How are Humans Better?

May 8, 2010 | By | 2 Replies More

A new comment thread on an old post discusses the precept that humans are somehow “better” than all other creatures. Sure, as a member of our team, I’d like to think that we are Number One. We’ve even written books attributed to deities that prove that we are the reason for creation, that the octillions of stars in the universe were all put there just for our amusement. Therefore, the book and its believers maintain, we must be the best thing ever. But as an educated human raised by scientists to find first sources and question suppositions, I wonder: “How are we better?”

I have posted before on some of the ways in which our Creator (to use that paradigm) has short changed us. Name any characteristic of which we are proud, and it is easy to find another creature that exceeds our ability. I can only think of one exception: Communicating in persistent symbols.

Unlike cetaceans, birds, fellow primates, and others who communicate fairly precisely with sounds, gestures, or chemical signals, we can detach communication from ourselves and transport or even delay it via layers of uncomprehending media (paper, wires, illiterate couriers, etc). We can create physical objects that abstract ideas from one individual and allow the idea to be absorbed by another individual at a later time. It also allows widely separated groups to share a single culture, at least in part.

This learned behavior is based on our apparently unique ability to abstract in multiple layers and to abstract to a time well beyond the immediate future. We can take an idea to a series of sounds to a series of static symbols, and back again. Our relatively modern ability to reason abstractly (math, science) evolved from our ability to abstract communications. Even Einstein couldn’t hold the proof of E=MC2 in his head.

But is this unique ability really sufficient to declare ourselves overall  inherently “better”?


Category: Bigotry, Communication, Education, Human animals, ignorance, Language, Meaning of Life, nature, Religion, Science, scientific method, Technology

About the Author ()

A convoluted mind behind a curly face. A regular traveler, a science buff, and first generation American. Graying of hair, yet still verdant of mind. Lives in South St. Louis City. See his personal website for (too much) more.

Comments (2)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. rosa says:

    whether we are better depends on what your referring to, horses run alot faster and longer than me. they are bigger and prettier too. dogs can run for miles and miles, i cannot. so are they better? for distance and speed travel yes.

    birds can fly,I cannot, not without machines. how I envy their ability to fly south for the winter. and their beautiful songs and colors way prettier than me.

    but for moral capacity, ability to worship and contemplate the meaning of life, ability to build on previous knowledge (after all apes are still living the same as they always have no progress there) but we are flying in machines sending robots to mars and unfortantly making better weapons of war (there is that moral capacity that has been corrupted).

    sky scrapers, open heart surgury, learning the complexities of the human body down to the cell, unfortuantly the nuclear bomb, massive ships that carrying you all over the world, telecommunitcations like the computer and internet, ability to contmplate and quesiton and learn and reason on matters, cars,

    better technology that is supposed to be better for the enviroment, etc. ability to convey complex information to each other and learn each others language, humans do have varied languages, animals basically have the same a horse neigh here is same as a horse neigh in russia.

    but the one I like alot, not saying I don't like cars or farmers able to produce with less work, good food in abundance, which I like alot, is able to have animals in subjection humanely. they will be trained by us without complaint and obey with joy, or seemingly joyful, my dogs seem to be very happy interacting with me and obeying me.

    my horses seem to like to interact with me alot when I had them. sometimes nickering at me from time to time. I truly enjoy animals even the wild ones. I can't imagine life without them.

    but will dogs and horses ever have humans truly in subjection like that? I think not, tho some owners mindset I wonder about, not discounting some mentally diabled or eccentric people,

    we remember, we think about our future our past, we think about the animals and people we knew and loved who long died many years before. animals don't have that capacity. while we may see some things that seem to be such we have to be careful not to misinterpret animal behavior in human terms.

    do my dogs love me? probably not they do not have that capacity, but do they trust me and enjoy being around me knowing I will tend to their needs and play with them? sure.

    animals will always be below humans in terms of spirituality and subjection. animals carry the beauty and braun and humans the brains and the love. together they make a beautiful rainbow.

  2. Dan Klarmann says:

    Other animals do have superstitions (read your Skinner). Others do appear to worship and leave offerings for perceived benefactors from outside their own kind. But I don't count worship as a sign of superiority; it is an acknowledgment of inferiority.

    Animals have been seen waging all-out war, and have been observed holding a wake for a deceased leader. This has been seen in primates and elephants, for example.

    I'm not sure whether to argue for subjugation as a sign of superiority or of inferiority. Animals may dominate within their kind, and some do maintain herds or schools of other species for food (ants, dolphins). But subjugation? That's just the other side of the worship coin.

Leave a Reply