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Anthropocentrism

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Anthropocentrism is a world view that considers humans to be the most important factor and value in the Universe. In contrast, the biocentric world view considers humans to be no more than a particular species of animal, without greater intrinsic value than any of the other species of organisms that occur on Earth. The ecocentric world view incorporates the biocentric one, while additionally proposing that humans are a natural component of Earth's ecosystem, and that humans have an absolute and undeniable requirement of the products and services of ecosystems in order to sustain themselves and their societies.

There are a number of important implications of the anthropocentric view, which strongly influence the ways in which humans interpret their relationships with other species and with nature and ecosystems. Some of these are discussed below:

  1. The anthropocentric view suggests that humans have greater intrinsic value than other species. A result of this attitude is that any species that are of potential use to humans can be a "resource" to be exploited. This use often occurs in an unsustainable fashion that results in degradation, sometimes to the point of extinction of the biological resource, as has occurred with the dodo, great auk, and other animals.
  2. The view that humans have greater intrinsic value than other species also influences ethical judgments about interactions with other organisms. These ethics are often used to legitimize treating other species in ways that would be considered morally unacceptable if humans were similarly treated. For example, animals are often treated very cruelly during the normal course of events in medical research and agriculture. This prejudiced treatment of other species has been labeled "speciesism " by ethicists.
  3. Another implication of the anthropocentric view is the belief that humans rank at the acme of the natural evolutionary progression of species and of life. This belief is in contrast to the modern biological interpretation of evolution, which suggests that no species are "higher" than any others, although some clearly have a more ancient evolutionary lineage, or may occur as relatively simple life forms.

The individual, cultural, and technological skills of humans are among the attributes that make their species, Homo sapiens, special and different. The qualities of humans have empowered their species to a degree that no other species has achieved during the history of life on Earth, through the development of social systems and technologies that make possible an intense exploitation and management of the environment. This power has allowed humans to become the most successful species on Earth. This success is indicated by the population of humans that is now being maintained, the explosive growth of those numbers, and the increasing amounts of Earth's biological and environmental resources that are being appropriated to sustain the human species.

However, the true measure of evolutionary success, in contrast to temporary empowerment and intensity of resource exploitation, is related to the length of time that a species remains powerful—the sustainability of its enterprise. There are clear signals that the intense exploitation of the environment by humans is causing widespread ecological degradation and a diminished carrying capacity to sustain people, numerous other species, and many types of natural ecosystems. If this environmental deterioration proves to truly be important, and there are many indications that it will, then the recent centuries of unparalleled success of the human species will turn out to be a short-term phenomenon, and will not represent evolutionary success. This will be a clear demonstration of the fact that humans have always, and will always, require access to a continued flow of ecological goods and services to sustain themselves and their societies.

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