The single greatest conceit of the human animal is that humans like it are somehow more conscious or self-aware than the beings who make up the rest of the animal kingdom. This belief is not only insane and irrational, but it has had devastating consequences for the rest of the Earth.
When it comes down to it, no-one has any fucking idea who or what else is conscious. This follows simple logic. After all, how could we possibly know? Each one of us can assert with absolute certainty that, as an individual, they are conscious, because being conscious of your own consciousness is sufficient evidence that it exists. But this gets taken to illogical conclusions.
The vast majority of humans labour under the erroneous assumption that other creatures are only conscious to the degree that they are like those humans. A chimpanzee is considered to be very similar to us relative to the rest of the animal kingdom (and it is if the comparison is made in physical and anatomical terms), but this has no relevance to whether or not the chimpanzee is conscious.
If we can’t observe or measure consciousness in other humans, then we can’t measure it in other creatures either. So if consciousness has never and can never be either observed or measured in other creatures, then any belief about the consciousness of another creature must of necessity be an article of faith.
Simple enough, but the difficulty arises when this iron-clad logic meets the infinite human capacity for self-delusion. The vast majority of people make the erroneous assumption that their brain generates consciousness and therefore that other creatures are similar to the extent that their brains are believed to be similar.
But this is pure superstition, and not logical.
Even worse, despite being a majority, are those who assume that they are superior to all creatures of “lesser” consciousness, and that the supposed lower consciousness of other creatures give us a green light to abuse and exploit them.
It’s common for humans to look at a cat and think we see an animal that is uncomprehending of the greater existential questions, but how can we rule out that the cat has long since solved all these questions and is now blase about them, to the point that any human wondering about them merely appears sophomoric?
How can we know that the cat, who sleeps 15 hours a day, isn’t meditating for most of this time? Cats might all be spiritual masters on the order of Buddha.
How do we know that the ant that appears to go forward mindlessly, isn’t at perfect peace with its role in the world and accepts it without reservation?
The logical flaw is also evident if one observes that many people are willing to assume that these creatures have less consciousness on account of that they didn’t evolve as much of it as we did – but they aren’t willing to make the same assumptions of different races, even though the logic is the same.
The argument that differing selection pressures could account for differences in consciousness between humans and the other mammals, but could not also account for differences in consciousness between white people and black people, is a contradiction on its face.
Humanity’s greatest conceit is that our consciousness is somehow more special or worthy of not suffering than the consciousness of other creatures, and this line of reasoning is what has enabled the rape of the planet that has occurred over the last century.
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