© Eric R. Pianka
"Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth" -- Genesis
"One of the huge species, Homo sapiens, got remarkably self-important. But when, to his surprise, a virus wiped him out, most of life on Earth took no notice at all." - Sean Nee (2005)
It is a worthwhile to imagine that something else, such as an ant, a lizard, an oak tree, or an HIV virus, is really the focus of the Cosmos. From such a perspective, the almighty dollar quickly loses its primacy. Survival and reproduction assume a lot more significance.
"Anthropo" means human, and "centrism" refers to being at the center. Thus anthropocentrism places humans at the center of the universe. For most people, everything on Earth was put here to be used by humans in any way they see fit. We consider ourselves to be better than other creatures, entitled to take them and to use or abuse them as we wish, or even to destroy them altogether if we choose to do so. Just because a 20-year old man can cut down a 20 century year old sequoia tree with a chainsaw, or kill a whale with a gunpowder-fired spear, does that entitle him to do it? I am both saddened and infuriated when I see a 200 pound man beating a little 20 ounce snake to death. Humans are relative newcomers to Earth, but because we are clever we have become powerful enough to dominate all other life forms.
I have been unfairly called a misanthrope. Sure, I have little use for people who merely exist to breathe air, breed, and consume. But I adore those who live up to their full human potential, who think and care and try to improve things around them. Everyone must find his/her place along the spectrum from anthropocentrism to misanthropy.
Humans benefit immensely from natural ecosystems in a wide variety of ways: Ecosystem services include, but are not limited to, all supporting systems, such as products of primary production, decomposition and detoxification, energy, nutrient dispersal, recycling, clean air and water, soils, minerals, lumber, firewood, food, medicinal and ornamental resources, carbon sequestration, climate regulation, purification of air and water, pollination, pest and disease control, cultural, spiritual, and recreational use, as well as use of natural resources for science and education. We need all these ecosystem services.
Organized religious dogma is that humans were created by God in his own image. Genesis prescribes: "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth" (my italics). We have certainly lived up to everything promised in Genesis except "replenish the earth."
Last updated 3 September 2014 by Eric R. Pianka