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Humans Are Special

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"There are few things currently on Earth that have lasted as long as we have. [...] I used to find that transience laughably fragile. But I see now that it's actually a strength I'm just beginning to grasp. [...] I believe I'm finally understanding the meaning of the word... "beautiful". I can't think of the last time we created anything. We have so much to learn here."
Thundercracker, The Transformers (IDW) #4

Much Speculative Fiction presents a galaxy filled with many aliens that are far more advanced than Puny Earthlings. This is not particularly improbable; after all, assuming they're not the very first race in the universe to make the leap, any race that just got space travel recently — which is usually the timeframe Speculative Fiction focuses on, since it's easier for us to relate to — is going to initially be the "new kids" on the galactic scene, encountering tons of other races that have had far longer to get their things together. Even if other aliens aren't super-advanced, if you have lots of different spacefaring races in your setting, you still end up with humanity just being one non-notable race among thousands, but the problem is, these things are actually being written by humans, for humans, and that usually means people want to see humans in an important, overarching role. To accomplish this, it is made clear that there is something special, something unique about the human character. It could be that humans are inherently noble, kind and idealistic, or that we never ever give up no matter how bad things get, or we are extremely curious and love adventure or simply that our very emotions are our strength. Whatever the case may be, humans are usually given some Western, humanistic value that somehow allows us to transcend our weaknesses and earn the admiration and/or fear of other, more advanced civilizations. Apparently everyone else is stuck in a rut, possibly as a result of being a Planet of Hats.

This might become embarrassing to explain if extraterrestrials are actually receiving our media transmissions. Though, to be fair, it's highly likely that any other intelligent species that evolved through natural selection would also instinctively see themselves as being the best, and many of their science fiction works (or equivalent) would have the same trope for their species.

In extreme cases, fantasy writers have depicted humans as (morally) superior to the gods. This is easily accomplished by having the gods acting like two-year-olds, and badly brought up two-year-olds at that.

If humans know they are special, they will make it clear to the aliens in a Patrick Stewart Speech. Alternately, it might be the aliens themselves who tell humanity that they have the potential to achieve greatness beyond imagination.

May be used as a justification for Earth Is the Center of the Universe and What Other Galaxies?. Frequently, it's because aliens suffer Creative Sterility. As humans as a whole are not renowned for modesty, this trope of course has much to do with the fact that Most Writers Are Human. It can also lead to a desire to be human for non-humans.

This trope lies somewhere in the middle of the continuum between Humans Are Warriors and Humans Are Diplomats. Humans Are Leaders, Humanity Is Insane, and Humans Advance Swiftly are specific variants.

Compare Humans Are Good, Humanity Is Infectious and Intrigued by Humanity. Contrast with Humans Are Insects, Humans Are the Real Monsters, Humans Are Morons, Humans Are Flawed, Humans Need Aliens, Humans Are Bastards and Humans Are Cthulhu. Compare and contrast Humanity Is Superior and Humanity Is Advanced. See also Humanity on Trial and What Measure Is a Non-Human?. For humans being the preferred prey of space aliens and supernatural beasties see To Serve Man, while for aliens enjoying food made by humans see Aliens Love Human Food.

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Hellsing, Alucard rather admires humanity to a point, though he generally makes a distinction between "human dogs", "humans who become monsters" and "real humans".
    • Alucard has pointed out (at least in the manga) that only a human can kill a monster (referring to himself). So humans are, if nothing else, significant. When Father Anderson gives up his humanity and becomes a monster, Alucard is horrified. Not from fear of being defeated, but because the human he thought might be the one worthy to kill him has thrown it all away.
  • Kemono Friends' first season revolves around Kaban, a human in a world of Little Bit Beastly animal Friends, learning that while she may not have super speed or protection from extreme temperatures like other Friends, humans are adept at creative solutions to problems and can be good at many things. Fire-building, tree-climbing, rope-making, athletics, swimming, and throwing things all come into play in the finale.
  • Sora from No Game No Life explores this concept. He firmly believes Humans Are Flawed and has become disillusioned with humanity in general, but he also believes in humanity's potential and what greatness it is able to achieve. In one of the most unusual instances of this trope, while addressing Imanity (Disboard's humans) in a Rousing Speech he cites how humans have been outclassed by all the other races and are the weakest of all, but then he turns it around and declares it is being weak that is what makes humans special.
    Sora: Why is it that this whole continent once ruled by humans? Is it because we are a species that specializes in violence? We can't use magic like the elves, nor are we physically strong like the warbeast nor do we have the longevity of the Flugel. Why were we able to rule this continent? Is it because we are master of war? I tell you it's not! We fought and survived because we are weak! In every time, in every world.. The strong polishes their fangs while the weak polish their wisdom. Why are we in such danger now? Because the ten pledges have broken the fangs of the strong, they have learned to polish their wisdom. The wisdom and strategies that we the weak, once monopolized... The power to survive... The strong have gained them all! And brought us to this state!
    We are the weak! We are the weak, just as we have always been! Yes, nothing has changed at all! The strong may imitate our weapons, but they will never master them! Because at the hearts of our weapons lies the cowardice born of almost humiliating weakness. This cowardice has given us the wisdom to escape from magic. This cowardice has given us the wisdom, born from learning, and the experience to predict the future itself! I say for the third time, we are the weak! We are the proud weak who throughout history, who torn out the throats of those who sit back and boast out their strength!
    We hereby declare that we will live as the weak, fight as the weak, and as the weak we will destroy the strong! As we once were and as we will always be. Accept the fact that we are the weakest race. Accept that we are the weakest race, one that can become anything, because we are born with nothing!
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist Envy hears a Patrick Stewart Speech from Ed about his jealousy over humanity's incredible resilience and ability to put aside their differences. Ed is so incisive and accurate that Envy decides to kill himself.
  • A chapter of the manga Ah! My Goddess has a minor goddess visiting Earth go into raptures when she gets to taste "Earth's famous soft-serve ice cream!" They don't have ice cream in Heaven? Then what's the point of going there? For that matter, Peorth returned to Heaven with a lot of games and books she'd picked up during her stay on Earth, and was asked not to do that again, because so many of the other goddesses were distracted from their duties. Apparently we can create entertainment that the deities just can't match.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion invokes a variation upon this, explicated in the extra materials from the PS2/PSP video game Neon Genesis Evangelions: "Humans" are effectively a special kind of life form that includes the Milky Way's first intelligent species (the First Ancestral Race), along with the Seeds of Life (Adam, Lilith, etc.) and the races they birthed on other worlds (Lilin, Angels, etc.). Furthermore, the FAR didn't just create the Seeds and send them off to do their thing; they went physically extinct to provide the souls for them and their offspring. Humans really are special...
  • Heroic Age: Humanity was the last species to respond to the Golden Tribe's call to leave our homeworld for the greater galaxy, but we were the only ones who did it entirely under our own power (the Silver, Bronze, and Heroic Tribes all had a bit of assistance from the Golden). Even among the four who responded, we're the only ones who consider our past to be important, rather than focusing exclusively on the future... a trait that the Golden Tribe also possessed. We were also the only species besides the Silver Tribe to be assigned a Nodos in the Golden Tribe's Batman Gambit to stabilize the galaxy.
  • In Transformers: Cybertron, only humans can hear the sound made by the Plot Coupons' power. This was an addition made to the dub to fully justify the continued presence of the human companions after their initial usefulness as native guides largely ended. With this worked in, the Autobots had a legitimate need for the whole trio of Coby, Bud, and Lori to stay on and accompany them on search missions. They don't seek assistance from other humans because that would risk completely blowing The Masquerade and causing mass panic. Optimus Prime is perfectly aware that most humans would tend freak out about the presence of thousands of Super Robot refugees. So contact was initially limited to the three who had already found out (and had assisted an injured Autobot).
  • It seems that humans get the short end of the stick in Bleach, considering their short lifespans, but because they don't live very long, they improve much more quickly. Chad and Uuryu went from being cannon fodder for a Gillian to slapping around Privaron Espada in under a year, whereas it took Renji at least a decade to unlock his bankai.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, humans—especially young girls—have the strongest emotions of any species in the universe, making them the most proficient Magical Girls. Like everything else in the show, this is deconstructed. Kyubey's race exploits them for the energy they produce when they become witches, and while humanity generally benefits, he doesn't really care if one of these witches ends up annihilating Earth's biosphere (which has actually happened prior to Homura resetting the timeline).
  • Played With in Dragon Ball. Although almost every alien makes it a point to say Earthlings are weaklings and worthless, Earthlings apparently make great food. Beerus is practically addicted to Earth's cuisine to the point that he calls instant ramen noodles one of the best things he ever tasted. In Super, Champa wants to move the entire Earth to his universe so he can eat there (his universe's Earth is a dead planet). The elder Kaioshin also notes that people who go to Earth end up being changed by it saying how Goku and Vegeta were both ruthless warriors before becoming good people from living on the planet. The demon Majin Buu also became tame after befriending Mr. Satan (his least evil personality anyway). And Beerus himself might claim it's just because he doesn't want to lose out on all the great food, it seems clear that his transition from Jerkass to Jerk with a Heart of Gold is due to the time he's spent on Earth.
  • Sgt. Frog: It's hinted in one arc of the manga (the World's Tiniest Invasion: Lost Episode) that humans have an absurd level of mental potential, and that Keroro's contact with them has put his own potential far beyond that of the average Keroronian, which still leaves him far below a human's level.
  • Fairy Tail: The Dragons who sided with humanity during their great civil war believed humans were worthy of being their equals rather than simply amusing insects to terrorize or eat. These dragons made up the minority of their kind, however, and so they with the aid of a powerful wizard taught other humans Dragonslaying Magic to bolster their numbers against their brethren. Unfortunately, unintended side-effects of Dragonslaying Magic included turning the practitioner into one after enough time and driving them insane in the process, and the most powerful and bloodthirsty Slayer of all ended up slaughtering almost all Dragons regardless of side upon becoming the biggest, baddest dragon of all. The few survivors ended up training a new generation of Slayers to fight him while ensuring they would never become monsters like him.
  • Ryuk from Death Note has grown completely bored with his own realm where all Shinigami do is nap, gamble, and write names in their death notes to extend their lifespans. He drops his note into the human world because humanity is far more active and entertaining. Watching Light's journey as Kira has lead to Ryuk remarking more than once, "Humans are so interesting!"
  • 3×3 Eyes: while the inhabitants of darkness (demons and monsters) tend to be stronger than humans under many forms and are capable of harness spells that usually not even pure-blooded human sorcerers can use, there's something in which humans surpasses them: according to Parvati, humans can create, care for the future, leave behind proof of their existence and prosper, while demons cannot do such things. It's telling that the homeland of monsters, the Sacred Place, is devoid of signs of civilization and culture outside the one of the Sanzhiyan Humkara.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! GO RUSH!!: Early on, we're introduced to a mysterious substance called "Earthdamar" that was harvested from Yuhi's body. It has many mysterious abilities, such as the ability to make Duel Monsters become real. It was eventually revealed that Earthdamar is something that all humans possess, as it is the physical manifestation of our ability to enjoy things.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! OCG Stories: The human Raye defeats her robot classmates in sword duels. Her classmates ask how this can be since they downloaded all fighting knowledge. Their robot teacher explains that as a human, Raye is not bound by programming and routine, so she can think and fight more creatively.

