Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ritvo, Darnton, Bulmer, and Leach

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  1. Just as important as any categorical or ontological distinctions between varying types of life is the moral value assigned to such differing types of life. Whereas the categorical distinctions may dictate how a life is apprehended, the designation of a moral value dictates in what ways the life is recognized. The Karam taxonomical system offers a set of rules to apprehend a particular being as belonging to a category of similar beings, not simply because the Karam place inherent value on this knowledge, but rather so they could govern the ways in which animals could be hunted and consumed. Some of the superstitions and rituals surrounding the bird may seem arbitrary and un-enlightened, but they are not absent from modern society either. Ritvo notes that “scientists who use primates in American laboratories are officially encouraged to considered their happiness as well as their physical well-being, while no spiritual standards are applied to experimental rats, frogs or zebrafish” (495). Again, the recognition of a categorical distinction results in a differing moral approach to a life.
    How is this moral value assigned? In the examples above, it was assigned based upon societal agreements. Just as often, however, it is a reflection of self. In Darnton, the bourgeois place a high value on cats. Their ability to pamper their pets is a reflection of their own social status. The boss’ wife in this piece becomes particularly attached to one cat, “la grise.” She places such a high value on this cat’s life that it is practically humanized, at least to the extent that it becomes part of her own self. The workers, however, are not in a position to humanize domestic pets, as they themselves are not humanized. As a result, they place no moral value on “cats,” and gleefully kill them in rebellion against the bourgeois.
    An even more individualized approach to distributing moral value is seen in the film “Fast, Cheap & Out of Control.” The scientist who studies mole-rats notes that most people would move from a place infested with vermin, but he brings his mole-rats with him when he moves. The mole-rats are simultaneously living beings and the object of his own study, from which he derives certain mental pleasures, as well as monetary compensation. These “vermin,” are a large part of his own self, and he values them as such.

  2. In all four essays, the main interlacing theme seems to be linking animals to humans in a social context. They are less about the differences between man and beast, but more about the rules and regulations that human cultures have prescribed to the different categories of animals. The Ritvo essay illuminates the West’s almost obsession with humanizing the closest animal relative humans have – the chimp. The chimp is both physically and genealogically close to man, therefore, man has taken it upon himself time and time again to make the chimp more human. It is “taboo” – as Leach might say – for humans to try and better understand and feel closer to the chimp by mimicking its behaviours, but it is perfectly understandable to humans to dress a chimp up and teach it to sip tea from a cup.
    As seen in Darnton, the classifications and hierarchy put upon animals can also be relegated to just one species. The cats keeping people awake at night are fine to kill, but “la grise” is sacred. Similarly, the Karam have regulations concerning the cassowary, but not so much other birds. The religious and ceremonial aspects that Bulmer points out tie into Leach’s essay very nicely, specifically when he delves into why someone might insult someone else by saying ‘you son of a bitch’ or ‘you swine’ but not ‘you son of a kangaroo’ or ‘you polar bear’ (p29). The religious implications, specifically Judaic ones, make sense of why calling a person a pig may seem so offensive.
    Read together, as we have, these essays really bring to light the diverse ways that animals are categorized and made important from an almost completely unscientific view. It seems, that throughout almost all history, we have taken it upon ourselves to further divide and somehow feel closer to certain animals for whatever reasons to continually prove ourselves the superior race and above the title ‘animal’. But, doesn’t making these creatures our familiars and in some ways our equals prove that we strive to feel less alone in the animal kingdom we are undeniably a part of?

