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Human exceptionalism: You can be a good or a bad human but you can’t just be an animal

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Melanie Challenger, author of How to Be Animal (2021), thinks that human exceptionalism is dead and that we should embrace our true animal nature:

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A four-word response to all this: Lord of the Flies

“The novel told the gripping story of a group of adolescent boys stranded on a deserted island after a plane wreck. Lord of the Flies explored the savage side of human nature as the boys, let loose from the constraints of society, brutally turned against one another in the face of an imagined enemy. ”

The wish to escape it all by going “wild” is understandable. But the truth is, we don’t have a “true animal nature.” Animals can’t reason. But humans can’t not reason. We can’t escape knowing both good and evil and the constant struggle between them by becoming more like animals.

When we try to escape into being animals, all that happens is that we reason badly and become bad humans. And the moment we even bring reason into the discussion — well, that’s precisely what human exceptionalism is about!

Denyse O’Leary, “There is no escape from human exceptionalism” at Mind Matters News

You may also wish to read:

The real reason why only human beings speak. Language is a tool for abstract thinking—a necessary tool for abstraction—and humans are the only animals who think abstractly. (Michael Egnor)

11 Replies to “Human exceptionalism: You can be a good or a bad human but you can’t just be an animal

  1. 1
    mahuna says:

    Um, for children who grow up without ANY normal human socialization, you get hairless monkeys who can NEVER become truly human. This was a problem with East European (Communist) orphanages. I think Romania was especially bad. The inmates received NONE of the normal human socialization, had no “mother” and not even the SUGGESTION of a father, and did not recognize ANY of the other inmates as sisters, brothers, cousins, etc. This was a COMPLETE disaster and an entire generation of children had to be written off as “not socializable”. I think “wolf boy” children who grow up alone, away from other humans have the same problem: they CANNOT understand normal human society or their place in it.
    The distance a newborn human’s eye can focus is around 18 inches. This is the same distance as a baby’s face from his mother’s face as the baby suckles on mommy’s breast. Humans are pack animals. We NEED to live in a group of other humans in order to BE human. Otherwise we’d just be REALLY bad chimps.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    Well Mahuna, now I can see where orphans and ‘wolf children’, who were raised without any normal human socialization. would have an extremely difficult time fitting into human society, but for you to call them “hairless monkeys”, not “truly human”, “pack animals.”, and “REALLY bad chimps” is just pure, over the top, Darwinian hyperbole on your part.

    In fact, and in regards Romanian orphans and ‘wolf children’, we find, with just a little searching on Google, that your claim that they are “hairless monkeys”, not “truly human”, “pack animals.”, and “REALLY bad chimps” falls rather short of your over the top hyperbolic Darwinian claims:

    Excerpt: The first time Nathan Fox, PhD, stepped into a Romanian orphanage, he was struck by the silence. “The most remarkable thing about the infant room was how quiet it was, probably because the infants had learned that their cries were not responded to,”,,,
    Fox, along with colleagues Charles Nelson, PhD, at Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital Boston, and Charles Zeanah, MD, at Tulane University, have followed those children for 14 years.,,,
    They found many profound problems among the children who had been born into neglect. Institutionalized children had delays in cognitive function, motor development and language. They showed deficits in socio-emotional behaviors and experienced more psychiatric disorders. They also showed changes in the patterns of electrical activity in their brains, as measured by EEG.
    https://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/06/neglect

    Victor of Aveyron: A feral child who supposedly lived in the French wilderness until he was 12
    Jun 21, 2017 Domagoj Valjak
    “Feral child” is a term used to describe youngsters who grew up isolated from human communities and have never been accustomed to fundamental conventions such as language, education and rules for socially acceptable behavior. Throughout history, cases of feral children have been documented. In many such instances, the children were raised by wild animals, people believed. However, in recent times, the authenticity of many of these cases has been challenged.
    In reality, “feral children” rarely integrated fully into society. The lack of proper care, emotional stimulation, and education hindered their social progress and delayed their mental development. Feral children often became the subjects of scientific studies and debates that stigmatized them and turned them into lab subjects, used to prove scientific theories.
    Such was the case of Victor of Aveyron, a French feral boy who lived in the woods of the Aveyron region in the late 1790s and was allegedly raised by wolves. Victor had reportedly been sighted by local villagers as early as 1794, and in 1797, he was caught by local hunters and brought to a town. A young widow cared for him there for several months, but he managed to escape and return to the woods. He voluntarily emerged from the woods in 1800.
    When Victor of Aveyron was found, the Enlightenment movement was in full swing; many prominent scientists of the time believed that the ability to learn and abide by conventions is the only feature which differentiates humans from animals.,,,
    https://www.thevintagenews.com/2017/06/21/victor-of-aveyron-a-feral-child-who-supposedly-lived-in-the-french-wilderness-until-he-was-12/

