The Human Exemptionalism (or sometimes ‘Exceptionalism’) Paradigm is the idea that humans are somehow separate from nature or that we have transcended it in some way through spirituality, technology or consciousness. It is a paradigm that is shared between many of the religious ideologies of the world as well as many devotees of science and technology. Both types of adherents believe humans have been given, either through a higher power or our own ever-growing ingenuity, a special place in the world. Often, part of this paradigm is that we have made our lives so easy and safe that we are no longer subject to evolutionary pressures. It is another symptom of the short-sightedness of our culture.
Fortunately, it has been increasingly under attack. Founding Environmental Sociology in the ’70s, William Catton and Riley Dunlap proposed what they called the New Ecological Paradigm, which recognizes that humans are simply another part of nature, albeit a stunningly unique and fascinating one. In that same decade, E.O. Wilson coined the term (and started the discipline of) Sociobiology, a somewhat controversial field. Despite hurdles, it is gaining ground. Frans de Waal is a primatologist doing amazing work on primate social behavior. His book, Our Inner Ape, is a fascinating look at what we humans can learn about ourselves by looking at chimpanzees and bonobos, our closest relatives. There was also the Mike Judge movie, Idiocracy. And before all of them, of course, we had Buckminster Fuller.