So, Rick Warren recently tweeted that “When students are taught they are no different from animals, they act like it.” This was interpreted as a comment on last week’s shootings in Colorado, but Warren later claimed he was referring to something else. But honestly, it’s a stupid comment either way.
Warren is technically correct: when students are taught they are animals, they act like animals. But when students aren’t taught they are animals, they still act like animals. That’s because humans are animals. It says so on our Wikipedia page: “Kingdom: Animalia.”
That’s according to a way of classifying living things invented by a creationist. And before Linnaeus, the scholastics told us man is a rational animal. So we should expect people to act like animals, indeed like animals of a very specific species, Homo sapiens.
Of course, Warren was using “animal” in the sense of “non-human animal.” But that is still puzzling. Clearly teaching students they are animals does not lead to them behaving like animals in all ways. Non-human animals do not, for example, mess around on their smartphones when they should be paying attention in class, but teaching students they are animals does not seem to stop students from doing this.
And then, of course, there is the fact that “non-human animal” is a huge category, and non-human animals display a huge range of behavior. Which non-human animals does Warren expect students to act like? Ducks? Monkeys? Bees? Or does he perhaps expect them to start swimming upstream to spawn like salmon? Which is it?
P.S. For extra funsies, Rick Warren claimed that he was talking about people having multiple sexual partners… which as James McGrath (second link above) points out is widely practiced in the Old Testament.