Anthropomorphism |


Tony Vagneur

We are, by our own unfettered admission, at the top of the world’s food chain, and by that thought alone, we also unwittingly admit that we have serious limitations as human beings. These limitations keep us from seeing the world around us as it actually is, and many times we go to our deaths over the minutiae that consume us, minutiae that most likely have no basis in fact. In case you think I’ve finally eaten the last chocolate, I’m talking about anthropomorphism, a word which basically means the suggesting of human characteristics for animals or inanimate things. We somehow have this arrogant attitude that anything other than us on the evolutionary or creationist scale finds us a species worth imitating. A repugnant thought, really, if you think about it. We even think our gods look similar to us! Anthropomorphism is not a novel concept, thought up by new-age devotees to political correctness. We have no doubt been doing this since before recorded history and certainly since then. The Greek gods were, no matter their individual talents, full of human attributes, including love, lust, jealously and hatred. Check out the poem “Beowulf” (ninth century) and tell me if the monsters, elves and giants therein don’t have human characteristics. If you’ve done much reading, you know also that the book of Genesis in the Bible’s Old Testament proclaims that God made humans “in His own image.” Very heady stuff for a bunch of wandering earth creatures. Can you imagine a god with electricitylike hands and a black tongue breathing slime and bile all over you in the next life? Most likely not, because we have an extremely difficult, if not impossible, time imagining “God” to be endowed with anything other than human attributes. The gods (Gods) aside, we are quite adept at giving human characteristics to everything in existence, including our pets. Dogs are “man’s best friends,” even though dogs may have a far different philosophy toward life than we do. Some people talk baby talk to their pets, or dress them up as people or include them in their wills, and we accept this as harmless “anthropomorphism” and let it go. This misappropriation of gray matter is what keeps us from fully understanding wild, and even domestic, animals. We grow up with companion dogs and cats, thinking all animals must be similar to the warm cuddlies lying on our laps. Most of us have no concept of the difference between these household pets and working animals. It is unfortunate that our knowledge of the working animal’s world is so scant as to be nonexistent. If we offer our hand to a sled dog and he responds with a snarl or a show of teeth, it is not the result we expect, and we begin to wonder what is “wrong” with the dog to react that way. Maybe we’re not in his circle of importance, that’s all. Unless you have personally employed working animals, it would be nearly impossible to have any knowledge of their thought processes, particularly as to what makes them joyous or comfortable. Krabloonik could put up 250 heated dog shelters and find them unused 24/7 in the winter. It may be more cruel to adopt an adult sled dog out to a new home than it is to euthanize it. It’s kind of like forcing an ol’ grizzled, worn-out cowboy to sell men’s suits at Macy’s – no good. As humans, realizing our limitations and the parameters of our imaginations, perhaps we should look inward for the source of our discomfort before we direct it toward Dan MacEachen and his pack of sled dogs. The behavior of some of us toward him may be far more cruel than anything you may imagine he has done to the animals he loves.As a last thought: If you think you have a better way, volunteer to work at Krabloonik or some other sledding operation for a month or so and test the strength of your ideas. You will be respected for attempting to find truth rather than putting forth unsubstantiated or untenable claims without the experience to back them up. Tony Vagneur writes here every Saturday. Send replies to

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