“Identity” is often used to mean “groups in which we are invested”. To the right I have created in illustration of our expanding circles of identity. The adaptive advantage of forming identity — or allegiance to groups — is obvious: it enhances competition and cooperation. Though it may be useful to mentally feel allegiance to a group, such thinking also has a dark side: “Exceptionalism”
“Exceptionalism” is a stance of superiority, feeling like the top of the pile, the best, the chosen, the destined and such. Such feelings are prevalent because they are useful both in terms of internal happiness and security and outwardly in helping groups cooperate with each other or compete against other groups. But truly identifying with any of these circles exposes Exceptionalisms obvious dark side.
Exceptionalism can be seen in all these identity circles. I am presently reading Henry Gee’s book “The Accidental Species: Misunderstanding Human Evolution” where he brilliantly criticizes the common misunderstandings of evolution including the pervasive mistaken view that evolution is progressive (with humans on the top, of course). That progressivism view becomes “Human Exceptionalism” which creates a huge blind spot in our religions by blocking insight into what I call “Roadkill Theology“. But it is not just religious folks that abuse the delusion of progressivism and exceptionalism, we all do.
Other examples of Exceptionalism as related to the Identity circles:
- Human Exceptionalism — blind spots in science, poor treatment of animals and our environment.
- National Exceptionalism: American Exceptionalism : polluting our world: international interventionism, Manifest Destiny …
- Religious Exceptionalism: Christian Exceptionalism: an ugly concept (more later)
- Self Exceptionalism: To view yourself as exceptional — see my “Self” index.
Note: I could have added other important circles to the identity circles such as gender, race and ethnicity but the ugliness would have gotten crowded.
Question to readers: Your thoughts on Exceptionalism and Identity?