Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Non-Human Persons Indeed

Scientists say dolphins should be treated as 'non-human persons'

Dolphins have been declared the world’s second most intelligent creatures after humans, with scientists suggesting they are so bright that they should be treated as “non-human persons”.


There are so many things I want to say about this article that I will probably write another blog post or at least a longer one, but I mentally staggered under the realization that if scientists were to find a species similar to a dolphin on another planet, they would be attempting to communicate and would be wetting themselves with the discovery of such an intelligent animal. But on our planet, where we have MILLIONS of living things, each with complex social systems, unique biology and interactions, we think we are so great and so above all other living animals that we are JUST now realizing that intelligent animals deserve to be treated with respect. How about respecting ALL animals? How about discovering just how intelligent they are instead of coming from the prospective of trying to justify our treatment of them?

How about respecting humanity for that matter? How about accepting our racial heritage but acknowledging our intrinsic affinity for each other as humans? How about respecting sexual preferences?

We get excited that there might be bacteria living in the rings around Saturn, while we drive complex organisms like whales, bird species, tigers, elephants, and dozens more to extinction. It makes no sense.

2 comments:

  1. Well, I think it's a bit of a gross generalization to say that the same people getting excited about extra-stellar biology are the same people chucking harpoons into porpoises or gunning down do-dos or setting crosses aflame on front lawns, but I think you're right that we do seem more concerned with what we'll find out there than what we need to worry about down here. It has always worried me that the space program started out in the 60s as a spitting contest between Mom's apple pies and Comrade's hammered sickles, but by the 70s turned into a mock-conservationist movement to look into future homes for the human race. Seriously, it's like we went from "Zero gravity's fun!" to "Terraforming's a good investment!" Ugh.

    I do laugh a little bit at all the "hype" dolphins get as intelligent creatures; really, their only credit is that they have the most "human-like" intelligence of most animals out there. Frankly, I'm more interested in the fact that dolphins will carry people lost at sea to shore. It's a very bizarre instinct, but I think it's reading too much into it to call it "intelligence".

    Arguably the only reason anybody even looks for human-like intelligence in dolphins is because of the somewhat ludicrous theory in evolution that an animal's capacity for intelligence (abstract thought and problem solving) is inversely proportionate to the number of dexterous limbs it has; Humans have only two practical hands, whereas chimpanzees have four, so they have to devote more brain-power to working those four mitts than people, who don't have to divide their focus as much and can therefore... well, it's bunk. If that is truly the case, then the smartest sea animal is the octopus, which has to split its melon's focus down eight arms, yet it can make and use tools like coconut halves and undo locks on jars and fisherman's traps. Now those are some non-human persons for you.

    Then again, if we go by that logic, then I'd be declared a mass murderer by the Kingdom of Octopon. Maybe I should start writing letters of apology for all the octopi, calimari, squid, and cuddlefish I've had over the years....

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  2. I felt a bit at a loss when I had a discussion regarding this article with someone I knew. They felt that the logical conclusion was to stop eating animals regardless of their measurable levels of intelligence. My problem is that I don't have a problem being an omnivore. Some animals are omnivores, some animals are carnivores, and some are herbivores. The carnivores and omnivores do not feel moral repugnance at having to eat another animal. They just do it for survival. Granted, I don't have to eat meat with all the high-protein foods out there, but I do anyway. Since my consumption of meat is not necessarily for my survival, does that mean I should not do it? I can't really form an argument for it, but there are certainly arguments against it.

    I always love your comments.

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