Human Chauvinism

“We’re just a collection of cells overrating ourselves.” – Dave Matthews Band

“Personally, I rather look forward to a computer program winning the world chess championship. Humanity needs a lesson in humility.” – Richard Dawkins

Humans tend to think that they will forever be the pinnacle of evolution. At the moment, they are a transitory species that has been around for about a million years since their breaking off from the rest of the ape phylogeny. They occupy a few seconds on Carl Sagan’s ‘cosmic calendar’. They also have most of the same instincts as other animals. Yet, despite all this, they think that nothing can ever surpass them — basically that world belongs to them.

In fact, humans are made up of bacteria living inside each other. The mitochondria and other organelles, are essentially bacteria living inside a larger bacteria with a nucleus and cell membrane. These complex bacterial communities neither know nor care about the person they compose. This is also a scary fact for some to recognize.

However humble humans’ beginnings, a vast majority of them still think that a divine handicrafter fashioned them in his (its/her) own image, and that they are his only beloved creation. They are the only species that survives their own death, with magical non-physical souls, to spend eternity in paradise with their Creator. As Dan Dennett once said (virtually verbatim), the continuity of nature does not allow for one species to possess magic stuff.

This simple fact should demolish the notion that humans are the special creation of a cosmic god who cares about their lives, and who has limitless love and mercy for them. However, this should not be construed as human-bashing. Humans are essential to the future of this planet, and each one of them is priceless. It is their intelligence that has brought them this far, and has enabled them to ‘reach for the stars.’

Therefore, humans should consider the capacity of intelligence the criteria for value. It is only recently in Earth’s history that considerable intelligence has evolved. The difference between human brains and the brains of most other animals is large enough to merit a moral difference. However, humans should consider other highly-intelligent beings such as dolphins and whales just as specially as they consider themselves. This would widen human ethics considerably, not constrain it. Then, humans could establish a more tempered view of themselves, while fostering a greater value for other organisms, and for their true great gift — intelligence.


~ by jsacc001 on March 19, 2008.

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