Our modern worldview is based on the anthropocentric view of Renaissance philosophy. It highlights the uniqueness of modern humans: man is a great miracle, a Magnum miraculum. Not only better than other creatures but a species in its very own class. Man is a unique and extraordinary phenomenon. Since the uniqueness of man is a foregone conclusion, the sciences are only to state it. It is easy to agree with the idea that man is unique because man can only understand him.
Man has evolved into an aberrant rational being whose strength is the ability to learn. Nothing similar develops in animals. Thus, there is a clear direction for development. Matter gives rise to life, which gives birth to intelligence, and it continues to civilizations. Man ascends the ladder of evolution, Scala Naturae, to the crown of creation. Soul and intellect compete for which one shines in height as a brighter gem.
The Chain of Being
Chain of Being, Scala Naturae, Charles Bonnet (1781)
Humanity tends to forget other possibilities of being different and often sees the evolution of species only from its perspective. Today’s interpretations of human nature are as imaginary as views of human origin from the early 19th century when even scientists could not accept human fossils. Humans were unchanging, pre-created rulers of nature. But all the greatness that man admires in his species’ genius appears to his advantage only on paper.
Humanism has inherited the idea of humans as the crown of creation from religions, although it claims to be a sensible alternative for them. Humanism saw the ability to learn as a gift from God to man. While humanism creates a critical relationship with nature, it does not want to change man’s special status. It remains a given and unquestionable fact.
The desire to understand man as part of nature inevitably leads man to give up his uniqueness and find his place alongside other beings. A significant impetus came when Darwin incorporated man into the animal kingdom and other wildlife. Although Carl von Linné placed chimpanzees in the Homo family as early as the 18th century, the claim did not confuse because science thought the species were stable. Biologists have since confirmed that humanity is related to all other life forms found on Earth. Man who has placed himself in the lineage has had to adapt to the fifth monkey. Some find it still challenging to accept. Although Darwin has denied man’s status as a unique being in creation, we can still interpret evolution selfishly.
Man's place in nature
Zoologist Desmond Morris stated that when he »wrote about fish or birds or snakes, no one was shocked. But when I explained the people in the same way, there was a stir». Alfred Russel Wallace, who developed his theory of natural selection at the same time as Darwin, regarded man as the product of supernatural forces. Even the well-known palaeontologist Robert Broom, who studied mammals in Africa in the 1930s and 1940s, considered human birth supernatural. One reason for the considerable interest in scientific research is that any result could accidentally destroy human uniqueness. There is an internal irony in science in the statement that every scientific claim that violates innate human narcissism increases its likelihood of being right. However, we often reject the controversial ideas of humanity even before they become the subject of research.
Scientists have roughly elucidated human prehistory, but the emergence of our species hides still in the dark.
Palaeontology has dated the oldest signs of human-like activity to as old as 2.5 million years. Compared to that, 2,000 years since the beginning of AD, 3,300 years of Tutankhamun, or 5,500 of Mesopotamian cultures are like yesterday. Even 10,000 years from the last ice age, 16,000 years from the cave paintings of Lascaux, or 35,000 years from the encounter between modern man and Neanderthal man are not far enough to explain human characteristics. Decisive changes are much older. Scientists have studied human specificity using dreams, identical twins, emotions, art, data from brain damage, and even animals, but there is still no satisfactory answer. Neurosciences may shed some light on human consciousness in the future, but if they reduce our mind to chemical reactions, it hardly provides the way we want to understand ourselves.
It is possible to show that the emergence of the human species is the result of an unprecedented overdose of childhood-inherited defence mechanisms. Mechanisms belonging to childhood such as will, reason, fear, and shame helped these defected individuals survive in deadly conditions. However, survival’s price was loneliness and a very humane longing for communication, the search for connection, and the need for understanding.
The traits developed in hominids millions of years ago likely caused the defected adult individual to preserve childlike fear and hatred of nature. The individuals’ hostile relationship with the environment and their overprotective relationship with themselves and their offspring became emphasized. The negative relationship does not occur to the same extent in other species. These strange qualities are will and reason and their inevitable companion violence.
In nature, species typically do not protect themselves from change but instead allow the maladjusted individuals to perish. Properties arise and disappear along with the environment. Species also enable new kinds of individuals to be born and live. Modern humans, on the other hand, use all their skills to keep life detached from nature. They fight against adaptation and call this “development” and “progress”. Nature has become their great enemy, whom they both respect and subjugate.
However, the humans’ struggle against real adulthood increases loneliness and besets them with explanations that have no value outside of their world. The world of Neanderthals was undoubtedly universal, much more than ours has ever been. In nature’s Scala Naturae, the modern human has never played any particular part. On the contrary, everything would be better without him. Expulsion from paradise is not fiction; it is a fact. It’s traditional knowledge that we just can’t appreciate.
I have had to repudiate the human image of Western civilization. As I was writing my book, I read an article in the English Guardian that asked several respected scientists what the next big scientific breakthrough was. All the major scientific revolutions of recent centuries have meant the faltering of man’s central role in the universe and the questioning of human specificity. The Copernican revolution in the 16th century deprived Earth of its status as the centre of the universe. Darwin’s theory of evolution 300 years later denied man of the specificity of the animal world. James Watson succeeded in elucidating the structure of the DNA molecule and reducing the genome to a self-replicable code. Perhaps these were revolutions because they were attacking human uniqueness.
Our species is permanently childhood-driven, which seems to be the key to their culture and distant past. No wonder science has sought to explain humans in terms of growth and its incompleteness for a long time. However, the idea of human underdevelopment is problematic because it may question the millennial civilization.