Human exceptionalisn and meaning in the animal world

(Tom Walker) #1

Re: “Fish are not office decorations” The Globe and Mail, Feb 8/19 opinion contributed by Jonathan Balcombe

The writer asserts: “Not only has science essentially put to rest the malevolent myth that fish do not feel pain, we now know that they are sentient beings with meaningful lives.”

What does he mean by “meaningful”? If he means that animals have the capacity to “search for meaning” (to borrow from V Frankl’s title), which I’m very much afraid it does - or if it doesn’t it soon will - then the effect will be that not only are animals raised to the level of humans, but that humans will be reduced to the level of the animal. I fear the consequences of the latter more than the former.

I would like to learn more about the secular concept of “human exceptionalism” and how to address it, as well as become acquainted with the science behind animal consciousness, sentience and capacity for meaning and morality.

(SeanO) #2

@walkert I suggest checking out the following article / book from reasons to believe. They provide a definition of ‘human exceptionalism’ and explain why it is rational to conclude that humans are different not just in degree, but in kind.

A wealth of scientific evidence shows that humans alone, as distinct from Neanderthals, Homo erectus , and other species, possess the capacity for symbolic recognition, for complex language, art, and music, and for spiritual and philosophical engagement. Humans alone manifest awareness of God, sin, moral judgment, and life beyond death. Humans alone demonstrate technological advancement, including the development of agriculture and civilization. New evidence shows that even during episodes of extreme environmental instability, humans were able to maintain small mixed farms (with multiple species of crops and livestock) and to manufacture flour and clothing.

From a Christian philosophical and theological perspective, humans show this difference in kind by possessing six qualities or endowments that the Bible grounds in their being made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26–27). Animals share some of these qualities in a limited degree, but humans differ profoundly from animals by being:2

  1. spiritual and religious;
  2. personal, self-conscious, and rational;
  3. deliberative and volitional;
  4. relational;
  5. immortal; and
  6. powerful (having dominion over nature)

(Tom Walker) #3

I had not heard of RTB, so thanks for the lead and for the thoughtful response! That’s helpful.

(SeanO) #4

@walkert Glad it was helpful :slight_smile: You may find the following talk from Fazale Rana helpful - he talks about the evidence for human exceptionalism.