We Are Qualitatively Different From Other Species
Brett: You’re pointing out a minority opinion there. I think culture is still stuck in that second part of what you were saying.
Originally we thought that we were at the center of the universe. This was the religious conception of man’s place in the cosmos. Earth was surrounded by the celestial spheres and everything orbited around it. So we were the inheritors of the entire universe, and God had gifted us with this.
Then science showed us that, in fact, we’re not at a particularly special place in the universe. This is the cosmological principle, this idea that the universe is roughly the same at every single place and we are just one of those particularly unspecial places.
Not only are we unspecial in the cosmological sense, but biologically we’re nothing particularly special, either. We’re just on the continuum between bacteria to cockroaches through to dogs and chimpanzees.
An astrophysicist I absolutely love on almost every other topic, Neil deGrasse Tyson, was talking about how chimpanzees are a lot smarter than we think and how we might not be much better. This is what almost everyone thinks.
This third view that a lot of us are trying to promote now is that it’s not a slight quantitative difference between chimpanzees and us. There is a continuum between bacteria to cockroaches to dogs and chimpanzees, but we’re off-axis.
We are qualitatively different. All we need to do is open our eyes. You look out your window at that beautiful city that happens to be out there that cannot be explained by this gradual increase of biological complexity.