Samuel McAnallen’s new film,The Superior Human? is the latest to question long-standing humanistic beliefs about humanity’s role on this planet, and mankind’s relationship with the other beings that it shares said planet with.
Whilst I am deeply sceptical of the humanist doctrine as it stands (despite being an atheist myself), my issues lie at the core beliefs that truth and reason are all-solving, all-powerful forces (for those interested, John Gray has written a fantastic book entitled Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals on this very issue).The Superior Human? attacks humanism on speciesist grounds.
It analyses (at times, in great lengths) the 18 most prominent reasons why humanity is viewed by humans as being the highest form of life on Earth. It attacks each of these points head on, starting at number 18 (having a large population) and working through to number 1 (having consciousness and autonomy). In the journey, it tackles issues such as the human ability to create art, the use of tools, and culture.
Frequently, the film will draw similarities from the animal kingdom, showing that we are not unique in our abilities. One particularly fascinating piece explains the intricacies of the prairie dog language system, which is a complex verbal structure. Allegedly, a prairie dog can tell others verbally that someone is walking by, their clothing, their size, their speed, and what they are carrying.
It is one thing to show superior or equal traits in other animals. The film really shines, however, when it bluntly explains where humanity has failed. Illustrating humanity’s destruction of the Earth, it’s grand and frequent massacres of its own species, and analysing our false cultural worship of material goods are just a few occasions where the film does exactly this.
Somehow, despite all this, the film manages to retain an upbeat and humorous tone. Dr Nick Gylaw’s narration is witty and amusingly sarcastic. Towards the end of the film, we are introduced to Chester the prejudiced bear, who believes that bears are the highest species on Earth. This further illustrates the failures of speciesism whilst providing a few chuckles.
The film has some fantastic footage. Ranging from beautiful, to funny, to enlightening, the footage thankfully never bores which is fortunate for a documentary made on a miniscule budget.
The film is, as mentioned, directed by Samuel McAnallen and is produced by Dr Jenia Meng. Narration is by Dr Nick Gylaw, and there are interviews and footage from Gary Yourofsky, Dr Bernard Rollin, Dr Richard Ryder, and Dr Steven Best. The film is free to watch below, and I recommend doing so! Let me know what you think.