Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Should chimpanzees be considered legal persons or things?

arroba Email

From Jeff Sebo, director of the animal studies program at New York University, at New York Times:

You might be aware that chimpanzees can recognize themselves in a mirror, communicate through sign language, pursue goals creatively and form long-lasting friendships. You might also think that these are the kinds of things that a person can do. However, you might not think of chimpanzees as persons.

The Nonhuman Rights Project does. Since 2013, the group has been working on behalf of two chimpanzees, Kiko and Tommy, currently being held in cages by their “owners” without the company of other chimpanzees. It is asking the courts to rule that Kiko and Tommy have the right to bodily liberty and to order their immediate release into a sanctuary where they can live out the rest of their lives with other chimpanzees.

The problem is that under current United States law, one is either a “person” or a “thing.” There is no third option. If you are a person, you have the capacity for rights, including the right to habeas corpus relief, which protects you from unlawful confinement. If you are a thing, you do not have the capacity for rights. And unfortunately, even though they are sensitive, intelligent, social beings, Kiko and Tommy are considered things under the law. More.

First, the obvious solution is stronger humane society legislation. As a member of and donor to the Ottawa Humane Society, I am proud of our local efforts in this regard.

I am glad that the United States ended using chimpanzees in medical experiments intended to benefit human beings some years ago.

But no one wants to discuss why that project was useless: Its uselessness interferes with 99% chimpanzee claims, used to promote a variety of nonsense about human evolution.

If rats work out better in medicine, what should that really tell us? Something is missing here, no?

But now, down to business: As for “personhood”? First, the “mirror test” sounds like an academic sham, a made-up test.

How many animals need to know what they look like? If they are predators, maybe they should look like vegetation. Shouldn’t we start there?

As for “pursue goals creatively and form long-lasting friendships,” many animals do that effortlessly. Last summer, I watched a cluster of otherwise totally bored cats setting up a local dog to stick his big nose under the fence. Admittedly, I was working in the garden at the time and could possibly have put a stop to their scheme. But I had not realized that the dog would be foolish enough to take their bait. It was a hot day, so…

I still hear him bellering, briefly, in my head.

Earlier this year, when one of those same cats was sick in the dead of winter, his lifetime littermate took to grooming his otherwise untended fur.

This is not evidence of personhood, which involves philosophical definitions of rationality and free moral choice.

Maybe too many people today do not spend enough time with animals. Maybe they spend too much time in bureaucracies?

Chimpanzees being considered legal persons is a step on the road to human beings not being considered so. But people vote for it. And academics and law firms will profit from it.