    Comic Books 
  • Parodied in the Buck Godot comic book series, where the one thing that makes Earth unique in a galaxy crowded with advanced species is that it was the only planet ever to invent the popsicle. Nonetheless, they still get the greatness-beyond-imagination speech from the Winslow at the end of one story.
    • Well, humanity is one of the few races not to give into the insanity surrounding the Winslow and realise that, indestructibility aside, it's just a silly, harmless little animal and not some all-important MacGuffin.
  • In both DC Comics and Marvel Comics, what makes humans special compared to various alien races is often stated to be their propensity to develop unique superpowers. This is justified in a canon DCU story where it is revealed that life on Earth was originally meant to evolve a godlike, superpowered race, which ultimately ended up as humans because of genetic experiments performed by aliens in its early history. Nevertheless many humans retain the genetic potential to awaken superpowers, which is why Earth has so many superheroes. Other examples from both companies are below.
    • The other way humans are special is diversity. This is perhaps lampshading the typical Planet of Hats phenomenon among other species.
  • In the Green Lantern comics, the Guardians of the Universe pick out humanity as one of the next few species to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, and note that humans make wonderful Green Lanterns. In a bit of subversion, one of the other races picked out as having potential is a species of intelligent space chipmunks, and humanity by and large doesn't seem to change much for 1000 years when the Legion of Super-Heroes comics take place.
    • Played straight in the Elseworlds story Superman: Red Son, where it is revealed that Earth is actually Krypton in its distant past and that humans ultimately evolve into one of the most technologically advanced races in the universe.
    • That was the opinion of the original Guardians. The new Guardians of the Universe think that, while Earth has has some imagination and great will, humans are stupid savages (like other races who hear about Earth), despite most of the reality bending stuff being related to them. The two Guardians who disagree with this opinion are Ganthet (who is the last original Guardian) and Sayd (who is his lover and seen how good humans can be firsthand), but are now exiled from the rest. The reason being that they "coddle humans too much" and for thinking that being emotionally detached from everything is bad (which has been shown to be true).
      • Blackest Night #7 reveals they're lying. The Guardians know damn well Earth and humans are special, they just don't want anyone else to know.
    • Guardians be damned, this trope is still in full effect as Grant Morrison's work on Justice League and Final Crisis explains that humanity are to become the Fifth World of gods and replace Darkseid, Apokolips, New Genesis and such. Darkseid's initial motivation in Final Crisis was to usurp this ascension, until everything went to hell and he decided to just end it all.
    • Prior to Final Crisis Darkseid was interested in humanity because humans were one of the few species that possessed the Anti-Life Equation in their collective consciousness. He was especially interested in finding the few rare humans who possessed the entire Equation in their minds.
    • In a possible Lampshade Hanging on tropes like Planet of Hats and Single-Biome Planet, a supplemental book for the Green Lantern comics states that Earth has more distinct cultures and languages than most galaxies.
      • Further enlightened upon by Despero in Justice League: Virtue & Vice that part of the reason why Galactic Conquerors, Evil Overlords and the occasional Dominion would chronically attempt to enslave Earth was not in fact for its colorful array of superhumans within its populace but its multiple cultures, languages and differing perspectives which, when properly tempered, can move mountains or shift planets.
  • Lampshaded both in Pre and Post New 52 continuum during either crisis events or just in general by certain important characters.
    • Justice League of America storyline "World War III" when the weapon of the Old Gods came upon the world inciting malefic tendencies in the indigenous species populating it. When Oracle, after having been hyper-evolved by the League to combat it, stated to the world, who underwent similar enhancement that, this potential was and is the very reason Superman fights to save everybody.
    • While not as significant, during Post-Reboot, in Superman publishing where Orion can be seen flying high above the floating din of New Genesis contemplating his thoughts, which are oddly enough not about his place within the New Genesisian hierarchy but about how he respects and admires humans in spite of their numerous faults. Boldly stating (in his thought space anyway) that while gods with all they've got simply aren't as intriguing.
  • This trope is played with in the Marvel Universe.
    • When an alien conqueror sets his sights on conquering Earth. En route, he learns a stunning fact: the humans on that planet repelled the supposedly unstoppable attacks of Galactus, the feared god-like devourer of worlds not once, but multiple consecutive times. He quickly u-turns his ships and flees, fearing a species capable of that kind of defense.
    • This happened a second time, in an X-Men parody of the DC series Invasion!. A group of aliens move to invade the world of 'Australia', and only one does the research. He finds out that the planet has hosted several people who can harness the Phoenix Force, have fought off Galactus, beaten back the Skrulls, once hosted the Silver Surfer, etc. He ran to alert his superiors. They shot him for interrupting, claimed that whatever he said couldn't have been that important, and proceeded to have their invasion fleet wiped out by Colossus, Longshot, a drunken Havok, and Wolverine.
    • Played for laughs a second time when aliens challenge Earth's greatest heroes (the West Coast Avengers) to battle with their robot to test their strength. After all of the Avengers kill the self-repairing robot one after another, we find that the aliens assume that all 6 billion humans are a composite of the 6 members of the WCA, with all their powers combined, and instantly rethink their invasion plan.
      • This is based on a number of older Stan Lee Stories where a superhero fights off an alien invasion, and the aliens flee, thinking that all humans are like this, or in Iron Man's case, that the humans have an army of robots.
    • Played straight when the Ultimate Marvel Galactus is defeated, and Nick Fury says it makes him feel like he can challenge God.
    • During the The Kree/Skrull War storyline in The '70s, this was why Ronan the Accuser wanted to wipe out the human race with a Kree Devolution Device. Based on his past defeat at the hands of the Fantastic Four, as well mankind's rapid technological advancement during The 20th Century, Ronan came to the conclusion that if left unchecked, Earth would eventually become a major threat to the Kree and their star-spanning empire. He was ultimately proven right during the finale, when the Supreme Intelligence allowed former Tag Along Kid Rick Jones to access the immense power that is supposedly buried within all of humanity, which Rick then quickly used to stop the warring Kree and Skrull armies.
    • Uatu, a member of the ancient Watcher race, is convinced that humanity is innately noble, to the point he broke his non-interference vow to help save them from Galactus, the Planet Eater. After being put in trial for this, he has pretended to not care about humans anymore... but always manages to indirectly aid when needed, such as the time he tricked another Cosmic Entity (The Stranger) into not killing a group of superheroes, simply by showing up to "observe" the event, which led The Stranger to conclude Uatu would not have bothered unless the humans were going to win anyway.
    • Speaking of the Stranger, he deconstructs the trope after acknowledging humanity as a threat for their successes in thwarting or repelling cosmic entities and much older galaxy-spanning empires along with their species' capacity to develop superpowers. To this end, he conducts "experiments" that just so happen to put the Earth at immense risk of destruction in indirect attempts to end humanity.
    • A Marvel short story had an alien marvel (pun not intended) at the attention such a fragmented backwater like Earth received. It could be the only world in the known galaxies that produces the delicacy "ice cream." The alien in question is a trader who buys the stuff by the tanker-full.
    • Ultimate Marvel has this with Captain Mahr Vell in the Ultimate Secret arc. He defects to the humans partly because of their enjoyable (American) culture, including Krispy Kreme donuts.
    • This was a major plot point in Kurt Busiek's Avengers Forever. Essentially, if humans were allowed to reach and colonize space, they would quickly conquer it. Thus, everything from Thor's ability to open portals getting stolen to killing the Supreme Intelligence during Operation: Galactic Storm to The Crossing was an effort by Immortus to keep humans on Earth.
    • It really came to a head in Maximum Security, in which the aliens of the Marvel Universe turn Earth into a prison to keep the humans busy.
    • During Infinity, Emperor J'son of Spartax dismisses Captain America and humanity as a whole, telling them to go away until cannon fodder is required. The Kree Supreme Intelligence then points out that Spartax only has a 34 percent win ratio in confrontations with the Kree... and the human ratio is considerably higher. Suddenly, everyone decides it's a damn good idea to listen to Cap's advice.
      • This is apparently why the Builders are bent on destroying humanity. One Builder even asks Captain Marvel what makes humans so special.
    • In Avengers: No Surrender, this is given as one of the reasons the Grandmaster and the Challenger chose to hold their cosmic game on Earth:
      The Grandmaster: Instead, I chose the one planet that has stymied we Elders of the Universe more often than we care to say. Earth. The Avengers World. The world that tamed the Phoenix...that bested mad Thanos...that altered mighty Galactus' very nature.
  • Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan initially holds that humans aren't really all that special. "In my opinion, the existence of life is a highly overrated phenomenon." He changes his mind when he learns of Laurie's heritage, and decides that every human life is so improbable as to be miraculous.
  • In various retellings of the Superman origin story, this is usually one of the reasons Jor-El sends his son to Earth.
  • In the Wonder Woman Vol 1 storyline Judgment In Infinity, the Adjudicator wonders why humanity has not blown itself up by now, and he decides to put humans to a test. Once his trials are done, the Adjudicator concludes humans have not destroyed themselves so far due to their capability for self-sacrifice, which he considers unique among sentient species across the universe.

    Fan Works 
  • In Angel of the Bat, Jesus, or possibly just a hallucination of him in Cassandra's mind makes it very clear that in spite of their flaws, he has an undying love and admiration for humanity thanks to its inclination towards doing good.
  • In Big Human on Campus, Ranma's trained giant spiders see humans as gods and monsters as pretenders.
  • Child of the Storm has Asgard currently believe in humanity's potential. They haven't always - it varied. Bor dismissed humans as Puny Earthlings, but others before him were behind the rise of the Atlantean Empire. More or less everyone else dismisses this as nothing more than an eccentricity and/or assumes that they just like the fact that Humans Are Warriors. Actually, it's because fundamentally, Humans Are Survivors. It's why they a) develop of superpowers under circumstances that should kill them (e.g. the Hulk), b) can breed with an astonishing number of alien species, and c) the most powerful in their next stage of evolution (mutants) are on par with even 'greater gods' (e.g. Thor) for raw power, to the point where Doctor Strange states to Jean Grey (who's stronger than most 'greater gods' at 17) that the difference between the two is mere "semantics".
    • Mar-Vell and Jor-El both believe/believed this, thinking highly of humanity's potential, for many of the same reasons.
  • In Chrysalis Visits The Hague, the ponies either hold humanity in high regard as an ingenious civilized culture (Lyra in particular seems to see them as the pinnacle of creation), or they treat them with wary irreverence as carnivorous predators. Chrysalis on the other hand just sees them as uppity monkeys with Delusions of Eloquence.
  • In The Confectionary Chronicles, Gabriel reflects that he truly began to love humanity after witnessing some of the acts of compassion amid the horror of the World Wars, ranging from a little girl who faced her execution with courage to the Christmas Truce.
  • In A Hero, Dalek Sec considers humans the second greatest race in all existence (after Daleks, obviously) and respects them for their tenacity and drive to command their destiny. He's absolutely livid that the Incubators in this universe have subjugated them and essentially use them as cattle.
  • In Incarnation of Legends, the immortal, beautiful, and all-powerful gods are fascinated by mortals' ability to grow, change, learn, and perform spectacular acts of good and evil. This is why they descend so they can observe them and experience the joys and sorrows of willingly refusing to use their godly abilities as a vacation from the eternally stagnant bureaucracy of the Upper World.
  • The Night Unfurls:
    • Inverted. By using the human fantasy race as a benchmark and comparing it to other Standard Fantasy Races, it is evident that they are portrayed as "humans but slightly different" provided that they are not The Horde (e.g. orcs, goblins, etc.). In particular, elves are "humans but Long-Lived and with Pointy Ears", while Half-lings are "short humans that look like petting zoo people". Fitting for a Low Fantasy setting populated by humans or non-humans who are not The Horde.
    • From Kyril's perspective, this trope implies that humanity in general sees themselves as "pure" and "superior" compared to other races, even developing Delusions of Grandeur and invincibility, to the point where they forget they are mortal like the others. It is all too easy to show them how "human"note  they are by brandishing a weapon, and the facade fades quickly.
  • In the Poké Wars series, some of the Legendaries believe humans will earn their place in the post dampener removal Death World. Expanded Universe stories confirm this.
  • In Pony Gear Solid, Discord tells Princess Luna this, citing Humans Are Warriors as his reason for believing so.
    Discord: The first thing you should know is that human beings are special. And I don't toss that word around lightly. To see a people so brilliant, so capable, so driven to plumb the mysteries of the universe – if they ever put their heads together, they could do wonders, Luna. Miracles to rival the Elements, even creation itself! But – and here's the funny part, they squander their gifts on petty little turf wars and philosophical pissing contests. Wars over this god or that, over who has the right to some virgin bride's maidenhood, over whether they'll have ham or mutton for dinner. No matter is too trivial, no prize too small. And all their drive to understand and create has ever gotten them are new and exciting ways to destroy one another. Even in my experience, that's not something you see every day.
  • In the Jackie Chan Adventures fanfiction Queen of All Oni, apparently only humans can use chi magic.
  • In The Return humanity's very survival and inventiveness makes it special, but humanity has these traits because Humans Are the Real Monsters bordering on Always Chaotic Evil.
  • Son of the Sannin: During the final arc, Naruto and Hinata meet the spirit of Kaguya Otsutsuki who, in a heavy contrast to her canon counterpart, admits to have grown to love humankind's creativity and ability to grow with each generation, while her own species had lived for eons yet had remained stagnant and unchanged.
  • In "The Things" by Peter Watts, we get a look into the mind of the titular monster from The Thing (1982) and find out that, out of all the worlds it's come across and assimilated, humans are the first species it's encountered that can't shape shift. The concept of individuality and a static shape go completely over its head.
  • In Turnabout Storm, humans are regarded in Equestria for their strong sense of justice, so much in fact that they based their judicial system on the human one.

