Originally posted by Zero
I would say that calling humanity 'superior' is another example of the post-justification that this thread stands against. We are good at what we do, and no animal does it better, but if you change to a different(and valid) criteria, other animals have us beat.
I would agree that there is nothing inherently 'special' about human beings, as opposed to other animals, that makes humans clearly superior in an absolute sense. However, we can abstract a bit from specific claims like "humans are the best at language whereas apes (or insects, or whatever) are the best at climbing trees" to a more general claim that humans are the most superior form of life on Earth in a purely evolutionary sense.
We can make this claim insofar as we recognize that humans have the ability to manipulate virtually any environment on Earth to their needs-- as opposed to other animals, who are quite well adapted to their specific niches, but cannot thrive in diverse new niches as readily as humans can. More generally put, most animals rely on the biologically engineered structures of their bodies given to them by their genetics to thrive in their niches, whereas humans can engineer their own novel structures to serve various purposes. A bird can fly because it is gifted with wings, an aerodynamical body, and a brain specialized to coordinate the motions needed for flight; a human can fly because it is gifted with a brain specialized for the general faculty of logical reasoning, which can be used to deduce the principles of flight, and then create an airplane with wings and an aerodynamical body. So while most animals are limited mainly by the physical capacities of their bodies, humans are limited mainly by the mental capacities of their brains.
For instance, it is possible in principle that humans will one day be able to live on Mars, and of course no other animals on Earth would not be able to do this, with the possible exception of certain micro-organisms. Of course this implies that certain micro-organisms are evolutionarily 'superior' to (say) great apes, which contradicts the usual premises for arguments to the effect that humans are 'superior' to apes. The important thing is to realize is that superiority can only be established with respect to a certain set of critera, so while we can say A is superior to B when it comes to a certain set of criteria X, we can't generalize from this to say that A is superior to B for all sets of criteria X.