Human Exceptionalism

NYT “Chimp Attack” on Human Exceptionalism

The New York Times is on an anti-human exceptionalism crusade. Other than columnist Ross Douthat, when was the last time the “paper of record” allowed arguments to be made in favor of the unique dignity of human life in its pages? I can’t recall a single time in recent years. 

But take actions to subvert our belief in the unique dignity of human life and the NYT is at your service!  It has published columns arguing for “pea personhood,” that plants are the most “ethical” life form, and in last Sunday’s Magazine, a tribute to the Dark Mountain Projects’ push for “uncivilization.”

This week, the magazine publishes a puff piece in praise of the animal rights fanatic, Steven Wise, head of the NonHuman Rights Project who wants animals declared “persons” so that they can sue their owners.

Readers of this blog will recall that Wise recently filed lawsuits seeking habeas corpus for chimps in New York. That event is the launching pad of the article focusing on the alleged neglect of one Tommy the chimp, kept alone in a cage, which Wise says is legal. Who knows if that is true? (If so, change the law.) The reporter merely mentions it and moves on.

But protecting Tommy isn’t really Wise’s point. Rather, like all animal rights ideologues, his ultimate goal is an end to all animal domestication. From, “Should a Chimp be able to Sue Its Owner?”:

Wise told me he was well aware of the fact that for creatures like Tommy, a victory in court could only result in transfer to a kinder type of captivity. The larger significance of winning for Wise, however, is the clear message it sends about the wrongfulness of holding captive a chimp or a circus elephant or a SeaWorld orca in the first place.

Wise, aided and abetted by the reporter, aims at destroying our belief in unique dignity of human life (my emphasis):

In [a] debate [with Peter Singer], [Judge Richard] Posner stated that the special status we humans accord ourselves is based not on tests or statistics but on “a moral intuition deeper than any reason that could be given for it and impervious to any reason that you or anyone could give against it.” That inherent irrationality at the heart of humanity’s sense of exceptionalism is what most worries Wise.

“It’s those deeply held beliefs that I’m concerned about,” he told me. “The judge who either doesn’t recognize that he’s ruling against us on those grounds, or who does, and decides that way anyway. Our challenge is to lay bare that bias against our facts. I will say: ‘Judge, you know, we’ve been here before. We’ve had people who’ve essentially said, “I’m sorry, but you’re black.” Or “I’m sorry, you’re not a male or a heterosexual.” And this has led us to some very bad places.’ ”

No, equating discrimination against blacks and other humans–all of whom are inherently equal to each other–with the way we interact with animals is irrational. 

Animals are not people. They are not our moral equivalent. What we do to an animal should not be judged in the same manner as if the same thing were done to a human. Cattle ranching is not slavery! Animal research is not Mengele in the camps.

The abundant and ubiquitous reasons to support human exceptionalism are never given sustained attention within the primary outlets for public discourse. Rather, like waves crashing on a shore eroding the beach, one-sided articles such as this subvert the fundamental basis of Western Civilization that has brought us so much liberty and prosperity. This is intentional:

Much like other civil rights movements, the Nh.R.P.’s efforts are designed to be a systematic assault; a continued and repeated airing of the evidence now at hand so that other lawyers and eventually judges and society as a whole can move past what Wise considers the increasingly arbitrary distinction of species as the determinant of who should hold a right.

And yet, when I bring this up in speeches and on the radio, I keep hearing the same eye-rolling complacency: It can’t happen here, I am told. It’s just the fringe making noise. When I urge that learned articles be written in the professional journals, I hear the crickets chirping.​

But it is happening here. Very influential outlets like the New York Times are pushing it. And it will happen–unless people at all levels of society start taking these assaults on human uniqueness seriously and join me on the ramparts defending the unique dignity and value of human life.

Wesley J. Smith — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

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