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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Nature/Animal Rights Would be Folly



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The attacks on human exceptionalism continue. A column in support of “nature rights” and the recent habeas corpus for chimps lawsuits tries to convince readers that it would be a good thing to grant rights to non-humans. From, “Defending the Rights of Nature,” by Paul Anderson:

In his book, “The Rights of Nature,” Roderick Nash describes human progress as the act of granting rights — first to white men who owned property, then to all white men, then to women, then to people of color, etc. Extending the base of that pyramid into the animal kingdom is man’s next act of contrition for ten thousand years of domination.

I really do grow weary of the continual human/animal/nature equivalency.

And without our “domination” of nature and animals, where does Anderson think we would be? I’ll answer that question: We would still be living short and often brutal and squalid lives–as has been the lot of the great majority of humankind for most of our history.

Anderson thinks allowing rights would lead to making us express more “sympathy:”

We are all animals born of the animal kingdom. The domination that has defined us as humans will one day be exchanged for the deep sympathy that will truly make us human.

Excuse me? This is just another way of positing a human duty to humane care. If we are the only species with duties, in my book that makes us exceptional. If we are not exceptional, then why can’t we shirk our duties?

Bottom line: If animals and nature have rights, they must be given equal consideration with our own wellbeing in all endeavors in which flora or fauna are impacted. That would bring human progress–economic and moral–to a screeching halt.



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