The Great Exoneration

Man's superiority to the rest of creation and his right to hold over it the powers of life and death, evolution and extinction, are questioned scarcely more often or more seriously than they were when he boasted a soul as his excuse. Now in the rare instances where his convenience alone is not taken as ample justification for his manipulations and erasures of other species, it is his intelligence, or some aspect of it, that is held up most regularly as the great exoneration. This, according to the myth, was the property which gave him the edge on the other creatures; and in the process it became endowed, in his eyes, with a spontaneous moral splendor which constitutes between him and the rest of nature not a relative but an absolute difference. W.S. Merwin