Individuals or Species — What matters?

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Most of us hold two very different moral systems — one based on the individual and one based on group belonging.

The humanistic worldview says that every human life is precious and inviolable. We don’t really live by it, but we strive to. To save the life of a fellow human being is the highest morality. No matter who, no matter the cost.

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We have a very different morality concerning individuals who don’t belong to our species. We shift from a morality that counts individuals to one that counts collectives. The good morality becomes to save a gene pool big enough for that species to survive.

Of course there are exceptions, animals can be seen as individuals if they for example are your dog, a stranded whale or a cute panda. But 99,99 percent of the animals and plants on this planet are only seen by us humans as parts of a species.

As long as we don’t extinguish other species, or are unnecessarily cruel, we should do what is best for our own species. And if we can’t really see how that other species can serve us, it’s more or less okay if it vanishes.

We not only can, but we should, use as much land as possible for our species, no matter if someone else lived there. And of course eat the tasty ones.

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In order to hold these two very different morality system, one based on individual and one based on species, we have to put up a very sharp border between us and all the others. The same type of borders that the ethnocentric world view puts up between our group and other humans.

From the ethnocentric perspective it’s fine to treat other humans, humans who don’t belong to our group, as something other. And we can take their land and kill them, turn them into slaves and commit genocide, if that is good for our group. History and today’s news are filled with acts done from this world view. But as our ability to embrace wider circles has evolved and become more inclusive over the years, many of us can now deeply identify ourselves with all of humanity, and that is wonderful!

When you widen your perspective further, when you start to identify as, not only humanity, but the biosphere, you see new things, from a very different perspective. It’s not we and them, it’s one life, the split just isn’t there any more.

When I’m able to be all the different embraces, the embrace as myself, my group, humanity and the biosphere, I can start to see a new morality emerging, that takes all those perspectives from all the embraces into account. A morality that doesn’t deny that my family is closer to me than a baboon, or that mammals are closer to us than insects. But also acknowledge that we are all one life, individuals and species, and we can all flourish together on this beautiful planet!

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If you think that the perspective from the biosphere is something like these sentences — you haven’t got it:

  • Our grandkids will hate us if we destroy this planet and extinguish the baboons.
  • We don’t have the right to kill other living creatures and destroy their habitats.
  • It would be best if we humans disappeared from this planet.
  • If we all meditate and love each other everything will become perfect.
  • We must take responsibility for this planet as the highly evolved creatures we are.

These are anthropocentric views. From the embrace as the biosphere these statements don’t really make sense. It’s a huge difference to actually embrace as the biosphere or to think about the biosphere from a human perspective. Can you see how these sentences are human centered?

The more you exercise embracing as the biosphere and see from that perspective, the more your eyes, mind and heart will open to that perspective. And then we can form a world view and a morality, that takes all the different perspectives into account; the egocentric, the ethnocentric, the anthropocentric and the biospheric. But you have to do it!

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The pictures are from my visit to Cape of Good Hope in South Africa in June 2012.

Wikipedia: … the baboon population on the Cape is “critically endangered.” This is due to habitat loss, genetic isolation, and conflicts with humans.

Cape baboons have been eliminated from the majority of their range across the Cape Peninsula, and the Cape of Good Hope section of Table Mountain National Park provides a sanctuary for the troops that live within its boundaries. It provides relative safety from nearby towns, where people have killed many baboons after the baboons raid their houses looking for food.

Baboons are also frequently injured or killed outside of the park by cars and by electrocution on power lines. Inside the park, some management policies such as allowing barbecues and picnics in the baboon home ranges cause detriment to the troops, as they become embroiled in conflicts with guests to the park.

2 Responses to Individuals or Species — What matters?

  1. Annelie Nilsson December 7, 2012 at 15:22 #

    Great post Stina!

    I can definitely see that the sentences are human centered – but does not mean that the way I am seeing them is from a 100% biospheric perspective;). But it is at least a beginning.

    Thank you for making this clearer and clearer.

  2. Stina Deurell December 7, 2012 at 15:47 #

    Thank you Annelie,

    We are all in the beginning of getting this and I write to make it more clear to myself, too.

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