What does Human Exceptionalism really mean?
It took solid, empirical evidence centuries to finally convince humanity that the Sun, not OUR Earth, is actually the center of the Solar System. Ptolemy argued for Geocentrism meaning that the Earth is not just the center of the solar system, but the center of the entire Universe. To this day, 21% of Americans agree with Ptolemy. In their minds, observed evidence is irrelevant. We humans are so special and wonderful that it is patently obvious everything revolves around us—or the person being surveyed, to be more precise.
We constantly dis other creatures as being inferior to us. We have examples like “Sweat like a pig…” when the truth is pigs have very few apocrine or eccrine glands, the little wellsprings in the skin that produce sweat, and humans are covered with eccrine glands and have an ample supply of pheromone producing apocrine glands to boot. Humans aren’t the kings of animal sweating, but we are way beyond pigs in that respect. Perhaps it should be “Sweat like a human.” We falsely claim to the only animals capable of communication when the truth is ants and bees are very good at it, and even E. coli bacteria pass chemical messages among themselves and with other bacteria, allowing them to work in coordinated efforts to obtain food and avoid danger.
How about the widely held view that humans are the apex predator? Wrong. Predators are rated on a scale from 1 to 5. We humans come in at 2.21.
Well, if we’re not the apex predator, at least we are at the top of the evolutionary ladder, right? Sorry, but that’s just another false conceit held by humanity. And as for topping the more proper conception of an evolutionary tree, that conceit is wrong as well. In fact, the fossil record is not complete enough to even draw such a tree. Our concept of the tree of evolution looks very much like a tree, and one that defines a clear path to humans at it’s top. But the real picture is like this. Images are from British paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Dr. Henry Gee’s recent book, The Accidental Species: Misunderstandings of Human Evolution, which I highly recommend to all interested in the topic.
So we sweat more than pigs, often communicate less effectively than ants, aren’t anywhere near the top of the food chain, are not at the center of the universe, and aren’t the sole purpose of evolution—which doesn’t even have a purpose. Are we humans really exceptional at anything beyond rampant self importance?