  3. The readings and film are concerned with how people can understand nonhumans, or animals; often these nonhumans can be seen as objects in which people project their own cultural identity upon. Both the Karam people, and Robert Brooks, the robot scientist, identify with nonhuman subjects by relating to something human and tangible. For example, Brooks describes how building a robot is like building your own baby, and the Karam people relate the origin of the cassowary to a myth regarding a woman who turned into the cassowary. Both personify these nonhumans with human identity.
    As objects, the animals and nonhumans are simultaneously separate from the self, but also parts of the self are often projected onto the animals. In either case there is either a reaction of disgust or intrigue. An example of disgust is described in Ritvo's article when Ritvo describes "this horror of the beast within has its analog in the reiterated to understate or to deny altogether the connection between people and other animals"; people do not want to believe they are animals, when animals are seen as dirty and uncivilized. However in the film, the lion trainer is interested in studying the behavior of the lions in order to communicate with them. In the films and readings, the people are trying to figure out the nonhumans level of consciousness; through this, the people observe behaviors in order to understand their relationship with them.

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  5. This week we dealt with a wide survey of material that addressed issues pertaining to human relationships with animals, such as classification, control, and power. Apparently it is in our own human nature to establish such relationships and to assert our differences from all other living things and our ability to control them. The film viewed yesterday in class dealt with four individual cases of such behavior, with the robotic insect mechanic as an obvious exception that still enacted in similar behavior and maintained a similar belief system. We train other living things, and manipulate their environments to fit our conception of what they should be, and that conception typically holds a position that favorably accommodates humans in that relationship. As social human beings we carve up the rest of the biological world, prescribing classifications (such as in the Ritvo essay) to other living things.

  6. The movie from class especially sparked my thought process about our relationship with animals and whether our bond today is more or less detrimental to the way both humans and animals live. I believe that one of the main problems in our society is that humans want to take hold of as much power as possible in both dealing with each other as well as other animals. We have seen this throughout history- (cat massacre)- and still today (circus/ zoo). If there is an issue involving us, someone associated with us, or our habitat, we tend to gravitate towards the problem to get involved and attempt to boost our superiority even more. Currently, for many people, a major issue at hand is the placement of humans in the animal kingdom. We are wholly unable to find an answer and conclusion of how we compare to other animals and whether or not animals have the same stream of consciousness and mind that we have. I fear that the movement with animal rights and human/ animal equality often makes us forget that we cannot yet fully understand an animal’s thoughts/language/feelings and it is not our place to assume otherwise. Arrogance and our love for charity blurs our ability to see that although we may be solving a problem- like saving a wild animal- we are not allowing nature to takes its course and fix itself first. I feel as though we are not breaking down our minds and behavior well enough to even begin connecting us to the rest of the kingdom. Perhaps the Karam people have furthered themselves a bit from the equation by taking more characteristics and lifestyle choices into account when classifying animals. The only people, it seems, that have been able to live alongside animals as perfectly as they lived with humans are people who literally give up the human lifestyle and behaviors. Maybe this says something about how we should continue to go about our labeling. We clearly have many differences, which in no way justifies hierarchy, but could lay flat a foundation for where to continue to pull/accept equality with animals.

  7. Ideas of Control:
    Much of the film “Fast Cheap and out of Control” dealt with the relationship between the film’s subjects (the controllers) and what it is they attempt to have control over. For George Medonca his life’s work has been to shape and oversee a garden’s growth based on strict specifications for how each thing should look. The mole rat specialist Ray Mendez detailed his process of attaining knowledge about these animals and their tendencies in order to build controlled environments for them in museums. The element of control is fairly self evident within the work of Dave Hoover, who trains animals in an attempt to monopolize their movements and tendencies, while also physically controlling how the animals relate to him in the cage with such things as a whip and chair. Rodney Brooks the Robot scientist compares much of the robot building process to animal evolution, hoping to harness various aspects of natural evolution so that they may be applied and controlled within the machines he and his team build.
    Animals want control; it is part of their natural impulse. Yet in this attempt to master elements of their surroundings animals, much like the mole rat with their individual colony scent, separate themselves out in order to attain this control. Humans react in similar ways, in their attempt to control and place themselves above other animals they separate themselves from animals in appearance and behavior ‘othering’ them. This is the reason Darwin’s theory of evolution met with such controversy, because in mankind’s attempt to control its surroundings it effectively separated itself away from other animals. Although people are fascinated by certain similarities, as evidenced in the shows of chimps dressed up as people, they do not take kindly to any direct link between themselves and the things they have attempted to set themselves above.
    This ‘othering’ as a means of control is also evidenced in the cat killings and the history detailing what led people to kill and torture these animals. In the case of the journeymen he could not control the cats’ loud commotion outside, so he decides to come up with a way to rid himself of them and their higher status of control in the print master’s family. In the case of the cat rituals, aspects of life people could not understand was explained based on elaborate cause and effect rules that could all be traced back to this ‘othered’ animal. Thus this issue of control, not only among humans but in other animals as well, seems to bring out feelings of hostility and a need for separation from other groups of animals.

