I don't see any obvious strong connection between 19th Century Materialism and our species prejudice which makes us tend to think, despite the evidence, that we alone possess various mental characteristics. Surely, if anything, Materialism would tend to suggest equality between species wouldn't it? Doesn't this species prejudice manifest itself most obviously in metaphysical concepts like the idea of an immortal soul (which only humans possess [sic])?I love science but it does has its idiot side, which largely pertains to consciousness, and foolishness stemming from 19th century materialism. Thus, when Jane Goodall reported her chimp findings her work was airily dismissed because only humans have personalities or emotions [sic].
Doesn't that suggest that it's theism's "laser anthropocentric focus", and not the materialism that countered it, that set up the conditions for resisting research results which demonstrate our mental similarities with other great apes?Consider the blinkered obtuseness needed to maintain such a view, contrary to every single scrap of evidence available both then or now! While materialism was a reactionary response to reign in competing claims bring with a refusal to believe anything without evidence, it seems that people of the day were still influenced by theism's laser anthropocentric focus.
I think this is a different issue: the danger of using value-judgement words in this context. In this case, the word "legitimate". If there are any useful insights to be gained in drawing parallels between cancers or viruses within organisms and humans as part of the Earth, then I see nothing wrong with that. It's only wrong if it's not a sufficiently accurate analogy to be useful. The problem, as I see it, is when we see certain forms of life as either "legitimate" of "illegitimate". I think that gets in the way. We are what we are. Working out what we maybe ought to be in the future, I think, is a separate activity from working out an accurate description of what we are now.Even today there is a widely held view that humans are not actually a legitimate part of the planet, rather a cancer or a parasite...
-- Updated Fri Sep 01, 2017 11:19 am to add the following --
Yes, this is perfectly true. Extinction events like that one generally do leave a gap in the market that is eventually filled by other life. Who would have thought that the introduction into the atmosphere of this highly corrosive and dangerous gas (oxygen) would lead to such astonishing forms of life as us and our relatives?...The notion that the Earth might simply metamorphose occasionally doesn't seem to register. Why not? It's done it a few times before, most notably The Great Oxygenation Event, "starring" blue-green algae, who managed to kill off about 90% of all the other microbes at the time, without which sentient life may never have evolved.
So once we've estabilshed that these exctintion events happen, I guess we then have to decide whether we want this particular one to happen.
Surely not less than a million? I know the Sun is gradually getting hotter as it ages and that life on Earth will be wiped out long before the Sun comes to the end of its store of hydrogen. But life has still go at least another few hundred million years or so hasn't it? I guess the importance of preserving life by sending it off the Earth's surface depends on whether you think other intelligent species will arise during that period after we're extinct?The Earth is near the end of its life. After billions of years, given the projected effects of even a 10C rise in global temperatures, it seems that the Earth's surface will be largely inhospitable to life in a matter of millions of years or less thanks to our ageing sun.