Who’s Really Human Anyway?

About a month and a half ago I finished reading the Star Wars book, Kenobi, by John Jackson Miller.  This book, part of the long-running Star Wars saga, tells the story of what happened to Obi-Wan Kenobi after he went to Tatooine to watch over Luke Skywalker.  It sits between the third and fourth episodes of the Star Wars movies.  But my reason for bringing up this book is not to write a review of it, but to critique one particular aspect of the book.  As an aside, I certainly do recommend the book if you are a fan of Star Wars.  It’s basically a western in science-fiction clothing.

What bothered me about the book was it’s use of the term “human” to refer to certain characters.  I assume “human” characters were like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, or Han Solo.  (The last three never actually appear in the book, I’m using them here only as examples.)  These characters were played by human-looking actors in the movies, in contrast to others who were in costumes of alien characters.  Chewbacca, R2-D2, C-3PO, Grodo, those in the cantina scene, and so forth.  The term “human” was apparently used in the book to distinguish one from another.

The real problem I have with using “human” in this way is that it is basically incorrect.  Keep in mind that all Star Wars episodes take place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.  There are no humans in that galaxy.  Granted, as I noted in a blog post on January 12, 2014, there are a huge number of worlds out there that could contain intelligent life forms that look and act just like humans.  There may even be many of them.  But even though they may look and act like humans, they aren’t human.  They can’t be.  Humans exist only on Earth.

With the tremendous increase in new planets being discovered over the past several years, life, including intelligent life forms, will almost certainly be identified on one or more of them.  Eventually (though not within my lifetime or yours) we will discover some that look like us.  They may be “human-like,” or “humanoid,” or “pseudo-human,” but they won’t be human.  Not at all.  Not even if they look like us, talk like us, see like us, smell like us, hear like us, and have exactly the same physiologic and anatomic features.  Not even if they have DNA that can recombine with human DNA.  (Now, there’s a sci-fi story.)

I propose that the term “human” should be reserved for those of us on this planet, the one we call “Earth,” in the Milky Way galaxy.  To use it for other races on other planets diminishes its value.  It dehumanizes us as a race of unique biological entities.  Let’s leave “human” for us, and us alone.

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