'Speciesism': A grave threat to life on Earth?
In a recent book titled Speciesism in Biology and Culture: How Human Exceptionalism Is Pushing Planetary Boundaries, University of California, Berkeley professor Brent Mishler and former U.C. Berkeley faculty member Brian Swartz, among others, argue that "speciesism" is a grave threat to life on Earth. Mishler and Swartz state that speciesism "leads to behavior that challenges our future on this planet," before adding that "[s]peciesism is to species as racism is to race ... the problem with speciesism and racism is that they are both scientifically baseless." There is no basis whatsoever to think a human being is more advanced than, say, a rat or a deer tick?
Mishler and Swartz go so far as to argue that the very concepts of species and taxonomic ranking, central to the science of biology from the time of Darwin and before, should be removed from biology courses.
Well, duh! The science is settled: William Shakespeare was no more important than a tarantula, Albert Einstein no better than a rainbow trout.
So-called "philosopher" John S. Wilkins has a contributing chapter in the book in which he courageously asks, "Why do we in the West think that human beings are special?" That explains a lot. Sadly, we are gradually losing that belief. Wilkins snarkily adds: "Since every species is special ... what is so special about Homo Sapiens that the needs of humans supplant the needs of all other species?"
Who says, "Every species is special"? How can one with an assumedly skeptical, rational, scientific approach lead off with that feelings-laden opinion?
Wilkins then proceeds to argue that the real reasons some rubes have for believing humans somehow possess an elevated or unique moral status are not scientific, but theological and socio-economic, stating, "[H]uman exceptionalism results from modern interpretations of the biblical narratives, economic motives, and sociocultural accidents."
Yes, well, there is this,
Einstein Wilkins: "So God created mankind in His own image." So that would be a theological reason. An economic motive would be that...humans created the economy, I guess. I'm not sure what Wilkins means by a "sociocultural accident," unless he is referring to himself.
One is greatly tempted to ask Messieurs Mishler and Swartz the following questions, among a great many others: has any other "species" written a play, symphony, or work of fiction? Did any other species invent the printing press, automobiles, the internet, or hospitals? Paint the Sistine Chapel? Build the Sistine Chapel? Has any other species fully contemplated its place in the universe? Understood the concept of a "universe"? Realized that it couldn't have created itself and didn't ask to be born? And recognized, therefore, the necessity of a higher power?
Or even come to believe that "speciesism" is a dire threat to the planet?
I think we all know the answer to those questions.
But that hubris is probably just another example of speciesism. Right?