Patience. You'll have to wade through my introduction.
For the past four years I have participated in a psychoanalytic group where we read the (Jewish...) Bible together, Genesis. Last year, I abruptly pulled out of it, due to my... disaffiliation with... psychoanalysis, AND with... Judaism, which, in my book, remains predominant in our Western world, in the disguised/diluted form of Protestantism.
The first year, I immediately took exception with the biblical status alloted to... the animal world. A cursory examination of the creation story (and in the group there are no Bushies, ok, these are psychoanalysts who do NOT even believe in God, if you please ; France is a very secularized, atheist country...) allows you to perceive that... the status of animals is UNDER the status of human beings, and, THUS, MAN IS NOT AN ANIMAL, he is not included in the animal world for the Jewish religion. This point of view is fundamental to Judaism, as seen in the texts. Now... a "Jewish" person (what does that mean ???) MAY tell you that he believes in... evolution, BUT... IF HE IS JEWISH, he DOES NOT BELIEVE THAT MAN IS AN ANIMAL. Period. This is... the logical conclusion which imposes itself from the creation story : "God brought forward all the animals on the earth to the adamah, and... the adamah stuck names on them (sigh, that good old classification game..)." You have to wait for... the creation of "isha", woman (not Eve...) for the adamah (like a generic name for the species...), for "Adam" to find an help meet, an aid, but the text suggests that for "Adam", even the woman is not a real partner, someone to talk to, and not... AT, or ABOUT, at first.
So... WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BELIEVE THAT MAN IS AN ANIMAL ???
This is a little more subtle than you might imagine. Because, you can scoff at the literalist ideas that the world was created in 6,000 years, that man was created by God, etc, etc, and think that the literalists are from another planet (which my Lacanian psychoanalyst friends do, by the way, just like many liberals in the U.S....) BUT... STILL reason like... man is NOT an animal.
AND... this is precisely what my shrink friends do when they say... but... we talk, we have language, OUR language says so much more than all of the other animals, we know what death is, we dig graves, and have funeral rites, and THUS.... WE ARE NOT ANIMALS (like the others...)
But... if you say this, then... how can you be a GOOD DARWINIAN like you think you are ???
Next point : IF we are animals, then... our status in our own eyes is going to depend heavily on... JUST HOW we perceive animals. AND... how we perceive animals has a history in our civilization. It depends on... (you knew this was coming...) the biblical creation story, AND, Descartes, animals as little machines, 18th century classification and reductionist thought, and the whole bit.
So... if we think that animals are shit, are little machines that we can stick into classifications, and manipulate, use for chiantific experiments, park in enclosures, send off to the concentration camp feeding lots/slaughtering houses, just HOW are we going to see ourselves ?
My shrink friends do NOT see the conflicts in their beliefs.
They STILL want to be human exceptionalists.
But... they say they believe in evolution.
Complicated, huh ?