Opponents of human exceptionalism never tire of inventing arguments for why human beings are entitled to no special moral standing. The arguments are various.
Environmentalists rail against the human "cancer" afflicting Pachamama (the Inca Earth goddess).
Animal rightists get an emotional high from thinking that cattle ranching is an equivalent evil to slavery.
Utilitarian bioethicists distinguish between human persons and "nonpersons," in order to allow the weakest among us to be killed and harvested for organs, euthanized, medically discriminated against, or experimented upon.
Transhumanists get a thrill out of gaining a license to somehow seize control of evolution — at which point it would become intelligent design — to recreate humans in their own image. They won’t actually be able to do what they want, but the eugenic values they espouse are very dangerous.
Now, a transhumanist article by Jason Dorrier at Singularity Hub says we are not exceptional because a billion years from now, we will be far more advanced — as if that is relevant to matters as they stand today. From "Humans Aren’t the Pinnacle of Evolution":
In his latest video, host of National Geographic‘s Brain Games and techno-poet, Jason Silva, explores the universe’s tendency to self-organize. Biology, he says, seems to have agency and directionality toward greater complexity, and humans are the peak. "It’s like human beings seem to be the cutting edge," Silva says. "The evolutionary pinnacle of self-awareness becoming aware of its becoming."
Isn’t that unacceptably anthropocentric?
[T]he line about humans being the "evolutionary pinnacle" reminded me of a trap we’ve fallen into time and again — the temptation to place ourselves at the center of all things. We once believed the cosmos revolved around the Earth. Now, we know the Earth is a vanishingly tiny fragment of metal and rock revolving around an average yellow star.
Apples and oranges. Mistaken cosmology isn’t the same thing at all as the truth that we are the exceptional species in the known universe.
Dorrier argues that we will evolve someday into something else, beyond what we already are:
In a recent interview, Cambridge’s Martin Rees put human evolution in context as only a cosmologist can. Rees says most of us are probably aware that humans are the result of four billion years of evolution — but we tend to think we’re the apex of the process.
Well, aren’t we the apex? Name one species above and beyond us:
Most folks have little notion of what he calls the "far future." Astronomers, on the other hand, know that the sun is middle-aged and that the Earth has at least as much life ahead of it as it has behind. The universe itself may have an infinite future. We’re perhaps only halfway (or less) "in the emergence of ever greater complexity."
"Any creatures who will be alive to witness the death of the sun won’t be human — they could be as different from us as we are from protozoa. Indeed future evolution is going to take place not on the Darwinian time scale, of natural selection, but on the technology time scale, because we’re obtaining the capacity to modify the genome."
Add accelerating evolutionary processes to cosmological deep time, and a future when intelligence has evolved beyond humans, indeed, a future far surpassing even our wildest guesses becomes an inevitability — if our descendants can make it that far.
Like I said, that would be intelligent design, not evolution — which proves our exceptionalism! Name one other species that could step outside of natural forces to remold itself. Doh!
How ridiculous to deny the undeniable truth of human exceptionalism because someday what we are today may not be that exceptional.
That’s not only nonsensical, it’s dangerous. Human exceptionalism is the crucial understanding that anchors human equality and liberty, and promotes our prosperity and thriving. It underlies our duties to each other and the natural world. Casting it aside, in the name of whatever fiction, would do incalculable harm.
Image source: Wikipedia.