HUMAN SUPERIORITY/HUMAN SUPREMACY MYTH
This is an older version of the human supremacy argument found on the main page and in the Animal Research stand alone page.
This page condenses some of the arguments found on the main page http://animalvegfaq.tripod.com
It may be useful for students writing essays or just as a summary of major arguments found on this page.
1) The myth that humans are superior in value as a group to all other lifeforms is not supported by a casual examination of natural phenomenon. The universe can not be shown to favor human beings--for volcanoes do not spew lava in ways that avoid humans, sharks do not get paralyzed if they attempt to bite human swimmers, and the laws of gravity have the same effect on them as any other lifeform. Whether you believe in a god or a mindless universe, human supremacy as an absolute objective truth cannot be demonstrated any easier than one could demonstrate that apples are superior to oranges, that one race is superior to another, or that the letter A is superior to the letter B. Such judgments can only be decided by humans--conveniently, the ones claiming their heightened status.
2)If you believe that humans can discriminate against and exploit other life because they are superior in value as a species to all others you have to be able to show this supremacy to be true as an absolute, objective fact. WHY? Because if you can't, then anyone can use similar non absolute, subjective criteria from religion to gender to skin colour to justify discriminating against anyone else (human or not), which is what humans do every day all over the world regardless of the laws or moral standards in place.
Any standards of value used--"the faculty of reason," "free will," "a soul," "my deity says so," etc. are subject to doubt, not only in how each applies to all humans vs all non humans, but also in their absolute objective significance. Some humans are more intelligent or creative or faster or taller than some others--does that mean that the more intelligent or creative or taller ones deserve more rights than those who are less intelligent or creative or tall? If not, why? The standard can be doubted, just as it can be for the arguments of racial supremacists. For the sake of argument, however, if every human did possess a faculty x that other species lack, why then would this "faculty x " make them superior in value--and then free to do what they want to those who do not possess it?
It is a purely human value and claim. Some human says it is so, so it is so.
3)The standard of "Reason" is subjective. It is a value judgement that only has discernable value to humans (just as skin color only has importance to racists, or a certain interpretation of the Bible only has worth to religious extremists). The universe itself cannot be shown to "favor" humans over non-humans since our kind is just as mortal as any other species. Erupting volcanoes do not alter their lava flows to spare humans; hailstorms do not drop their rocks of ice on everything but humans; and sharks do not get paralyzed jaws if they attempt to bite a human swimmer (in violation of some law of Physics that recognizes human supremacy). If a basic observation of Nature does not show how humans are superior (according to absolute and objective criteria) and deserving of special treatment, then what does?
4) If one says that humans are superior as a species according to the will of a Supreme Deity, how do you prove it? If you cite a Divinely-inspired religious book written down by individuals who conveniently, are members of the very group that stands to benefit from the discrimination, then anyone else can emphasize race, or gender, or wealth instead of (or in addition to) species and claim that the same deity (or another one) decided that theirs is the ultimate measure of value for determining superiority. Such disagreements cannot be objectively resolved—and they must be to avoid hypocrisy and moral corruption. To be a universal/absolute/objective truth it has to be the final answer to the question; it has to be beyond doubt (for how can the absolute be questioned?). Where then is this objective superiority of human beings demonstrated? Nowhere. Some human says it is so, so it is so.
How then can the human supremacist argue, using ethics, that what he says is so, is superior to what the racist says is so?
The only choices that he/she has to preserve moral integrity is to agree that anyone should be able to discriminate against whomever they want (i.e. this would allow both human and non human exploitation), or to extend the circle of compassion and ethical justice to include non-human living beings. This would preserve the principle of trying to be as compassionate and as fair as possible to others. At the most fundamental level it isn't about love, or emotion, but ethical consistency and common sense.
5) An additional irony to the human supremacist myth is that when humans try to use certain criteria to show their superiority to other species, the opposite is often easier to prove. Example: humans likes to say they are more compassionate than other species, the words "humane" and "inhumane" show this--as humans like to think to be good is to be human, and to be evil is to be inhuman. And yet, altruism has been demonstrated in both domesticated and wild animals, across inter-species relations, even between traditional predators and prey. While these may be anomalies, the fact remains that at the same time altruism exists, we do not find examples of extreme cruelty and sadistic pleasure in the suffering of others among other species that humans have demonstrated throughout the ages. Humans have tortured and killed both humans and non humans in the name of religion, science, greed, sexual pleasure, entertainment etc. They have victimized others and enjoyed causing suffering, especially when they know that their victims are suffering. No other species has been shown to do this. Cats do not erect stadiums where other cats can watch mice being tortured, as humans did with the Roman Coliseum, and with bullrings or cock pits. Humans also like to say they were meant to be stewards of Nature, but it is humans who have caused deforestation, water and air pollution, extinction, soil erosion. And yet, the creatures that humans consider to be the lowest in significance and worthy of insult, insects, are responsible for maintaining the flora that all life including humans depend on. So by just these two criteria put forth by humans, other species are shown to be superior to them. This is another reason why humans should show some humility. And for those who believe in Biblical story, Pride was considered the greatest sin.
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