A question being considered by some in our society is one of fundamental importance. The question is whether humans are exceptional among other living things. The belief in human exceptionalism was once a nearly universally held one. Recent attempts to elevate animals – to the detriment of some humans – have called the idea into question.
For centuries humans have occupied the prominent place as the dominant and most respected living creature on earth. This was first due to the special creation of mankind by God at the outset of human history (Gen 2). God further told man to “be fruitful and multiply” on the earth (Gen. 9:1) and that he would be “feared” by other living creatures as the blessed creation of God (Gen. 9:2).
This idea of human exceptionalism has been a foundational principle in our society for generations. Western civilization has fashioned laws around this idea and even attempted to convince other peoples of this idea in an effort to secure human rights. The belief that mankind is the greatest creature on earth is being threatened now by efforts of animal rights activists, among others, that want us to see animals as co-equals with mankind.
Logically the idea that an animal, a dog, monkey, or dolphin, is equal in any way to humans is hard to grasp. While these and other animals have certain innate abilities that mirror human capabilities, language, hunting, procreation, they still cannot hope to achieve the same levels as humans. There’s no doubt that dolphins are smart; but they are smart compared to other sea creatures. Dolphins don’t come close to being as intelligent as humans; have you ever witnessed a dolphin inventing something, or opening a jar of jam.
The same could be said for other animals as well. Recently however people have almost willingly put animals on an equal plane with humans and treated them as equals. I found a recent article at LifeSiteNews interesting as it showed just how “human-like” our society had made dogs.
Rev. Michael P. Orsi writes that when we allow the status of animals to be put on an equal plane as humans, our status as humans suffers. This is a problem as we seek to secure human rights for the unborn, the elderly, and the ill. Orsi explains:
“Once upon a time, people spoke of buying a dog or getting a dog. When the animal was brought home the owner/master began the process of training it. Today the term parenting a dog has become in vogue. This equates it with that relationship which has been traditionally used to connote the sacred bond of love and responsibility reserved for a parent to a child. When we begin to think of our relationship to a dog and a child in the same way our status suffers. Quite logically then, in light of the above, the death of a dog should engender the same sense of loss as that of a beloved human being. Mourning rituals have now been created to facilitate this.”
Orsi accurately describes what takes place regularly in our society. People don’t’ simply “get” a dog anymore; they “adopt” a dog that is now “part of the family.” As such the dog is given gifts, clothing, gourmet food, and special rights around the house. And when something happens to the dog, an injury, a tumor, the dog is given the highest quality medical care costing thousands of dollars.
I’m not saying there is anything morally wrong with treating an animal well. In fact, I wish animal cruelty was a thing of the past. But, as Orsi points out, many people treat their animals better than the homeless, ill, and even their neighbors. That is, I think, where the problem occurs. When we as a society willingly spend thousands to cure our dog from cancer but don’t think to spend a few bucks to buy the homeless a meal we have lost focus completely. At the same time we have elevated animals to an equal status as humans and we begin to lose our special place of exceptionalism wherein we were created to occupy.
This problem is clearly seen in those that work tirelessly to protect animals and free animals from places of cruelty but will not give the same effort to securing human rights to the unborn or others. Indeed some have even decided that it is a form of discrimination to believe humans are more valuable than animals. A recent article comments on this:
“Utilitarian bioethicists agree with animal rights activists that it is ‘speciesist’—unjust discrimination against animals—to treat humans as possessing an intrinsically higher value than animals. As in the chimpanzee cases, moral status is seen as something earned by possessing “relevant characteristics, such as being self-aware. Since all human beings are not so capable—some because of immaturity, others due to illness or injury—under bioethics theory, they are not ‘persons,’ and hence, have less moral value than humans (or animals) capable of higher functioning.”
This way of thinking poses at least two problems. First, it justifies allowing human rights to be violated rather than seeking to secure human rights and liberty for all people. Whether we are talking about religious freedom, or other inherent rights such as free speech, the right to be born rather than aborted, and the right to die naturally instead of being euthanized, human rights should always take precedence.
The second problem here is that humans are devalued. It does not devalue animals to say humans are more valuable. The fact is, without humans many animals would not live the cozy lives they now enjoy. Humans have made life for animals far more pleasant than it was previously. And, the fact remains that humans are more valuable and should be treated as such. To say that a disabled human is not more valuable than a fully functioning animal is absurd. Every human being occupies a higher place and is far more valuable than any other creature.
I’m all for the humane treatment of animals. But when that idea is taken to an extreme that believes animals occupy an equal or greater place of value and worth than humans there’s a problem. When people are willing to fight and defend animals but not give the same effort to defend humans (unborn, ill) there’s a problem. If we secure equality and rights for every animal but not for the most vulnerable among us, such as the unborn, elderly, and ill, we will have failed.