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Animals Equivalent to Humans in NYT -- Again


The New York Times is crusading against human exceptionalism. Indeed, articles that advocate moral equivalency between humans and animal are so ubiquitous in the Grey Anti-Human Lady that I wrote a piece in the Weekly Standard a while ago pointing out several examples of the continuing theme. 

The Magazine went there again on Sunday -- without substantive rebuttal -- in an article about purported psychological problems of zoo animals. From "Zoo Animals and Their Discontents":

The notion of animals as unthinking automatons has enjoyed curious staying power; one form it has taken is a tendency to study animal behavior to the exclusion of thoughts and feelings. The Oxford Companion to Animal Behaviour, a longstanding reference, cautions behaviorists that "one is well advised to study the behavior, rather than attempting to get at any underlying emotion."

For Philip Low, the Cambridge Declaration ["The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness in Human and Nonhuman Animals"] was aimed directly at the Cartesian prejudice against nonhumans. "The term 'animal' is simply an excuse not to look at something," Low argues, citing eugenics, phrenology and "scientific" racism as byproducts of the tendency to elevate humans -- especially certain humans -- over other beings. Some scientists have criticized Low for not consulting with more colleagues before issuing the declaration. "Whom did Descartes consult before making his declaration?" Low asked me.

Understanding that there is a legitimate moral distinction between us and animals is not the same thing at all as humans invidiously discriminating against each other! The former accurately describes unequal things, while the latter inaccurately distinguishes among equals.

Similarly, the term "animal" as distinguished from "human" properly reinforces the moral distinction between them and us. Indeed, I believe the term "nonhuman animal," at least in part, seeks to erase that crucial distinction.

The NYT is intent on boosting those who, like Low, are intent on destroying human exceptionalism. It is up to those of us who understand the catastrophe that such a deconstruction would cause to point out the tactic every time it rears its anti-human head.

Image credit: G´┐Żnter Hentschel/Flickr.

Cross-posted at Human Exceptionalism.