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Anthropocentrism is either the belief that humans are the central and most significant entities in the universe, or the assessment of reality through an exclusively human perspective.[1] The term can be used interchangeably with humanocentrism, while the first concept can also be referred to as human supremacy. The views are especially associated with certain religious cultures.



Anthropocentrism has been posited by some environmentalists, in such books as Confessions of an Eco-Warrior by Dave Foreman and Green Rage by Christopher Manes, as the underlying (if unstated) reason why humanity dominates and sees the need to "develop" most of the Earth. Anthropocentrism has been identified by these writers and others as a root cause of the ecological crisis, human overpopulation, and the extinctions of many non-human species.

Anthropocentrism, or human-centredness, is believed by some to be the central problematic concept in environmental philosophy, where it is used to draw attention to a systematic bias in traditional Western attitudes to the non-human world.[2] Val Plumwood has argued[3][4] that anthropocentrism plays an analogous role in green theory to androcentrism in feminist theory and ethnocentrism in anti-racist theory. Plumwood calls human-centredness "anthrocentrism" to emphasise this parallel.

Defenders of anthropocentrist views point out that maintenance of a healthy, sustainable environment is necessary for human well-being as opposed for its own sake. The problem with a "shallow" viewpoint is not that it is human centered but that according to William Grey[5] "What's wrong with shallow views is not their concern about the well-being of humans, but that they do not really consider enough in what that well-being consists. According to this view, we need to develop an enriched, fortified anthropocentric notion of human interest to replace the dominant short-term, sectional and self-regarding conception."

One of the first extended philosophical essays addressing environmental ethics, John Passmore's Man's Responsibility for Nature[6] has been repeatedly criticised by defenders of deep ecology because of its anthropocentrism, often claimed to be constitutive of traditional Western moral thought.[7]


Some evangelical Christians have also been critical, viewing a human-centered worldview, rather than a Christ-centered or God-centered worldview, as a core societal problem. According to this viewpoint, humanity placing its own desires ahead of the teachings of The Bible leads to rampant selfishness and behavior viewed as sinful.

The use of the word "dominion" in Genesis, where it is written that God gives man dominion over all creatures, is controversial. Many Biblical scholars, especially Roman Catholic and other non-Protestant Christians, consider this to be a flawed translation of a word meaning "stewardship", which would indicate that mankind should take care of the earth and its various forms of life, but is not inherently better than any other form of life.[8] The current Latin Vulgate, the official Bible of the Catholic Christian church, states that God holds man responsible for the care and fate of all earthly creatures.[9][10]

In the 1985 CBC series "A Planet For the Taking", Dr. David Suzuki explored the Old Testament roots of anthropocentrism and how it shaped our view of non-human animals.

In his book Pale Blue Dot, author Dr. Carl Sagan also reflects on what he perceives to be the conceitedness and pettiness of anthropocentrism, specifically associating the doctrine with religious belief.[11]


Biocentrism has been proposed as an antonym of anthropocentrism.[citation needed] It has also been proposed as a generalized form of anthropocentrism.[12]

In fiction

In science-fiction, Humanocentrism is the idea that humans, as both beings and a species, are the superior sentients. Essentially the equivalent of race supremacy on a galactic scale, it entails intolerant discrimination against sentient non-humans, much like race supremacists discriminate against those not of their race. This idea is countered by Anti-Humanism. At times, this ideal also includes fear of and superiority over strong AIs and cyborgs, downplaying the ideas of integration, cybernetic revolts, machine rule and Tilden's Laws of Robotics.

Humanocentrism is a central theme in the science-fiction comic book series Nemesis the Warlock in which humanity (here referred to as Terrans) have conquered much of the galaxy and seek to enslave all alien life. Humans are here depicted as antagonists, a somewhat (but not entirely) unusual plot device in science-fiction.

In the Star Wars universe, the Galactic Empire is shown to be humanocentric, ruthlessly subjugating alien worlds, enslaving many of them, and only employing humans in its military. Grand Admiral Thrawn is a notable exception to this rule, likely because of both his immense talent and his partially human bloodline.

In C. S. Lewis's Prince Caspian, the Telmarine invaders of Narnia attempt to wipe out the Talking Beasts, Dwarfs, and nature spirits. Some creatures go into hiding, and spirits of trees and rivers go into dormancy.

Though not expressed organizationally, this sentiment can be seen in the movie District 9, as the native populace of Johannesburg are not thrilled about the interstellar immigrants in their city. The segregation of the so-called "Prawns", to a degree, bears resemblance to the racial segregation of the United States between 1865 and 1964 with more of a resemblance to the Apartheid period.

An atypical variation found primarily in the X-Men continuity is that of not the rejection of extraterrestrials and sentient machines, but of mutants and superhumans on the grounds that they're not regular, non-superpowered humans and, as such, are socially rejected and treated as sub-humans, undeserving of life.

Further reading

See also


  1. ^ Anthropocentrism - Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
  2. ^ Naess, A. 1973. 'The Shallow and the Deep, Long-Range Ecology Movement' Inquiry 16: 95-100
  3. ^ Plumwood, V. 1993. Feminism and the Mastery of Nature. London: Routledge
  4. ^ Plumwood, V. 1996. Androcentrism and Anthrocentrism: Parallels and Politics. Ethics and the Environment 1
  5. ^ Grey, W. 1993. 'Anthropocentrism and Deep Ecology' Australiasian Journal of Philosophy 71: 463-475 [1]
  6. ^ Passmore, J. 1974. Man’s Responsibility for Nature London: Duckworth
  7. ^ Routley, R. and V. 1980. 'Human Chauvinism and Environmental Ethics' in Environmental Philosophy (eds) D.S. Mannison, M. McRobbie and R. Routley. Canberra: ANU Research School of Social Sciences: 96-189
  8. ^ [2]
  9. ^ [3] - Genesis 1:26 (Original Latin Vulgate)
  10. ^ [4] - Genesis 1:26 (Latin Vulgate as of 12/12/2009)
  11. ^ Carl Sagan - Pale Blue Dot
  12. ^


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