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Human exceptionalism

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Human exceptionalism is the belief that humans are categorically or essentially different than all other animals. It is often argued on religious grounds where humans are the product of special creation by God, though secular arguments have also been advanced in favor of this concept.

Discovery Institute[edit]

The most recent usage of the phrase itself can be found in Discovery Institute propaganda. Like intelligent design, their use of the phrase basically amounts to creationism (specifically, baraminology) in a funny hat. The idea is that humans are unlike any other life form on earth, and never mind the repeated parallels biologists find with other animals, and the successful predictions they make based on that model, precisely as if humans were just another evolved life form that we had a pretty good idea where it fit in the tree of life.

The angle the DI uses for this one is to publish a newsletter called The Human Exceptionalist,[1] a "monthly" report on "the many emerging threats to human dignity and equality" published by the DI's "Center for Human Exceptionalism," headed by Wesley J. Smith.

The rationale is that western civilization "depends on accepting the moral importance of being human," and a conspiracy of "powerful and bounteously financed ideological forces in seemingly unrelated but actually symbiotically connected fields such as bioethics, radical environmentalism, neo-Darwinism, scientific materialism, animal rights, radical environmentalism, and futuristic transhumanism, assert with mounting vigor that being human is morally irrelevant."[yes, he said "radical environmentalism" twice] Western civilisation is good, therefore creationism should be true (an obvious moralistic fallacy and social constructionist outlook).[2]

Human exceptionalism is posited by Smith as a justifiable development from plain old anthropocentrism,Wikipedia but the phrase is all Smith's and the DI's.

Secular arguments[edit]

Although evolution has demonstrated that the difference between humans and other animals is one of degree and not kind,[3] some secular arguments for human exceptionalism are still made, usually based on traits that are perceived to be possessed only by humans. Culture and language are commonly offered up as support for this position; it is claimed that on account of culture or language, human behavior is no longer subject to natural selection, or that studying other animals is unlikely to shed light on human behavior. However, some anthropologists such as Craig Stanford argue that culture is not unique to humans based on the fact that other species (primates and birds) demonstrate the ability to develop technology (tool usage) and behavioral variation over different regions.[4]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. Introducing The Human Exceptionalist, A Monthly Newsletter of Discovery Institute. Archived from the original at, 8 November 2011.
  2. Introducing The Human Exceptionalistimg (Wesley J. Smith, Secondhand Smoke, 08 Nov 2011)
  3. Animal Minds and the Foibles of Human Exceptionalism, Marc Bekoff, Huffington Post
  4. Got Culture? Craig Stanford, Trojan Family Magazine