It will not help chimpanzees at all, unfortunately. – O’Leary for News

See also: Animal minds: In search of the minimal self

Before recognising chimps as humans we might have to do some backfilling and recognise some humans as human. What a parlous state we have entered; we think ourselves fit to judge which humans are not really human and which animals are not really animal. "for his next trick Man went on to prove that Black is White and got himself killed on a zebra crossing ... " ScuzzaMan
Of course not. Truth Will Set You Free
Hmmm, not even one mention of 'human exceptionalism', i.e. we are 'persons' because we are made in the image of God, in the entire article.
True Human Exceptionalism - Nathan Aaberg — March 14, 2015 Excerpt: It is true. Humans are exceptional. We do understand that people are made in the image of God, unlike any other creature. Clearly, a great deal of the Bible is about the interaction between God and people. From the beginning, God has a special relationship with humanity. Jesus also clearly states that humans are of more value than sparrows and sheep (although there is no suggestion that sparrows and sheep have no value). https://www.firstthings.com/tag/human-exceptionalism Humanity - Chemical Scum or Made in the Image of God? - video https://youtu.be/ElBWAwjPzyM
I'm sure more than one of the founding fathers of America would have questioned these supposed learned men about that glaring omission of human exceptionalism as grounded in Christianity. Ironically, Darwinian materialism itself denies 'personhood',,,
The Confidence of Jerry Coyne - Ross Douthat - January 6, 2014 Excerpt: then halfway through this peroration, we have as an aside the confession that yes, okay, it’s quite possible given materialist premises that “our sense of self is a neuronal illusion.” At which point the entire edifice suddenly looks terribly wobbly — because who, exactly, is doing all of this forging and shaping and purpose-creating if Jerry Coyne, as I understand him (and I assume he understands himself) quite possibly does not actually exist at all? The theme of his argument is the crucial importance of human agency under eliminative materialism, but if under materialist premises the actual agent is quite possibly a fiction, then who exactly is this I who “reads” and “learns” and “teaches,” and why in the universe’s name should my illusory self believe Coyne’s bold proclamation that his illusory self’s purposes are somehow “real” and worthy of devotion and pursuit? (Let alone that they’re morally significant:,,) Read more here: http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/06/the-confidence-of-jerry-coyne/?_r=0 "What you’re doing is simply instantiating a self: the program run by your neurons which you feel is “you.”" Jerry Coyne "The Astonishing Hypothesis is that "You," your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll's Alice might have phrased: "You're nothing but a pack of neurons." This hypothesis is so alien to the ideas of most people today that it can truly be called astonishing." Francis Crick - Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul (p. 3) "The neural circuits in our brain manage the beautifully coordinated and smoothly appropriate behavior of our body. They also produce the entrancing introspective illusion that thoughts really are about stuff in the world. This powerful illusion has been with humanity since language kicked in, as we’ll see. It is the source of at least two other profound myths: that we have purposes that give our actions and lives meaning and that there is a person “in there” steering the body, so to speak." [A.Rosenberg, The Atheist's Guide To Reality, Ch.9]
Of related note to the atheist’s inability to ground ‘personhood’. Both the Jews in Nazi Germany, and humans in their mother’s womb in present day America, are denied the legal status of ‘personhood’
Unborn children as constitutional persons. - 2010 Excerpt: In Roe v. Wade, the state of Texas argued that "the fetus is a 'person' within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment." To which Justice Harry Blackmun responded, "If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment." However, Justice Blackmun then came to the conclusion "that the word 'person,' as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn." In this article, it is argued that unborn children are indeed "persons" within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth and Fifth Amendments. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20443281 The introduction of the Nuremberg Race Laws in 1935 saw Jews declared non-persons, stripped of their rights, robbed of their property and isolated. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/1399798/Hitlers-murderous-obsession-to-annihilate-the-Jews.html 8 Horrific Times People Groups Were Denied Their Humanity - July 02, 2014 Excerpt: According to Ernst Fraenkel, a German legal scholar, the Reichsgericht, the highest court in Germany, was instrumental in depriving Jewish people of their legal rights. In a 1936 Supreme Court decision, “the Reichsgericht refused to recognize Jews living in Germany as persons in the legal sense.” Nazis described Jews as Untermenschen, or subhumans to justify exterminating them. http://www.personhood.com/8_horrific_times_people_groups_were_denied_their_humanity
Quote of note:
“If we present a man with a concept of man which is not true, we may well corrupt him. When we present man as an automaton of reflexes, as a mind-machine, as a bundle of instincts, as a pawn of drives and reactions, as a mere product of instinct, heredity and environment, we feed the nihilism to which modern man is, in any case, prone. “I became acquainted with the last stage of that corruption in my second concentration camp, Auschwitz. The gas chambers of Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory that man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment; or as the Nazi liked to say, ‘of Blood and Soil.’ I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some Ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers.” Viktor Frankl
My advice to these supposed learned philosophers, before they go and try to give the legal status of personhood to chimps, is that they may first want to recognize that true personhood must be grounded in the Christian vision of human exceptionalism in order to have a solid, and true, foundation for the legal definition of a 'person' that is not subject to severe abuse. bornagain77
You could make a case that chimps are more human than some or even most of ID's opponents. ;) ET

Leave a Reply