  8. After contemplating both the film and the readings I keep coming to the same conclusion; it seems that humans are most comfortable learning about new creatures by relating to them, to an extent. Though many dislike and resent the idea of being compared too closely to any animal, as Ritvo said, many are also extremely uneasy about the entirely unique and unknown. As was shown in the video, lions are afraid of what they don't understand, as (proving my own point), are humans. The lion trainer spoke of how lions are difficult because, like humans, they're all different, and each has its own unique personality. At the same time, the trainer himself is more at ease being around them because he's aware of this, and because he knows that he understands more than they do. When learning about animals, it's natural for us to categorize them, whether it be by physical features, habits, habitats, biological make-up, etc. Regardless, their places in our culture seem to often be related to how well (but not TOO well) we understand, and connect with them. Cats have held a high, yet still mysterious position in many societies, and have been given a high status as pets. Similarly, dogs are kept close, though on more of a friendly level. Perhaps if more exotic animals were more often accessible to us, they too would more often be compared to us, and thought of as related.
    If we assume animals think and operate along more or less the same lines we do, then they may become much easier to understand. Suddenly their facial expressions may make sense and we're more easily able to interpret what's going on in their world, or at least so we think. Still, while I feel close to my pets and consider them on a level nearer me than say, an elephant, I still can't possibly fathom what goes on in their minds when they spend the majority of their days seemingly half asleep, or what they might be doing or thinking when I'm gone, or how their brains are altered if I give them a bag of catnip. Though the relationship of owner vs. pet is very clean-cut (I'm the provider of food and shelter, they provide comfort), at least in my mind, I still consider them something more than toys, something closer to family. Which brings me back to my original points, that maybe if we were exposed to "exotic" animals to a greater extent, some of them may seem more relateable, and that at the same time, no matter what kind of animal it is, humans aren't comfortable unless they're sure they hold the power. No matter well I might understand polar bears just by studying them from afar, I'm not sure I'd ever feel the same way about them. In an ironic sort of way, people probably feel closer to their pets because while they may think they understand them, it's also important that they feel some level of control in the relationship.

  9. In “Fast, Cheap and Out of Control, we saw the story of a mole rat enthusiast, a robot engineer, a talented gardener and a lion tamer. Each man told the story of his relationship between himself and his respective non-human. In each story, there was the theme of both placing themselves onto their work and finding control with “the other”. I believe both of these ideas carried into all four readings. Ritvo describes the relationship between the human and the chimp; an animal that has become known as our animal counterpart. He continues to illustrate the idea that humans will project themselves onto these animals in order to understand them but will not adopt their practices in turn. In this sense, humans will accept the idea that animals can be like humans but not the fact that humans can be like animals. Darnton tells the story of the cat as an often stereotyped and judged animal. From the human-created tie between cats and the occult, sex and evil to ceremonies of torturing and mutilating, we humanize this animal by believing that is, in fact, involved in these solely human aspects. In the story of the bourgeois cat massacre, the cats involved are both humanized by the wife that cares for them and the workers that kill them. When the cats are killed, the workers plan on the created bond between their masters and the animals in addition to the fact that their horrible act will cause pain. Although their boss ordered for the death of the so-believed unknown cats that keep them awake, the death of “la grise” is another story. Leach uses the idea of taboo to delve into both animal roots in taboo language and the line between what animals are to be eaten and what are not to be eaten. Both aspects are rooted in our own humanistic society. Animals make their way into our taboo vocabulary and through our relationships among ourselves and with the animals around us dictate which animals will end up on our plate. In terms of food, he also bring in the idea of control; how we eat what we deem controllable animals and label the uncontrolled as inedible. Finally, Bulmer uses mythological story to demonstrate how the Cassowary has become associate with humans. In the story, a sister transforms into the great bird and is killed, which prompts the revengeful killing by her brother. To the people of New Guinea, the Cassowary is not a bird but referred to as “a sister” or “cousin” and is respected.

