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« My Point Exactly | Main | Do Chimps Use Language? »

April 26, 2006

Comments

Ross

I agree to treat spanish socialists as equals to the great apes.

Chuckles

Feh! More fodder for the welfare state. Those cuddly apes couldnt possible survive unsheltered from the activities of nefarious industrialists - so Daddy Government has to do the job. All this in a world where *blacks* are are still struggling to attain the moral and legal protection these idiots are so willing to extend towards Apes. But then again: Animal rights kookery of this kind seems to be positively correlated with racist idiocy historically - so I cannot say I am suprised.

Frank McGahon

What's so magical about the 96.4% threshold? We share about 85% (?) of our genes with rats. Isn't it rather simiocentric to deny, (over a few trifling percentage points!) our fellow mammals these same protections? After all, unlike the rural-dwelling ape "hicks", rats also show an uncannily human-like attraction to urban centres...

florian

It's a hoax.

Abiola

Oh no it isn't.

http://www.spainherald.com/2006-04-26news.html#3451

I can see why one might wish it were, though ...

Huber

Alas, it's certainly not a hoax. The stuff nightmares are made of, more like. I've taken the liberty of translating a bit and and post it to my own www.benevolencia.blogspot.com

J.Cassian

Maybe it's a cunning plan to get the world used to the idea of simian suffrage in the hope that the apes of Gibraltar will one day vote for union with Spain.

español

The spanish socialist government want to treat Apes like human beings to be able to treat human beings like Apes.
This Government is a nightmare, and don't forget, they won the elections thanks to the Madrid train attack.

Randy McDonald

"This Government is a nightmare, and don't forget, they won the elections thanks to the Madrid train attack."

It would have been nice if the Popular Party hadn't tried to palm the train attacks on ETA, and then in opposition go on to claim an anti-PP conspiracy at the same time that it manages to make Catalonian autonomy a topic dear to the minds of far-right nationalists (wine boycotts, coup leaders' letters). Unfortunately we don't live in that world. A pity; Spain deserves a responsible right.

As for the topic of the post, I don't see why the proposal is stupid at all. Why shouldn't language-using primates capable of sustaining complex communities be recognized as international wards, given these primates' close relationship with and similarity to humans, say as wards of the state? Protecting the weak is a noble goal, and hardly contradicts the theme of universal human rights as Chuckles argues. If anything, it entrenches that position.

Matt

Obviously none of these people have seen 'Planet of the Apes'.

Abiola

"Why shouldn't language-using primates capable of sustaining complex communities be recognized as international wards, given these primates' close relationship with and similarity to humans, say as wards of the state?"

1 - The Great Apes Project isn't talking about being "recognized as international wards", but of a "community of equals", which only braindead socialists could possibly believe encompasses humans, chimps and gorillas.

2 - Either you show me the research papers in which these apes have been shown to use *language* spontaneously between themselves, or you go back to school on the meaning of the term; for some strange reason, despite my long-standing interest in linguistics, I've yet to come upon an iota of evidence for such an assertion. "Language" is more than just simple association of signs with objects, or else we'd have to admit that any dog used language too. No other species other than ours has a communication repertoire which is so open-ended as to deserve the term you're being so generous in dishing out.

3 - Ant colonies are "complex" too, at least by the standard you're permitting for use of the term with the great apes, and monkey troops are larger and more complex than any gorilla's harem, let alone a solitary orangutan's social life. Would you therefore extend "the community of equals" to every baboon and macaque?

To speak of "rights" and "community" with respect to creatures incapable of grasping either concept is idiocy of the first order.

Andrew

What rights should be accorded to human beings with mental deficiencies such that they do not function above the level of a chimpanzee?

Abiola

Sigh - this hoary old chestnut again. Care to tell me why others have the power to commit such people to institutions against their will if they are endowed with the exact same "rights" as everyone else? Care to explain why they're routinely excused from bearing full responsibility for infringing the "rights" of others?

I've said it before and I'll say it again: the only reason the severely retarded are extended any "rights" at all is out of a feeling of sympathy for a fellow human - "there but for the grace of Bob go I" - and because one wishes to take into consideration the feelings of their relatives. "Rights" don't just fall from the sky, nor do they exist out there in nature like neutrinos: they are nothing more than a tacit agreement to mutually honor a social contract, and those who can't abide by it are regularly stripped of these "rights" all the time (go ask any prisoner, especially the death row inmates). If you think severe retardation is no obstacle to having "rights", then tell me where you were when the right-to-lifers were on the march over Terry Schiavo.

Chuckles

[...hardly contradicts the theme of universal human rights as Chuckles argues...]

