Children are egocentric, we all accept this because anybody who has been around a child will have noticed that they can’t think past themselves. According to psychology it is an important part of development and the vast majority of people are supposed to move on from this as part of the process of growing up. In my opinion, this is a myth. Not the egocentrism, not the developmental importance even, but the idea that for the most part we move on and improve.
My first argument for this is vegetarianism. I have no issue with someone who has experienced great trauma and therefore wishes to not eat meat and I don’t think it’s fair to tell somebody that they can’t hold a belief so I would never force feed a vegetarian meat like some would. However I do think that it is an arrogant standpoint. We as humans are animals just like every other animal on the planet. We like to think of ourselves as somewhat advanced, we like to pretend that because we have technology and intellect that we declare more advanced, humans are somehow better than other animals but this isn’t really true. Human beings are just different from other creatures to the same degree that other creatures are different from each other. A person who chooses not to eat meat just because they don’t want to hurt animals is directly asserting that they are better than other animals, that they are better than their nature. We are omnivores, to be healthy we need a balance of meat and vegetables. Choosing not to eat half of what we need is arrogant and is the reason why vegetarians look as unhealthy as Olympic athletes do. I could choose not to breathe under the theory that it hurts air molecules but it won’t make me any better. If animals were put here on the planet just to look pretty then they wouldn’t brutally kill and eat each other and if we weren’t supposed to eat them then it would damage us to do so. But just because modern technology allows us the possibility of barely surviving without meat, certain people think that they are better than every one else because they choose this option. We would find it odd if a lion suddenly sat back, patted the gazelle on the head and declared that it was going veggie. And yet we don’t see a problem with humans doing it.
This is only the first problem with a humanist attitude but it provides the foundation for most others. Scientists often exhibit this attitude as well. For example I heard a man on the news saying how amazing it was that humans share genes with yeasts, as if yeasts were lesser than us or less important than us. Some people like to claim that we are damaging the planet and that we’re awful horrible creatures. These people often drive hybrid cars that are made from pieces flown all around the world, or wear leather and kill spiders but don’t leave their television on standby so they hold some magical moral high-ground. We are not unnatural, nothing that we do is unnatural whether you take the religious stand-point or the scientific one. If we evolved from other creatures on the Earth then we are as natural and as part of it as them, if God put us here then he knew full well what we were capable of. Unless we are otherworldly and were dropped here on a spaceship that none of us can remember, we are part of this planet. Therefore we are natural and everything that we make or do is natural. Chopping down a tree or damaging the atmosphere is as normal as what volcanoes and plants did to make the planet as it is in the first place, or as normal as the fungus that controls ants or as the damage that moles do to the soil. We aren’t special enough to be damaging, we’re just part of the history of the Earth.
But perhaps the worst attitude is not often recognised as humanist, although I would call it the same as the other problems that I have identified. Most of us have heard people talk about contacting aliens, or being contacted. Most of us have heard the people, always from the back end of nowhere of course, claiming that they have seen the little green people in the mist. Why, if there were aliens, would they care one bit about us? We aren’t the most populous creature on the planet, we aren’t necessarily the one that is most similar to any creature in space. We aren’t necessarily important enough to them that they would want to come and bother us. But naturally because we’re humans we are arrogant enough to believe that there are aliens up there, not only interested enough that they’re trying to find us, but also much more interested in one creature on Earth than any of the other millions or billions of species that we happen to have found thus far on the planet.
This brings me back to my first point. If we really grew out of egocentrism then we wouldn’t have these opinions, we wouldn’t see the world through human tinted glasses. None of us have really stopped being egocentric, we just invented a word and then realised that it would essentially insult the progress of the whole human race, so we pretended we were better than its meaning.
Human beings aren’t special, whether we were put here by God or we evolved or whatever. We are just animals with technology and language that we are far too proud of, and therefore that we think is better. In a way I hope that aliens come down here and care enough about us to enslave us all, maybe humanity could do with some humility for once.
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