It was a turning point in history when humans started valuing rational thought and critical thinking above superstition and dogma. People started believing in their own abilities and agency and stopped believing that everything was controlled by a higher power. They started believing in human progress and freedom. Science became the new religion and the ‘God is dead’ mantra came into existence.
But humanism brought with it the tacit belief that humans are the most important animal on the planet. The ability of the human to think, to build, to shape the world around it encouraged humans to believe that they had climbed the pedestal and taken first place in the race to progress.
But things change regularly. The world we think we know moves on and the truth that we believe is written in stone turns out to be scrawled in sand. Remember when we thought that the sun and the other planets revolved around the earth? That was another spectacular example of humans putting themselves at the centre of the universe (or more specifically, the galaxy).
And now with the huge strides being made in AI we somehow think that we’re still going to stay in first place on the podium. At least some people have started to really worry about this, but most people are still living in blissful ignorance, believing in the all-encompassing might of the human race.
We also continue to fight amongst ourselves, following blind genetic instincts that we developed on the plains of africa eons ago, instincts that are completely out of place in our modern world. We believe that we’re rational and individual and can make good decisions for ourselves, but actually our free will is driven by genes, hormones and neurons and we don’t yet have much of a clue about how our biology really puppeteers us and our emotions.
Instead of trying to figure out how we can survive as a species, we’re pilfering the public coffers, building huge walls between us and killing each other in the name of gods that seem to be even more petty than humans.
Humans could do with a less humanism and more humility.