Human Exceptionalism

Two-Demensional Criticism of Me–Again

Again and again two-dimensional thinkers fail to engage my actual arguments in favor of human exceptionalism–and/or against nature rights, animal rights, euthanasia, etc.–preferring instead to invent my motives and purposes. For example there was that time when I was accused of seeing biology “as a tool of Lucifer.” Ha!

Latest example, by way of Andrew Sullivan, comes Reason’s A. Barton Hinkle, claiming I opposed granting human-type rights to chimps because of my supposed fear that it would undermine the Bible. From his piece:

Like evolution, the recognition of animal rights has the potential to undermine biblical literalism. So it is not particularly surprising that the Institute treats even limited recognition of some rights for chimpanzees as the first step on a slippery slope.

In his fervent imagination. I don’t get into religion one way or the other in my human exceptionalism work, and have been criticized precisely for that reason. Indeed, in my book criticizing animal rights, A Rat is a Pig is a Dog is a Boy, I don’t make any religious arguments in 267 pages.

Hinkle also claims I am “wrong” about the goal of the animal rights movement:

The ultimate goal, Smith writes, is “to prohibit all domestication of animals” and “destroy human exceptionalism.” Wrong. The panic over the possibility of safeguarding not merely animal welfare, but legal animal rights, fails to recognize that we already do just that. Humans, after all, are animals too.

That’s too cute by half. Of course, we are biological animals. But using the word “humans” for us and “animals” for, well, animals helps identify the moral distinction between us. Some use the terms animal and “nonhuman animal,” which I think is intended to blur those lines, but there you have it.

And, of course the goal of animal rights is to destroy human exceptionalism. That’s why they label the belief in unique human dignity or higher intrinsic value “speciesist,” e.g., discrimination against animals.

His apparent ignorance about those goals doesn’t mean I am incorrect. For example, leading animal rights advocate, Gary Francione, argues that animals have a “right not to be property:”

If we were to recognize such a right (initially as a moral/social matter and later protected by law), we would stop bringing domestic animals into existence altogether

Similarly, PETA believes that the instrumental use of animals is, by definition, abuse. Hence, it’s slogan:

Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any way.

So, to sum up, Hinkle is just engaging in the typical two-dimensional stereotyping and factually challenged assertions seen too often in public discourse these days.

I would say, “Nice try but no cigar,” except that it wasn’t a nice try.