of life on earth?
- What do you think about Sapolsky’s conclusion that humans are defined by the ability to hold contradictory beliefs? Can you think of a better essential difference?
- Is there anything in this video that confuses you or doesn’t make sense? What point do you want to be better explained?
Feel free to share web links in your comment if they’re relevant to the point you’re trying to make. I look forward to reading your responses.