I think it requires a certain level of intelligence as a minimum. Nothing incredibly special but above average
There you have it. You think being able to program makes you special in some way or indicates that you're above average.
Here's the truth: Any idiot can write code. Hell, half of Slashdot taught themselves to program when they were between the ages of 8-13.
All it takes is the will to learn something new. It's no different than learning to work on cars. Do you think auto-mechanics have these same discussions? No. They're more emotionally stable, apparently, than the average developer.
Yeah, just about anyone can learn to write computer programs. Just like every who has ever learned to write code, they'll get better and better as they gain experience
Being able to write computer programs does not make you special. Get over yourself.
I think the problem is that people are trying to answer the question with a "one size fits all" approach to answering the question. Sure anybody who can make toast can program. But not everybody can make a toaster.
What I mean by that is you mentioned that the average joe mechanics don't have these conversations, but you have to consider that the average mechanic is not making the advancements or creating the car from pouring casts and machining the parts. They're assembling or disassembling. There is creativity in finding a problem with a car before taking the whole thing apart but otherwise it's fairly laid out.
Programmers, the big daddy programmers are special and unique. Just like the engineers who created a ferrari or any other major achievement. Any body can program, but not everybody has the patience, confidence or desire to take on massive tasks by themselves.
I have programmed for many years and I have never found a good workflow of working with a large team of developers to create a specific product. So far what I have seen is one or two highly motivated individuals to create the bulk of the product and the rest become break/fix contributors or continuing development after the product is well underway.
It's just what I have seen. And those examples could make me an exception not the rule but that's what I've seen.
Were projects like MySQL or PostgreSQL initially effects of one or two highly motivated and focused individuals? I know that unix was and about evey project I have ever seen at the early stages.
Being that these efforts are largely surrounded by individual contributors I think it enables these individual's to feel special and different. And to be honesty, anyone who takes on these massive feats and succeeds is unique and different. The rest are "programmers".