Human Exceptionalism

“The Dignity of Living Beings With Regard to Plants”

I found a linkable cite for the Swiss ethics committee report on the “dignity” of plants. So, I thought I’d put a few pithy quotes up that have not appeared in my discussion here at SHS about the study or in my Weekly Standard piece.

Sometimes materialistic Darwinists will state that there really are no species distinctions between humans and animals because we and they share a high number of genes. Whenever that argument has been made in the past, I have joked, “Well, if you really want to get reductionist, carrots are made up of carbon molecules and so are humans. Hence, there is no real distinction to be made between us.” Well, the big brains in Switzerland have precisely adopted that “joke” as one of the bases for granting individual plants “dignity.” From the report:

Some members were of the opinion that plants are not part of the moral community, because they do not satisfy the conditions for belonging to this community…A further group felt that there were particular situations in which people should refrain from something for the sake of a plant, unless there are sufficient grounds to the contrary. This opinion was justified either by arguing that plants strive after something, which should not be blocked without good reason, or that recent findings in natural science, such as the many commonalities between plants, animals and humans at molecular and cellular level, remove the reasons for excluding plants in principle from the moral community.

You have to be really big brained to take my jest seriously. But some on the committee take that very position. Unbelievable.

Most of the committee either believed that plants are sentient, or could not say that they are not:

The majority of the committee members at least do not rule out the possibility that plants are sentient, and that this is morally relevant. A minority of these members considers it probable that plants are sentient. Another minority assumes that the necessary conditions for the possibility of sentience are present in plants. The presence of these necessary conditions for sentience is considered to be morally relevant. Finally, a minority of the members excludes the possibility of plants having sentience, because in their view there are no good grounds for such an assumption.

Plants are living beings. But sentience means the ability to feel and experience sensation. Plants are not aware in this sense. They are not conscious and cannot by their natures be conscious.

Finally–and I find this very telling–the Swiss ethicists considered and rejected “theocentrism” (being part of God’s creation as the root of dignity), “ratiocentrism” (the capacity to reason as the root of mattering for their own sake, e.g. personhood theory), “pathocentrism” (sentience as the basis for moral worth, an animal rights ideology), but did not consider “humancentrism,” the idea that being human is what matters the most morally, regardless of the value we convey to other life forms on the planet. Hence, human exceptionalism was not even thought about. The utter rejection of the intrinsic and inherent value of human life against which I have been warning is spreading and does not bode well for the future of the human community and the achievement of universal human rights.