…just like everybody else

I covered the first point two days ago, which had to do with the nature of scientific inquiry. Yesterday’s was about Biblical literalism. Today’s is a little more philosophical – but don’t let that scare you off.

My co-worker said (and I’m paraphrasing, of course): “We are God’s special creation. We haven’t seen any other planets with life on it, so that makes us special.”

Which strikes me as a flimsy way to get your self-esteem.

What happens when we do find evidence of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe? That statement does not allow for any wiggle room – either we are special because we are alone in the universe, or the entire belief structure falls into shards.

We can guess what would happen by looking at history. The “alone in the universe” statement has its roots in the more common objection of: “We’re God’s special creation, not just descended from monkeys.” [1]

And I think that’s a big part of the reason that evolutionary theory has met with such resistance. Culturally, humans were used to thinking of themselves as unique – and therefore special and valuable because of it. The last two centuries have been bad for that point of view. Darwin started to point out our commonalities with the rest of nature in the 19th century. Scientists throughout the 20th century have demonstrated that qualities we thought were uniquely human – intelligence, self-awareness, language use, societies, laughter – are not so unique after all.

Culturally, we have been acting like an older sibling, jealous that we have to share the stage with a new baby.

But we are special – in a way that these Creationist arguments miss. We are each unique, just like everyone else.

Yeah, I know, you read that like sarcasm. Go back and read it again – but not sarcastically. You are unique. [2] That combination of DNA, those two particular cells will not exist again. The events that have shaped your life, let alone your individual way of perceiving them, are unique. Even if we were to clone you, and have that clone be with you every moment of your life, it would not be you.

You are special.

And you don’t need to ignore any science to believe that.

[1] Yes, I know. Apes. Because if it doesn’t have a tail it’s not a monkey.
[2] Yes, I’m cribbing from Watchmen. Because it’s a good point.

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