Are Humans Really That Special?
Travel enough in the creationist circles and one will come across a collection of arguments and circumstantial perceptions that amount to the following:
- The universe is finely tuned for life.
- Human beings are separate and distinct from the animal kingdom.
- Human beings are designed.
- Human beings are the pinnacle of creation.
- The universe was designed for humans in mind.
- Given the above, God is the creator and wants a relationship with humans.
If my reader is like me, you will find the above replete with problems, some of which I will attempt to tackle in this post. Specifically I will focus my rebut on the idea that humans are special, and that their specialness is somehow a hallmark of design and consideration by a creator.
Created vs. Evolved
"Man in his arrogance thinks himself a great work, worthy the interposition of a great deity. More humble and I believe true to consider him created from animals." — Charles Darwin
The first and obvious misapplication of science in a creationist's view on humanity is the idea man was created, rather than evolved. While we will not address the science and study of human evolution here, suffice it to say such is a settled fact in scientific thought. As such, the immediate implication that man is somehow separated apart from animal taxonomically and intrinsically is absurd. It is proper to view man as animal and not in any way more necessarily special or different than other animals. Note that this also includes the stepping in evolutionary progress -- man is not more highly evolved! All animals are just as evolved in the evolutionary timeline; they have all had the same time to adapt and "progress."
This is not to say that man has no more value than animals. This is an important point -- as even today it remains a part of creationist propaganda to say evolutionists or scientists or atheists hold no more value in humans than animals. Note that some people (scientists, evolutionists, atheists) do hold that view, but not all. I will also argue here that humanity can be considered valuable while not being distinct from animals.
A Short Word on Fine-Tuning
I do not have the space in this post to address all the weaknesses and misunderstandings present in the fine-tuning argument to adequately cover it. The important point I will make in this post is that the fine-tuning argument is often applied to humanity and life in general, which in my mind has the same leap in logic of assuming a personal god from an argument for a deistic creator.
The fine-tuning seeks to prove that our universe is finely "adjusted," and must therefore need a guiding figure to manage said adjustments. However, to then jump to saying that those adjustments must also prove our universe is designed for life is to skip an ocean of other considerations about our universe. For instance, our universe is really mostly made of nothing, and that nothing is mostly comprised of space -- a vast emptiness of nothing squared. To say that the universe is designed for life is to forget that space is not for life, and the math suggests that our universe is actually made for nothing -- as nothing is the occupant!
"The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be." — Douglas Adams
Inherent to the idea within human specialness in the universe is a level of arrogance and narcissism. It authors the conversation as "Look at me and look how special I am. I am amazed at all of this is for me."
Imagine a child having the same perspective when looking around your house -- how special it is that everything has been child-proofed for them and that the fact that there is dinner every night and a warm bed for them to sleep in and attention when they need it -- that somehow they are the reason the house was built and designed for them. How ridiculous would that be!
"This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for." — Douglas Adams
Value, Despite Lack of Specialness
Finally as an atheist, I do still hold that humans do have value, and that value is different than the value we place on animals. As a layman on the subject of ethics, I will pitifully fail to provide a robust defense of why I think this, but it boils down to the rational thinking that we have and our ability to realize ourselves are actors in the world around us. To my knowledge, no animal has the same level of reason and consciousness as humans. Additionally, we as a species are more inclined -- from a biological viewpoint -- to concern ourselves with our own species and develop emotions and reactions to our own kind. Our continued effort to help, assist, team up with, and serve other humans is biologically derived.
"We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special." — Stephen Hawking