    Victor of Aveyron – recent commentary
    Excerpt: Professor Uta Frith has stated she believes Victor displayed signs of autism.[17][18] Serge Aroles, in his book L’énigme des enfants-loups (The Mystery of the Wolf-Children), also believes that surviving accounts of his behavior point to “a moderate degree of autism” (autisme moderé) in Victor’s case.[19]:212 Aroles notes that Victor showed characteristic signs of mental derangement, like grinding of the teeth, incessant rocking back and forth, and sudden, spasmodic movements.[19]:211
    In March 2008, following the disclosure that Misha Defonseca’s best-selling book, later turned into film Survivre avec les loups (‘Survival with the Wolves’) was a hoax, there was a debate in the French media (newspapers, radio and television)[20][21] concerning the numerous false cases of feral children uncritically believed.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victor_of_Aveyron#Recent_commentary

    As is obvious, the reality of the situation paints a very different picture than the Darwinian narrative that Mahuna was falsely trying to portray. i.e. “hairless monkeys”, not “truly human”, “pack animals.”, and “REALLY bad chimps”,,,

    And that ‘distortion of evidence’ is inevitably how it always turns out to be with all the supposed ”scientific evidence” that Darwinists put forth for their theory. i.e. Pure Hyperbole with little connection to the real world!

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    And indeed, when we look at the scientific evidence soberly, instead of with a Darwinian bias that desperately wants to sees proof for Darwinian evolution in the shadow of every human imagination, we find that the scientific evidence itself paints a VERY different picture for humans than the picture Mahuna falsely imagines of “hairless monkeys”, not “truly human”, “pack animals.”, and “REALLY bad chimps”,,,

    For instance, the fossil and genetic evidence, directly contrary to what Darwinists imagine, is NOT nearly as conducive to the Darwinian narrative of human evolution as Darwinists falsely imagine it to be.

    Sept. 2020 – Refutation of Human Evolution – Fossil Record and Genetics
    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/debunking-another-claim-that-an-alleged-pillar-of-human-exceptionalism-has-fallen/?fbclid=IwAR0TxMdkHCp0XbQ3-JysWOzPRBJ-BOHEfubGO6w0vX8oOay1Uv-9i34HZHA#comment-713398

    And while the fossil record and genetics are themselves far more discordant with Darwinian claims than Darwinists imagine them to be, the one place that even leading Darwinists themselves admit that they have no clue how a uniquely human trait could have possibly evolved is with human language.

    In 2014 a group of leading evolutionary scientists honestly stated that, after 4 decades of intense research, they have “essentially no explanation of how and why our linguistic computations and representations evolved.,,,”

    Leading Evolutionary Scientists Admit We Have No Evolutionary Explanation of Human Language – December 19, 2014
    Excerpt: Understanding the evolution of language requires evidence regarding origins and processes that led to change. In the last 40 years, there has been an explosion of research on this problem as well as a sense that considerable progress has been made. We argue instead that the richness of ideas is accompanied by a poverty of evidence, with essentially no explanation of how and why our linguistic computations and representations evolved.,,,
    (Marc Hauser, Charles Yang, Robert Berwick, Ian Tattersall, Michael J. Ryan, Jeffrey Watumull, Noam Chomsky and Richard C. Lewontin, “The mystery of language evolution,” Frontiers in Psychology, Vol 5:401 (May 7, 2014).)
    Casey Luskin added: “It’s difficult to imagine much stronger words from a more prestigious collection of experts.”
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....92141.html

    And as the following 2019 article states, “There is no evidence that great apes, however sophisticated, have any of the crucial distinguishing features of language and ample evidence that they do not. Claims made in favor of their semantic powers, we might observe, are wrong.”

