Human Centric Philosophies: the most childish way to look at the creation
The work of Charles Darwin has implications far beyond science. His revolutionary insights have changed the way we think about society, ethics, and religion. By providing an account of the origin and diversity of organisms, Darwin was seen as mounting a serious challenge to Abrahamic religious understandings of the creation of the world and humankind.
Mark Twain was another important personality challenged the human centric philosophies of such religious beliefs. He was a great American humorist, journalist, lecturer, and novelist who acquired international fame for his travel narratives. Twain was fascinated with science and scientific inquiry. He was critical of organized religion and certain elements of Christianity through his later life. He wrote, for example, “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so”, and “If Christ were here now there is one thing he would not be – a Christian”. Letters from the Earth is a posthumously published work of Mark Twain about morality and religion and strikes a sarcastic tone. He mocked the belief in human supremacy – Anthropocentrism – a belief that human beings are the most important entity in the universe. Anthropocentrism interprets or regards the world in terms of human values and experiences.
This idea of earth being the centre of the universe and human beings are being in the image of god has made humanity so absolutely crude and insensitive to any other life on this planet. We humans have only existed for a tiny portion of the time that life has existed on earth. And this is but one of a zillion planets that might have life.
Compared to other Earth species, we’ve become particularly adept at creating and using tools. This gives us certain advantages. We can wield quite a bit of power over the environment and other species. We can also abuse this power and make mistakes along the way.
But there is no reason to think that the universe was designed in order for us to come into existence. Nor was it designed to cater to our whims. We’re doing pretty well here with our modern agriculture, medicine, Internet, etc. but we still battle against disease, natural disasters and one another to keep surviving.
If the universe were designed for us I think we’d have an easier time of it. We wouldn’t have people dying of starvation. People wouldn’t get diseases from impure drinking water. We’d be able to hold our own against other carnivores— even without our tools, and we’d be less likely to go to war.
But that’s not the case. Given the myriad obstacles, it is amazing that we exist at all. Our ancestors had to survive innumerable challenges over the generations so that we could eventually be born. Our timing was right, as we live in a world with indoor plumbing, refrigeration and other developments in medical science. If I’d been born in a different time or place I may have died of cholera before my 12th birthday.
We humans have spread out across the planet, but we’re very dependent on our tools. If you set me down in the frozen north—without equipment and weapons—I could freeze to death, starve to death, be mauled by a bear, get lost on an ice floe, etc. It’s simply a question of which would kill me first. If this universe were human-centric it would be a very different sort of place.
Look at this image of Earth. This is a photo taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft on February 14th, 1990 from a distance of about 6,000,000,000 kilometers away. It has been famously featured in Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot”. During a public lecture at Cornell University in 1994, Carl Sagan presented this image to the audience and shared his reflections on the deeper meaning behind the idea of the Pale Blue Dot:
“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.”