25.2.04

"Why humans are superior to apes"

Anti-humanism: an essay on Spiked-Online looks at how "humanism, in the sense of a faith in humanity's potential to solve problems through the application of science and reason, is taking quite a battering today."

We have all, at some point or other, heard something similar to what John Gray, professor of European thought at the London School of Economics has to say on the subject: "Homo sapiens is only one of very many species, and not obviously worth preserving. Later or sooner, it will become extinct. When it is gone the Earth will recover." A not unusaul eco-fundamentalist dream: an Earth emptied of (human) life and given back to the oh-so-wise animals that would never rape the planet the way we have... Part of this ideology is the denial of Homo Sapiens' uniqueness in the animal world, and part of the strategy to prove this, is to show how other animals, primates especially, are more like us than we previously thought. There is even a campaign trying to extend human rights to great apes... Helene Guldberg takes this argument apart, methodically going trhough the state of the art in the research on the behaviour of primates (cultural transmission, social learning, language, capacity to deceive, self-awareness) and comes to the conclusion that "Six million years of ape evolution may have resulted in the emergence of 39 local behavioural patterns - in tool-use, communication and grooming rituals. However this has not moved them beyond their hand-to-mouth existence nor led to any significant changes in the way they live. Our lives have changed much more in the past decade - in terms of the technology we use, how we communicate with each other, and how we form and sustain personal relationships. Considering the vast differences in the way we live, it is very difficult to sustain the argument that apes are 'just like us'. What appears to be behind today's fashionable view of ape and human equivalence is a denigration of human capacities and human ingenuity. The richness of human experience is trivialised because human experiences are lowered to, and equated with, those of animals."

Ironically enough, as an extropian I actually agree with John Gray when he says that Homo Sapiens will sooner or later become extinct (or should we say obsolete?). It is on the subject of what exactly will replace it, however, that we radically differ...

Why humans are superior to apes, by Helene Guldberg

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