    Films — Animated 
  • Both Odin and Hel agree that humanity's hat in Legends of Valhalla: Thor is their overwhelming emotional diversity and the strength it gives them, Thor's willingness to free his friends in spite of the dangers being his defining trait.
  • Ratatouille: Rémy is fascinated by the creativity of humans compared to other species, with food being the most prominent example.
  • Used as the explanation for why the Drej blew up Earth in Titan A.E.. Sorta-kinda a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, in that the Drej wouldn't have had to worry about us if we hadn't been pissed off over them blowing up our planet.
    • And if they'd had the sense to just leave it alone at that point, the Titan wouldn't have been recoverable, and the guy who could find and activate it would never have gone looking for it in the first place.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Prophecy. Gabriel and a segment of angels are outraged God gave "talking monkeys" a soul.
  • The aliens of Dark City abduct and study humans because unlike them we possess individuality, and are potentially more than the sum of our memories, i.e., we have "souls". They need to discover this secret for themselves so that their race can survive, but it blows up in their faces when they end up accidentally granting one of us their reality altering powers.
  • In Penn & Teller's short film "Invisible Thread", an advanced alien race comes to Earth and puts humanity on trial, demanding to see one unique aspect of humanity that justifies their habitation of Earth. The government contacts Teller, who was a genius scientist before turning to stage magic,note  but he and Penn go to the military base on the belief that they're being asked to display their illusions. After every single genius from every field of human endeavor fails to impress the aliens, Penn and Teller perform their "invisible thread" trick, which satisfies the aliens. Afterwards, however, the aliens send a letter stating that they saw right through the illusion, but were amazed that any species would lie about something like "invisible thread".
  • At the end of the MST3K classic It Conquered the World, Peter Graves summarized how man could defeat a technologically advanced alien:
    Dr. Nelson: He learned, almost too late, that man is a feeling creature, and because of it, the greatest in the universe.
  • The Predator franchise boasts humans as one of the best preys in the galaxy. Sure, they're physically weak and in almost every incarnation, their technology is far behind the eponymous alien races, but those little bastards are still really hard to kill. Their adaptability is something else that's shown quite frequently, as Predators are often defeated simply because the human they're hunting uses something in their surroundings as a weapon, sometimes including the Predator's own weapon.
    • The Alien vs. Predator novels outright state that humans are the better prey. "Kainde Amedah" ("Hard Meat", or the Xenomorph) is a favourite prey among youngbloods... but "Pyode Amedah" ("Soft Meat", guess who) is strictly forbidden to youngbloods; only distinguished Predators who have claimed trophies from certain other challenging prey can ask for permission to attend a human hunt.
  • Spoofed in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey. The guys ask God to introduce them to the greatest genius in the universe so they can enlist his aid in fighting their Robot Mes. Following God's directions leads them to a pair of squat, ugly Martians. The Grim Reaper smugly asks "Did you really think the greatest genius in the universe would be from Earth?" and Ted, shrugging, replies "Yeah."
  • The alien creatures that attacked Earth in Independence Day have pulled the same routine of exterminating any resistance and stripping whole planets bare of natural resources like a literal plague of locusts across countless worlds. Guess what happened when they picked a fight with humanity?
    • Particularly telling is that, once their impenetrable shields were disabled, the alien fighter pilots were getting outright spanked by the human pilots. You're talking highly-advanced alien spaceships going up against jet fighters from the late-90s with a significant numerical superiority going down in equally massive numbers. Of the human pilots shown being shot down in the finale, almost all of them were hit trying to make their attack run on the main ship's primary weapon, when they would be at their most vulnerable.
    • Taken further 20 years later in the sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence. When the aliens return a 2nd time with a queen, a representative from an intergalactic resistance group also shows up. When the heroes manage to kill the queen in the climax it turns out we're the first ones to ever kill a queen. Now they want humans, a race which hasn't even developed interstellar travel yet (even after 20 years of studying the alien technology), to be the leaders of this resistance and take the fight to them. Yep, humans are pretty special.
  • Prometheus (2012): The motivation behind every human character's reaction to David.
  • Deconstructed in The World's End. It turns out that humanity is the least civilized species in the galaxy, and the Network is trying to bring humanity to a level where it could be brought into the galactic community. However, to do so they have to remove anyone who doesn't want to be part of the Network; and because humanity doesn't like being told what to do, the Network need to replace a lot of people in an attempt to make them more acceptable to the galactic community . Arguably, the point of Gary, Andrew & Steven's rebuttal is that "Humans are special because they are flawed".
  • In the Dudley Moore comedy Wholly Moses!, there is a scene where Dudley Moore's character, Herschel (who has mistakenly believed that it is he, and not his cousin Moses, who is supposed to be God's Messenger to the Hebrews) finally gets fed up and demands God explain himself, and justify the movie's plot, to Herschel. After God says, , "I am God! Who are you to question me?" Herschel responds, "Who am I? Who am I? I am MAN! And I am as you made me, a thinking being who is demanding answers!" So God gives him answers.
  • In The Giver, all emotions have been evolved out of humanity in order for it to overcome its flaws, and from a totalitarian standpoint it works-but as Jonas and the Giver show the Community, emotions are what make life worth it and are part of what make us special.
  • The History of Future Folk: Humans are the only species to have invented music, though Kevin notes that humans are just as violent and flawed as any other species.
  • In Starman the titular alien is asked why he came to earth, and explains thusly:
    Mark Shermin: Have people from your world been here before?
    Starman: Before yes. We are interested in your species.
    Mark Shermin: You mean you're some kind of anthropologist? Is that what you're doing here? Just checking us out?
    (Shermin nods)
    Starman: You are at your very best when things are worst.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Discussed in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Ultron's hatred for humanity causes him to dismiss most of them as expendable, despicable or outright useless. However, Vision counters this by pointing out that despite their flaws, they continue to learn and grow and have accomplished incredible things in the short time they've existed. It's this that made Vision loyal to humanity's side rather than agreeing with Ultron.
    Vision: Humans are odd. They think that order and chaos are somehow opposites and try to control what won't. But there is grace in their failings. I think you missed that.
    Ultron: They're doomed.
    Vision: Yes. But a thing isn't beautiful because it lasts. It's a privilege to be among them.
    • Demonstrated with beautiful subtlety in Doctor Strange (2016). Despite being an Incompletely Trained novice who has yet to reach even the level of Wong or Mordo, Stephen Strange, a mere mortal, not only wields the Time Stone like a man winding back his watch, but he and he alone forces the Multiversal Eldritch Abomination Dormammu into never threatening Earth again. You can count on one hand the number of alien or even godlike races that could do that. It's just one example of how unique human beings are and the insane potential some of them have.
    • It's apparent that humans, and indeed Earth as a whole is unique among the galaxies by the time of Avengers: Endgame. While Thanos (and most cosmic villains prior to him) are quick to dismiss humans and consider Earth a "stubborn, annoying little planet", the people of Earth are also the only ones in his entire thousand years of conquest across the universe to ever pose a genuine threat to him. Countless alien civilizations far more advanced than humans fell to Thanos and the Black Order, but humans such as the Avengers (and their allies) were the ones to finally end him for good. As put on the film's Awesome page, "He decimated countless worlds, but Earth proved his equal."
    • Further enforced in Eternals, after personally witnessing humanity's capacity for growth and their willingness to rally against Thanos, Ajak became attached to the intelligent life the Eternals were supposed to sacrifice to the Celestials, and decides for the first time in millions of years of serving the Celestials to stop the Emergence. After Ikaris kills her for it, she passes the role of leader on to the similarly pro-human Sersi.
    • Demonstrated on a more epic and terrifying scale in Quantumania. As it turns out, the Quantum Realm is a multiverse all its own and the most inhabited part of it is a grand dictatorship led by Kang the Conqueror. All the species and meta-humans that live within it have never been able to defeat him or even come close to him in power (despite their numbers, tech and physical capabilities). However, a group of five humans from Earth: Scott, Cassie, Hope, Hank and Janet, are able to dismantle Kang's empire and even take the Conqueror and his henchmen on in a straight fight and live to tell the tale. They even manage to (possibly) kill Kang by the end. If that didn't demonstrate it enough, The Stinger shows that Earth has now become a high priority for the Council of Kangs, with one even saying if humanity continues to develop as rapidly as they are, they could conquer the entire multiverse as they have. They then rally every single Kang across all time and space to prepare for the Second Multiverse War.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In 3rd Rock from the Sun, Dick decides to extend the aliens' mission on Earth indefinitely because he finds us so fascinating. Apparently, we're the only species they've ever encountered to possess complex inter-personal relationships and emotions.
  • Suggested in Babylon 5 a couple times. Once as the ability to build communities out of disparate elements wherever we go, where other races might make military bases or choose to live apart from themselves and others. Londo Mollari also gives a rather tear jerking speech about how much he admires the humans for their seemingly futile yet terribly noble struggle to survive in the Earth-Minbari War.
    • The Vorlons tell Delenn that the humans would be important in the upcoming Shadow war. Unfortunately, that is not demonstrated convincingly; individual humans are important, and B4 and B5 are important, but humans in general seem to stay out of things.
    • At one point, Delenn mentions that the humans are the only known race who would build a station like Babylon 5, where all races were welcome—anyone else would have built a station only for their own race and maybe a few others.
  • Cosmic Disclosure: Human DNA was subjected to extensive experimentation by 22 different groups. The result is that humans feel a wider range of emotions than other species, which makes some aliens envious.
  • In Doctor Who, humanity's ability to survive and adapt is what draws the Daleks to repeatedly try to conquer Earth. In both "The Ark in Space" and "Utopia", the Doctor proudly describes humans as "indomitable" as a reflection of this.
    • The Doctor expresses contempt for Puny Earthlings ("stupid apes") during his darker moments. He does have a point, since Time Lords are superior in nearly every way. However, he has a certain degree of admiration for humans that inspires him to help them over and over again. They're just so special!
    • To be fair, humans aren't likely to become as decadent as his own race, the Time Lords, who the Doctor himself described as megalomaniacs corrupted by "ten million years of absolute power". In fact, when it was decided the Time War with the Daleks wasn't going so well, they decided to tear open the universe, while they Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence. No wonder the Doctor never stayed home often, and no wonder he was forced to wipe them out.
