Friday, April 25, 2014

Humanity, Mammalian Equality, and the Divine

Ideas and beliefs are our masters. As we think, so also do we live! Let’s do a thought experiment. Ingrid Newkirk, the head of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, believes that we should make no moral or value distinction among mammals: “A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. They are all mammals.”

What are the implications of such a belief? Many! Our laws reflect our values. If there is no moral distinction among mammals, then our laws should reflect this belief. They should protect mammals against murder, not only by humans but by other amoral animal agents. Consequently, we should prosecute any mammal who kills a mouse of a rat, but we can’t stop there. We should also prosecute any mammal who steals from a mammal – think milk.

What would the implications of such “upgraded” laws be? Pigs, rats and cows would inevitably overrun our streets, farms and gardens. Some fundamentalist animal rights folk will answer, “So what! It’s about time that the tables are reversed.”

However, such a reversal would have even more serious costs. When our laws are revised to protect every mammal – and this would make our laws unenforceable – then none will be protected. Expect to see libel, theft, murder and sexual abuse skyrocket!

The problems don’t stop here. Even Newkirk’s position is man-centered, depending on human judgment. Why should our laws stop at protecting mammals? Does Newkirk promote the value of mammals because she too is a mammal, and, as a mammal, she confers greater value on mammals? From the perspective of animal rights, this seems very chauvinistic. Why not also extend value and protection to fish and birds? Would we deny mammalian worth to them simply because they are more dissimilar from us?

Some will interject that, “Birds and fish are less intelligent… or emotive… or conscious than mammals. Therefore they don’t have the value that mammals have!”

Apart from the questionable science upon which such arguments rest, this position(s) has even more fundamental problems. Why should the level of intelligent or emotion bestow a greater value on an animal? While science might be able to demonstrate that certain species can perform certain tasks more efficiently, it is unable to answer the question of value.

Instead, the question of value or worth requires an even more fundamental question: “Value or worth to whom?” Is there an ultimate source that determines value or is this entire concept just a human invention to bestow meaning on life?

If we created this idea, and value has no existence outside of what we determine value to be, then we have returned to man-centered center and dominated world. However, it is an arbitrary world, depending on who is in power and can enforce their worldview. It also means that anything goes, because there is no absolute standard of truth to determine the worth of anything. It means that if I think that people who look or act like me are the most evolved, and if I attach value to the highest level of evolution, then who can say that I am wrong!

Real value therefore depends on the existence of immutable and universal truth that transcends us and our competing opinions, and therefore also a Truth-giver that transcends us.

Some will interject, “We have natural laws, and they don’t require your Truth-giver. Why then can’t we have a natural law that bestows value?”

There are many problems with this hope. For one thing, there is no evidence that our natural, universal, immutable laws don’t require a Truth-giver. Perhaps even more problematic, a natural law that bestows value cannot be natural. Once again, value is the product of personhood and not science, which can only tell us what is. Value is the product of intelligence, consciousness and will, not of impersonal and mindless forces.

We can demonstrate this by showing the distinction between the law of gravity and the law that imparts value. The effects of the former can be bypassed or overcome; those of the values law cannot.  We can board an airplane that violates the natural effects of gravity without consequence. However, we cannot sex-traffic teenagers and pre-teens without violating the law of value. Hence, this law is a different kind of law – a Personal law. In contrast, gravity can attract, but it cannot value anything.

Because of the universality, immutable, and Personhood of value, it doesn’t matter whether we go to Alaska or the desert or even enter a time machine to go to a different age, the same immutable law of value will confront us and the girls we intend to traffic. Nor will any of our scientific innovations change it. Our conscience instructs us that our value as humans transcends any changes or innovations, and our conscience will punish us if we defy the law we find therein! In this sense, it seems to be more un-defiable and Personal than the law of gravity, which we can side-step without any consequence.

At this, some will respond, “I know what is right and wrong without your God.” However, it is impossible to know what is “right and wrong” unless there is a real and objective right and wrong, which transcends our bio-chemical reactions. However, you can say, “I have the very real feeling of right and wrong regardless!” True, but irrelevant! Feelings cannot equate with truth unless truth and value have an independent existence, apart from our feelings.

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