Are humans better than other creatures? Do we have the right to use them for drug testing and experimentation? Are humans a plague that Earth would be better off without?
Human beings are definitely more intelligent than a number of other creatures. We have a convoluted neo-cortex and we are able to think, have cognitive memories, innovate and manupilate the environment in a way that suits us. Our brain is the reason we survive. It is our equivalent of the claws or thick armour-like skin other animals have. We use animals for drug testing because we would rather have a hundred mice dead than one of our loved ones. We research on them to satisfy our curiosity about how the world works.
That we do it, is blatant. But how can we judge ourselves? By what standards? Only ones we create ourselves. We are capable of empathy. We believe that what makes us feel good is right and what makes us feel bad is wrong. Our genes program our brains in a way that we are rewarded when we take care of someone, rescue a puppy, or fall in love, but punish us severely for hurting others or breaking up with a potential mate. The genes direct people to be kind by nature. (So why do we have anti-social elements; terrorism, crime, nastiness? It could be biology’s way of maintaining population. Maybe some of us are programmed to be our own threat because if not us, nothing else on Earth does threaten us.)
Our standards are derived from an inherent desire to survive. And at some level we do realise our interconnectedness and need of other life-forms to exist. So the most natural instinct is to protect existence. And we think this is good. Anything that works against it is bad.
What we don’t realise that as much as we love existence, we as humans are also programmed to seek more. To be more comfortable, to find out more things, to innovate more. This is the cause of our species’ cultural evolution.
Cultural and biological evolution come to conflict at times. But that’s a different story and doesn’t pertain to the core of this flow.
To answer the third question, we are not a plague. We have evolved from Earth and ofcourse there is no denying our growth has caused problems but Earth and life on Earth will go on with or without us. All we have a say about is whether we want to be part of the future. We as a species must make that choice and stick to what comes with it.
Here’s another question: Is change possible? Can we all make this choice and stick to what needs to be done to carry it out? This is where the problem lies. Most people who call themselves realists will say no. Change is not possible. I say to them, you know why it isn’t possible? Because you don’t ‘dare to disturb the universe’ (T.S. Eliot). You don’t dare to believe. And I am by no means saying that belief is enough to change the world. Belief that it is possible would be the first most basic step. Too many people accept things the way they are. Too few question. Too few dare not to ‘accept’. What kind of a life would it be if you took everything lying down? A life without hope that things could be different? A life without believing anything is possible?
And what difference does it make to the world that I am not a cynic? That no matter what life throws at me I still believe in the inherent goodness of people. I am just one person. But hey, all great oceans are made of small droplets aren’t they.