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The Forum > General Discussion > Human biases

Human biases

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On the discussion "A ChristMyth message an Atheist perspective", Jack the Lad implied that flies were lesser creatures than humans because they consumed faeces.

But faeces contain many useful nutrients. Flies have the capacity to utilise them without any adverse health affects. Why are they an inferior food source?

Yes, as humans we find them disgusting - because we are not evolved to be able to utilise faeces as a food source, and indeed they present a significant health risk. Likewise, we find grass generally unpleasant to chew on, and stones and dirt, despite the fact that many other species regularly consume both (though of course stones are of very little nutritional value, they're typically used to help digestion).

I've yet to see anyone give an objective reason why humans are "higher" than any other species. For every feature we excel at, one could surely list several that we don't.

Having said that, as a human being, I absolutely defend our right as a species to put ourselves first, and value human beings and human needs over other species. To do otherwise is absurd - are we supposed to campaign to save the smallpox virus?

If we want to save the whales, admit that we want to save them because as humans we find them beautiful, or sympathise with them because of their intelligence and shared mammalian characteristics.
And of course because hunting animals to extinction threatens the entire biosphere that supports us. But not because a whale is inherently more valuable than, say, a cockroach.
Posted by wizofaus, Thursday, 10 January 2008 9:36:24 AM
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BTW, I will offer one objective achievement of humans that other species are unlikely to ever match - being able to leave our planet and survive outside the atmosphere. If this eventually leads to the colonisation of outer space, we could not unreasonably rate ourselves as a more successful species than those that had remained earth-bound.
Posted by wizofaus, Friday, 11 January 2008 8:20:20 AM
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Oh lordy, are we really indulging Jack's need to be named KING OF ALL CREATURES. Of course, wizofaus, you're totally right.

There are a million ways of measuring success as an organism, but the most scientific are generally about reproduction and adaption, and those pesky viruses beat us every time. Not that there's anything wrong with viruses and bacteria - for every nasty we want to eradicate there's one that saves our lives, daily. Protecting our interests as a species means protecting our environment - external and internal. Because it protects us.

Cause imagine if we let Jack's fantasties run wild, and the earth became the site of a giant Organism War, and humans won, and defeated all the other animals and vanquished them. Well that would suck, cause we'd all, like, you know, die of hunger and stuff.

Interdependent, life, innit?
Posted by botheration, Friday, 11 January 2008 8:45:28 AM
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Actually, I'm halfway through reading a book 'plague's progress' at the moment, and it's quite fascinating. Gives me an entirely new view of viruses, and how they and man have adapted and played off one another over the years.

We view the common cold as a bad thing, but every time it comes around it gives our immune system an opportunity to cope and adapt. We tend to think evolution has been halted for humanity, but when you consider that todays version of the common cold would likely have killed people of the past who haven't had decades to adapt, it's quite interesting.

It's an old adage, but it's accurate - the simplest organism is often the most effective. It all depends on how you gauge what's of value in a species. As humans, we like to think things like culture, art and sophistication are important, but that's only when you put them on our scale of priorities, which of course, we often rate higher.

Your average bacteria couldn't give a damn... and they'll be around long after we're gone.
Posted by TurnRightThenLeft, Friday, 11 January 2008 9:12:38 AM
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Good to see that you all have a sense of humour. This site needs more comedy. Keep up the good work and I'll stick with my 'fantasies' of human achievement. If there are sexists and racists, am I a humanist in opposition to animalists (or insectiviles, virusphiliacs)? Or am I an animalphobe?

Flies may eat it but others talk and write it.

Then again, Wiz, you're a bit puzzling when you change tack to admitting that space travel puts us ahead.

botheration, where did you get the idea that I am fantasising about an 'organism' war. What were you on when you wrote that? I certainly wouldn't kill off all the cows cause then I would 'like, you know, die of hunger and stuff'.

TurnRightThenLeft's comments on the common cold are indeed correct though.
Posted by Jack the Lad, Friday, 11 January 2008 11:09:24 AM
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It's not space travel that puts us ahead, Jack, it's the ability to colonise outerspace. Were humans to ever truly colonise the galaxy, there could literally be thousands of trillions of us living on millions of planets and other worlds, which would put us ahead of other species on many objective measures.

As yet, we haven't really come very close to colonising outer-space, so while, for instance, landing on the moon counts as one of mankind's greatest technical feats, it's not worth much from an evolutionary or survival perspective.
Posted by wizofaus, Friday, 11 January 2008 11:29:23 AM
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