In considering what we are as humans, what makes us humans, it’s also important to consider how we treat the beings among us who are different kinds of humans (or not human at all). As humans, we have a very negative history of dealing with other beings–particularly when we judge them as not being human, as being less than human. Genocide, slavery, factory farming, vivisection, destruction of habitat, imprisonment, exhibition as curiosities or captives, the list of ways that we humans abuse non-humans or less-than-humans is not a list that makes us look very good at all.

There are non-human partners in your life, in your planet, every day. Some of them you may eat (I enjoy a good hamburger, a chicken pot pie, or a bite of yellowtail sashimi myself). Others may provide your clothing, belts, shoes, the tests which ensure that your medicines or other products are safe, or the down that fills your fluffy pillow.

photo by ckroberts61 @flickrWe are moving to a world with more recognition of the non-human beings around us. And we are creating more beings and intelligences (how big a step is it from an iPad or a Roomba to a Cylon? Maybe a long step…but maybe not all that long!) to help and serve us. And (maybe–someday) we might be meeting intelligences from other worlds than ours. We’ve been listening for a long time. It’s possible that soon we’ll hear something. Or have “someone” come to visit us. How will we react to these beings? Will we accept them as partners and comrades? Even as friends? When they look at us, and see how we have treated our neighbors in this world, how will they judge us? How much integration, how much assimilation will we want? Would you want your sister to marry a Cylon?

Education, in the past (and maybe the present?) has often played a role in determining how our fellow beings are treated. In this country, not all that long ago, Native American children were removed from their homes and families and placed in schools where the motto was “kill the Indian and save the man.” It seems that we’ve made progress since those days–we no longer have schools which are segregated by race…at least not explicitly, not by law. But the struggle to end segregation in schooling was a long and hard one, and may still not be ended.

Think about where your education has taken you–has it been a force for tolerance and diversity? Should it have been? When colleges (including this one) recruit students, what should we be looking for? What kinds of diversity are important in a college? And how can we make sure that we get that–how will we proceed when Cylons or Bulburs or genetically-enhanced animals want to join us fully, in education and in the world?