At the H+ Magazine site I have a piece that expands on some of the ideas we explored in our recent FastForward Radio on the subject of human exceptionalism. Are homo sapiens just one of the many diverse life forms on this planet, or is there something unique about us? In some ways, the question hardly seems worth asking; until other species start putting up blog posts touting their own exceptionalism, we have a pretty good prima facie case for ours.
How are human beings exceptional? Compare a human being to a turtle. Just to make it interesting, we will exclude obvious physical and cognitive differences between the two species for the time being. It still leaves some really interesting questions.
1. How much has the typical life of the typical turtle changed over the past 50,000 years? How much has the typical life of the typical human being changed over that same period? (Interestingly, if the turtle’s life has changed at all, it’s probably due to something that humans have done.)
2. How much is the typical life of the typical turtle likely to change over the next couple hundred years? How much is the typical life of the typical human likely to change over that same period? (Once again, if the turtle’s life changes at all…)
3. How different would the world be if all turtles went extinct 10,000 years ago? How different would the world be if all human beings went extinct 10,000 years ago?
You can substitute any species for turtles and the results will be pretty much the same. We’re exceptional. Putting aside any arguments about the existence of the soul or a special role for human beings as defined by religious belief, there is still no getting around the rapidly changing nature of humanity or its undeniable impact on…everything:
We are transformers of the world, but beyond that, we are the transformation of the world. We are the making and remaking of everything around us. We are the defining, and redefining, of every concept that our minds can entertain.
Please do read the whole thing.
(Turtle image via Wikimedia Commons.)