It’s self-evident that humans evolved from other creatures. We are not that genetically different from many other creatures, big and small. Consider chimps and bonobos. They possess DNA that matches ours to an extraordinary extent — 98.7 percent by one estimate.
So it stands to reason we can learn much from our animal peers. As long as the lessons aren’t mediated by really bad nature documentaries. I was reminded of this when I sampled a recent series on Netflix, Night On Earth.
We clearly have differences in motivation than, say, an ant. Or even a bonobo. But so often in these types of documentaries, the editing and narration urge the audience to think of these creatures as just different looking people. People with, you know, pincers. Or female sexual swellings.
I suspect this is why My Octopus Teacher — also on Netflix — is such a popular phenomenon. It dwells on the differences between the two creatures in the story (human, octopus — always in that order). You recognize curiosity and caution in both of the protagonists. But you never forget these species are different in extraordinary ways.
The ending helps to drive this home. No spoilers here, but it emphasizes that animals aren’t people. But people are animals.