    • "Evolution of the Daleks" has the Doctor use this as a counter to Dalek Sec's Humans Are Bastards argument, by pointing out that the human mind has so much more potential than simply destroying.
    • However, this theme is horribly subverted in the Tenth Doctor episode "Midnight", via a Locked in a Freezer scenario.
    • And then affirmed fantastically in "Journey's End", with the Doctor-Donna. "I can think of things you two never would!"
    • And we invented edible ball-bearings! No other species in the galaxy ever thought of that.
    • In "The End of Time", human Wilfred marvels at the Doctor's long life and many adventures. He says "We must look like ants to you." The Doctor responds "I think you look like giants."
    • The irony being that the entire premise of the show is that the Doctor, an alien, is having to almost constantly save humanity from extinction. It has even been lampshaded somewhat in the new series and in Torchwood, where human characters faced with seemingly-unstoppable alien menaces openly wonder whether the Doctor will show up in time to save them.
      Gwen Cooper: There's one thing I always wanted to ask Jack. Back in the old days. I wanted to know about that Doctor of his. The man who appears out of nowhere and saves the world; except sometimes he doesn't. All those times in history where there was no sign of him... I wanted to know why not, but I don't need to ask anymore. I know the answer now: Sometimes the Doctor must look at this planet and turn away in shame.
    • Ultimately what makes humanity special in the universe of Doctor Who is our tenacity. As revealed in "Utopia", at the end of the universe, when entropic heat death is finally destroying everything that ever existed, it is humanity, out of all the billions of species in the universe, that has made it to the end. The tenacity is acknowledged by at least one Dalek who, in the face of its hateful xenophobic peers, asked "If we Daleks are so superior, why are we on the very edge of extinction while humans thrive?"
  • In Falling Skies, it's revealed that Earth is the only inhabited planet in the entire Milky Way galaxy. Strangely enough, other galaxies aren't so lifeless.
  • Farscape has a good example in Crichton. While his alien friends make constant reference to how deficient humans are and can't understand how they manage to survive at all, they're saved time and time again by Crichton's defining human trait - ignorance! Quite simply, Crichton knows so very little about the region he's arrived in, more often than not, his successes are because he just doesn't know when he's been beaten... and his own personal traits.
    • The episode where Crichton gets to save the day because his inferior human vision makes him less susceptible to a particular effect caused by a special kind of light.
      Crichton: [as a battle cry] Humans! Are! Superiooor!
    • By the fourth season, Crichton's companions on Moya and his enemies are beginning to recognize humanity's drive and potential. Emperor Staleek was willing to specifically conquer and enslave Earth, despite being so far out of the way that without wormhole travel it would take over half a century at maximum speed for a Peacekeeper Command Carrier to reach it (this is less because it's home to humans and more because they learned Bird of Paradise flowers can be grown there; long story). When Crichton finally managed to return home and introduced his shipmates to Earth, humanity's strength as a Determinator is specifically mentioned by Noranti during a series of videos recorded by Crichton's cousin. One of the more supportive and sympathetic Talking Heads in the in-universe documentary that resulted takes great pride that this has been noted by an alien being.
      Dr. Jason Fletcher: Listen to what she's saying about us. Humans never give up. Now, for that to become impressed upon an alien mind, this simple fact that we would tend to take for granted ourselves, becomes validation that we eventually will fit in. Never give up.
  • In Kamen Rider Blade, several Undead enjoy assuming human form because humans (and the Human Undead they're decended from) are unique because they have emotions that most Undead lack in their natural state.
  • Pandora: Matta says this exact phrase while speaking with Ralen, saying it's because no matter how bad things are they still have hope.
  • In Power Rangers' first few seasons, Earth-born humans are special mostly because we're one of one only three or four planets in the universe to not be conquered by the Big Bad Dimension Lord. Also hinted that something about Earth is really special given that we have more than a dozen Ranger teams, whereas most other planets are lucky if they have a full team rather than a single ranger.
  • In Red Dwarf, humans (the few that remain) are not only special among other races, but the forefathers of every other race in the universe.
  • Prime example: Stargate SG-1: Humans are the dominant race in the galaxy, with the Jaffa running a close second. The Jaffa are themselves an offshoot of humanity, bred by the Goa'uld thousands of years ago to suit their purposes. Every other race they meet is either extremely arrogant, Always Chaotic Evil, has questionable morals, or are otherwise 'inferior' to humans. Probably the only exception are the Asgard, who also owe their their lives to the humans multiple times, despite being Sufficiently Advanced Aliens; and they commit species-scale suicide at the end anyway. Even the Ancients themselves (also humans, of a "previous evolution", who actually bootstrapped the evolution of humans on Earth), while being the show's legendary race and "gods" who ascended to a higher plane of existence, are labeled as wrong in their morals, for the most part. (They are so adamantly against interfering with the mortal plane that they would sooner allow all life in the galaxy to be destroyed than step in.) Compare Rousseau Was Right.
    • Earth Humans specifically, commonly referred to as the Tau'ri, are particularly special. In the Milky Way galaxy, almost every planet is hindered in advancement by the Goa'uld except for Earth and a few others, which got a chance to develop freely. Other unhindered worlds are often beyond Earth standards technologically, but the Tau'ri are notable for their determination. The situation with the Wraith in the Pegasus galaxy is similar, where their feeding on humans limits the population growth of most societies. So, in the end it's not so much "humans are special" but "Earthlings are special".
    • More to the point, there's very few other species than humans. The only major ones are Wraith (who are revealed to be part human anyway), Goa'uld, and Asgard. A few others exist, but 95% of everyone is a human or a related species in the three known galaxies. Earth Humanity is special because we have the ATA Gene, and the main reason for that is because we're the most crowded planet in the three galaxies. Human settlements of a few hundred to thousand is the norm, and the ATA gene is recessive.
      • In fairness, there is a very good reason for human domination, and it's based around a completely different species. The dominant species for thousands of years have been the Goa'uld, a race of mind-controlling megalomaniacal parasites. The first species they possessed en masse were the Unas. A far larger, more intimidating and all-around more powerful species blessed with both huge endurance and natural self-healing (which the Goa-uld's own supplemented perfectly). Humans are in comparison weak, frail and pathetic, but they also have superior senses of taste and touch, and aren't as ugly. The Goa'uld, being gluttonous hedonists focused on power, food and sex, decided to make humans their slave race for few other reasons than these. They seeded humans across the stars en masse for use as slaves and worshippers, and killed off any other species (or any humans that got too advanced) to protect their own seats in the galaxy. When inevitably their empire fell, the humans were already everywhere. Less a case of humans special, more a case of humans getting vaguely lucky the Goa'uld invested so much in them before finally being kicked out of power.
  • This concept has been the defining philosophy of every incarnation of Star Trek.
    • Indeed, the very first episode, "The Cage", has the Keeper stating that "the creature appears more adaptable than our specimens from other planets." In the end, it is determined that humans are dangerously resistant to captivity, unlike any other they've encountered.
    • Captain Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation even quotes Shakespeare in an argument with Q, preceding it with "Oh, I know Hamlet. And what he might say with irony, I say with conviction: 'What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel! in apprehension how like a god!'" Q is not pleased.
    • As a whole, Trek seems to portray humans as the Mario of the Alpha Quadrant. We don't have the mega strength of the Klingons, the mental powers of the Vulcans, or the passion of the Romulans. But we are able to fight without being overcome by bloodlust, experience emotion without it becoming overwhelming, and devote ourselves to a task without being fanatical.
    • Although the Federation is supposedly multi-species, most of the colony worlds depicted onscreen are populated by humans. The non-human members of the Federation each seem to have their race concentrated on a single home planet. Likewise, in addition to Starfleet crews apparently being mostly human, Federation starships follow human design paradigms. There are some starships that are crewed almost entirely by a non-human race, however, most commonly Vulcans.
    • DS9, as befitting its Darker and Edgier premise, lapsed into Humans Are the Real Monsters on occasion, however.
      • Even there, Nog commented on how rapidly humanity progressed from mercantilism to a starfaring civilization. Apparently it took the Ferengi twice as long. Fridge Brilliance: The Ferengi developed economics faster than any other race, and cultural myopia leads them to use this as the measuring rod of progress.
    • In Star Trek: Enterprise Captain Archer reveals that while humans may not always be special they are, however, NOT gazelles.
      • One of the Vulcans reveals in the pilot that humanity's specialness (specifically their rapid progress relative to other species) actually scares them.
    • Deconstructed in the final season of Enterprise, with Human Supremacism being the driving ideology of both the Terran Empire in the Mirror Universe and the fascist "Terra Prime" organization.
      • It's never satisfactorily explained how the Federation reconciles its multiculturalism with its humanism. For a race so assured of their own superiority, the humans sure put up with a lot of barbarism.
      • In fact, in Star Trek 6 the Klingons call the Federation on its hypocrisy, calling it a humans-only club aside from a few token pet species, and criticizing our supposedly anthropocentric language such as the word "inalienable", which doesn't have anything to do with the modern meaning of "alien".
  • Supernatural in the show's mythology, which is heavily inspired by Abrahamic Theology, humans are God's favorite creations. His previous attempts at creation, including leviathan and angels, disappointed him, but he loves and toys with humanity the most. This leads to copious amounts of Fantastic Racism from other species, but a few angels like Gabriel and Castiel, recognize that there is something special about humans, despite their flaws. Humanity also has certain special abilities possible, particularly when used in conjunction with other supernatural sources. Angels and Demons must also inhabit a human body in order to fully manifest their abilities on the mortal plane.
  • Taken: The aliens are intrigued by humans because their own evolution branched away and stripped them of emotions. They are especially interested in the Keys family for their strength of will and physical hardiness.
  • This is the reason why the Ultramen protect Earth with such a high sense of priority. Humans are identical to the Ultras' ancestors prior to the Ultras' Mass Super-Empowering Event, so they see humans as not only a reflection of themselves but as having the same immense potential to become as wise, benevolent, and valiant as they are. Thus, they battle alongside humanity against the evil aliens who despise Earthlings and the giant monsters that care nothing for them in order to help humans progress and ensure that humans don't become dependent on them.
  • V franchise:
    • In V (1983) This was the explanation of why the Visitors didn't use their conversion process on all of humanity to make them compliant. According to Diana, humans are unusually strong-willed compared to other species, which makes mass conversion impractical — at least for the time being.
    • In V (2009), Anna desperately tries to figure out why her Bliss won't work on humans. She barely manages to Bliss a single human, although she is bleeding from the effort. She then tries to do the same to all 6 billion of us. It takes a Half-Human Hybrid to successfully do that.

