Post-justifying Anthropocentrism

  • #26
hypnagogue
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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.
 
  • #27
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It's interesting how these threads evolve and get twisted. The original post didn't say anything about "What is it that makes humans qualitatively different?" It's interesting to note how this thread turned into that. The original question was "What is it that makes us human?" To me, the answer to this doesn't exclude differences of degree as everyone is pointing out. When I originally read the question, all sorts of things came to my mind just like MRP. But this doesn't seem to jive with the title of the topic and I am aware of some hot buttons with science types and suspected the real intent of that question by the author was to challenge any "mystical" beliefs people may have about mankind. The author seems to have produced an invitation for conflict with the wording of this question though.
 
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  • #28
Zero
Originally posted by hypnagogue
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.
You are way off teh mark again, by applying the same biased standard. Humans are teh best at being humans, so fill the niche we are in better than another animal would. That don't make us superior.
 
  • #29
hypnagogue
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Originally posted by Zero
You are way off teh mark again, by applying the same biased standard. Humans are teh best at being humans, so fill the niche we are in better than another animal would. That don't make us superior.

We are superior in our general ability to adapt to new niches. This is all I said, nothing more and nothing less.
 
  • #30
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Alright, this is getting just ridiculous. Anyone who says that one animal is "better" than any other has missed the point of Darwinian evolution entirely. Nature is amoral, it doesn't care about the success of any being under any niche or circumstance. It just doesn't matter. The only reason anthropecentric nonsense can be spouted about it because no other animal has evolved an ego.
 
  • #31
Zero
Originally posted by Mentat
The only reason anthropecentric nonsense can be spouted about it because no other animal has evolved an ego.
And an ego makes us superior?!? LOL, it remind me of Douglas Adams and the dolphins.
 
  • #32
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There's nothing egocentric about the statement "humans are superior to most animals when it comes to adapting to new niches." This is not some delusion of grandeur; it's simply a fact, just as it is a fact that copper is superior to wood when it comes to conducting electricity. Note that I did not claim that humans are superior to all animals, in a general sense.

I could equally well state that "birds are superior to humans when it comes to non-technologically aided flight." This too is a fact. There's nothing wrong with saying animal A is superior to animal B, so long as you qualify the statement by saying "but only when it comes to X," where X is a specific set of objective criteria. We get into trouble when we mean "superior" to be some kind of all encompassing superiority, or likewise when we conclude superiority in some kind of subjective sense involving value judgments.
 
  • #33
Zero
Originally posted by hypnagogue
There's nothing egocentric about the statement "humans are superior to most animals when it comes to adapting to new niches." This is not some delusion of grandeur; it's simply a fact, just as it is a fact that copper is superior to wood when it comes to conducting electricity. Note that I did not claim that humans are superior to all animals, in a general sense.

I could equally well state that "birds are superior to humans when it comes to non-technologically aided flight." This too is a fact. There's nothing wrong with saying animal A is superior to animal B, so long as you qualify the statement by saying "but only when it comes to X," where X is a specific set of objective criteria. We get into trouble when we mean "superior" to be some kind of all encompassing superiority, or likewise when we conclude superiority in some kind of subjective sense involving value judgments.
When you add the quailfiers, you put yourself on relatively solid ground. Bravo!
 
  • #34
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As far as successfully filling variable niches is concerned I think that bacteria have it made compared to us. they fill niches where we can't even get to as in rocks thousands of feet below ground level.
By another criteria, worms and insects are far more numerous and far moe varied than humans. So which species is the most successful in evolutionary terms? It depends on the criteria that you use.
Humans are generalist and far more adaptable than a number of other species but far less than others. The point however is that all life on earth is interdependent and very few species but the most basic could survive without the rest of life supporting it. The food chain is just one example of interdependency. Then there are such things a s the water cycle and the carbon cycle that makes life itself dependant on the geological properties of the earth itself. Makes one begin to think that Gaia might be real after all. All of life on earth is basically one life form and interdependent on all of life to exist.
It is true the humans change their local environment to better fit themselves and promote the growth and survival of various plants and animal forms that benefit mankind over those that we have no use for; but, who is using who?
We cannot, I think, pick out one species or one group and say that they are the best or most advanced because one species or group or family or whatever cannot survive without all of the rest of life to support it.
It would be like trying to decide what one thing it is that makes the soup or gumbo so good when it is the particular compination of ingredients compined and cooked in that certain way that makes it so good.
Which finger or toe do you like the best, is most vital to your well being, gives you the edge over all the rest of us? Could you, would you do away with all the others because they are "inferior" to the best one?
Is it our egos, our insecurity or our need to justify our actions that make us feel apart and superior to the rest of life? Is it simply human arrogance or is it ignorance?
 
  • #35
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Hehe, i guess the word superior i used caused quite a stir eh. Well i did say when it comes to ruling humans are superior overall. Hence the other word no one seemed to look at was "ruling". We rule territory more then any other animal. well we kinda live with insects so we may rule them when they crawl on us or our floors but we let them stay outside or hiding in home. We might also have no choice. If an animal goes in our community we will act by creating quite a fuss so the big guys can take'em out for the little guys. Whether or not that animal dies we do make them leave our community. Now that is what i meant by humans are the superior over all animals.

We have claimed the most territory and defended it. Help with technology of course. But it is our technology that helps us defend our territory and we need it to be superior. But if we went in the jungle guess who loses the role of superior?
 
  • #36
selfAdjoint
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This is true among large (visible to the human eye) animals, but the greatest biomass around, just about everywhere, is bacteria. And they can live in places we can't. at least so far.
 
