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Updated April 29, 2024

Decline of Anthropocentrism

Decline of Anthropocentrism

Description of the image: Our place in the cosmic immensity has continued to be questioned and redefined throughout the ages, and this process of evolution is far from complete.
This image was generated by artificial intelligence.

What is anthropocentrism?

Anthropocentrism is a worldview in which man is placed at the center of the Universe and considers that everything is done for him. It is a perspective that places preeminent value on humanity over all other forms of life and the natural environment.
Anthropocentrism manifests itself both in religious beliefs, where man is often considered a divine creature and in the interpretation of the world where he has unique characteristics, such as reason, consciousness or soul .
From an anthropocentric perspective, nature is often seen as a resource to be exploited to meet human needs and desires, without considering the consequences for other species or ecosystems.

Events that shook our beliefs

For millennia, humanity has been fascinated by the question of its place in the Universe and its role in the great cosmic web. Over the centuries, this quest has been marked by a series of discoveries and challenges that have shaken our vision of the world. Scientific and philosophical advances have gradually eroded the idea of human exceptionality.

• The first anthropogenic injury was the one that showed that the Earth is not the center of the cosmos.
The geocentric view prevailed for centuries, with the idea that the Earth was stationary and the entire Universe revolved around it. In the 16th century, the heliocentric theory of the Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) shook the certainties and beliefs deeply rooted in the society of the time. Copernicus proposed that the Sun, not the Earth, was at the center of the solar system, thus calling into question the anthropocentric view of the Universe.

• The second anthropogenic injury was the one which gave man a particular importance in the order of living species. This belief, deeply rooted in many cultures, made man a divine creature in the image of the Gods.
In 1859, Charles Darwin (1809-1882) published “The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection”.
Although enthusiastically received by many scientists and progressive thinkers, this revolutionary work generated a feeling of shame and worthlessness in the religious world of the time.
Man was no longer as perfect as we thought but shared a common ancestor with all other forms of life on Earth.

• In the 1910s, the American astronomer Harlow Shapley (1885-1972) showed that our Sun is a star relegated to an eccentric position in the Milky Way. It is far from the galactic center considered at the time to be the center of the Universe.
Humans are realizing that their Sun is just an ordinary dwarf star lost among billions of other suns.

• In the 1920s, Edwin Hubble (1889-1953) showed that our Milky Way is not the entire universe but simply one of the many agglomerations of stars in a much larger cosmos.
Our galaxy, the Milky Way, no longer represents the entire universe but a tiny part of the great cosmic web.

• In the 1990s, the discovery of extrasolar planets showed that all stars have planets.
Faced with the dizzying immensity of the universe and the multitude of planets that populate it, the idea that humanity is unique and central in the grand cosmic scheme seems less and less probable. This diminishes the relative importance of humanity, reminding us that we are only a small part of a vast and teeming universe.

• In the 2000s, astronomical observations revealed the presence of organic molecules, the basic building blocks of life, in molecular clouds, planetary atmospheres, nebulae, comets and meteorites. Meteorites, which are fragments of rock from space, often contain complex organic molecules, including amino acids, hydrocarbons, and aromatic organic compounds. These molecules provide clues about the prebiotic chemistry that may have occurred in the early solar system.
The ingredients necessary for life are widespread throughout the Universe.

• Since the 2000s, increasingly precise astronomical observations have confirmed and refined the distribution of the universe into ordinary matter (~5%), dark matter (~23%) and dark energy (~72%).
The history of the universe, rich in transformations, reveals to us that the matter of which we are made is only a fragment of cosmic reality, much larger and more complex.

• In 2016, a study estimated the microbiome (essentially the human gut microbiota) at around 39 trillion bacteria and that of cells in the average human body at around 30 trillion.
The bacteria that live inside us have a significant impact on our physiology, our immune system and even our behavior.
The organism is not an individual, autonomous entity but a complex ecosystem of closely related human cells and bacteria that live in symbiosis.
The traditional boundary between “self” and “non-self” is increasingly blurred.

• In recent years, communication is no longer limited to human language, but is revealed as a universal capacity present in the animal and plant kingdom, connecting all forms of life.
Human language is characterized by its ability to facilitate the sharing of curiosity and knowledge, thus promoting cooperation and the collective accumulation of knowledge.
We may be the only ones who tell each other incredible stories.

• In 2021, even intelligence, once thought to be exclusively human, is being challenged by machines.
Artificial intelligence models, based on a simplification of the functioning of biological neurons, show that intelligence is only a natural emergence, resulting from a gigantic volume of data.

• Today, consciousness is no longer a purely philosophical object but an object of scientific investigation.
This ability of our brain to turn in on itself, to understand its own functioning, its history, its capacity to tell what it perceives and feels, is also a natural emergence. In neuroscience, consciousness is a small tip of the iceberg. It is the “non-conscious” which is the essential thing. The mechanisms that make us hear, see, understand language and all hidden mechanisms are unconscious and operate at full speed in our brain.


The role of humanity within the cosmos has always been the subject of questions and challenges, and this quest for meaning continues to be enriched by new discoveries.
All these “anthropogenic injuries” highlight the illusions and errors in which humans have been trapped for centuries. We must get used to its changes in philosophical perspective felt individually and collectively.
Life emerged from matter, bathed in a favorable environment.
We now know that we are part of a larger whole from which humanity emerged.
We belong entirely to our environment, so we must preserve it as long as possible.

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