Many of us would be offended if someone calls us an animal. But why does animals have such a bad reputation?
Frans de Waal, primatologist and ethologist, says that part of the problem is the direction of thinking that has been used in research. The focus has been on characteristics that are missing rather than present in animals. When you actively search for aspects that are missing, it is easy to overlook aspects that points to similarities.
Thinking should provide a rounded view of the problem or situation. By looking for similarities, Frans de Waal has made several fascinating discoveries. Many of these discoveries would have been difficult, or even impossible, if he had not changed the focus. Frans de Waal noticed how many animals cooperate and share foods, and console each other. His thinking has challenged the prevalent idea that humans and other animals are primarily motivated by self-interest – the Homo economicus view.
The skill to identify differences and similarities is vital to receive a balanced view. Yet, it is tempting to believe that a certain viewpoint is the ultimate option. Even if we assume or believe that there are differences between humans and other animals, this idea should not prevent us from actively searching for similarities. New insights into problems are achieved by shifting focus. Often metaphors and analogies are used to actively explore similarities.
The thinking instruction to comparesomething involves looking for similarities and differences. But comparing certain things like humans and animals are often difficult. Humans are humans and animals are animals. We have to ask questions such as in what way they are different and similar.
The article Morals without God will give you further insight into Frans de Waal’s ideas.