Human Exceptionalism

Spain Apes the Declaration of Independence

I have written about Spain’s plan to pass the Great Ape Project (GAP) here at SHS previously. Now, I have a more extended piece on the issue in the current Weekly Standard on. From the article:

But why grant apes rights? After all, if the Spanish parliament deems these animals insufficiently protected, it can enact more stringent protections, as other countries have. But improving the treatment of apes–of which there are few in Spain–is not really the game that is afoot. Rather, as Pozas chortled after the environment committee of the Spanish parliament passed the resolutions committing Spain to the Great Ape Project, this precedent will be the “spear point” that breaks the “species barrier.”

And why break the species barrier? Why, to destroy the unique status of man and thus initiate a wholesale transformation of Western civilization.

And to what will breaking the spine of human exceptionalism lead? I supply the answer:

Should that come to pass, the ancien régime (as they view it) based on the sanctity and equality of human life would crumble. In its place would emerge a society sufficiently hedonistic to eschew moralizing about personal behavior (Singer has defended bestiality), but also humbled to the point where people would willingly sacrifice our own flourishing “for the animals” or to “save the planet” and utilitarian enough to countenance ridding ourselves of unwanted human ballast (Singer is the world’s foremost proponent of infanticide). Thus, in the world that would rise from the ashes of human exceptionalism, moral value would be subjective and rights temporary, depending on the extent of each animal’s individual capacities at the time of measuring.

I conclude that attempting to knock ourselves “off the pedestal of exceptionalism” is terribly misguided:

The way we act is based substantially on what kind of being we perceive ourselves to be. Thus, if we truly want to make this a better and more humane world, the answer is not to think of ourselves as inhabiting the same moral plane as animals–none of which can even begin to comprehend rights. Rather, it is to embrace the unique importance of being human.

After all, if not our humanity, what gives rise to our duty to treat animals properly and to act toward each other in accordance with what is–the Great Ape Project notwithstanding–our exclusive membership in a community of equals?

I hope you’ll read the whole thing. Whether one agrees or disagrees with my perspective, I don’t think there is any gainsaying my analysis.