Environmentalism is growing darkly anti-human. That misanthropy has also seeped into science.
Vivid case in point: Science, one of the world’s most prominent scientific journals, just published a screed directed against human exceptionalism. The author, Eileen Crist, has a PhD in sociology, not in any of the natural sciences. She writes to warn that the end is nigh — and the reason for the pending catastrophe is “human supremacy.” From “Reimagining the Human”:
This worldview esteems the human as a distinguished entity that is superior to all other life forms and is entitled to use them and the places they live. The belief system of superiority and entitlement — or human supremacy — manifests in a range of anthropocentric commonplace assumptions, linguistic constructs, institutional regimes, and everyday actions of individual, group, nation-state, and corporate actors.
Crist wields the term “human supremacy” to create a mental association in the reader’s mind with the evils of racial supremacists — in much the same way that global-warming activists denigrate skeptics as “climate-change deniers” to associate them with Holocaust deniers.
Against the West
Crist doesn’t just attack human exceptionalism, but also the West — which she and her publisher seem to forget is the source of so much scientific advancement:
It is crucial to recognize that human supremacy is neither culturally nor individually universal, nor is it derived in any straightforward way from human nature. However, western civilization has elaborated its most forceful, long-standing expression, and through the West’s ascendancy the influence of this worldview has spread across the globe.
And thank goodness for it. Western civilization created unprecedented liberty and general prosperity. The problem in our world is too little of “the West,” not too much.
An “All-Species Commonwealth”
But nihilism strikes a beat. Crist calls on us to reject “human hegemony” and embrace an “all-species commonwealth”:
By operating on all these levels, the worldview of human distinction-and-prerogative obstructs the capacity to question human hegemony for the sake of Earth’s inherent splendor and in the service of a high-quality human life within a downsized, equitable global civilization nested in an all-species commonwealth.
Just how would an “all-species commonwealth” work, anyway? I know! By granting “rights” to “nature” and animals — already happening and threatened — with the interests of non-humans and geological features represented in halls of power and courts by ideologues like Crist.
As always in radical environmental advocacy of this type, Crist urges us to embrace decline:
The reigning human-nature hierarchical worldview thus hinders the recognition that scaling down and pulling back is the most farsighted path forward. Scaling down involves reducing the overall amount of food, water, energy, and materials that humanity consumes and making certain shifts in what food, energy, and materials are used.
This quantitative and qualitative change can be achieved by actions that can lower the global population within a human-rights framework, shrink animal agriculture, phase out fossil fuels, and transform an extractionist, overproducing, throwaway, and polluting economy into a recycling, less busy, thrifty, more ecologically benign economy.
Apparently Crist isn’t aware that Paris is burning because of popular protests against such policies.
As to the larger philosophical point, denying human exceptionalism is just crackers. Can there be any reasonable question that we are the most advanced, and yes, morally important species to ever reside on the planet? Accepting that truth certainty doesn’t mean that we have license to despoil the earth. We alone are a moral species, meaning that we have solemn duties, including the obligation to treat the environment responsibly — as our many laws in furtherance of that end attest.
Enviro-mystics like Crist are common these days. That Science, of all publications, would print such emotionally based extremism is not only shocking but demonstrates the growing peril to the science sector from human-phobia.
Photo: Eileen Crist, via YouTube.
Cross-posted at The Corner.