What makes people people?
Welcome to a weird philosophical rant today. It will meander. It will test the boundaries of comprehension and logic. And, it will make you roll your eyes. But, I’m a writer who sits around thinking about imaginary crap all day, what do expect?
My recent post about a face in the woods (which is most likely just shadows and light) coupled with the recent spate of discussions about the Erickson Project in several cryptozoology groups has me wondering if we’re prepared for the discovery of a bipedal non-human species that demonstrates advanced cognitive thinking. Far more advanced than known apes, and maybe even as advanced as Homo sapiens.
For those of you who don’t know, the Erickson Project concerns Bigfoot, or Sasquatch, if you prefer. The people involved claimed to have been studying several family groups of the creature in the wilds of North America. They purport to have clear video evidence and DNA samples to back up their claims. The project started in 2005 in Kentucky and has expanded to include areas throughout the US and Canada. They say it has taken them some time to collect viable DNA samples for testing, and since there is no matching DNA in the current database, it has taken a lot of patience and effort to verify the results and officially identify Sasquatch as a new species. They either have or are planning to submit their findings for peer review and a documentary is in the works.
Everyone in the Bigfoot sphere of interest is highly skeptical. Not so much because of the people involved with the Erickson Project, but because of past claims of clear video evidence and DNA samples made by others over the years that all proved to be bogus. It’s because of these past experiences the Erickson Project folks are being so methodical and quiet about their research. I sent an email to the contact address on their website inquiring about the release date of the documentary and got back a curt response saying nothing would be released until the DNA evidence is officially verified.
So, for the time being we are left in the lurch. The Erickson project could be the real deal, or it could be as real as the tiger blood coursing through Charlie Sheen’s veins. But let’s pretend for a moment that the Erickson Project does reveal without question that there are non-human bipedal creatures roaming the forests of this continent. They have been stealth and smart enough to remain hidden for hundreds of thousands of years from humans, or at the very least since recorded time. They may even have a primitive language, a culture, a cooperative existence, etc. They are not super natural beings. They are wholly natural beings, and they’ve made a conscious decision that the key to their survival is to stay away from humans. It is in their nature to distrust us.
Unfortunately, it is in our nature to discover them, so we have to ask ourselves how we’re going to classify them when we do. Are they people? Do they have the same rights as us, or since they are a different species are we going to try to dictate the state of their existence from the time of their discovery on? Remember, we’re not talking about an animal that lives by instinct alone. They think things through. They communicate to others within their species. They consciously respect the borders of civilization and choose not to cross them. In effect, they live as primitive humans.
Admittedly, I’m extrapolating a lot for the sake of this discussion, but I feel most of what I have said is fairly reasonable based on eyewitness accounts and current theories. They are not simply an animal. They are an animal with an intelligence we’ve never encountered before outside of our own species. The question remains what does that make them and how should we treat them when they are discovered? I suggest we don’t make them adapt to us. We should adapt to them. We shouldn’t treat them like people because frankly, we don’t have a great history of treating people who are different from us very well in this country. Just ask the Native Americans. In fact, perhaps we should take this opportunity to adopt the strategy we should have adopted with the indigenous people of this country when we first landed on the shores of North America. Let this new species be their own nation within our nation. They’ve lived harmoniously with the wild since their beginning. Let’s keep it that way. Let’s not try to manage them or change them. Unfortunately, we will have to protect them from us because our history has also shown that we don’t really respect the things we discover. Our curiosity and fears tend to drive us to do stupid and selfish things. But the laws we make should pertain to our species not theirs. They’ve never threatened us or required anything from us. Let’s keep it that way.
Okay, now you can stop pretending. If the Erickson Project turns out to be nonsense like a lot of people fear, then it’s all a moot point. Just keep it in mind in case they actually do come through with conclusive proof.