Humans are the most abundant and widespread species of primate. From Cro-Magnons to today, we have evolved over thousands of years. We are unique. We are accomplishers. We live with a meaning, a reason for being. But how well do we “know” ourselves? Have millennia of philosophical inquiry yielded the right grounds for our all-encompassing domination over the entire planet? Don’t we all like to be the boss?
What distinguishes a house fly from us, or a moth from us? Or maybe a bee and us?
A house-fly understands that it must eat, suckle, breathe, avoid danger, and stay safe. But does it realize what it is? Does it have any concept of its own existence? Consider a moth, which we have seen several times soaring towards the light or stumbling across a glass window, since its genetic makeup has evolved over millions of years to allow it to pass through anything translucent. However, glass windows have only been around for a few thousand years, which is not long enough. As a result, the moth just performs what its genes command.
Consider a bee colony. Bees have evolved the ability to detect smells and determine actions to be taken. When a bee dies, it emits oleic acid and beta-ocimene from its body, which alerts the other bees that there is a dead corpse and that they must push it outside of the hive. Even if we dip a live bee in that acid and leave it in the hive, the other bees will still push the living bee away from the hive, because millions of years of evolution have designed bees to clean up the corpses. To them, a bee will smell like that acid for no reason other than being dead. Bees do what they “think” is correct, but is it?
A rabid dog is put in a deplorable state because the highly evolved rabies virus affects its neurons and saliva ducts (to proliferate the virus through contamination and increase its chances of survival). The infection has damaged it so severely that it has lost its will (same way hormones and other influences drive our whims as well).
These beings, who are an amalgamation of living matter and genetic coding, must believe that this is it. They do what they must in order to survive, thrive, and preserve their species, and do pre-coded behaviors that appear to them as they do it willingly. This is all that exists.
If these organisms have brains that are only a thousandth or ten thousandth the size of ours, how can we be sure that we are not nothing more than a pre-programmed robot, meant to do particular activities and think specific thoughts and that’s it? Do we really have a choice?
What distinguishes humans? Kissing, eating, pooping, making enemies, enslaving, raising children, sacrificing, using technology, and creating art? Evidence of these things being performed by another species exists. Many insects and animals have been shown to be capable of all the aforementioned behaviors.
So, who are we? What options do we have? Is it just a neurotic desire to feel special in this world? Is that all?