    Myths & Religion 
  • In The Bible, humanity is special because they are the only creatures made in the image of God (one Psalm specifically states that we're just "a little lower than the angels" and this is about fallen mankind, judging by context. In other psalm, God calls humans "gods" and "sons of most high", the phrase that is recited by Jesus in John 10). And humans are meant to rule entire creation and one deuterocanonical book (Esdras 8:44) outright states that everything was made for mankind. And everything is for mankind part is repeated several times indirectly by Paul (ex: in Hebrews 1:14: Are they [angels] not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?.) And the most important part of Christianity: Jesus, who was fully God and Human and is called "Second Adam". Let that sink in: God is a Human.
  • Islam has it that God ordered angels to bow to Adam, and Satan refused because clay is inferior to fire. Satan's arrogance and refusal to repent eventually got him destined for the deepest hell. Also, according to Islam, God's prophets only comes from the sons of Adam AKA humans.
  • Certain branches of Buddhism hold humans as the ideal form to try and achieve Buddha-nature. They lack the distracting luxuries and powers of godhood, possess the intellect lacking by animals, and are not burdened by the pain found in the realms of the Hungry Ghosts or hell.
  • Contrary to many modern religions or fantasy genres where humans are better than virtually every other race or somehow special, this trope is averted in many ancient religions. Ancient Greek religion regarded humans as far below the gods and in some ways worse off than animals since they lack the powers of a god, but also lack the ignorance of an animal, leaving them to believe they are Cosmic Playthings. Mesopotamian Mythology has humanity created by the gods to be a force of slave labor so the gods can live a life of luxury.
  • Depending on religious beliefs, a human could be anything from the most advanced life form on the planet to a creature made in God's image to a god himself.
    • According to some religions like Ancient Greek, humanity can outdo even the gods in their specialties. Our problem is that kind of power comes with quite a bit of pride.
    • According to other religions, the cosmos was made for us. How's that for special?
    • On the other hand, Hinduism puts us below cows on the karma ladder, and in certain cases monkeys and rats.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Baseline humanity in the New World of Darkness has few things going for it, but a big one is that we're the only species with the divine spark, which lets us shape observed reality to an extent (and what keeps most of the incredibly powerful monsters at bay).
    • Mage: The Awakening has a certain opposing view between the mages of the libertarian Free Council and the authoritarian Silver Ladder. The Free Council mages believe Humans Are Special, with human works and endeavors containing arcane knowledge. The Silver Ladder mages believe humans aren't special, but that they should be, and being denied the arcane power they deserve is the ultimate crime.
      • Also, *collective* humanity pretty easily trumps mages both individually and collectively. They're no longer the bedrock that holds the consensus together as in the Old World of Darkness, but they're still the source of Paradox (the force that causes magic to backlash and fail) and they have the most powerful and magically valuable souls in the setting short of possibly the Magi themselves, in a setting where souls are a very real and powerful force.
    • A big one is that only a human has the capacity to become a mortal Demiurge. The supernatural races can't create a Promethean because they lack human passion, or have powers that would tend to shortcut the drive and obsession necessary to pull it off.
    • Deconstructed in fan-supplement Siren: The Drowning with the Current of Lethe, a faction of Sirens who genuinely believe Humanity to be special and the most important species on the planet. Which has led them to the conclusion they can never be wrong and are always justified in their action, even though their careless pollution of the planet will lead to the Deluge (something Sirens are supposed to prevent them from doing) and some of them are hunting Sirens so they can become immortal by consuming their flesh. This has resulted in the entire Current becoming fanatics who actively support them in these actions and gleefully join them in hunting other Sirens.
    • Princess: The Hopeful: Every Court and Calling is given a positive stereotype towards normal humans, the quotes talking about their potential for greatness and the love the Princesses feel for them.
  • In the pen-and-paper roleplaying game Teenagers from Outer Space, the aliens all have superpowers, but Earthlings have a few special abilities of their own, and to top it all off, Earth is universally acclaimed as the single coolest planet in the entire galaxy. (Which is why the aliens go there.)
    • Humans also have the ability to "fake out", i.e. convince an alien of anything, like draping carpets over your head makes for impressive evening wear, or that kissing is a perfectly socially acceptable way of greeting anyone. After all, humans are the coolest species in the universe, so they should know, right?
    • It seems humanity is the only species to actually invent popular culture/entertainment at all. Hence, we have the best music, movies, clothes, soft drinks, etc. and any alien species will either import what humans invented in this line, or copy it. One of the sample characters is a Rubber Forehead Alien High-School Hustler who explains that she can get the best tech from her homeworld simply by sending Earth music or fashion to them in trade.
      • It's actually the other way around. She's amazed by how she can get a ton of awesomeness (designer jeans, Converse Hi-tops, sportswear) in exchange for a ratty old fusion generator or other junk.
  • Games Workshop:
    • In Warhammer 40,000, humanity's special trait? The fact that they're more efficient bastards than everyone else. Traits other settings associate with humans - dynamic society, adapting technology, and optimism - are actually given to the alien Tau. Human civilization has been in decline for the past ten thousand years, a Machine Cult of Techno Wizards quashes innovation and doesn't fully understand what technology still works, and humanity has dubbed the current era "The Time of Ending." The only things mankind has going for it are numbers and a willingness to do whatever it takes to win, no matter how many worlds get snuffed out in the process. Exterminatus anyone?
    • Humans do also have some of the most individually powerful Psykers in the whole galaxy, The God-Emperor being the prime example.
    • Humanity is also the only known race to have blanks due to a visit by the Necrons. The Reasons as to why they chose only to give us this "gift" is unknown.
      • This part of the lore has since been retconned, now nulls are simply a naturally occurring phenomenon among humans, and blanks do exist in other species.
    • Strangely, there is something special about humanity that it alone seems to have incredible ties to Chaos. When the Emperor was imposing The Imperial Truth on humanity, it was seemingly doing real damage to the Chaos Gods, and the alien conspiracy called The Cabal genuinely believed that getting Horus to make humanity self-destruct in The Horus Heresy would cause the Chaos Gods to starve to death. This is in spite of the fact that Chaos has existed long before humanity has been around, most of the gods themselves having been around since well before humanity's rise on the galactic scene, and at least one was birthed by the collective hedonism (not worship) of a different species.
    • The Chaos Gods of Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer: Age of Sigmar favor their human servants over the Beastmen and their own daemons when it comes to advancing their plans in the mortal realms for one reason alone: Choice. Beastmen and daemons have no say in whether or not they follow the Chaos Gods (due to being chaotic by their very nature and being aspects of their God respectively), while humans choose to follow the Gods by their own volition and the desire to break humanity to serve them is more tempting to the Gods than just relying on those that were already worshipping them in the first place.
  • Delta Green has an interesting example considering it's a Cosmic Horror Story set in the Cthulhu Mythos, but Humanity is the only species that the Mi-Go (Sometimes depicted as Galactic Conquerors to Multiversal Conquerors) discovered that has a "Epistemically Diploid" mind, that is, it's both rational and irrational, allowing to humans make guesses that do not fit a logical extrapolation from theoretical models, and often is that those irrational leaps of logics are correct, and this is utterly unnerving to the Mi-Go, who are an ultra-rationalist species. This is a Cosmic Horror Story so the Mi-Go will create huge networks of supporters, which can go from cults to a secret conspiracy that controls the U.S government so they can brutally study humans in cruel experiments, such as extracting their brains in jars while they are kept alive. in attempts to gain human brain abilties.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, humans are treated as foolish and immature due to their abbreviated lifespans. Yet, they're truly capable of anything, as the rapid pace of their lives leads them to be quickly adaptable as a race, and driven to professional excellence as individuals.
    • In 1st and 2nd edition, they had no special abilities whatsoever, but could run the full range of ability scores, could belong to any class, and had no limit to what level they could gain in their class. Other races could belong to two classes at once in predetermined combinations, but only humans could change their classes after creation (although it was a pretty grueling process, requiring you to start from scratch until you regained the level you switched at).
    • In the earliest editions, humans DID have a class only THEY could obtain. Paladins were originally locked off from all other races. Paladin class features were uniquely powerful, and had weapons no other class could use. The only offset was the obscenely high stats required to roll such a character.
    • In 3rd edition, humans again have no special racial powers, but instead gain a bonus feat of their choosing and can develop an extra skill, allowing them to excel right from the start. While other races have specific favored classes that don't count against multiclassing penalties, a human's favored class is whatever class he has the most levels in, making multiclassing a bit easier.
    • In 4th edition, other races get bonuses to two predetermined ability scores and two predetermined skills, 2-4 passive abilities, and a bonus activated power (normally an 'encounter' power). Humans get a bonus to only one ability score, none as such to skills, and only a small bonus to all non-armor defenses as a true 'racial' ability...but by being able to assign that ability score bonus to whichever ability they choose and start out with training in an extra class skill, a bonus feat, and an extra first-level at-will attack power from their class list (which is a pretty big deal as for most classes this means going from having two such convenient always-ready attack modes available ever to having three), they can be easily competent in any class of their liking whereas other races' perks tend to encourage them to stick to the niches they're 'naturally' best suited for. They also get feats that are useful for anyone such as "human perserverence" and "stubbon servior". Humans are special in fourth and maybe third!
      • As of Essentials humans now have a true racial ability "Heroic Effort". With it if you miss with an attack or fail a saving throw you can add a +4 bonus to the roll but you must give up the bonus at-will to get it. A good power, but if it is better then the bonus at-will or not is up to you.
    • Pathfinder, as D&D 3.75, gives humans an absolutely amazing racial power. Like in 3.5, humans have an extra skill point per level and an extra feat. Humans also have no ability score penalty and a +2 to any one stat, allowing them to be amongst the best at every single class. There's no natural proclivity to lack in the area for a single class. Since ability scores are purchased in a non-linear fashion, making up for a racial deficiency is quite costly.
    • In 5th edition, instead of getting a bonus to 2 stats like most other races (generally a +2 and a +1), humans default to being well rounded and getting a +1 to all of their stats. The book also includes a variant option: pick any two scores to get a +1, and start the game with a feat. In this edition feats are rarer, and any other race has to forgo gaining an ability score increase 3 levels later to even have the option of picking one; feats are also a lot more flavorful, giving more customized builds. This means that while technically any race can be any class (with varying degrees of competency), humans can be suited to whichever path they decide to go down.
    • All these examples ignore an additional trait humans have; they have no particular enemies or hatreds. If the Game Master is the hacky-slashy kind that doesn't take into account role playing motivations, it's useless, but if (s)he does, then every PC who isn't human is going to run into Fantastic Racism which makes certain NPC or Monster creatures hostile right off the bat. If the GM really pays attention, it can even be a combat advantage.
      Dwarf: "Why are the orcs all after me?"
    • From another, more disturbing perspective, it's worth pointing out that in the Book of Erotic Fantasynote  it is heavily implied that humans are the only species besides dragons that can mate with anything and produce viable offspring. Every race has a hat, and ours is that we Really Get Around.
    • Humans in Eberron have the most dragonmarks, magical, heritable marks that provide great gifts within a specific field. Most races get either one mark (gnomes with Scribing, dwarves with Warding) or two (half-elves with Detection and Storm, halflings with Healing and Hospitality, elves with Shadow and Death, although the latter is extinct), and changelings, kalashtar, shifters and most of the "exotic" races (dragonborn, tieflings, aasimar, whatever else your DM lets you run) don't get any at all. Humans get four to themselves - Making, Handling, Passage and Sentinel - plus the Mark of Finding, which they share with half-orcs.
  • Earth Dawn is unique in that humans are mysterious nomads, of which the other races are wary. Their racial powers are nearly nonexistent, save for their ability to crib abilities from other classes.
    • Also the other races might be effectively mutations of humanity caused by increasing magic in the world, making humans "special" by virtue of being everyone else's progenitors.
  • Subverted in SLA Industries where humans are even less special than the sewer-dwelling mutants, have no homeworld and seem to be kept around for the novelty value (and for a cheap workforce).
  • Played with in Exalted; the very thing that makes humanity Special and allowed them to rise up to overthrow the Primordials at the behest of the gods is that they were NOT special; humanity was created as a servant race -to- the servant race of gods, weaker than almost everything else in the world, barely capable of using the magic of Essence. A mayfly race intended to be born, pray, and die, dependent upon the gods, providing them with needed power through prayer, so the gods would serve the Primordials. As a result ... binding them into servitude was deemed unnecessary, and when they were given power by the gods, they were able to rise up and throw down the Primordials. Humanity is Special specifically because Humans Suck, in effect.
  • The human creature type in Magic: The Gathering is a relatively new addition to the game. Previously it was simply ommited for the fact that humans run the full gamut of colors, classes and power and have no synergy with each other.
    • Even after our addition to the game lore, the human race plays a mostly insignificant role in most settings (the occasional legendary human in a given set might as well be replaced by any other creature); interestingly enough, most Planeswalkers (both in-game and lore-exclusive) are humans despite there being no mention at all about humans being special in any given way (other than the writers being human themselves).
    • On the other hand, humans are one of the very few races to exist in meaningful numbers across all five colors, giving them unparalleled diversity and adaptability.
    • Humans are the only non-monstrous intelligence to be able to even survive on the Gothic horror world of Innistrad; the lore indicates that it used to have elves, but they're extinct. The rest of the major forces more or less require humanity to exist: vampires need them to feed and reproduce, werewolves arise from among humans, and zombies and spirits are born from dead humans, meaning that keeping humanity around is pretty important for the plane to continue having, you know, stuff on it. As a result, Sorin Markov created the angel Avacyn to protect humanity from the forces that prey on it. Notably, Innistrad is one of the few planes where the Human creature type keeps being referenced by cards that care about it (albeit sometimes as lunch).
  • Dragon Dice has only one race/army representing humanity - the Amazons. They are the only race to have been created solely by the male creation deity, and have access to any of the magic in the game that isn't race-specific by adapting the type of terrain they're located at - a degree of adaptability that no other race in the game shares.
  • The small press RPG JAGS Wonderland plays this for horror. Originally, Wonderland was expelled from the universe as we know it for being based on imagination and whimsy rather than physics and logic. The Caretakers were perfectly fine with this, as they didn't wish to dirty their hands with that logic malarkey. And then humanity came along — creatures of logic that could imagine and dream — and the Caretakers decided, "Well, we can't have that..."
    • Consider that humans aren't just meant to inherit Creation, but that the terrifyingly-powerful Caretakers are nothing more than stepping-stones meant to facilitate Mankind's ultimate awakening. Humans are special because Creation is intended for them.
  • In Scion by White Wolf, the collective desire of humans to tell stories is the primary driving force of Fate, a power that binds even the Gods themselves. It is also through this that the characters' power grows. The more a Scion is talked about, the more powerful they become.
  • Rocket Age: Humanity seems to have something special going for it, be it ungodly luck in their home planet Earth, extreme adaptability, or simply being the right species in the right place at the right time.
  • In Nomine: This is the crux of the war between Heaven and Hell. God claims humanity to be His greatest creation, and Lucifer argued that they're instead simply filthy, immoral, inferior animals. Consequently, the angels are trying to protect and guide humanity and help it achieve its destiny, while demons are trying to debase and corrupt it in order to prove that Humans Are Not Special. Either way, however, the War is and remains fundamentally about humans, humanity's creation precipitated the current state of the universe, and humanity's nature and destiny are the prize of the great conflict.

