There are three kinds of people who exist. In the majority are those that think humanity is the highest pinnacle of creation on Earth. They believe, if not in God, than at least in a hierarchy of being which puts people on top. Then there is a group that does not think about it at all, who have not necessarily decided a human comes first, but that live by that code anyway. Then, there are those that believe everything,- -everything known-is sacred and crucial to life. This last group includes every atom up to every nebula as being of value and infused with divinity. This last group is growing fast, some call it Oprah-ism, but it is not really that recent of an idea. The idea began with myth perhaps of polytheism, but later it has been buttressed by Science and such theories as Evolution, genetics, ecology and Biophilia.
Regardless of whether a Deity is involved, it is clear to science, that in fact, there are no individuals that are not composed of everything else. The human body is a constellation, for example, of ninety percent non human life forms. The body lives in organized systems that provide breathe, (oxygen) food, (all plants and animals) and all resources for shelter, fuel, tools, and so on. Human communities are among these resources, and evolution dictates that humans usually depend greatly upon all others, including non human animals. Science sees dynamic constant exchange of elements, where others see individual and separate beings. Humans, do however, have a more developed mind, and greater command of tools. Superiority, however, would suggest they master garbage, trash, toxins, war and insanity more skillfully.
Despite human superiority, some animals are of greater service to humanity, than some people, when their contribution is recognized. To take just one species, dogs, please examine what they do. Dogs save lives as police and fire rescue workers. They sniff out bombs, disease, drugs and more. They detect cancer and illness. They help hunt, and herd. They are sacrificed in animal testing for human consumer needs. They protect and defend life and property as guard dogs. They provide loyalty, love and devotion to young and old. They often save lives just by nature of being companions and stress reduction resources. They indulge masters with agility training, silly costumes, grey hound racing and more. And let’s not forget the cute puppy factor in marketing, PR, and even getting dates for owners!
Dogs give in great service, while not consuming as much resources as humans do. They are yet not considered, equal or even of much contemplation for their service as seen by an overwhelming willingness for people to let them starve, be over-bred, be confined, fought, and so on. Yet, in the 21st century people are increasingly demanding that cruelty hurts humans by making humans less humane. This seems a healthy trend. Still dogs eat meat, isn’t that a burden to the Earth? Only if humans encourage over-breeding. Dogs are one example, what humans need to live are millions upon billions of living systems such as “the dog.”
Some say meat is murder. But most people do not feel that way about it. And certainly, all non human animals, do not consider that killing to eat is murder. It follows from biological instinct. Does this failure to consider others make animals “less than human?” Does it then follow that because they do not care to contemplate the suffering of “victims” that they are inferior in mind, and or body? Most people say no.
People of faith will immediately respond that man is made in God’s own image. However, the bible and other texts of other faiths say “Let US make man in OUR own image. There is reason to think that all the other sacred beings, solar systems and living entities of the creation ARE the very divine ones in which the human image is made. Most animals are, after all, as confirmed by Darwin, related. They breathe air, hunt or graze for food, and share DNA, as well as the ninety percent non human, dog, cat, bear ( or whatever they be), microbiology that life forms are composed of to exist.
Modern age ecology suggests that a rigid idea of hierarchy, although often based upon looking at the animal kingdoms, does not fully serve human needs very well. In ancient times, a sense originated toward a hierarchy of being. There were some men, women, slaves, serfs, and “okay to exploit “categories. The problem today is nature, and the whole creation, is under threat from humanity feeling insecure in their privileged status. This is because, starting with human beings, those most exploited, slaves, foreigners, immigrants, women, children, etc. began to protest that it is unethical and immoral to exploit their group. Forests, chickens and coral reefs are mute in their protestations, however, and that is a hazard for humans who threaten sustainability of living systems.
Is liberating all other exploited categories the natural progression of evolving humanity, social science and need for kinship belonging? It certainly does seem apparent, even before Oprah, that appreciating, even admiring, the beauty and intelligence of all creation is of greater value than exploiting it to extinction to prove human “superiority.” Arrogance, is the deadliest sin for planets.
That method did not work in ancient slave times when Hebrews were exploited, or later when those of opposing faith were exploited, or when witches were burned, or infidels tortured, or colonies founded on slavery. It just fell apart as people created wiser systems of acceptance. Civilization forged greater resilience and strength when all beings were recognized for their intrinsic value.
Ironically, however, despite human mind and consciousness improving conditions for the exploited, over time, it is in serious danger today.
Today, having separated from all other organism, to the point where rather than appreciating them, humans are often completely disconnected from where food, air, water and soil come from. Thus, humans suffer. They are so successful in banishing the rest of nature that humans do not want to know, or care, how animals live, whether forests thrive and if humans will survive their heavy footprint upon the creation. The worst case scenario is climate change, or resulting resource war and epidemic destruction.
It would seem logical that appreciating the earth, the creation, the inter-active systems that allow life, would be a positive progression. For the moment, however, there are many ideological obstacles to such progress. Many people desperately want o believe they are superior to other life because they want to belong.
The further irony is that humans belong, and have lost a sense of belonging. To regain it, humans can choose to be aware of exploitation, and to not trash, destroy or devalue anything that sustains the miracle of inter-dependent “US.” Accepting the truth of evolution and biology is of great help in this. Earth, for now, is the natural creation to which human beings can thrive only when they admit belonging.