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Peter Singer, Robert Sapolsky in New Free Think University Course: Are Human Beings Just Animals?

Industry: Education

Traditionalists, Progressives Debate Differences Between Humans and Other Animals

Washington D.C. (PRUnderground) February 26th, 2014

The idea of “human uniqueness” has been held as quite fundamental to the human experience. Why is this? It is because humans are traditionally believed to have a higher value than other living things. But is that an assumption that is based on a worldview that is debatable?

A new Free Think University course experience titled “Are Human Beings Just Animals?” presents views from various schools of thought to encourage students of all ages to think critically about these questions.

Robert Sapolsky, an esteemed Neurology and Biology professor at Stanford University, has spent much time researching this topic. The course includes a video of him lecturing about the extent of animal ability and what, if anything at all, distinguishes humans from animals. He gives several examples of how animals and humans are similar, but the interesting conclusion he reaches is that the difference between man and animal is both a quantitative and qualitative one.

Could the belief that humans have more value reflect a brutal prejudice in you, called “speciesism” by some modern academics? Peter Singer espouses his views on the subject in this course as well. He asserts that “a speciesist is someone who thinks that if a being is not a member of my species, its interests don’t really count. I can use it, do whatever I like with it… because it is not a homosapien.” Peter Singer asks why should Chimpanzees be “imprisoned” in laboratories if they are so similar to humans? Shouldn’t they have rights, too?

In addition, the course presents the traditionalist view of the Imago Dei (the image of God) in man. Kenneth Samples endeavors to prove this idea not only by examining what humans can do, but what humans are. Samples writes, “Unique human qualities and traits set man apart from the animals by kind, not just degree. From a Christian worldview perspective, and specifically in light of the Imago Dei, one would expect profound differences, including… inherent spirituality…. sophisticated communication… time and truth consequences.”

The Right Rev. Dr. Tom Wright of the BioLogos Foundation explains the imago Dei a bit further. He explains his belief that “God has put humans like an angled mirror in this world so that God can reflect his love and care and stewardship of the world through humans and so that the rest of the world can praise the creator through humans.”

The course includes an article from Eric Metaxas of The Colson Center, which examines if animals and humans are equals or if humans have the right to rule over them. He writes, “It wasn’t the Bible but rather the father of modern philosophy, René Descartes, who helped popularize the idea that animals are mere machines to be put to human service. ‘Here is my library, from which I take my wisdom,’ Descartes told an observer as he dissected a calf. In contrast, while the Bible mandates humans in Genesis 1:28 to rule over animals, other passages make clear that we are to do so with kindness.”

Excerpts from John Steinbeck’s novel East of Eden in the course show that humanity has a few higher concepts to concern itself with – namely, morality and virtue.

“The concept of equality between humans and animals is a rather remarkable proposition with more remarkable consequence, if one accepts it to be true,” noted Free Think University co-founder Jim Van Eerden. “No matter your perspective, it’s important to hear both sides of an argument to form a well-reasoned response, including one’s views about the uniqueness of the human species.”

To access the full course, click here. For additional media information, please contact media@freethinku.com.

About Free Think University

Free Think University is where more than 30,000 free-thinking students have joined what Mortimer Adler called “The Great Conversation” – the dialogue of the ages about The Big Questions of our day, and where they participate in one of the fastest-growing independent scholarship funds in America. Submit questions for future courses to ideas@freethinku.com. For more information go to www.freethinku.com or follow @freethinku.

About the BioLogos Foundation

BioLogos is a community of Christians committed to exploring and celebrating the compatibility of evolutionary creation and biblical faith.  They value gracious dialogue with those who hold other views, and their ever-expanding conversation includes academic and other professionals in the fields of biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, business and medicine, but also theology, biblical studies, philosophy, history, literature, education and the arts. They count pastors, entrepreneurs, poets, teachers and students among their numbers, and welcome men and women from all walks of life to join in their project of cultural and spiritual reconciliation. To learn more, visit www.BioLogos.org or follow @BioLogosorg.

About Free Think University

Free Think University is where more than 30,000 free-thinking students have joined what Mortimer Adler called “The Great Conversation” – the dialogue of the ages about The Big Questions of our day, and where they participate in one of the fastest-growing independent scholarship funds in America. Submit questions for future courses to ideas@freethinku.com. For more information go to www.freethinku.com or follow @freethinku.

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