Humanism

I don’t know many people, in my personal life or in any of my media orbits, who I could say is definitely not a humanist. I think virtually everyone I interact with or whose thoughts I engage with subscribes to some version of humanism. It is the dominant lens through which I, and seemingly everyone else, sees the world, even if we can see that it is at some level based on myth.
 
 
In the book Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari writes, “humanism is a belief that Homo sapiens has a unique and sacred nature, which is fundamentally different from the nature of all other animals and of all other phenomena.” There is something about our conscious experience of the world that seems to set humans apart from everything else. We do not know if another intelligent species exists in the Universe, and we see ourselves as a lone and isolated bright spot in the Universe. We are worth protecting and it is worthwhile to continue the human experience if for no other reason than that we appear to be unique within the communicable reaches of our universe.
 
 
We recognize that other animals certainly appear to be conscious and have complex thoughts and emotions. Humans don’t have the largest brains on earth, but each of us individually has a rich and complex consciousness that we view as separate from the likely consciousness of dogs, whales, elephants, or fungi (does fungi count as conscious?).  Our experience is held above the experience and states of being of other creatures, and this is observed in the way we treat factory farmed chickens, the way we think about the suffering of wild animals (or don’t think about it) and the way we make charitable donations to help other humans. Even thinkers like Peter Singer who are further along the path away from humanism than most people that I can think of still places a unique value on humans for being conscious, able to reason, and possibly able to help all other living life.
 
 
In the grand cosmos which humans expect to last for billions and billions of years, humanity means almost nothing. We are matter that has arranged itself to be self-replicating and self-observing. There is no real reason to believe that humans and our conscious experience of the universe is anything more. But nevertheless, because we experience the world and are self-aware that we are experiencing the world, we view ourselves as somehow unique and special. We adopt humanist views without even recognizing that we do so.

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