Eh - Randy:

This is precisely what it does. Human rights are *Human* rights. And there is a reason for that. Like Abiola has pointed out, rights exist within the domain of Covenants - there simply isnt any empirical evidence for "natural" rights that can be extended ad infinitum to any creature; neither is there a logical justification for such.

[...What rights should be accorded to human beings with mental deficiencies...]

In addition to Abiola's point, to the extent that their mental states make them unable to function within contract, to that extent are their rights limited - within the domain of the contract. This is not remarkable; it is approximately the same status in which children are held.

Andrew

"Care to tell me why others have the power to commit such people to institutions against their will if they are endowed with the exact same "rights" as everyone else? Care to explain why they're routinely excused from bearing full responsibility for infringing the "rights" of others?"

Actually, I wasn't saying that such people do have full rights, so I'm not sure who you're arguing against here.

"it is approximately the same status in which children are held."

Not exactly - no one thinks it's okay to use babies for medical experiments, even though people have in the past used chimpanzees for experiments (e.g. with AIDS). But, OK, I'll accept Abiola's argument that we give severely mentally disabled people rights in order to respect their relatives' wishes. (I'm less convinced by the sympathy for a fellow human argument, but the relatives reason seems good enough.)

Chuckles

[...Not exactly - no one thinks it's okay to use babies for medical experiments, even though people have in the past used chimpanzees for experiments (e.g. with AIDS)...]

The argument is that the status of the retarded is approximate to that of children, and not that the status of great apes is approximate to that of children. You must have misread me.

And it seems you also misread Abiola: His argument is that we, in fact, do not grant full rights to the retarded. Because if we did, we would not be institutionalizing them against their wills - and we would not be exempting them from the full weight of the law, in such cases as murder - since we would assume that equal rights:equal responsibility. And that such limited rights as the retarded have proceed from a consideration of third parties that are implicated in the contract in a non trivial sense.

Won Joon Choe

LOL, the "Enlightenment" run amok...

Andrew

Chuckles, sorry for misreading you, but I guess we're even because you misread me too - I was agreeing with Abiola - read "Abiola's argument that we give severely mentally disabled people rights" as "...give severely mentally disable people limited rights, i.e. what few rights that we do give them."

Abiola

"I'm less convinced by the sympathy for a fellow human argument"

It isn't an argument *for* giving them (limited) "rights", but a reason *why* we do; it certainly isn't reason that makes so many of us go mushy at the sight of toddlers, after all. Indeed, the argument can be made that it is an overextension of this innate tendency to inappropriate realms which leads to arguments in favor of "ape rights", in that some of us see in the other apes a shadow of a resemblance to ourselves which enables us to project our mental states unto them; take this mistaken thinking far enough and you get the Timothy Treadwells who get eaten alive thanks to their delusions about the cuddwy widdew bears. If more of those who subscribe to "rights" for chimps knew just how vicious the creatures can be towards each other, let alone to human beings, I think they'd lose their enthusiasm for the cause very quickly.

Chuckles

[...I guess we're even because you misread me too...]

Ah! So it is! My apologies.

Randy McDonald

Chuckles:

"This is precisely what it does. Human rights are *Human* rights. And there is a reason for that. Like Abiola has pointed out, rights exist within the domain of Covenants - there simply isnt any empirical evidence for "natural" rights that can be extended ad infinitum to any creature; neither is there a logical justification for such."

Empathy for the other, along with enlightened self-interest, lies at the root of the recognition of inalienable rights. Empathy is clearly possible with great apes. As for enlightened self-interest, well, there's the old Puritan argument against bear-baiting (degrading to the watchers if not to the animals) if nothing else.

Your initial point strikes me as bizarre. Why, if great apes are recorded a certain measure of rights, would this necessarily lead to the neglect of the rights of human beings in general, never mind a specific class of human beings?

Abiola:

"Either you show me the research papers in which these apes have been shown to use *language* spontaneously between themselves, or you go back to school on the meaning of the term; for some strange reason, despite my long-standing interest in linguistics, I've yet to come upon an iota of evidence for such an assertion. "Language" is more than just simple association of signs with objects, or else we'd have to admit that any dog used language too. No other species other than ours has a communication repertoire which is so open-ended as to deserve the term you're being so generous in dishing out."

You're for Chomsky in this? Huh.

"Ant colonies are "complex" too, at least by the standard you're permitting for use of the term with the great apes, and monkey troops are larger and more complex than any gorilla's harem, let alone a solitary orangutan's social life. Would you therefore extend "the community of equals" to every baboon and macaque?"

