When we talk about a rabbit, we rarely ask this question. What makes a rabbit a rabbit? Is it the size? Is it a certain appearance that we associate with a rabbit? Not all rabbits are the same. They can come in distinct colors and sizes. Some look quite similar but different enough that we call them hares. Yet even though we identify them differently, it would not take a genius to guess that a hare is much more closely related to a rabbit than a dog. There is this paradox surrounding living beings. They appear to be in distinct categories but at the same time these categories have fuzzy borders. This has always been a major obstacle in our journey to understand animals, plants, and even ourselves.
One is almost tempted to suggest DNA as the indisputable source of identification but even the DNA is not as clear cut as it is commonly understood. Animals regularly mutate and evolve, yet we still call them rabbits. The size, shape, color, and the DNA all change from one generation to another and even from one individual to another.
We feel the need to capture something static about the world. We feel the need to categorize and simplify. This is intricately connected to our desire to model the world, so we can predict the future and survive. This much needed phenomenon is the essence of the animal. To some, this is the only real part of the rabbit. To many it is only a practical term that serves an important purpose.
Let us continue to investigate the essence of a rabbit. If we come across a rabbit with three legs, what would be our first thought? Few would attempt to identify this animal as a new species. Most of us would think that this rabbit is missing a leg. No doubt, this is because we have an essential understanding of rabbits and according to this understanding, they have four legs. Yet if we see a group of mice for the first time, we see multiple versions of the same animal and we instinctively categorize them together. Only then, can we comfortably call this new animal type a new species. This method of categorization and idealization is so useful that it is almost impossible to completely abandon it for the overwhelming majority of people. This is the primary reason behind the unfair backlash against the theory of evolution. Humans are not able to appreciate the differences between the individuals of a species, nor can they observe and realize the changing nature of each generation over centuries. Regardless of our inability to appreciate these subtle changes, they exist. If we could observe thousands of generations of rabbits, going back from mother to grandmother, then to great-grandmother, and so on, we would start with a rabbit and find ourselves face to face with an animal that looks absolutely nothing like a rabbit. Yet we still believe rabbits only give birth to other rabbits and they are distinctly different compared to a horse. This of course is not correct. If we were to follow the path long enough, and not particularly long within the grand history of all living beings, horses and rabbits have the same mother. This is not some brotherly metaphorical statement. They do share the same individual mother somewhere in the past. Therefore, they are different today, but this is only incidental, not essential.
At this point I would like to talk about the age-old question about the chicken and the egg. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Obviously, there are many pseudo-answers out there where people pretend like they answered the question while they only utilize some new theories that look like axioms to untrained minds. The actual answer to this question is this. There is no such thing as a chicken and there is no such thing as an egg. Just like the rabbit, when we go back in time, we start to see that chicken is only a practical term that we use to classify animals today. If we cannot call a chicken a chicken in the past, how can we call it a chicken today? Animals have been laying eggs on land for a long time now. These eggs were laid by animals that were not chicken and at some point, an animal that we call a chicken today hatched out of one of those. Oddly enough it looked almost exactly like its mother but for us it was the first chicken.
The same faulty ideas are extended into race and ethnicity today. Many people look at the world and think they can classify human beings into distinct categories. One of these categories is race. Many people look at races and believe that these are real differences between humans, and they even base some other faulty ideologies on this baseless categorization. There can be certain morphological and even behavioral differences between different individuals of the species of homo sapiens. There is no reason to challenge this observation but the idea that these are essential to our existence is incorrect.
Many other aspects of life and our understanding of nature are faulty because of our idealist approach to it. A positive approach helped us crack the code of biology and living beings. It can also help us fix many of the other issues we face every day.