Does humanity stink?

As our team is not one to shy away from controversy, we’ll proposition you with an unusual philosophical question that’s bound to get your neurons jamming: does humanity, in fact, stink? Are we wretched, hateful, poor excuses for meatbags? Or are we soulful, intelligent, creative beings?

Well, the gloves have been shed and this duel is well under way. This is a topic that’s had us going in circles long before we invented the wheel. On one hand, we have the pessimists, who purport that yes, we are a bunch of smelly, violent ratbags. However, they’re up against the optimists, gently reminding us that without our superb smarts and the ability to exercise free will, we all wouldn’t be here to debate this in the first place. What do you think? Are we the unsung heroes of history, or are we time’s most despicable villains? Here’s what the two sides have to say…

For: Humans are cruel, evil sentients that should make like the dinosaurs and go extinct

The backbone  of this argument is that its supporters define humans as just another animal species, claiming that there really aren’t any differences between us and all the other two, four or twenty-legged creatures that also exist on planet Earth (except that we have wall sockets to charge our iPhones). Other animals, they claim, don’t behave like idiots and have an excellent sense of decency. Did you ever see a rampaging mob of butterflies loot an entire flower shop? Didn’t think so. Do cats go for whisker implants, bleach their fur and get tattoos just so they can look like their idols? Nope.

Other animals, they claim, can think, reason, choose and feel just like us, but they spend their time worrying about which rock to use to smash open a coconut, rather than how to gain a monopoly on all the coconuts and sell them at a profit while ripping off uninformed consumers.

You must admit, their argument is compelling. We trash our beaches and snap selfies while doing so. We worry about the green shade of our lawns while building nuclear power plants and burying toxic waste deep in the ground.

Perhaps we are, in fact, total losers and don’t deserve to exist?

Against: Humans are, like, totally cool and rock the casbah

Okay, okay, the optimists say, you’ve got a point.  There’s no way to sugar-coat it: humans, as a race, have done some pretty stupid, dangerous and cruel things over the last few thousand years.

But don’t let animals off the hook so easily. They steal each others’ eggs, wives and caves. They duel to the death over berries and demolish entire colonies because they were in the way. They murder, conquer and trick each other, throwing their banana peels anywhere they like, without a second thought.

Yes, we don’t always manage to get it right – but at least we’re trying. And that’s the difference.

No matter what those pessimists say, we are fundamentally different from animals: we are in possession of a unique cognitive ability that lets us choose our own paths and ultimately, choose life. We have free choice, the ability to rise above our most basic instincts and can reflexively judge our previous actions in order to make better plans for the future. We have the tools and capabilities to actualize our wildest dreams and use them to improve the rollercoaster of life for everyone the world over.

Who invented chemotherapy, putting previously terminal cancers in remission? Not the slugs. Who initiates World Food Bank projects and digs fresh water wells for impoverished communities? The polar bears were unavailable for comment. Who is willing to sacrifice millions of dollars and tonnes of resources just to save a single life? Not the fruit flies. Yes, we may sometimes fight each other tooth and nail – but we fight for justice and the continuation of the human spirit.

So, what do you think? Are we a doomed species that will eventually cannibalize itself, after it finishes destroying the world? Or are we much more than that? It’s up to you to decide – the choice is in your hands.