With the world’s population topping 8 billion last year, it’s clear that humans have achieved a unique status in Earth’s history. We are the only creature that dominate all other organisms on the planet, from animals and fungi to plants and microbes.
It remains to be seen whether humans can retain this dominance as we push the global climate to extremes while driving to extinction the very organisms that we climbed over to get to the top.
In a new book, a group of scientists and philosophers places part of the blame on an attitude prevalent among scientists and the general public — the false belief that species are uniquely real, and that some species are superior to others.
To the researchers, this is analogous to racism — the fallacious belief that races exist as branches on the tree of life, and that some races are superior to others.
“People these days are very conscious of how evil it is for one group of people to think that they’re superior to another race, and yet the same people who are very woke about that are perfectly happy to say, well, humans are in charge of everything, so the rest of the world is ours to use as we see fit,” said Brent Mishler, professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and co-editor and co-author of the book with UC Berkeley Ph.D. recipient and former postdoctoral fellow Brian Swartz.