  10. All four of the essays as well as the film we viewed in class discuss how human characteristics are attributed to animals, making them all the more equal and 'human' to us. In the case of the Karam tribe, the closer an animal is to a human, the less chance it is that it will be mistreated (that is to say, killed and/or used for food). Leach explains in his essay that an animal that is capable of reproduction, intercourse, and pain are the least likely to be hunted for the purpose of food or otherwise by humans. Animals that are 'sacred' are also going to be spared.
    All of the different types of beings in the film "Fast Cheap and Out of Control" are characterized as human-like, and not all of these individual lifeforms are in fact living creatures. But even the topiary hedges and the robots are credited with having an internal system and mind pattern of its own, which is what makes it easier for their human owners or friends to care so much for them. The lion trainer insists that the lions have the same habits and thought patterns as humans, and that makes it easier for him to read them.
    When it goes the other way, and humans are called names that are normally associated with animals, it is usually considered an insult. Humans like to think that they are at the top of the hierarchy, and when it is suggested that they may be on the same level as apes, dogs, or even rodents (depending on what kind of beastly name give to someone) it taken as an offense to one's intelligence. Although it has been suggested-even proven-that we have evolved from different kinds of 'beasts,' many people still refuse to consider this as truth.
    So while it's okay to project human characteristics onto animals, it's not okay to compare a human to an animal. Even though terms like 'bitch' and 'sow' originally were used to describe the sex of an animal, the sexual term has become known as a more negative term for a female human. Why there is this double standard for describing humans and animals is confusing, but I believe the main reason is that humans put themselves on a pedestal as the most powerful, important beings in existence. To compare them with another species is insulting.

  11. In Fast Cheap and Out of Control Rodney Brooks says one of the most compelling parts of building robots is the ability to understand oneself differently by creating something else that functions in a similar way. Brooks creates machines to understand something about what it means to be human, the other men in the documentary we're similarly fascinated and either created something new or explored something within themselves by engaging with other creatures, and the societies we've read about create structures, rituals, and classifications in order to understand and/or set themselves apart from 'the other'.
    The relationship between humans and animals have been dictated according to the way an individual or society identifies themselves in comparison to everything that exists in their environment. In The Cat Massacre the relationship between the print master and the bourgeois versus the workers mirrors the relationship to animals and humans in some ways, just as in the Karam society the hierarchy is established in such a way that both women and pigs can be classified as non or sub humans.
    I keep going back to Darwin's quote at the end of Border Trouble, "there can hardly be a doubt that we are descended from barbarians. I would as soon be descended from that heroic little monkey, who braved his dreaded enemy in order to save the life of his keeper---as from a savage who delights to torture his enemies, offers up bloody sacrifices, practices infanticide without remorse, treats his wives like slaves, knows no decency, and is haunted by the grossest superstitions." One of the main threads between everything we've read and watched this week is the human impulse to look for both similarities and differences in other animals in order to qualify, defend, or understand our own positive and negative characteristics.

