Anthropomorphism, primatomorphism,

mammalomorphism: understanding

cross-species comparisons


Biology and Philosophy 19: 521–540, 2004.

In this article, the author argues that the “sin” of anthropomorphism is rooted in an outdated theological tradition that equated describing God in terms of human qualities to a blasphemous act that reduced God to mere mortal and elided his “beyond our ability to know” status. The author suggests that the severity of this charge underpins present resistance to anthropomorphism.

The author is concerned with cognitive ethology which is the study of animal behavior that uses the tools and methods of cognitive science. In such a practice, studies of animal behavior draw on such concepts as “play,” “rape,” or “mindreading” as part of an investigative framework. The charge from antianthropormophites is that the attribution of such “human” qualities is inappropriate and imposes a human perspective on the non-human world thus masking a true understanding of what is “really” happening.

The author more specifically argues that the fallacy of anthropomorphism is a myth because it is not a problem in principle and in fact it is reasonable to consider that other animals may share some forms of cognitive capacities with humans given the shared evolutionary history. What is important, however, is that anthropomorphism not be offered as intuitive anecdotal explanatory evidence but rather be investigated by means of testable hypothesis and empirical evidence.

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