Thursday, March 20, 2014

If Humans Aren't Unique.

There is a growing body of evidence to the affect that there are other species of mammal on this earth who may exhibit similar levels of intelligence to humans.  In fact, there are some biologists who investigate life which survives in extreme environments now advancing the thought that intelligence may not always exhibit the same characteristics as ours - that we may not recognize a similarly intelligent species when we see one simply because we won't be able to communicate with it.

Humans have this peculiar trait - we seem to only think someone is as smart as we are if we can talk to them.  Witness someone talking to a foreigner whose voice gets louder and louder as they try to make themselves understood - as if sheer volume helps.  And that's trying to talk to another human!

So, imagine how much harder it is for us to understand that another species is as smart as us if the methods of communication for us and the other species are not compatible - we use sound waves vs. another species using body movement or skin color.

They probably think we are as stupid as we think they are!

Fascinating subject - there is good evidence that dolphins, various species of hominids, elephants, some birds and even whales may also be as intelligent as humans.  We just all have quite different methods of communicating.

This, of course, blows the religious attitude that humans are special - that only humans have souls that are capable of surviving into an afterlife - right outta the water.  What is there to say, if those other species really are as smart as we are, that we are so special that only we can go to heaven?

That others are intelligent as well tells us that no, humans are not the top of the intelligence pyramid, no we are not special, and are, in fact, as the environmentalists have been telling us for decades, just a  small part of an ecology we are rapidly stripping of its ability to keep us alive.

To me, this is a double whammy perfectly illustrating the terrible harm that comes from vast numbers of people believing in superstition.

On one side, the religious belief that we are special and god made this world for us because we are made "in his image" harms us because people will do anything to go to this special place we call heaven.  They see the world through god-colored glasses to justify hurting others to prevent those others from jeopardizing their own chances of going to heaven.

The other side of that whammy is that they see the world as being ours to rape and pillage of everything of value, because not only did god give us "dominion" over the world, but that one day, he'll just come back and fix whatever we screwed up.

Both are short-sighted, both are harmful in numerous ways, and both are blown completely away by the knowledge that we are not the only intelligent species on this planet.

Because, if we are not so special, and there are others as smart as we are, that means that our traditional place at the top is wrong, unethical, and morally bankrupt.  It means that we must, at the very least, take the welfare of all those other intelligent species into account as we use the resources this planet gives us.

At most, it means that we must take the welfare of ALL life on this planet into account.

Which means that we are in for a major re-assessment of how we must live as a species, on this planet and among our fellow travelers on this beautiful blue-green ball we call home.  I've never thought of myself as an environmentalist.  But, I AM a rationalist, and one of my prime directives is that my world-view must change as new information comes to light.

Maybe being an environmentalist isn't such a bad thing to be after all.

1 comment:

Oldfart said...

I have no problem with environmentalists or, even, eco-terrorists so long as they are rational human beings whose actions are ruled by the science and not some anti-human agenda which they treat as a religion.