Humans & Animals
After thoroughly analyzing the excerpt “The Damned Human Race,” written by Mark Twain, it is considered to be a pivotal point in the direction of one’s faith, depending on the strength of their beliefs. This is a very powerful piece of literature, and it invites one to reconsider the human lifestyle and mindset as just or superior to any other form of life on the planet. In the paper, Twain goes on to argue the inferiority of the human species in comparison to animals of the wild saying “This new and truer one to be named the Descent of Man from the Higher Animals,”(Twain, Mark 2012) referring to the Darwin theory.
The excerpt is taken from a book titled “Letters from the Earth,” that is said to be written during a less successful time during Twain’s life. He was struggling with financial debt, and grieving the death of his wife and one of his daughters. The book was not published until 1960, due to the objection of his daughter, fearing the distorted image it may have brought to her father’s legacy, but it is thought to have been written shortly before his death in 1910.
You will notice, throughout the paper as Twain discusses his experiments at the London Zoological Gardens, the experiments capture animal behavior, more so than the animals psychological affect. In one of the examples, he claims that the rooster keeps harems, but only by consent of the concubine. (page 1). What failed to be mentioned here in this animal behavior is that the head rooster of a flock, more commonly known as the “The Roo” may breed with an entire flock of up to 100 hens and spend very little time socializing. Meanwhile the other roosters in the flock will spend many hours of the day with a group of hens, and is challenged to a grueling battle if he develops the nerves to attempt to breed with one of the roo’s hens.
In another example, he makes the claim that “Man is the only Patriot”(Page 1) stating that man identifies himself with a group of people, simultaneously separating himself from others. Although this may be true symbolically, as animals have no way of dressing themselves with insignia, there are many different ways animals segregate themselves from other animals of the same species. Most quadrupeds identify themselves and their territory by scent, and scent of urination, this is a form of identification. Male lions travel in groups of 3 to 4, roaming from pride to pride as they are forced out by other male lions groups who seek to take their place in their pride.
There are many faults within the experiments of the animals in terms of psychological affect. Twain states that he was able to teach a cat and a dog to get along within an hour, and later he added other animals to the friend pool. Within a controlled environment, you can teach many animals to do many things that is outside of their natural environment, simultaneously destroying the animals natural instinct to survive in its natural environment. In comparison, adding men of different faiths established in their lives, as opposed to adding young adolescent animals with no teachings, man will act according to his faith, as would an adult dog or cat.
Twain later goes on to discuss moral sense, and defines it as a defect, and a disease that is more rampant than rabies. Moral sense and analytical thought is the very thing that separates humans from animals by definition. Twain uses this fact to degrade humans from higher, to lower animals. Moral sense gives humans the consciousness of right and wrong, and burdens us with making a just decision, as opposed to animal who has no recollection of moral sense, and acts off instinct. Some psychologist would disagree with this claim, claiming that moral sense are in animals as well as humans, which is the very thing that gives instinct to any being.
In conclusion, in a man’s evaluation of his own life, we are more like animals than not. Discoveries in recent times uncover new ideas and areas of the brain and how they actually work, humans and animals alike. Animals and humans share a common emotion, and that is the fear of death, and the unknown, which is just as prominent in any one being ever to grace its presence on this earth. Twain may have had valid points, but he may have been more opinionated than scientific in giving himself credit for.
Twain, Mark. “The Damned Human Race.” Moodyap.pbworks.com. n.d. Web. 11 May 2012.
Zentall, Thomas R. “What Can Animal Models Tell Us About Human Behavior?” PsycCritiques 46.2 Apr 2001 172-173