    The Siege of Paris – Robert Berwick & Noam Chomsky – March 2019
    Excerpt: Linguists told themselves many stories about the evolution of language, and so did evolutionary biologists; but stories, as Richard Lewontin rightly notes, are not hypotheses, a term that should be “reserved for assertions that can be tested.”4
    The human language faculty is a species-specific property, with no known group differences and little variation. There are no significant analogues or homologues to the human language faculty in other species.5,,,
    How far back does language go? There is no evidence of significant symbolic activity before the appearance of anatomically modern humans 200 thousand years ago (kya).22,,,
    There is no evidence that great apes, however sophisticated, have any of the crucial distinguishing features of language and ample evidence that they do not.48 Claims made in favor of their semantic powers, we might observe, are wrong. Recent research reveals that the semantic properties of even the simplest words are radically different from anything in animal symbolic systems.49,,,
    Why only us?,,, We were not, of course, the first to ask them. We echo in modern terms the Cartesian philosophers Antoine Arnauld and Claude Lancelot, seventeenth-century authors of the Port-Royal Grammar, for whom language with its infinite combinatorial capacity wrought from a finite inventory of sounds was uniquely human and the very foundation of thought. It is subtle enough to express all that we can conceive, down to the innermost and “diverse movements of our souls.”
    https://inference-review.com/article/the-siege-of-paris
    Robert Berwick is a Professor in the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems at MIT.
    Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor and Professor of Linguistics (Emeritus) at MIT.

    The late best selling author Tom Wolfe was so taken aback by the honest confession by leading Darwinists in 2014 that he wrote a book on the subject., “The Kingdom of Speech”,,

    In his book he argued,

    “Speech is 95 percent plus of what lifts man above animal! Physically, man is a sad case. His teeth, including his incisors, which he calls eyeteeth, are baby-size and can barely penetrate the skin of a too-green apple. His claws can’t do anything but scratch him where he itches. His stringy-ligament body makes him a weakling compared to all the animals his size. Animals his size? In hand-to-paw, hand-to-claw, or hand-to-incisor combat, any animal his size would have him for lunch. Yet man owns or controls them all, every animal that exists, thanks to his superpower: speech.”
    -Tom Wolfe, in the introduction to his book, The Kingdom of Speech

    In other words, humans have, completely contrary to Darwinian ‘survival of the fittest’ thinking, managed to become masters of the planet, not by brute force, but simply by our unique ability to communicate information and also to, specifically, infuse information into material substrates in order to create, i.e. intelligently design, objects that are extremely useful for our defense, basic survival in procuring food, furtherance of our knowledge, and also for our pleasure.

    And although the ‘top-down’ infusion of immaterial information into material substrates, that allowed humans to become ‘masters of the planet’, was rather crude to begin with, (i.e. spears, arrows, and plows etc..), this top down infusion of immaterial information into material substrates has become much more impressive over the last half century or so.
    Specifically, the ‘top-down’ infusion of mathematical and/or logical information into material substrates lies at the very basis of many, if not all, of man’s most stunning, almost miraculous, technological advances in recent decades.

    For instance,

    Describing Nature With Math By Peter Tyson – Nov. 2011
    Excerpt: Mathematics underlies virtually all of our technology today. James Maxwell’s four equations summarizing electromagnetism led directly to radio and all other forms of telecommunication. E = mc2 led directly to nuclear power and nuclear weapons. The equations of quantum mechanics made possible everything from transistors and semiconductors to electron microscopy and magnetic resonance imaging.
    Indeed, many of the technologies you and I enjoy every day simply would not work without mathematics. When you do a Google search, you’re relying on 19th-century algebra, on which the search engine’s algorithms are based. When you watch a movie, you may well be seeing mountains and other natural features that, while appearing as real as rock, arise entirely from mathematical models. When you play your iPod, you’re hearing a mathematical recreation of music that is stored digitally; your cell phone does the same in real time.
    “When you listen to a mobile phone, you’re not actually hearing the voice of the person speaking,” Devlin told me. “You’re hearing a mathematical recreation of that voice. That voice is reduced to mathematics.”
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/p.....-math.html

    What is more interesting still about the fact that humans have a unique ability to understand and create information, and have become ‘masters of the planet’ through the ‘top-down’ infusion of information into material substrates, is the fact that, due to advances in science, both the universe and life itself, are now found to be ‘information theoretic’ in their foundational basis.

    As Vlatko Vedral, who is a Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford, and who is also a recognized leader in the field of quantum mechanics, states that,

    “The most fundamental definition of reality is not matter or energy, but information–and it is the processing of information that lies at the root of all physical, biological, economic, and social phenomena.”
    – Vlatko Vedral – Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford, and CQT (Centre for Quantum Technologies) at the National University of Singapore, and a Fellow of Wolfson College – a recognized leader in the field of quantum mechanics.

