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When the Metaphor of Comparing Humans to Animals Fails

Today's headlines included the horrific discovery of the bodies of three Israeli teenagers missing on the West Bank for 18 days. They were covered by some rocks in a field. Benjamin Netanyahu was quoted as saying "They were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by animals," and promising that "Hamas will pay."

As a metaphor here, "by animals" seems to capture the reality less well than "by demons." Besides the obvious grief in the Jewish community -- I received one email after another today just from local Seattle institutions -- I'm struck by our colleague Wesley Smith's formulation, "human exceptionalism."

Human beings are distinguished by an ability to soar up toward the angels, again metaphorically speaking, or to descend to levels of depravity where no animal may ever venture. The latter is what evidently happened with the sadistic murder of these three boys that will gain nothing for any cause, just or otherwise, but only sates a lust for death.

Animals can be dangerous but never depraved. Groups of animals can be perilous if angered but there's no such thing as a twisted animal "culture," obsessed with death. Never happened.

The vast gap between humans and animals, much as our culture and our science deny it, is underlined once again by this terrible story.

I'm on Twitter. Find me @d_klinghoffer.