  • #37
Zero
Originally posted by Royce
Is it our egos, our insecurity or our need to justify our actions that make us feel apart and superior to the rest of life? Is it simply human arrogance or is it ignorance?
I think it is a natural offshoot of survival instincts, maybe. I am not arrogant, or ignorant about the subject, but if you ask me if a human life is worth more to me than an animal's, I would generally say 'yes'. *shrugs* We are just wired that way, I guess.
 
  • #38
Originally posted by Dissident Dan
(SNIP) So, you are just accepting what everyone else tells you, rather than coming to your own conclusions? What do you mean by "do ideals"? Have you been inside the mind of another animal so that you have the authority to make such an assertion? (SNoP)
In a manner, I have been inside the mind of another animal, but I have certainly noticed that the only 'other' animal minds, that I have any access to, are the human ones, because they can reveal the insides of themselves to the rest of us simply by speaking, or "typiconographic" manerisms.
That one ability places us so far ahead, away, distant, special, superior, on top, first place, the best on the planet, somewhat invincible compared to the rest of the animals, with the only other differences being that we need to find clothing and shelter, the rest of the animals do not, and we have no specialized self defence apendage(s). We are forced/required to use the minds that we have, to survive.
 
  • #39
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Originally posted by Zero
I think it is a natural offshoot of survival instincts, maybe. I am not arrogant, or ignorant about the subject, but if you ask me if a human life is worth more to me than an animal's, I would generally say 'yes'. *shrugs* We are just wired that way, I guess.

As I sit here having a southern fried steak sandwich with potato chips for lunch I can not disagree with you about this. I much prefer being at the top of the food chain rather than lower down.
My point remains, however, that we are a part of nature and life not apart from it. Until we have survived a couple of hundred million years like the dinosaurs I think its a bit premature to call ourselves the ruleres of this planets and highest form of life.
After all humanity may be a short term selfdistructive abbaration in the normal chain of events. As far as life itself is concerned we are pretty much the new kid on the block and it has yet to be determined whether we are worth keeping around for a while or not.
We may also be nothing more than a transition phase to the REAL superior and ruling being of Earth.
This is what I mean by the arrogance and ignorance of Mankind collectively not necessarily of individuals (though I have met some to whom it would apply).
 
  • #40
Zero
I'm in agreement with you Royce...how cool is that?
 
  • #41
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It is amazing isn't it. Is this a great country,world, universe or what?
 
  • #42
Originally posted by Royce
(SNIP) After all humanity may be a short term selfdistructive abbaration in the normal chain of events. (SNoP)
Humm, something NO other animal can do, destroy itself completely, or all of the rest of life. (pretty much)
Oh Ya, also something no other animal SEEKS to do, only us (humans) the intellectual idiots(?).
 
  • #43
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And possibly lemmings if the folk tales are true.
 
  • #44
Zero
Originally posted by Mr. Robin Parsons
Humm, something NO other animal can do, destroy itself completely, or all of the rest of life. (pretty much)
Oh Ya, also something no other animal SEEKS to do, only us (humans) the intellectual idiots(?).
Ummm...so what? It is still an outgrowth of our animal behavior, not something different from what any other animal would do.
 
  • #45
Originally posted by Royce
And possibly lemmings if the folk tales are true.
They are NOT.
 
  • #46
Originally posted by Zero
Ummm...so what? It is still an outgrowth of our animal behavior, not something different from what any other animal would do.
It is "something different" as no other animals do it, as for it being "an outgrowth of our animal behaviour", hows that?
 
  • #47
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Well chimps have wars and raiding parties and kill one another. Of course they are our nearest relatives so I guess thats to be expected.
Insects, ants, wasps, etc, frequenty raid other nests or hives and wipe them out completely. Killing beyond need for food is not exclusive to mankind.
 
  • #48
Originally posted by Royce
Well chimps have wars and raiding parties and kill one another. Of course they are our nearest relatives so I guess thats to be expected.
Insects, ants, wasps, etc, frequenty raid other nests or hives and wipe them out completely. Killing beyond need for food is not exclusive to mankind.
So we, humans, must be in the same category inasmuch as we, or I, or you, can sit in a place and wipe out an entire troup of monkeys without even being near them.
It is language that enables us to act out far beyond the rest of the Animals, waaaaaaaay beyond, enables!
 
  • #49
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I think that language has had as much effect onour developement as Homo sapiens as anything else. I think language influences the way we think as much as the other way around. It IMHO goes far beyond reading and writing enabling the acummulation and preservation of knowledge from one generation to the next; or, the ability to share thoughts and knowledge via spoken language. I think that it was instrumental in our becoming human and in what humans are.
Rather than being a consequence of being human I think it is at least in part what made us become human and determines what being human means as well as human behavior. It may not be the prime or most important influence but it is right up there among the most important.

Think about it. Did our brains develope speech centers so we could communicate or did rudementary communication cause the speach centers to develope so that we could communicate better. I think most of us have the cart before the horse. speech or language is the cause not the effect or at least as much the cause as the effect. I have said as much in FZ+'s thread.
 
  • #50
Zero
Originally posted by Mr. Robin Parsons
So we, humans, must be in the same category inasmuch as we, or I, or you, can sit in a place and wipe out an entire troup of monkeys without even being near them.
It is language that enables us to act out far beyond the rest of the Animals, waaaaaaaay beyond, enables!
We get your point, I think. We are having a trouble getting our point across, though. We are saying that it is a difference of degree, rather than a difference of kind.
 

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