Animal Sapiens

2003 ,    »  -   27 Comments
Ratings: 8.13/10 from 93 users.

Indeed, great questions have practically characterized our cultures. At times they've taken us down some rather strange paths. They've given rise to religions and of course, they've given birth to and destroyed entire civilizations. But, curiously the most important questions, the greatest ones of all have yet to be answered and as long as we don't surrender, as long as we continue asking ourselves these questions, no matter that we might even suspect finding an answer to them is impossible, we will continue being human beings.

We will continue evolving and growing. There are many ways to formulate the very same question, and the first question is, what are we? Are we animals? We live immersed in the reality of a technological world that no other living being has been capable of creating. However, if we think that this makes us some kind of super being, a kind of culmination of evolution itself, we'd be making a very big mistake.

Many people believe that man was the irrefutable destiny to which life simply had to lead in its process of changing overtime, as if we were the center of the universe to which all else was subject. But, it isn't quite like that. The fact that our modernity, for instance, has enabled us to communicate over incredible distances is nothing more than the fruit of the needs of our species. It is the same need that has enabled butterflies to communicate with their mates by chemical means over dozen of miles, which for them is an incredible distance as well. It's the same imperious need that has allowed bats to invent their radar-like vision or fungi to invent penicillin.

Every invention responds solely to the demands for survival of the species that invents it. However, inventions don't make one species different from another. By that yardstick, all creatures whether simple or complex, would be nothing more than biological organisms, some simple, some more complex, but organisms all the same. Throughout the course of human knowledge there have been a series of events or developments considered key in demonstrating a kind of dividing line, a cut-off point between human beings and other living things. But, for many people these historical occurrences have lost the strength of their argument as human knowledge has increased in a variety of different areas.

One of these classical key events was the advent of language. No other species could speak. No other being could wander about its conscience or its transcendence. We are Homo Quaerens, the being that interprets itself. Philosophy has also tried to define man as Homo Faber the being who manipulates tools. We have been called Homo Ludens, those who play, and of course, we're also Homo Orans, beings who pray to a higher being.

But, let's not get into that, not for now anyway, because metaphysics aside, none of these definitions fits our reality quite as neatly and exclusively as they were originally thought to. For starters we could have an exhaustive debate in an attempt to establish the unique characteristics of our principal form of communication - the word. Written, spoken, or imagined, it is without a doubt the most complex and perfect means of expression. It describes symbols and intangible things. Even things that don't exist in the physical world.

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27 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Pysmythe

    There's an awful lot of beauty in this one, tinged at last with a little undercurrent of sadness, and seasoned with a great deal of strangeness. What fascinating repositories of essentially pure weirdness human cultures (ANY human cultures) can seem, if you can stand off (including from your own, and maybe especially from your own) at a distance from the subject a bit: All this diversity resulting out of an attempt to make sense and a living of the world in ways that have seemed best, or better, to different groups. An enjoyable watch (although the narrator does come off as a little robotic), not least of all for the comparisons of human achievements with those of other life forms, and how some of theirs have aided and inspired some of ours.

  2. bringmeredwine

    Your eloquently written commentary has inspired me to watch this doc tomorrow when I have some free time.

  3. Imightberiding

    My inner 12 year old is coming through but I always get a chuckle watching anthropological films posing the question of man's historical relationship to animals, & without fail, up pops an image of that cute little red haired "Jimmy Durante" monkey.

    Always brings a smile to my face & a memory of that wonderful voice from old black & white movies. "Ha! Cha! Cha!"

  4. Chris

    Umm Why at 6:00 min in the baby is holding a huge knife... about to stab the mother!! What is wrong with these people!

  5. bringmeredwine

    These New Atlantis docs are so beautifully done and always have a very positive and optimistic slant toward humankind.

  6. Imightberiding

    Nicely stated. Just returned & finished watching after a brief interruption. Mostly due to your comment.

  7. Jabsdna

    I know that made me nervous. I could just see the baby dropping the knife on the mothers foot. It looked very sharp on the end also.

  8. bringmeredwine

    I noticed a baby pretending to smoke!

  9. Chris

    I saw that as well..

  10. jerrymack

    This doc made no sense. First it calls man an animal, then it calls him some sort of super creature. Basically this is the worst form of cultural propaganda

  11. Schwoggle

    Very nice doc., beautifully filmed and nicely asking the questions without pushing any one-sided points of view.
    I loved it.

  12. Iwill Shootyou

    people see what they want to see . The child is not from a savage race so hell no that wasn't what he was about to do . You must be a savage in order to even see that as such

  13. Max Milligan

    They were too busy sharing the amazing occurrence of the human notice a small infant with a large knife, probably crafted by the use of the amazing occurrence of the human word...the Universe recycles itself...with a baby and a giant knife...

  14. James Preston Thomas

    jerrymack, what makes you think they are mutually exclusive? Man is certainly an animal, and also an incredibly developed and complex animal (super animal seems appropriate, warts and all).

  15. jerrymack

    It seemed to me to be saying that man has transcended his animal nature by virtue of his godlike intellect..

  16. James Preston Thomas

    Thank you TopDocumentaries, for being liberal enough not to censor my post. I now have an even higher opinion of this site!

  17. Bambaby

    are you upset because it didn't mention God or the bible ??

  18. Lucy Saw

    And why can't man be both? There is no contradiction. A creature is still generally considered an animal.

  19. Lucy Saw

    Its because you don't see that the average dog is godlike to a snail and the monkey thinks in terms of the dog its transcended its animal nature. This doc is saying we have not transcended our animal nature but simply have found technological means to feign a veil between humans and the external natural environment but our animal nature is innate. In other words until we have further evolved into a complete transhumanist being to be human is to be animal, except in our case a very successful animal. Superior in our ability to command and transcend our environment.

  20. jerrymack

    You said "This doc is saying we have not transcended our animal nature but simply
    have found technological means to feign a veil between humans and the
    external natural environment but our animal nature is innate." That's one helluva veil, Lucy. One that has the capacity to destroy the natural environment. How did we get so good at feigning?

  21. rngfarrell

    Dude, your last argument is bogus. What you are doing is called 'attacking a straw man'. Before you start criticising others' arguments you should have a clear idea about what your own is. Your last post is all over the place and completely irrelevant. Also, despite being completely beside the point, your final question seems to presuppose an answer that will completely shatter the arguments that come before. Do you have the answer? What exactly is your point of view on the subject? You seem a bit confused about what you think. Do you think man is an animal or something else? What is your evidence?
    Like it or not we are animals. Like it or not we, collectively on a scientific level, are extremely smart. That may make us a 'super-creature' but, in my opinion, that doesn't make us any less of an animal - even if we do like to fool ourselves with our technological 'veil'.

  22. jerrymack

    Thanks for your "polite" response. Here's what I think: Humans are gods with a--holes.

  23. rngfarrell

    Ok that gave me a good laugh! No arguments here!

  24. Paul Yih

    One of the most precious thing we human have -- Conscience...and I wish we think more, reflect frequently and to be introspective about who we are or who I am ... altruism is not yet dead ....

  25. mike

    Regardless I like to stay in my own little world and I like to think of myself as a being with a purpose other than just f***ing and eating

  26. bluetortilla

    The best line in this unimaginative, unbeautiful narrative was, "We do things whole hog!"

  27. comriambeth

    A really silly doc. Not worth the time. Im sure they had really good intentions but didn't really do the research. Also I know it's petty but why on earth would you begin your documentary with the word 'indeed'? Anyway I'd recommend the ascent of man for comparison. An order of magnitude better and as a bonus it actually makes sense.

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