Please wait while we get your page ready

All debates


Are humans superior to other animals?

Coloured magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan showing the brain of a monkey. Thierry Berrod, Mona Lisa Production/Science Photo Library

Argument against

Many of the things that we thought made us unique are, in fact, widespread throughout the animal kingdom. Many different species have the ability to communicate in various ways that are not as complex as human speech but constitute a form of language. In addition, some animals have a well-developed sense of self: for example, elephants and dolphins can recognise themselves in a mirror, and some bird species can plan for the future – abilities that were thought to be unique to humans until recently.

Plotnik JM et al. Self-recognition in an Asian elephant. PNAS 2006;103(45):17053-7.


Elephants and dolphins have both shown they can recognise themselves in a mirror.

Back to argument


Eurasian jays have been shown to hide and store food that they know they will need for later.

Back to argument


Studies over the past 50 years have shown that humans are not the only species with morals. A study in 1964 showed that rhesus monkeys refused food if they knew that accepting it meant another monkey was given an electric shock. Rats have shown similar responses.

Back to argument


Although no animal species have approached the human capability of language, chimpanzees have been able to learn sign language and combine different signs to form complicated messages. One well-known example is the chimpanzee Washoe, who was even able to teach her son some of the signs.

Back to argument