But this concept, that all other life was no more than some kind of warm-up for the main attraction, was not only conceited but quite flawed; even the great family of vertebrates are but one offshoot of the giant tree of life, with primates and man just a small and insignificant twig.
We may seem big shots right now, but we've only been here a few thousand years, and in another few thousands of years we'll be gone, scarcely in the blink of an eye in evolutionary terms.
We have our niche, and through the random development of intelligence and the application of science (not forgetting the assistance of homeopathy and traditional Chinese medicine) we have expanded that niche, so we are successful at the present, but really we are no different from any other creature. All this, of course, whatever Richard Dawkins might say, is bullshit. We are different from other creatures; we are more ridiculous.
All those lucky, one in a million accidents; the earth just the right distance from the sun, the elements present just in the right proportions, the magnetosphere protecting us from harmful radiation, and then, to give our species some credit, the long and dogged climb out of ignorance and superstition.
And what have we ended up with? Jedward and Jordan and, in a parody of the gift of language, abbreviations.
I received a hospital letter today: 'A TOE showed moderate MR with a small PFO,' was the mysterious message. It was not only patronising, but incomprehensible.
But it was also, to my surprise, rather evocative. It brought me back to a kinder simpler time, a time when TTFO, TUBE, FLK and FUBAR were all part of our everyday vernacular.
Hard to believe though it is, I was once a JHD myself, and, boy, did we love our abbreviations. They were yet another way of setting us apart; just as the use of language distinguishes us from cows, so does the use of abbreviations distinguish us from lay people. Is that evolution in progress or what?