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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Coup de Culture Alert: Bioethicist Defends Bestiality



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Apparently every aberrant behavior is to be normalized, including sex with animals: First it was Peter Singer claiming that bestiality was just two animals rubbing body parts. Then a movie was released sympathetic to the cause. Now, bioethicist Jacob M. Appel, who has called for allowing assisted suicide for the mentally ill and mandatory eugenic genetic screening, also defends bestiality--or perhaps better stated, opposes its legal prohibition--claiming that it might not be abuse, and indeed, "may well be neutral or even pleasurable for the animals."

I have publicly opposed bestiality as a matter of defending human exceptionalism, an issue to which Appel takes specific exception without mentioning me by name. From his column:

Opponents of bestiality often describe themselves as advocates of "human exceptionalism" and express the belief that intercourse with animals debases the dignity of human beings by blurring the lines between people and animals.? (They fail to explain why sex is unique in this manner--why playing Frisbee with a dog, or eating a corned beef sandwich, does not also blur such boundaries). [Me: Surely Appel understands the profound symbolic and intimacy differences between playing frisbee with a dog and having sexual intercourse with her (or him).]

Of course, nobody is suggesting that these critics be forced to sleep with animals, anymore than we would force vegetarians to eat lamb. However, the burden should be placed upon the prohibitionists to explain why a small minority of individuals with non-mainstream sexual interests pose a threat to our overall societal welfare. I leave open the question of how many zoophiles actually live in the United States: The research of sexologists such as Kinsey, as well as a brief survey of the Internet, suggest a considerable number. Needless to say, public animosity--and criminal statutes--likely keep them in the shadows.

Gosh, in the shadows! How cruel.

Sarcasm aside, my one serious foray into this "field," came in the Weekly Standard, in response to objections to legislation in Washington to outlawing bestiality filed in the wake of a man being killed whilst having sex with a horse. If you read the whole thing, I criticized Peter Singer's okaying bestiality and did indeed posit that the real reason for outlawing the practice--beyond the real issue of "abuse" and the surreal concern that "animals can't consent"--is that sex with animals unacceptably undermines human exceptionalism. Here's my conclusion in that regard:
The great philosophical question of the 21st Century is going to be whether we will knock humans off the pedestal of moral exceptionalism and instead define ourselves as just another animal in the forest. The stakes of the coming debate couldn't be more important: It is our exalted moral status that both bestows special rights upon us and imposes unique and solemn moral responsibilities--including the human duty not to abuse animals.

Nothing would more graphically demonstrate our unexceptionalism than countenancing human/animal sex. Thus, when [Washington State Senator Pam]Roach's [anti-bestiality] legislation passes, the law's preamble should explicitly state that one of the reasons bestiality is condemned through law is that such degrading conduct unacceptably subverts standards of basic human dignity and is an affront to humankind's inestimable importance and intrinsic moral worth.
Appel, quoting Brandeis, says outlawing bestiality violates the "right to be left alone." I say permitting it promotes social anarchy, moral disintegration, and a view of humans that is inherently degrading, thereby harming the common good.

In good taste please, what say you?


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