  12. The film "Fast, Cheap & Out of Control" brought to light four different biographical examples of how humans can choose to rationalize and understand their existance in the context of an "other." Similarly each of this weeks readings related culturally/historically specific binaries and/or dichotomies which largely determine the ways in which an individual defines and consequently relates to the surrounding would. Harriet Ritvo's article "Border Trouble" discussed how an individual and socieities understanding of human's biological development, creationism, evolution, etc, shapes individuals perception of the hierarchical relationship between the category of people and "other." Also, importantly, Ritvo argues that the way we culturally value various animals is largely influenced by whether or not we can make a positive analogy between that animal and a respected human. This model for defining a hierarchical relationship is exampled in the film through the lion tamer. The lion tamer is proud to associate human characteristics to the lion because of the lions status as a predator. Additionally the tamer explains that it is only through his fear for the lion that he is able to maintain his expertise.
    Robert Darnton's article "Workers Revolt" illuminates some of the historical connotations of the Carnival/circus. Darnton writes that the carnival is a time for the performers and audience to "test the boundaries of deviance" by turning social rules upside down. The lion tamers brief time in the cage being 'tolerated' by the lions is an example of this type of deviant dramatization.
    Darnton also argues that to better understand a culture in which it is impossible to participate, one should look for examples of things that are not understood and try to develop some level of understanding. This point struck me because of our class discussion on the first day about how to understand another person. Initially, during the discussion my personal response was that through commonalities a bond can be formed, however Darnton's point of finding the most incomprehensible position and trying to understand it is helpful because it forces me to think about other individuals outside my own conception of self experience/identity. This model of gaining knowledge was exampled in the film through the design decisions of the robot developer.
    R. Bulmer's article touched on this concept as well by showing how a culturally specific identification with a bird can completely shift the paradigm for relating that bird to humans or things which are characteristically human. As well, Edmound Leach's article argued for a comprehensive way of verbal definitions. Leach asserts that to understand any specific word one must consider not only the literal meaning but also all of the additional socially specific connotations or official/unofficial definitions which can be implicit in that word.
    Overall I think the film and this weeks readings pushed for more space for non definitive ideas about the relationship between life forms in the world and asserted that more can culturally and intellectually be achieved when binaries are flexible.

  13. Of the articles read for this week I found Bulmer’s, “Why the Cassowary is not a Bird”, not only the most interesting, but the most correlative to, “Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control”. I think the larger question Bulmer is getting at in his study of the Karam and their classification of the Cassowary is: what are the methodologies and functions that go into the formation of nomenclature, and to that end, what are the merits of this systemization. It would seem that one major discrepancy between modern zoological taxonomy and Karam is found in what Bulmer describes as the “upper level of Karam taxonomy … objective biological facts no longer dominate the scene.” Rather, it is the Karam culture that dictates what taxonomically significant characteristics will be selected. There are obvious morphological reasons the Karam give for the Cassowary not being a bird: size, absence of wings, large leg bones, unique pelage, unique cranial structure; however, there is a much deeper cultural bond between the indigenous population and the animal that seems to lack in Western nomenclature. Our current conception of nomenclature [strictly Plant and Animal Kingdoms] has been determined by a select group of, in my opinion, antiquated white European zoologists seeking a level of specificity of placement that simply cannot be achieved given the complexities of our natural world. If we admit to the impossibility of precision, then an exercise in creating systems as such would seem a great waste of time. No different then sending a probe in space to map out its size and volume, rather useless if you’re striving for completion. This approach to taxonomy will always fail because our conceptions of the natural world are, and will always be, constantly evolving [pardon the stupid pun]. But, truly, as it is constantly changing, we are constantly finding anomalies. The mole-rats are such an example. A mammal that’s social capacities mirror that of insects rather than mammals. A mammal that lacks body heat regulation. A mammal studied by an entomologist. A mammal that doesn’t seem to be a mammal. Such instances of nomenclature failing to be all-encompassing, while not at all common, are also not rare. I see nothing wrong with building as vast a system of organization as possible, if anything it will help us to better understand our own place amongst the millions of different evolutionary variants; but, I do believe there must be a reformation of approach.