  • Sacred Blood, a religious play by Russian poetess Zinaida Gippius, is about a young mermaid who finds out that while all living creatures disappear after death, humans are different — they have immortal souls, given to them by God. Even before God appeared and gave them immortal souls, they were special because they were the only ones capable of love. Thus, God (who was human himself) could love them and spill his blood for them, making them even more special.

  • Subverted in Killroy and Tina where Earth's only cosmic significance is as the most awesome red-light district in the universe.
  • In Schlock Mercenary, humans are doing very well for themselves for a race that's had Wormgate access less than a thousand years, with the eponymous firm's engineer having invented a device that made those same Wormgates obsolete accidentally breaking a six-million-year-old treaty with Andromeda that only the Wormgate's owners had known existed (lucky they'd broken it first).
  • Lampooned here in Spacetrawler. We're not special, just pathetic.
  • According to Dr. Tomorrow in The Mercury Men, humans are unique and special among all the races in the galaxy. They are the only race that has discovered space flight.
  • The With More, With Less arc in Harbourmaster deconstructs this. The entomorphs do like quite a bit about humans and Aquaans, but feel they ought to be wary of them anyway. No matter what any given human's psyche is, they're the dominant side of the relationship, whether they seek/desire it or not, just by having the more powerful technology. That power makes it functionally impossible for humans to do more than "let" the entomorphs determine their own affairs and keep sovereignty over the world of Tethys in general. After all, even pure benevolence is no perfect ward against the malignity that carelessness can bring...
  • Parodied and/or deconstructed by Three Panel Soul: "Wait, friend! My powers of smell tell me that this food has been poisoned!"
  • In Ow, my sanity, humans are studied by an alien race that thinks in a linear manner similar to humans. While they may have had a head start technologically, they are amazed at how we're catching up since we can learn at a geometric rate.
  • In an origin story from Blade Bunny, yet another god has been slain by a human, so the sun and the moon decide to make their next child as weak as possible in the hope that he would grow up to be both a god and a hero and thus not get slain by a hero.
  • It's heavily implied in Homestuck that the human session of Sburb is highly unusual, even for a video game designed to destroy planets, create universes, and turn its players into demigods. While a lot of the things in their session can be attributed to the Trolls botching the creation of the human universe, it is only in the two human sessions shown that all of it seems to fall together.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
    • Parodied in "Immortalization", where the characters reason that the only way to create something that other intelligent beings elsewhere would not have come up with is to produce crap, which makes humans very special.
    • In "The Human War", it's said that what makes humans special, and why they won the war against Opeterians, is that they are individually unpredictable. That seems less special when the logic is taken a bit further, though.
    • Parodied again in "Politics 3", where humans are saved from an Alien Invasion because their politics is so uniquely messed up that the aliens can't prepare for the invasion by breaking down their institutions like everywhere else because "it's like stomping on broken glass."
  • Outsider revolves around a lone human who survived the destruction of his ship and is now stranded many light-years from home among the Loroi, technologically-advanced telepathic aliens. He's revealed to have near-complete resistance to the Loroi's telepathy, making him a distinct anomaly as he's the first instance of any sapient lifeform being able to do so. Unfortunately, it also hampers his ability to communicate and be trusted, as the Loroi generally view spoken communication as inherently deceptive, outside of certain circumstances.

    Web Animation 
  • According to a Creation Myth in RWBY, a pair of gods called the Two Brothers ruled over the world. The God of Light would bring life to the world by day while the God of Darkness would bring destruction by night. The two brothers fought, but eventually decided to settle their feud by creating something together; their final masterpiece, humanity. In creating mankind, the brothers gifted them with four virtues; the capacity for creation, destruction, knowledge, and choice.

    Web Original 
  • In 4chan's /tg/ board, there is the occasional thread about "HFY (Humanity Fuck Yeah)", which features precisely this trope. The trend seems to have been inspired, in part, by the story The Gift of Mercy. A more active community that posts "HFY (Humanity Fuck Yeah)" stories is Reddit's /r/HFY subreddit.
  • Orion's Arm calls this trope "Plucky Baseline Syndrome" in-universe. In a galaxy full of Transhumans, Posthumans, and godlike AIs, the notion is generally considered humorous. Baseline humans' specialness, if anything at all, lies in that they were the originator sophonts of the now splendidly diverse Terragen civilization. On the other hand, Terragen (all sophonts descended from Old Earth) civilization is more technologically advanced, diverse, or numerous than every extant xenosophont race contacted, and quite a few extinct races. Of the four xeno superclades on par technologically, three have comparatively small populations and have been stagnant for millions of years, and the fourth was technologically uplifted by Terragen civilization. Terragens may be special within their own bubble of influence, at least until their expansion brings them into contact with other civilizations of similar scale — which have been detected, but are as yet too far away to contact, or for them to know about the Terragens' existence.
  • This Imgur post states that humans are Immune to Bullets, have a powerful bite attack that spreads a lethal disease, have Mysterious Animal Senses, expose themselves to radiation as part of their mating ritual, are tenacious enough to rebuild a nest that's been crater-ified, can only be killed by decapitation, worship several gods of war, can project biological weapons from every orifice on their bodies, and have More Teeth than the Osmond Family. The alien got those ideas about us by by watching our TV shows...
  • In the Creepypasta "Mankind", humans are special because they are the only sentient beings who can survive in the galactic equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle without going homicidally/suicidally insane. Apparently, this is because humans are already pretty crazy...
    • From what it looks like, this pasta is just a first story of the bigger "Veil of Madness" cycle from 4chan.
  • Cracked: 5 Seemingly Impossible Things Your Body Does Every Day It's a list of Exactly What It Says on the Tin. For example, your stomach has to repair/heal/recreate the stomach lining twice a week. Another factoid they list is that your brain has 100 trillion synapses (1,000 times more than there are stars in the galaxy). It says two scientists tried to build a machine with the computing power of the human brain. They used 82,944 processors, but only could achieve one second of the brain's power.
  • And this Imgur post takes the concept of "Every alien species is internally homogeneous" to its logical conclusion: Humanity is so diverse compared to aliens because every other species long ago perfected the art of genocide.
  • Humans being unique in some way (usually in contrast to aliens) is a very common prompt theme on Reddit's /r/WritingPrompts subreddit.
  • There are several blogs on Tumblr dedicated to making humans look spectacularly and hilariously insane to aliens, because we willingly ingest toxins (caffeine, alcohol) up to and including Hollywood Acid (pineapple juice and capsaicin) because we like the sensations they produce, make friends with anything, and have a devil-may-care attitude about the functionality of our transports (there are two stories about this, a drabble explaining that a hull breach is "fixed" with tape and happy thoughts, and a longer one where humans build their ships out of other race's castoffs). Most of these can be found under the tag "Humans are space orcs".
    • This has also grown into a joke that humanity's uniqueness stems from evolving on a ridiculously dangerous planet, and, even worse, actively seeks out the most dangerous places on that planet. One story has an alien ask when we developed machines that could safely explore the extreme temperatures of Antarctica. The human answers that we didn't; We sent people. Then those people died, and we sent more people. Rince and repeat until they stopped dying.
  • TierZoo is a web original series that treats zoology as if it were a PVP MMO. Humans are considered the most meta-defining and stupidly overpowered class in the game, defining S-tier. Being a good human support is enough to make some other animals S-tier. Humans have almost no bad match-ups except for small, eusocial flying insects. Bee Afraid.
    • Humans have overpowered abilities like Overhand Throw, Stand Upright, Speech, and Sweat.
    • Humans use the Teach and Speech skills to reduce the XP cost of respawning.
    • Humans have absolutely terrible defense and stealth, average HP and mobility, mediocre base power, but maximum intelligence. Moreover, humans have the ability to substitute intelligence for every other stat except for HP, and their game-breaking tech tree seems to have no upper bound and to change even the worst unfavorable match-up to their advantage.
    • Humans create whole new zones, such as when Tier Zoo did a "City Meta," defining which creatures excelled when in the human-dominated City environment.
    • Humans define the meta. It doesn't matter how good your build is if in any way the humans decide to move against you in force. The humans don't even have to decide to hurt you; the Anthropocene climate change world event is wrecking havoc in the meta, and when humans gather resources, build fast-travel networks, or build bases like farms, roads, cities, mines, and so on, your existence is contingent on being able to tolerate the humans' presence. Likewise, if the humans decide they like you or want to party up with you, you'll probably be fine, though they might do something like turn a powerful wolf into a pug or something.

