A common argument as to why humans are superior to all other species is that we possess higher intelligence. While this argument may make sense upon first consideration, I believe that it is fundamentally flawed. Upon deeper contemplation, one may realize that humans are no better than any other species, and that all species are equal and amazing in their own uniqueness.
Comparing human intelligence to the intelligence of other species is arbitrary. We could judge superiority based on any other characteristic and we would reach a different conclusion. If we judged species based on their ability to fly, we would conclude that birds are superior to humans. If we judged species based upon their ability to run, we would conclude that cheetahs are superior. Just because we have arbitrarily chosen intelligence as the trait upon which to judge superiority doesn’t mean it is the right one.
Even if intelligence is the right trait upon which to judge superiority, many of the strongest examples of human intelligence are also displayed in other species. This means that human intelligence is not so unique. Just as humans are aware of themselves, so too can elephants recognize themselves in a mirror and immediately notice when something about their visage has been changed. Just as humans can make and use tools to accomplish tasks, so too can crows create knives and hooks to cut leaves and catch food.
Further, some species demonstrate intelligence that even humans don’t possess. Dolphins are capable of conveying and receiving 20 times the amount of information that humans can. Bats hunt for food using echolocation, a complex system of frequencies that humans are incapable of producing. Thus, it is impossible to rank all of these unique intelligences on a spectrum. It is also impossible to conclude that humans are superior, or that any species is superior at all.
Even if we did assume that humans are superior because we have higher intelligence, this correlation is flawed at its core. A correlation between intelligence and superiority would mean that we also have to assume humans of higher intelligence are superior to humans of lesser intelligence. But it’s wrong to believe that a well-educated college professor is superior to someone who has a mental disability. This proves that we cannot, and should not, inherently judge superiority based upon intelligence.
We don’t actually prioritize other species based on our perception of their intelligence. According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), pigs are smarter than any other domestic animal and are more trainable than cats or dogs. Yet, in the United States, we have habitualized the slaughtering of pigs, but find it appalling to do the same to dogs. If we truly and morally judged other species based upon our perception of their intelligence, we would be more inclined to keep a pig as a pet and slaughter a dog for dinner instead.
Even if the intelligence of different species could be compared, how are we to prove that higher intelligence is better? Though humans have used their intelligence for good, we equally use it for evil. Are we superior because we invented atomic bombs that killed over 100,000 unsuspecting Japanese civilians? Are we superior because we have caused Earth’s climate to radically change?
We must challenge our selfish point of view that we are superior creatures because we are intelligent. The rationale behind this argument is flawed, and intelligence is a characteristic too arbitrary to judge superiority upon. Instead of trumpeting our perceived superiority, we ought to acknowledge the uniqueness of other species and humble ourselves to the beauty of it.
Georgia Kerkezis a sophomore majoring in environmental studies.