  14. In the readings by Ritvo, Darnton, Bulmer and Leach and the movie, “Fast, Cheap and Out of Control,” the definition and borders of humanity are highlighted. How humans identify and interact with nonhumans becomes slightly illuminated as it is balanced between good and bad but never quite equal. Within Ritvo’s collection of anthropological human/nonhuman interactions, the words from The Bible are ones that stand out more than others. We live in a society that follows the words that state that our responsibility as humanbeings, we are the caretakers of this land, clearly giving power solely to humans. This play of power is displayed first hand in the movie within the four men interviewed. Although passionately devoted to their life choices: a retired lion tamer, a robotics engineer, an elderly topiary gardener, and a man who studied mole rats; they all maintained an attitude of man-intrigued-by-toy/hobby attitude. This can be seen within different representations of animals in our culture. Within media and folk tales, we endear and feel connection to personified animals given magical elements but yet still hold the ideal of superiority. They’ve only been enhanced in our imaginations by having been given human aspects. The common child is not raised to be amused by real animal interactions. When reading folklores, like the tortoise and the hare, human thoughts are still implemented in order to tell a moral tale. And when was the last time you heard of a child being interested in watching the The Princess and the Frog that Sits there and Ribbits?
    In America, when it comes to animals with higher intelligence than most, the common reaction is shock and awe as if we’re congradulating them for not being as stupid as we had previously anticipated: the shock we received when we realized that dolphins too had sex for pleasure and the awe when we discovered that certain animals have been known to use tools as humans have. Like a narcissitic fulfillment, these are the animals we are interested in. Akin to this revelry of those animals with higher knowledge, the Karam respect the Cassowary. Conversely, however, without the condescending aire. This is parallel to Native Americans and how they see the spirits of animals as ancestors and treat them with actual respect and awe.

  15. along the lines of the previous comment by Bri_Isaac, I agree that a theme running throughout all the readings and all the subjects of the documentary was that of borders between humans and animals, and how these borders also define animals as unequal to humans. I think that this is where the notion of the animal-derived taboo discussed by Leach comes in to play and becomes solidified in the culture and in the individual's consciousness. This lack of equality, which is central to the notion of the taboo, as highlighted by many of the authors, is essential to our relationship with (dominion over, in the words of Matthew Scully) the animal world.
    I therefore think that the issue of inequality is another important theme, as many of the texts higlighted how humans not only believe in and act upon this inequality, but, both as individuals and as a culture, work to maintain and perhaps even heighten it. At the very least, you can argue that episdoes like the Cat Massacre show the degree to which humans enjoy what that inequality allows us to do (or our culture allows us to do because of that inequality - again the issue of taboo comes in to play here). One could even see how the seemingly innate human activity of classifying animals, seen in the Karam culture, is another way of establishing this inequality (or, at the very least, differentiation that leads to or justifies inequality).

  16. Since we began our work together, my interest has been fixed on the kind of mechanisms of discretion used by humans to systematically classify the living and non-living. All of our readings have, in some manner, wrestled with the intricacies of man’s dynamic relationship with other organisms and with the larger continuum of objective reality. Harriet Ritvo comments on the notion of man as the occupant of a “middle station between god and the rest of animate creation” (482). This cosmology, one that I incidentally believe to be a case of “god as society worshipping itself” as first coined by Bruno Latour, affords us free reign to establish dynamics of power and superiority in regards to the whole of “animate creation” as we claim it.
    This creation seems to be comprised of non-living constructions and living beings subordinate to the immediacy of the human spirit. We are incredibly clumsy at capturing the essence of the “other,” a notion we often find frightening and repellant. One of the experts in Fast, Cheap and Out of Control points to the pivotal moment wherein two organisms recognize each other to be “selves”: “I know you are…you know I am.” Though we’re often inclined to personify animals and lend them human characteristics for our comfort, amusement or convenience, we rarely allow these distinct selves to separate from the continuum of “animate creation” and align themselves in our perception as true individuals with particular objective aims, means, and manners of execution and habit.
    I’m curious as to the point in human development at which we cleaved totemic reverence for other life and existentially blinding self-love of humanity. I would presume that this separation coincided with the rise of monotheistic and essentially “self-worshipping” social forms of religion, but I’m not entirely sure that the answer can be reduced so simply. Either way, I’m eager to learn more about this difficult balance of self and other in the coming weeks.