It depends on how good baboons and macaques are at communications, and at problem-solving.

Anyway, this isn't germane to the points at hand, that is, the close genetic similarity of the great apes to _homo sapiens_ and these species' demonstrated ability to, if not use outright, closely mimic basic traits of human culture.

"To speak of "rights" and "community" with respect to creatures incapable of grasping either concept is idiocy of the first order."

and

"I've said it before and I'll say it again: the only reason the severely retarded are extended any "rights" at all is out of a feeling of sympathy for a fellow human - "there but for the grace of Bob go I" - and because one wishes to take into consideration the feelings of their relatives."

You've done it for the Spanish Socialists. Sympathy on the part of those for beings for which one can feel empathy is at the root of this measure. Deciding that empathy should stop at the outer perimeter of one's species is arbitrary, not least since it hasn't done this in the past.

Randy McDonald

Abiola, regarding your point about Treadwall ("take this mistaken thinking far enough and you get the Timothy Treadwells who get eaten alive thanks to their delusions about the cuddwy widdew bears"), the fact remains that Treadwell _was_ widely criticized by experts in ursine behaviour who knew quite well that he was anthropomorphizing bears, that is, creating a sense of false empathy with beings with drives dissimilar from those of humans. Treadwell wasn't representative of the class of people most given to empathy for the bears based on practical experience; Treadwell was an anomaly.

Andrew

"Why, if great apes are recorded a certain measure of rights"

I don't think anyone here disagrees that great apes shouldn't be accorded a *certain* measure of rights - eg we shouldn't torture them, keep them locked up in tiny cages, etc. I think we probably shouldn't conduct medical experiments on them (I say this as someone who generally supports animal experimentation). You can be nice to animals (and perhaps be increasingly nice as you deal with more intelligent animals) without giving them full status as legal persons. (Among other strange things - all the great apes within Spain's jurisdiction would have to be either set free or deported, because a basic human right is not to be wrongfully imprisoned!)

"You're for Chomsky in this? Huh."

Not to put words in Abiola's mouth, but there's nothing strange about respecting someone's linguistic theories while disparaging their political views...

"If more of those who subscribe to "rights" for chimps knew just how vicious the creatures can be towards each other, let alone to human beings, I think they'd lose their enthusiasm for the cause very quickly."

Well, bonobos are supposedly much more peaceful than chimps. But anyway, it's not like human beings aren't vicious to each other (there's a book, Demonic Males, which suggests that male organized violence (ie war) has common evolutionary roots for both chimps and humans) so this might actually be a further point for chimps' resemblance to humans.

"Treadwell wasn't representative of the class of people most given to empathy for the bears based on practical experience"

If we make the analogy to chimps, it might seem that you're suggesting researchers who study chimps would have the most empathy for them; yet they would probably be banned from doing their research if chimps had legal personhood status. (Certainly you're not allowed to do research on severely mentally disabled human beings.)

Chuckles

[...Your initial point strikes me as bizarre. Why, if great apes are recorded a certain measure of rights, would this necessarily lead to the neglect of the rights of human beings in general, never mind a specific class of human beings?...]

Straw man. Whoever claimed that it neccesarily would?

You arguments arent very strong here. The socialists want to classify Apes as persons, want to give them legal and moral protection only currently enjoyed by human persons. This is not about feeling sorry about Apes or according them a certain measure of protection: Apes dont need rights to be protected. Talk less of inalienable rights. We protect Animals because it is in the human interest to protect Animals. Feeling sorry for Animals is not enough to classify them as persons and give them the legal and moral protection afforded to persons. Dogs are also capable of empathy, as are wolves and other social animals. Are they to be classified as persons and afforded moral and legal rights currently restricted to Humans also? No. The issue here is not about affording protection to animals or treating them with decency. We already do that: Without animals being categorized as persons or possessing inalienable rights. Extending rights currently restricted to Humans to animals degrades the very notion of human rights: This is an exclusive club. And like Frank noted: Stopping the rights at Apes is also arbitrary. I will take the socialists more seriously when they include Hamsters, Mice, Dogs, Ferrets, Parrots, Canaries, Goldfish and Cats in the category of persons: These creatures have provided more comfort, companionship and camraderie to more humans than Apes ever have. Many owners claim their Pets capable of empathy, of self interest and such.

PS: Just so you know, at the back of this kind of stupid thinking is, a lot of times, a mind set which says "Well, we gave rights to blacks and gypsies and women, why not Apes?" Which is why I argued that this kind of stuff seems to be *correlated* with racism historically. And there are several facets to this that I dont have time to point out here.

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