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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Too Many of Us Live in Cities



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I'm sorry, this is a trivial matter, really, but it just set me off. The below quoted letter to the editor--reacting to a story about a man who shot a cat to keep it from killing an endangered bird-- was published in today's New York Times Magazine:
I read Bruce Barcott's article with interest, but I must dispute his concluding pronouncement that "the war between cats and birds...continues." Do we call it a war when the slaughter is almost exclusively one-sided? The birds are simply trying to survive in the face of formidable odds.
So are the cats. Predation isn't a "slaughter." Nor is it a "war." Cats killing birds are merely engaged in the Darwinian world of tooth-and-claw predation.

Only humans, in our unique empathy, even have qualms about what happens to the members of other species; which that is one of the things that makes us exceptional. Still, get a grip. Visit the wilderness. Watch a National Geographic documentary. With the exception (sometimes) of human society, this is the way things are.

(I should talk: Once, when our late cat Chloe was "playing" with a chick that had fallen out of a nest, she meowed and meowed for me to come watch. Her adrenalin was up and she was throwing the poor thing all over the yard. I couldn't stand to see the bird suffer, so I dispatched it with a sharp blow from my shoe and put it in the trash. Chloe was furious with me for ruining her fun. But neither of us did anything wrong. She was just being a cat doing what cats do--utterly indifferent to the suffering she was causing the poor bird--and I was doing what humans often do by caring very much about the suffering she was causing the poor bird and thus choosing to interfere with the brutal ways of nature in the raw.)


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