  17. All study and interaction with animals is based on the fact that animals are different from humans. The various degrees of separation dictate how it is that we interact with them. Dogs and cats have been domesticated on the largest scale due to the mainly universal belief that their level of consciousness is most human-like. When studying animals, we look for functions that are similar to ours such as eating, drinking, sleeping, and excretion. Besides the basic functions that most all animals share, we look for other activities such as recreation, communication and interaction between animals of the same species. Ritvo remarks, “Scientists who use primates in laboratories are officially encouraged to consider this happiness as well as their physical well-being, while no spiritual standards are applied to experimental rats, frogs, or zebrafish.” Taxonomical differences are based on humanlike qualities. How is each animal different from us, and which humanlike qualities does one group of animals possess versus another group of animals?
    In all the readings we see these themes. Themes of human likeness in animals, and of animal likeness in humans. How alike they are to us, and we to them, determines our treatment of them.

  18. We as humans define animals in relation to ourselves as a means to simplify the unknown and unmanageable. The human attempt for control is manifested throughout society and observed in a myriad of institutions, for example, churches, schools, and systems of government. Feelings of ambiguity caused by the uncertain are often accompanied by anxiety and concern, causing a need for some sort of explanation.
    Resistance to a human-animal relationship despite an abundance of scientific evidence suggests a feeling of lack of control and an overbearing sense of apprehension. Particularly, during the 18th century, the emergence of scientific thought and method challenged long-standing religious explanations; essentially invalidating the way people perceived their world. Evidence linking humans and chimpanzees precipitated objected and disapproval. The notion of humans being descendants of "lowly-organized" form was ambiguous and unfamiliar (Ritvo, 490). One of Charles Darwin's mentors explained it as such, "deep aversion to the theory: because of it's unflinching materialism...because it utterly repudiates final causes, and thereby indicates a demoralized understanding" (Ritvo, 489). There are multiple reasons behind this resistance; for example, a human-animal association was thought to "interfere with their [human] needs, their interests, and even their convenience" (Ritvo, 456). Even with current and more concrete evidence verifying this link, any type of relationship is still not widele accepted. (For example, the objection of teaching evolution in public schools.) People are also reluctant because it undermines the superior ability of humans (Ritvo, 491).
    Te categorization of animals within society reveals a common pattern of moral organization when considering human-animal relationships. Man defines animals in relation to the "self" or by the "remoteness" to the self. For example, Edmund Leach distinguishes between three groups based on "social distance" among man and animal. The first: "Man" or "not animal," the second: "man-animal" when referring to pets or domesticated animals, and third: "animal" when referring to wild or untamed animals (Leach, 45). Animals that fall into the "man-animal" category are generally considered inedible while animals residing in a forest or farm are not. Tis meditation suggests humans are more likely to eat something that is more isolated in nature, mainly because of the cultural and moral classifications implied. For instance, the dog in English society is considered "man's companion," (Leach, 32) conceivably because English colloquial contexts of man and dog are similar, but also because historically, dogs have proved advantageous not only as a companion but also as hunters, herders and protectors. This close blond made the idea of eating a dog less acceptable and thus morally wrong. Similar to English society is the status of the dog among tribesmen in Northeast Burma as a "pet," or "man-animal." Living alongide man in the same house and forming a closer bond than any animal living in the forest also made the thought of eating dog a morally questionable one. These examples are indications of the human tendency to define animals culturally in relation to themselves.
    The film "Fast, Cheap & Out of Control" is yet another illumination of our inherent tendency and desire to understand and interpret out world. Analyzing animal-human relationships by building robots, training lions, simulating an animal's habitat, or shaping shrubs to resemble giraffes exemplifies the possibilities through which humans may experience animals. The four men interviewed for the film provide an in-depth analysis of their personal relationship within the animal domain as well as their motivations behind their peculiar yet fascinating professions.