Our Unusual Species

Thanks to sciences like biology and books like the Bible, we humans see ourselves at the apex of nature’s dominion, and not just because we’re at the top of the food chain. We’re special. We’re chosen. We’re God’s favorite of all the creatures.

We have feelings, and languages, and the ability to make things that some people call art and others dismiss as worthless dreck, and our facility with complex ideas, it seems, makes us far superior to insects, fish, and the animals we domesticate and eat. We have opposable thumbs. Even the simplest of us uses tools. We’re the masters of our planet. Indeed, we assume that this is our planet — not the chickens’ or the rats’. Everything on Earth flourishes (or doesn’t) at our pleasure. We’re the boss.

Our superior intelligence makes us superior to every other organism extant, even cockroaches and beetles, which have been around longer than us. We’re the smartest.

Despite all this glorious knowledge, we’re certain to extinguish ourselves sooner than later. Our species appears to be hurtling toward an ugly demise, and unlike the dinosaurs or certain types of wooly mammoths, our finish will be brought about not by a colliding asteroid or a spewing volcano, but at our own hands. We’ll either kill ourselves with advanced weaponry or by suffocation, our environment made too toxic for even the rich folk to insulate themselves against. Our brains, it seems, will not be able to save our bodies.

When the next species to inherit this planet writes the history of “mankind” — if writing is something the next Kings of Earth will be inclined to do — they will note our magnificent edifices and our beautiful machines. They’ll marvel at our organized cities and imaginative conveyances. They’ll study our DNA and the scholarly tomes that survive the apocalypse. And perhaps they’ll wonder why a species so astonishingly smart chose to be so stupid.

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