    Western Animation 
  • Parodied in a Simpsons Halloween Special where humans are renowned simply for their "t-shirt producing" properties.
  • Earth is lauded by the Nibblonians in Futurama as the "Home of the Pizza Bagel."
    • Though Nibbler does describe Earth and humans as, "a mud ball inhabited by psychotic apes."
    • David X. Cohen stated on the DVD commentary that "other planets have pizza or bagels but only Earth came up with the pizza bagel."
  • In Lloyd in Space, when thinking of a project for Heritage Day, Lloyd notes that Earth is the first Planet to invent the Hot Dog.
  • In Galaxy Rangers, Humans are special - in a really bad way. The series Big Bad, the Queen of the Crowns want to use human Life Energy to power her army of Slaverlords (because it usually takes multiple members of any other species to create one, but only one human). Races who are not actively hunting humans for Her Majesty consider human beings to be completely and utterly unpredictable and insane. A popular fan theory states the only reason the Andorians and the Kiwi bothered to ally with humans was because Earth was crazy enough to come up with weapons capable of matching the Queen's brutality.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes:
    • The Trope is mercilessly despised and mocked by the Super Skrull.
      Super Skrull: You humans think you are so special? Even your powers, we can make better ones!
    • You can leave it to Captain America to turn this trope right back around against the Skrulls while he's kicking his own Skrull doppleganger's ass in front of the whole world.
      Captain America: There's more to human beings than our bodies and minds, something you'll never understand: our spirit! We never surrender! We never give up! Ever!
  • Zigzagged in Ben 10. Humanity for the most part was considered to be an insignificant race (and occasionally prey) by the galaxy at large before Ben's actions put Earth on the proverbial map, but it's shown that while we lack flashy superpowers like the other races, humans have the unique skill of being universal breeders able to mate and bear offspring with any other intelligent species in the universe and show a great affinity for appealing to other races on an emotional level. It's for this reason that Azmuth created the Omnitrix in the first place, as he intended it to be a tool for diplomacy and Ben's Grandpa Max was the only person in the universe he trusted to wield it before he met Ben.
    • It's also explained that most intelligent life in the universe followed a near-fixed path of technological discovery and while Earth is at the lower end (Level 2[.5] on a 20-level scale), our path was very unlike any race before us. Universal translators are usually invented at about the same time as combustion engines, and radio transmissions rarely predate nuclear fusion. Some technologies on Earth are far in advance of what we should be able to produce.
  • Steven Universe has Rose Quartz, the deceased alien mother of the protagonist, viewing humans as this trope. Gems are manufactured from non-living minerals using special machinery, with the new gems popping out of a hole in the ground for specific jobs and all the knowledge required for said job, such as a soldier or a servant. As such, she's mystified and somewhat jealous that humans innately have the ability to grow and choose what they wish to do with their lives.
    • In a more immediate, practical sense, a lot of gem weapons and security systems are powerful against gems but ineffective against something more meat-based, allowing humans to waltz straight through. When Lars is trapped on Homeworld, he quickly becomes a fearsome, nigh-unstoppable space pirate, largely because so few Homeworld gems have the equipment or training to deal with a non-gem.
  • Though he's specifically talking about the human soul being special, The Umpire from The Real Ghostbusters episode Night Game becomes rather incensed, Glowing Eyes of Doom and all, when Peter suggests it's not worth taking over a baseball field, panicking the entire city, and waging an all-out battle between the otherworldly forces of good and evil all for the fate of "just one soul":
    Umpire: "Just one soul"?! Is there anything on this puny Earth as important?! Isn't even one soul worth all this effort?! And more?!
  • Castlevania (2017) goes the route of having certain schools of magic be exclusively accessible by humans. While humans (priests, magicians, alchemists, devil forgemasters, etc.) and non-humans (vampires, night creatures, etc.) exist, and can have some overlapping disciplines of magic or other abilities, only humans are capable of accessing the branch of magic capable of directly reanimating the dead.
    Death: I can't bring him back, because I'm not human. Why is it only human hands can reach into hell? Don't you think that's weirdly fucked up?

