Human Exceptionalism

“Humans are Just Primates”

The London Zoo homo sapien exhibit, about which I blogged yesterday, is explicitly designed to induce our children to reject human exceptionalism. From this linked story:

“Caged and barely clothed, eight men and women monkeyed around for the crowds Friday in an exhibit labeled “Humans” at the London Zoo.

“Warning: Humans in their Natural Environment” read the sign at the entrance to the exhibit, where the captives could be seen on a rock ledge in a bear enclosure, clad in bathing suits and pinned-on fig leaves. Some played with hula hoops, some waved.

Visitors stopped to point and laugh, and several children could be heard asking, “Why are there people in there?”

London Zoo spokeswoman Polly Wills says that’s exactly the question the zoo wants to answer.

“Seeing people in a different environment, among other animals … teaches members of the public that the human is just another primate,” Wills said.”

This is not benign. This is not funny. This is misanthropic.

Most people take human exceptionalism for granted. They can no longer afford to do so. The great philosophical question of the 21st Century is going to be whether we will knock humans off the pedestal of moral distinctiveness and instead define ourselves as just another animal in the forest. The stakes of the coming debate couldn’t be more important: It is our exalted moral status that both bestow special rights upon us, while also imposing unique and solemn moral responsibilities–including the human duty not to abuse animals.