Tag Archive | Humanity

10 Reasons to be Proud of Humanity

I tend toward humanism in my views as a nontheist and skeptic. It’s a bias that I just can’t seem to help, though I’m very much aware of it, and let’s not confuse this with humanocentrism – I do not think that humans are the center, much less the end-all and be-all of the Cosmos.

We’re just one more way, as Carl Sagan put it, for the Cosmos to know itself, though not through any woo-ey mystical means, just the simple but profound fact that we are a part of the universe that is aware, however incompletely, of other parts, the observers within and part of the observed.

Here are ten things about this species of jumped-up plains-apes that give me pause when news of  adherence to dogmatic ideology, anti-intellectualism and irrationality rear their ugly heads.

  • Despite at least one, possibly several, near extinctions, we’ve survived and flourished, perhaps a bit too well, to the present day. We are the most successful, powerful, and ultimately dangerous, of all mammals on the planet.
  • We’ve learned enough about nature to allow us to produce enough food for billions of people…now if only we could distribute it where it’s most needed…
  • We are, as far as we definitively know, the only form of intelligent, technologically-empowered life in our region of the universe, though sometimes I have my doubts of even that…
  • We have invented science, our best way of understanding nature and of informing the human condition, and it is in no small part responsible for our success, though it could also mean our extinction if used foolishly.
  • Along with science, we’ve invented languages, both verbal and mathematical, many of these with rich vocabularies and a robust syntax, which when properly used, expand the range within which we can think in complex ways.
  • We’ve overcome all of our hominid rivals, including the Neandertals, and made it to the position of sole surviving member of genus Homo on Earth – I’m a little uncertain this is necessarily a good thing, but whatever sad implications it has on our ability to get along with others, here we are…
  • We survived the f**king ice age, and made it to today, just beginning with stone tools, garments of animal skins, crude but effective weapons, as bands of hunter/gatherers with brilliant minds for figuring out the most difficult of survival situations.
  • We’ve created, using our minds and hands, tools and instruments, from telescopes, microscopes, spectrometers, particle accelerators, computers, the written word, even simple everyday things like notepads and pencils, to assist our ability to think in ever more effective, profound, and complex ways. – Double the fun!
  • We’ve achieved complex intellectual endeavors built upon the work of both geniuses and madmen (sometimes one and the same) – such as our religious traditions, art, music, elaborate political & economic doctrines (some of these more or less in agreement with what actually works in practice), great works of literature, philosophy, history, mathematics, logic, rhetoric, and from the crossover of some of these, my favorite, argumentation.
  • We’ve launched ourselves into f**king interplanetary space, gone to the Moon and left our footprints! We’ve sent our emissaries to the other planets and beyond the reaches of our solar system. As we came to be from events in the Cosmos, so are we repaying that debt and journeying from our cradle to commune with the universe from whence we came. If only we can keep from killing ourselves off first…

Mark Pagel: How language transformed humanity

Here, Pagel discusses the most dangerous trait our species has ever evolved, our ability to learn through culture from others, and the problems of misusing this to steal the ideas of others through visual theft, and the effects this had on the evolution of our languages as a means of cooperation to sidestep it.

Language… It’s our means of transferring our thoughts to the minds of others through simple speech and writing, no special abilities needed, a natural outgrowth of the consequences of social learning, and our use of it that often frightens the powers that be into suppressing it.