    Real Life 
Please note that a measure of bias is to be expected from the following entries, having been written by humans and using a human perspective.
  • The most obvious difference between humans and every other species on the planet is our sapience — but then, that hardly counts, since any intelligent aliens (which is what this trope is about) would have that too, by definition (and it's not like we can really know that other creatures don't have sapience too). Ditto opposable thumbs and toolmaking, agriculture, language, music, art, etc. in the vast majority of examples.
    • These two videos 1 2 cover unique aspects of humans.
    • Elephants and dolphins share many behaviours with us that may be signs of sapience, but without a way to effectively communicate with them, there's no way to positively confirm this. Elephants have been shown to mourn, and appear to have a concept of revenge and grudges (as unfortunate humans in areas where elephant-hunting is common have experienced firsthand). Dolphins not only recognise themselves, but play in the mirror like we do. They also have a very well-demonstrated capacity for evil.
  • While the other great apes easily beat us at strength, one real physical advantage enjoyed by humanity is our endurance. We are relatively good at keeping a brisk pace over long periods of time. A prehistoric technique called persistence hunting takes advantage of this; it essentially entails following around an animal that you want to eat until it collapses from sheer exhaustion (then killing and eating it).
    • The only animals that can match us in this regard are wolves — even horses, which are commonly thought of as high-endurance animals due to their ability to travel at high speeds even while carrying heavy loads, can't match human endurance over a period of days rather than hours.
      • While only dogs and wolves can actually keep up with people over the course of days, even they have trouble and are vulnerable to overheating when it's hot and humid because they don't dissipate heat as efficiently (wolves evolved in a much colder climate than humans did) and must stop to cool down before humans have to. When it's cool enough for a dog or wolf to maintain about 3mph (human walking speed) without overheating they can keep up indefinitely.
      • In general, it's not so much that humans are the most enduring per se in terms of muscle fatigue, but that, thanks to sweating, we have the best heat endurance. We can also warm or cool ourselves fairly quickly by switching up the amount and type of clothes we put on our mostly hairless bodies; animals obviously can't simply take off their fur when they feel like it. That's why African wild dogs normally hunt at night, when it's cooler. Panting isn't nearly as effective as sweating for keeping body temp down (whole body surface area evaporation vs just the mouth) and so most species will suffer heatstroke and "cook" until their organs fail if forced to keep going in heat. The disparity is greater in hot environments but anywhere if the pace is high enough body temp becomes an issue. The downside, though, is that it uses a lot of water.
  • Humans are also highly adaptable. We might not be the best at climbing, running, or swimming, but very few species can beat us in all three. And while we might not have the special advantages of creatures made to thrive in extreme heat or cold, we can tolerate a greater range of temperatures than most species can, which has probably contributed to the early spread of humanity across the whole planet.
    • On the subject of swimming, the human body is neutrally buoyant (we neither sink nor float in water), which is actually kind of ludicrous for an animal designed to spend most of its time on land, if highly useful.
    • And it's not just our ability to survive in a wider variety of temperatures, but that we can build and make things that let us live in more extreme climates. Humans can make all kinds of clothes for temperature regulation, and there are different types of houses for different types of conditions. Our use of electricity to heat and cool homes has certainly helped.
      • You don't need modern technology: humans colonized every continent (except Antarctica) and most major islands, with climates ranging from the arctic tundra to desert to jungle to mountain to plain to forest, equipped with nothing more sophisticated than rocks, sticks, and bones.
    • Related to this is our ability to change our careers multiple times in our lives. A human can be a farmer, then become a soldier, then become a scientist, then become an industrialist, then become a farmer again. To a sentient species with biologically defined castes, this kind of fluidity would be incomprehensible.
  • Another human trait is vindictiveness. Like all creatures, we don't like ourselves, our cubs, our mates, and our lairs to be disturbed by predators. And we have found that the best way to prevent that is simply to hunt predators down the way we do when we hunt for meat. Unfortunately "predators" often means other humans for we have not quite got Ape Shall Never Kill Ape into our heads. Still this is a remarkably effective survival strategy as is noted by the rarity of creatures preying on humans. Parasites are an exception to this, but the fact that we have devoted a profession to exterminating these is more evidence of this tendency.
    • We do share this trait with a few animals species. Elephants especially have been known to attack those who angered them even years prior. One specific incident in India involved an elephant who trampled a woman to death, then disrupted her funeral and attacked the corpse. Then destroyed the woman's house.
    • On the flip side is the human ability to cut a deal, even with previously enemy species. Want to work towards a common goal? Awesome, welcome aboard, we'll do what we do best and you do what you do best and we'll all prosper. Want to start shit anyway? See above, re: vindictiveness. Compare the dogs, who made a deal, and the wolves, who didn't. Dogs thrive across the world in hundreds of variations and are treated as almost honorary humans. Wolves are struggling to avoid extinction and would probably have lost that struggle if humans hadn't decided that wiping out entire species is actually kinda bad, backed off, and started shaming (even punishing!) each other for continuing such acts.
  • Another uniquely human trait is our ability to throw things with a reasonable balance of distance, accuracy, and power. It often gets overlooked because it's so basic an ability to us that we amuse ourselves by skipping rocks, shooting paper balls at garbage cans, or tossing balls at milk bottles in order to win large stuffed animals. And yet that simple ability is something that absolutely no other animal on the entire planet, including our closest relatives, can do, or ever did before our own ancestors. Just one of the many unique benefits of opposable thumbs and arms designed to throw things.
    • A 10 year old child can throw a baseball at about 40-50 mph. An athletic adult can throw a baseball somewhere in between 70mph to over 100mph. An adult chimpanzee can only throw something at around 20mph. Considering that kinetic energy increases with the square of velocity, a 10 year old child puts 4-7 times as much energy into a throw as a chimpanzee, and an adult puts 11-30 times as much energy into one.
    • Humans (and our ancestors) have a styloid process on our third metacarpal (the bone in our palms that is between the base of our middle finger and our wrist). That is a bone extension that lets us lock our wrists in place and isn't present in any other extant species of great ape. This allows us to manipulate tools with greater strength and dexterity than would otherwise be possible.
  • In the cases where we can't escape from a predator using the environment or chase it off with thrown projectiles, our agility and range of motion can serve us very well in a fight. Very few animals can spin, bend, and twist their bodies in as many directions or as quickly as we can. We don't tend to think of humans as being particularly capable fighters compared to most animals, but modern humans are rarely in peak physical condition. In the wild, we might very well come off as Weak, but Skilled.
    • Humans actually have some of the densest muscles of any land mammal. We just tend not to think of ourselves as being big scary predators because we don't have the claws, fangs, and thick fur. Case in point: an average sized man weighs 168-183 lbs which just happens to be very close to the weight of a female Asian Black Bear (148-198 lbs) or male Jaguar (124-211 lbs). The only land mammal carnivores that consistently outweigh adult men are lions, tigers, and different kinds of bears (oh my!) Specifically: Polar bears, brown bears, and male black bears. Adult women, at about 130lbs on average, outweigh an adult grey wolf by about 30-50lbs.
    • The difference in arm strength between a man and a great ape is misleading since most of the human muscle mass is in the back and legs. Chimpanzees may have enough strength to rip an opponent's arms, yet they are poor walkers, unable to run on ground, unable to punch (their arms are evolved for gripping and tearing, and more than that, their fingers can't bend quite enough to ball into a fist) and barely able to swim.
      • Punching is honestly a very specialized and unique human adaptation when you stop and think about it. Our highly dextrous and seemingly delicate fingers are perfectly proportioned to be able to curl up into a jaw-breaking bludgeoning weapon at a moment's notice.
      • While human arms are the weaker two limbs compared to our legs, a reasonably fit human is still fully capable of lifting their entire body using only their arms. The amount of weight some humans can support with their fingers is truly mind-boggling.
    • We've had tools and weapons so long that we've evolved to use them. Without a weapon, we're nearly helpless against anything big enough to consider us a meal. With a weapon, of almost any kind, we're death on rollerskates.
      • One variant of humanity, the Neanderthalers, had great muscular strength in the arms and hands. They also used fire, stone tools, made glue from tar, and were also apex hunters. The reason why they were absorbed into the modern variant of humanity is because they were so few in number compared to us.
      • The oldest stone hand axes we find were made about 2.5 million years ago. The oldest fossils placed in the Homo genus are about that old too. This is not a coincidence. There is a reason why we're apex predators practically everywhere we wish to go and why everything short of another apex predator tends to leave us alone.
  • We have unusually sharp senses on the whole. We have incredibly good eyesight for mammals (though not as good as many birds), above-average hearing, and a decent sense of smell (though we tend not to rely on it much compared to sight and sound). One of the reasons we tend not to consider this is that dogs — one of the species we interact most closely with — have better hearing and smell.
    • Our smell isn't great, but being descended from foraging omnivores (as opposed to grazers or predators) means we have a very good sense of taste, which can detect bio poisons (generally anything that we call "rotten" or "off-smelling") at very low levels. We're natural chemists.
      • It's theorized that our sense of taste evolved to ensure survival. Sweet tastes mean high density calories, salty tends to concentrate around salt and certain necessary minerals, sour concentrates around vitamins necessary to ward off disease (especially Vitamin C), umami is well-cooked proteins, and bitter helps us avoid poisons.
    • There are some theories that our sense of smell is actually just as good as a dog's, just differently specialized due to dietary differences. The main reason why we don't notice this are that modern humans rarely pay attention to our sense of smell and thus it's untrained (and the dogs we often use for comparison are in fact highly trained for smell).
    • Our vision is arguably better than that of a dog or wolf. We can't see anywhere near as well as either in low light, have a narrower field of vision, and don't sense movement as well; but dogs and wolves are red-green color blind and shortsighted, we are not. We also have better color vision and better binocular vision. We can distinguish between shades of color and estimate ranges in ways and at ranges dogs and wolves can not.
      • In addition, our brains are highly specialized towards sight interpretation. It's estimated that the sensory section of the human brain is 75% designed solely to interpret sight. This is why blind people get such a boost to their other senses, because a large portion of their brain is being repurposed. (The only other Earth creature with that degree of sensory specialization is the raccoon who specializes in touch.)
  • Another thing that makes humans special in real life is language. Sure, many animals can communicate in a limited way, but not a single other species has our capacity to recursively apply a limited set of communication cues to express absolutely everything imaginable. Even primates who get taught sign language never develop this capability to spontaneously make more language.
    • And another is our ability to learn from the past, namely by recording our ancestors' innovative achievements and building on them in turn. Apes and monkeys have a lot of similar advantages to humans, but in thousands of years, they're still using the same techniques to get fruit, bugs, etc. While in thousands of years we've gone from the invention of the wheel to space travel. It's called the Ratchet effect.
      • Recently monkeys and crows have been found to pass some traits down along the generations, but no species has come close to the sheer scale of human dedication to history.
      • The key difference here is iteration - humans are capable not just of passing on knowledge, but on deliberately refining it. While other species have been observed to pass along learned techniques, none besides humans have been observed to deliberately examine and improve upon those techniques.
    • Our range of sounds is pretty unique as well, although some birds can match us in that field. Some substantially exceed us, like the lyrebird.
    • With language comes our unsurpassed ability to work together. While some animals can act together, none come near the level of coordination and sheer numbers that humans can. Sure, a couple of lions are scary and dangerous, but even the weakest human tribe can easily bring dozens of combatants to the fight, operating as one through almost mind-reading communication and far-reaching planning capabilities. The only thing more dangerous than a group of humans is a larger group of humans.
      • Social insects are arguably better than humans at working together, and can make a good case for being even more ecologically dominant. Humans are aware of the importance of bees but tend to regard the even more dominant ants as mere pests, but social insects completely lack the combination of cooperation with iteration as described above, and as a result haven’t changed the nature of their ecological impact for millions of years. So humans can just take them as part of the constant background and go on rearranging the rest of the world to suit us.
    • Communication is a huge survival benefit. As far as we know, all other animals on the planet have to personally encounter a novel threat in order to recognize it as a threat and/or deal with it. Humans can tell other humans how to prepare for and/or deal with a threat the second group has never personally experienced.
  • Probably as a side effect of verbal language, humans have better voluntary control over their respiratory reflexes than any other non-aquatic mammal. Being able to exhale steadily is necessary for speaking at length, and this, together with the fact we don't pant, means we can override the respiratory rhythms imposed by the medulla oblongata to a point of light-headedness: useful for swimmers or when exposed to smoke or other inhaled hazards.
  • Humans have a better sense of rhythm than other species, which generally can't distinguish between a steady beat and an erratic one. Not only does this awareness provide a basis for numerous performing arts, but it's crucial for coordinating our actions when performing hands-on tasks (rowing, marching, harvesting, knitting, hammering) that require careful pacing.
  • Although humans are not the only toolmaking species on the planet — chimpanzees have been seen twisting grass blades together to make a prong for retrieving maggots — we are, without question, the best toolmakers on the planet. No other species can hope to compete with communications satellites, nuclear missiles, and motor vehicles. One reason for this may be our desire to teach each other how to make things; chimps learn toolmaking by observing other chimps making tools, but they have no desire to deliberately impart their knowledge and skills to each other, and as a result there is enormous cultural loss from one generation to the next. In that regard, our greatest strength may be our ability to think inside the box.
    • In fact, modern humanity is even special in comparison to earlier humans in that we can invent new tools at will. Pre-humanity had been using stone axes for millions of years without substantial modifications to the basic design, which gives credence to certain theories that tool-using is actually at least partially instinctive in many species.
    • Humans are extremely good at finding new uses for existing tools. Most of the basic tools one would find in a toolkit small enough to fit in a woman's purse can be used either as weapons or to make weapons.
  • Handedness is something humans express to the extreme when compared to other mammals. Processing visual details and spacial clues to the degree we do in color requires immense amounts of brainpower when compared to hearing, smell, taste, and touch. Fine motor control and language also require a lot of brainpower (but not as much as vision). Humans have brains large enough to completely handle vision with one side of the brain while fine motor control and language are handled by the other side. Our brains are powerful enough that one side can do all three but, as anyone who has tried to write with their off hand will tell you, the end result is awkward and clumsy.
  • There are only two living species of mammal that use bipedal walking as their primary form of locomotion: Humans and Ground Pangolins. Other species of Primate and Pangolin are capable of bipedal walking (as are almost all birds, which are descended from bipedal winged dinosaurs). Ground Pangolins have a tail which they use for balance while walking. Humans don't have a tail and must walk upright to maintain balance. Our upright posture is also seen as very intimidating by other large predators such as wolves and bears, as it makes humans appear larger.
  • Starting with our ancestors and passed down to modern humans, the ability to create and control fire is unique to us. With fire, we were able to keep warm and dry, better defend ourselves/threaten predators, operate at night, create materials (e.g. pottery and metals), and cook otherwise dangerous and toxic foods. In addition, gathering around fires may very well have improved our sense of community in settlements.
  • If there are other sentient, intelligent organisms in the universe who have developed a data system similar to the internet, they probably have pages describing how they are special as well.
    • If they have human-like qualities, they probably have a claim to do so.
  • Humans are also unique for our potential for evil. No other animal, even ones known to be very aggressive and cruel to their prey and/or each other, can best the human race in subjects such as torture, systematic oppression, genocide, destruction of the environment and other species, racism, and slavery. "Special" doesn't always mean something positive.
    • And yet at the same time, Humans have a unique capacity for kindness and cooperation on a scale unmatched by any other species. Humanity is the only species in the history of the planet with the power to not only save other species from extinction but to bring them Back from the Dead, to check its own growth through intentional means, and work together to repair the damage done in the past.
  • Perhaps the most unique trait about Humans is simply their ability to question themselves and the world around them. Asking where exactly they fall in terms of good vs. evil, coming up with concepts like good and evil, contemplating why they are the way they are, why they exist in the first place, where they came from, what happens after they die and if they're truly as special as they think. The simple ability to imagine all this exists in no other known species. That alone is incredibly special.
  • Margaret Meade, anthropologist, according to Dr. Ira Byock, tells you how humanity can be truly noble:
    Years ago, anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture. The student expected Mead to talk about fishhooks or clay pots or grinding stones.
    But no. Mead said that the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur (thighbone) that had been broken and then healed. Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, get to the river for a drink or hunt for food. You are meat for prowling beasts. No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal.
    A broken femur that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended the person through recovery. Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts, Mead said.
    We are at our best when we serve others. Be civilized.
  • One of the most well-known hypotheses for why we've never met aliens, the Fermi Paradox, asks, in short: "If intelligent, extraterrestrial life does exist, and, since chances are there are at least some that exceed us in technological progress, and treat travel between planets as we treat travel between houses, where are they? Why is there no evidence that they've even attempted to contact us?" One suggested answer to the paradox, the Great Filter, suggests that there is some sort of insurmountable obstacle that prevents either the development of intelligent life, or the progress of intelligent life after a point. Some who adopt the latter suggest that intelligent life is destined for self-destruction, among other obstacles. That said, those who adopt the former suggest that the inability to progress past certain points in evolution, even down to going from prokaryotic cells to eukaryotic cells, is the reason for this. If this former hypothesis is true, and we're the only beings who broke past the Great Filter, then we may be the only intelligent life in the Milky Way, or even the entire universe, making it an example of this on a cosmic scale.
  • Despite the rise of Artificial Intelligence capable of doing a wide array of previously exclusive human activities such as art and programming and mimicking human behavior, we still have something which so far no technology has ever been capable to replicate: qualia, the capability of having personal experiences, emotions and memories, of seeing yourself in the mirror and knowing you are looking at yourself.
    • This in turn gives you moral agency, hence you become a legal entity, which is something that machines, no matter how intelligent, can't achieve; quite ironic that at the end of the day it's lawyers, not the artists or scientists, who define how special humans are.
    • And yes, that too, only humans are able to enforce consensus through legal mechanisms; ultimately we, not the AI, are the ones calling the shots.
    • There is one additional aspect to the previous entry: humans often don't treasure things because they are objectively better, instead we choose things due to our subjective experience. This is the reason why a dusty oil painting will cost millions of dollars and be put in a museum, while most AI generated art, no matter how good, will have next to zero value and end up forgotten in a Recycle Bin; only a human would consider something hand-made better precisely because, well, it was hand-made by a fellow human, with all their background and experience to add flavor.
    • You can also see the whole thing the other way around, a single human is such a chad they can do naturally with a few physical or electronic tools, if far slower, nearly all the tasks the most advanced systems ever created by a global digital civilization can achieve; and those systems and civilization? Humans started them.
  • Humans are also one of the very few species able to provide complex forms of entertainment, inventing music, television, art, sports and literature, to name but a few. The only other animals that have shown evidence of this are primates such as chimpanzees (who are our closest living relatives) and marine mammals such as dolphins and cephalopods (mainly the octopus).

How does it feel to be one of only 8 billion confirmed intelligent beings in a universe at least 92 billion light years across?


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Alternative Title(s): Humanity Is Special


Soliloquy on the Beacon

Upon discovering that he's arrived on a stasis ship in the distant future, the Doctor gives an impassioned speech about the vessel's nature as proof of humanity's undefeatable perseverance. Of note is that according to the show's production staff, this monologue was written precisely because Tom Baker's deep, theatrical voice lent well to such soliloquies, the kind that previous Doctors would never have been able to pull off.

How well does it match the trope?

4.86 (7 votes)

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Main / PatrickStewartSpeech

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