Human Exceptionalism

“In Defense of Human Exceptionalism”

I have a piece up today over at First Things about the latest attack on human exceptionalism–animal ensoulment–published, no less, in the science pages of the New York Times. I review some of the areas in which human exceptionalism is under assault and describe the NYT story. Here are a few central points:

How ironic that a report in the science pages of the New York Times would discuss souls respectfully, especially given that the existence or nonexistence of the soul isn’t a matter that science can measure, test, or duplicate (as a believing scientist asserts at the end of Dean’s piece). Nor is belief in the soul–whether uniquely human or present in all life–necessary to accepting what used to be considered the self-evident truth of human exceptionalism. But that’s OK: Whatever it takes to knock us off the pedestal.

It should now be clear to everyone that very powerful forces have totally dedicated themselves for varying reasons to convincing us that we really aren’t all that important. Those who think otherwise had better answer the call to defend the intellectual ramparts. Much is at stake. Demolishing our self-perception as a uniquely valuable species would have very grave consequences, given that human exceptionalism is both the philosophical underpinning for human rights and the basis of our unique self-imposed duties to each other, posterity, and the natural world.

I then quote philosopher Mortimer Adler about how rejecting our unique moral worth simply and merely for being human would justify the strong preying on the weak, and I conclude:

As Adler makes clear, “liberating” society’s general embrace of human exceptionalism will not “save the planet” as some suppose, nor liberate man from the supposed oppression of superstitious faith. Rather, it would open the door wide to tyranny.

The more I think about this, the more important I believe the issue is. I hope y’all agree.