Thursday, June 26, 2008

Spain to extend rights to apes.

It'll probably surprise the readers of this blog that I actually don't have a huge problem with this. While I've never been much of a fan of the "animals are people too" school of thought, I think that primates are scarily close to human. No animal that can communicate abstract concepts via sign language should be used for dangerous (or fatal) medical experiments or as is the case in much of the world...meat.

The genetic differences between chimpanzees and humans are minuscule. The simple truth is that they are our cousins and we have a duty to treat them as decently as possible. I have to disagree with the Spanish prohibition against using primates in the media or the circus. These don't strike me as unethical per se, though obviously there is potential for abuse there.

What is bizarre about this is that one of the major proponents of this legislation is the Australian philosopher Peter Singer. Singer is to put it charitably, an apologist for eugenics. While apes may have nothing to fear from professor Singer, humans with the misfortune of being born blind or retarded can expect to euthanized should his views become popular. It's happened before and the only thing keeping it from happening again is the willingness of decent people to stand against it. Peter Singer is not one of those people.

When conservatives argue that abortion is equivalent to infanticide, Singer to his credit concedes the point but argues that we ought to legalize infanticide too. Then there's his defense of animal/human sexual relationships. He's a scary guy.

It says a lot about American academic life that Princeton University gave this guy tenure. His book Practical Ethics is one of the most popular college philosophy texts in the United States.

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