    It is hard to imagine a more convincing proof that we are made ‘in the image of God’, than finding that both the universe and life itself are ‘information theoretic’ in their foundational basis, and that we, of all the creatures on earth, uniquely possess an ability to understand and create information, and have come to ‘master the planet’ precisely because of our ability infuse information into material substrates.

    Genesis 1:26-27
    And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
    So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

    John 1:1-4
    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

    Obviously, a more convincing proof that we are made in the image of God would be if God Himself became a man, defeated death on a cross, and then rose from the dead to prove that He was God.

    And that just so happens to be precisely the proof claimed within Christianity.

    Shroud of Turin: From discovery of Photographic Negative, to 3D Information, to 3D Hologram
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-TL4QOCiis

    The evidence for the Shroud’s authenticity keeps growing. (Timeline of facts) – November 08, 2019
    What Is the Shroud of Turin? Facts & History Everyone Should Know – Myra Adams and Russ Breault
    https://www.christianity.com/wiki/jesus-christ/what-is-the-shroud-of-turin.html

    Verse and video:

    Colossians 1:15-20
    The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

    Jesus Christ as the correct “Theory of Everything” – video
    https://youtu.be/Vpn2Vu8–eE

  4. 4
    EDTA says:

    There’s too much “embracing our animal nature” going on out there, and we need a lot less of it or it’s going to get a lot of us killed off.

  5. 5
    paige says:

    I don’t know what’s worse, embracing our animal nature, or pretending it doesn’t exist.

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    Just how much of an animal do you want to be Paige? I don’t think it is nearly as romantic as you imagine it to be,

    Daniel 4
    24 “This is the interpretation, Your Majesty, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king: 25 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes. 26 The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules. 27 Therefore, Your Majesty, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.”
    28 All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”

    31 Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. 32 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.”

    33 Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.

    34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.

    His dominion is an eternal dominion;
    his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
    35 All the peoples of the earth
    are regarded as nothing.
    He does as he pleases
    with the powers of heaven
    and the peoples of the earth.
    No one can hold back his hand
    or say to him: “What have you done?”
    36 At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.
    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Daniel%204&version=NIV

  7. 7
    paige says:

    BA77

    Just how much of an animal do you want to be Paige?

    Sorry, but if you can extrapolate this from my comment, I don’t see any value in engaging in discussion with you.

  8. 8
    Seversky says:

    Bornagain77/6

    Just how much of an animal do you want to be Paige? I don’t think it is nearly as romantic as you imagine it to be,

    Why should we be ashamed of what we are ?

    Animals (also called Metazoa) are multicellular eukaryotic organisms that form the biological kingdom Animalia. With few exceptions, animals consume organic material, breathe oxygen, are able to move, can reproduce sexually, and grow from a hollow sphere of cells, the blastula, during embryonic development. Over 1.5 million living animal species have been described—of which around 1 million are insects—but it has been estimated there are over 7 million animal species in total. Animals range in length from 8.5 micrometres (0.00033 in) to 33.6 metres (110 ft). They have complex interactions with each other and their environments, forming intricate food webs. The scientific study of animals is known as zoology.

    Most living animal species are in Bilateria, a clade whose members have a bilaterally symmetric body plan. The Bilateria include the protostomes—in which many groups of invertebrates are found, such as nematodes, arthropods, and molluscs—and the deuterostomes, containing both the echinoderms as well as the chordates, the latter containing the vertebrates. Life forms interpreted as early animals were present in the Ediacaran biota of the late Precambrian. Many modern animal phyla became clearly established in the fossil record as marine species during the Cambrian explosion, which began around 542 million years ago. 6,331 groups of genes common to all living animals have been identified; these may have arisen from a single common ancestor that lived 650 million years ago.

  9. 9
    Seversky says:

    EDTA/4

    There’s too much “embracing our animal nature” going on out there, and we need a lot less of it or it’s going to get a lot of us killed off.

    Perhaps if we got rid of the conceit that we are so exceptional that we can do what we like to every other creature who is not, we would all be better off.

  10. 10
    bornagain77 says:

    Seversky, might it be too obvious to point out, in your rush to physically classify humans as animals, and nothing more, that you are missing a rather huge elephant in your intellectual living room?

