Humans Are Exceptional For a Reason
by J. Warner Wallace
Wesley J. Smith writes a blog over at National Review Online entitled “Human Exceptionalism.” I highly recommend it. Yesterday he featured an article written by Marian Stamp Dawkins, a Professor of Animal Behavior at Oxford and author of Why Animals Matter. Dawkins examines the argument for animal “value” that is based on the animals possession of a property (consciousness). While Dawkins seems to reject this method of assigning animals value, she does accept a methodology which assigns animals value on the basis of their benefit to humans:
“If you want to try and convince people who are not already convinced that animal welfare matters, you use arguments that touch on, as I said, their self-interest; good for their children’s health, good for their own health, good for the environment. Those are the arguments that are going to carry the weight.”
Wesley correctly recognizes that animal value is not so much the result of a property possessed by the species we are considering, but is instead the result of a property WE possess as humans:
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“But there real issue here is us, not animals. As conscious beings, as moral creatures, as empathetic experiencers, we promote animal welfare–in the context of human thriving and without–simply because we are human. It is part of our hard wiring to be moral beings, particularly once we get the past raw survival stage of existing. Thus, it is our duty to treat them well–not because of what they might want, but who we are.
I suppose in commercial enterprises, demonstrating that is what good for the animals is also good for the producer can promote reform–but what if it isn’t? The animal producers I have met treat their animals well because they know it is the right thing to do, even if it earns them a little less money. And I know some who have sacrificed their own economic welfare substantially in order to do what is right by their animals.”
Even our atheist friends have to admit that humans are different that other species of animal. We possess three kinds of “awareness” that separate us from other creatures; we possess moral, spiritual and self awareness…
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