Thursday, September 18, 2014
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Higgs the Cat on the Folly of Human Exceptionalism

Higgs wonders why we humans are so obsessed with our uniqueness in the living world

Higgs the Cat on the Folly of Human Exceptionalism

F.F. I'm thinking about giving Higgs a chance to co-blog every Tuesday. Here are some of his most recent thoughts about evolution.

Higgs: After some months of co-blogging on the subject of evolution, I’ve learned that humanity has a strange obsession with finding those traits that render you uniquely human – qualities that you hope will set you apart from all the other animals. In search of those defining traits, you’ve considered self-awareness, consciousness, artistic expression, tool use, language, empathy, self-discipline, capacity for planning, fear of death, and the preference for grilled meat over raw.  

Some of these traits are not shared by all humans. And some are shared with other animals.

I’ve come to suspect that you humans are misled by an unconscious desire to tie uniquely human traits with those qualities you most value and desire to cultivate in yourselves. That’s a false connection. Your best human traits may very well be ones you share with other species. Many of you, for example, value the ability to give and receive love as one of the loftiest capacities of the human soul. This is not only within my ability but the essence of my job description.

My love was hard-earned and required months of patience because my roots are feral and human beings once terrified me. Now, however, I have opened my heart to a once alien species and I bring joy and delight to all who touch me.

Don’t get me wrong. I see big differences between the human and cat psyches. But I don’t see one as superior to the other. Some of you humans use up much of your short time on this Earth agonizing about the meaning of life, for example. I just live.

Thanks for letting me express my opinions – Higgs.

About this blog
Faye Flam - writer
In pursuit of her stories, writer Faye Flam has weathered storms in Greenland, gotten frost nip at the South Pole, and floated weightless aboard NASA’s zero-g plane. She has a degree in geophysics from the California Institute of Technology and started her writing career with the Economist. She later took on the particle physics and cosmology beat at Science Magazine before coming to the Inquirer in 1995. Her previous science column, “Carnal Knowledge,” ran from 2005 to 2008. Her new column and blog, Planet of the Apes, explores the topic of evolution and runs here and in the Inquirer’s health section each Monday. Email Faye at fflam@phillynews.com. Reach Planet of the at fflam@phillynews.com.

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