    “We are unique and alone now in the world. There is no other animal species that truly resembles our own. A physical and mental chasm separates us from all other living creatures. There is no other bipedal mammal. No other mammal controls and uses fire, writes books, travels in space, paints portraits, or prays. This is not a question of degree. It is all or nothing: there is no semi-bipedal animal, none that makes only small fires, writes only short sentences, builds only rudimentary spaceships, draws just a little bit, or prays only occasionally.
    The extraordinary originality of our species is not common in the living world. Most species belong to groups of similar ones.,,”
    – Juan Arsuaga (paleoanthropologist) – The Neanderthals Necklace – 2002 – page 3-4

    Namely, and intellectually speaking, “We are more different from apes than apes are from viruses.”

    The Fundamental Difference Between Humans and Nonhuman Animals
    Michael Egnor – November 5, 2015
    Excerpt: Nonhuman animals are purely material beings.,,,
    A human being is material and immaterial — a composite being. We have material bodies, ,, But our intellect — our ability to think abstractly — is a wholly immaterial power,,, It is in our ability to think abstractly that we differ from apes. It is a radical difference — an immeasurable qualitative difference, not a quantitative difference.
    We are more different from apes than apes are from viruses. Our difference is a metaphysical chasm.
    https://evolutionnews.org/2015/11/the_fundamental_2/

    Darwin himself, in trying to classify man as a purely physical being, (as merely an animal), was chastised, even warned, by Adam Sedgwick himself for missing this rather huge metaphysical elephant in his intellectual living room.

    Specifically Sedgwick stated, “There is a moral or metaphysical part of nature as well as a physical. A man who denies this is deep in the mire of folly.”

    From Adam Sedgwick – 24 November 1859 – Cambridge
    My dear Darwin,
    Excerpt: I have read your book with more pain than pleasure. Parts of it I admired greatly; parts I laughed at till my sides were almost sore; other parts I read with absolute sorrow; because I think them utterly false & grievously mischievous. You have deserted—after a start in that tram-road of all solid physical truth—the the true method of induction—& started up a machinery as wild I think as Bishop Wilkin’s locomotive that was to sail with us to the Moon. Many of your wide conclusions are based upon assumptions which can neither be proved nor disproved. Why then express them in the language & arrangements of philosophical induction?.
    As to your grand principle—natural selection—what is it but a secondary consequence of supposed, or known, primary facts. Development is a better word because more close to the cause of the fact.,,,
    You write of “natural selection” as if it were done consciously by the selecting agent.,,,
    We all admit development as a fact of history; but how came it about?,,,
    There is a moral or metaphysical part of nature as well as a physical. A man who denies this is deep in the mire of folly. Tis the crown & glory of organic science that it does thro’ final cause , link material to moral; & yet does not allow us to mingle them in our first conception of laws, & our classification of such laws whether we consider one side of nature or the other— You have ignored this link; &, if I do not mistake your meaning, you have done your best in one or two pregnant cases to break it. Were it possible (which thank God it is not) to break it, humanity in my mind, would suffer a damage that might brutalize it—& sink the human race into a lower grade of degradation than any into which it has fallen since its written records tell us of its history.,,,
    in speculating upon organic descent, you over state the evidence of geology; & that you under state it while you are talking of the broken links of your natural pedigree:,,,
    Lastly then, I greatly dislike the concluding chapter—not as a summary—for in that light it appears good—but I dislike it from the tone of triumphant confidence in which you appeal to the rising generation (in a tone I condemned in the author of the Vestiges),7 & prophesy of things not yet in the womb of time; nor, (if we are to trust the accumulated experience of human sense & the inferences of its logic) ever likely to be found any where but in the fertile womb of man’s imagination.—
    https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-2548.xml

    Seversky, might it also be too obvious to point out that the fossil and genetic evidence is now known to not be nearly as conducive to your Darwinian worldview as your cited quote implies?

    Sept. 2020 – Refutation of Human Evolution – Fossil Record and Genetics
    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/debunking-another-claim-that-an-alleged-pillar-of-human-exceptionalism-has-fallen/?fbclid=IwAR0TxMdkHCp0XbQ3-JysWOzPRBJ-BOHEfubGO6w0vX8oOay1Uv-9i34HZHA#comment-713398

  11. 11
    EDTA says:

    Sev,

    >Perhaps if we got rid of the conceit that we are so exceptional that we can do what we like to every other creature who is not,…

    But under materialism, with no free will, then “conceit” is just a fancy emotional name for our instincts, which we can’t not follow, right? You might try to argue that we are more than mere instinctual creatures, but how can that be done without invoking some kind of exceptionalism?

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