Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Question About Human vs. Animal life: Are We the Same or Different as Moral Agents? [2]

[continued from previous post] The most radical of animal rights proponents would have us believe that killer whales (and other animals) are just as significant and important in the world as human beings; they are people like us. Such proponents may not say this explicitly but their actions and words indicate this is what they believe. Not to accept this would be, in their view, "speciesism."

If we assume a killer whale is similar in value and nature to a human being, then a whale killing another higher animal (of whatever species, human or other) is either a) an intentional act of murder, or b) a morally neutral result of the animal's instinct and genetic programming. And if the latter, then a human being killing another animal (human or other) would likewise be a morally neutral result of instinct and genes.

What is the truth of the matter? Is the killer whale who grabbed the trainer and killed her guilty of murder? Or was he just doing what killer whales do?

If you think the second is the case (the reasonable and obvious position)--that the killer whale is not guilty of murder--then this forces us to accept that killer whales (and other animals by extension) and human beings are not essentially the same--we are substantially different in nature and value in the world. For if you agree that killer whales killing does not involve murder, you must either accept that neither do human beings ever commit murder (if we are essentially the same as whales), or, that human beings and whales are fundamentally different kinds of creatures. We, as persons, possess free will and are thus responsible morally for our freely chosen actions. Animals, as non-persons, are not morally responsible.

Here is a summary of the two points of view and their consequences:

Situation 1.
A. Human beings and animals are essentially the same.
B. Animals are not morally responsible for their actions as persons.
C. Therefore, human beings are not morally responsible for their actions, either.

Situation 2.
A. Human beings and animals are essentially the same.
B. Human beings are morally responsible for their actions as persons.
C. Therefore, animals are morally responsible for their actions, also.

If you are like most people, I'm sure you don't believe either of these situations correspond to reality. The conclusion C. in both is clearly wrong. Why? Because A. in both is false: human beings and animals are not essentially the same.

The truth of the real world is that we human beings are persons who possess ourselves as autonomous moral agents. Animals, however intelligent they might be, are not persons and thus do not possess themselves as autonomous moral agents. If you disagree, would you prosecute the killer whale for murder? Or,--would you dismantle the criminal justice system as irrelevant?

A Question About Human vs. Animal life: Are We the Same or Different as Moral Agents? [1]

[Part one of a two-part post] Yesterday at the Orlando SeaWorld a trainer met a horrible death in the jaws of a trained killer whale as visitors looked on. I pray she is now with Jesus.

This terrible event brings to mind how some people, especially those who identify themselves as animal rights activists, regard higher animals (such as chimps and dolphins and whales). Such people seem to believe that higher animals are persons just like us human beings except that they have different physical bodies and lack our language abilities while yet possessing an inherent moral purity and innocence that we lack. Explore the web site of PETA, for example, and you will see traits that are distinctive of personhood being ascribed to animals.

The most ardent animal rights people refer to animals in general as, "non-human animals." In so doing they suggest a close similarity in value between animals and human beings (i.e., "human animals"). The implication here is that in comparison to the rest of creation being an animal is what matters--all animals being relatively equal in value--while the difference between human and non-human within the animal kingdom is not especially significant. We humans, they believe, are nothing special. We can see this demonstrated in their use of such (silly) terms as, "speciesist," to label people who still believe (as the vast majority of the human race across the globe and throughout history) that we homo sapiens are qualitatively distinct and different from the rest of the animal kingdom and that this difference is, at a deep level, highly significant.

How does morality fit into this outlook? As in, for example, when one animal kills another? Is there any right and wrong?

When we place human persons and animals on the same level, two basic moral avenues are possible. Either, 1) animals are raised up to the level of persons so that both human beings and all other animals are regarded more-or-less equally as moral agents (persons) in the world; or, 2) human beings are lowered to the level of mere animals so that they together with all other animals are believed to be amoral creatures whose behavior is substantially determined by genes, instincts, and the total effect of one's environment. In other words, in the latter case, any notion of genuine free will (enabling us to act contrary to our genetic programming, instincts, and environmental influences) is simply an illusion.

These are the options. If we humans are not substantially different from animals then it must be the case that either we are both moral sorts of beings (i.e. persons with genuine freedom), or, we are both creatures who are never truly personally responsible as individuals for our actions.

Which of these does our society believe ? Do the elites of society differ from the ordinary person? How do we actually behave as a culture? [Continued in next post]

Example of Real Manhood

Here is an example of a man exhibiting authentic masculinity. See this report about teacher David Benke who no doubt saved kids from being shot by a man with a rifle as they were leaving their Middle School at the end of the school day. As it was, two kids were shot (not fatally). Thank God no more were hurt or killed.

This is the sort of thing that a real man does--protect those who need protecting whenever he has occasion to do so. See a second article here.

Here is a video news report:

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Tiger Woods Debacle; Recovery From Ingrained Sin Cannot Be Done According to Our Own Pre-planned Calendars

The Tiger Woods press statement of last Friday in which he apologized for his numerous affairs and infidelity to his wife and family was a highly-followed and anticipated event. There is much that could be said about that. But I want to make just one brief, particular comment.

In his statement Woods did not give a timeline for his return to professional golf. Some commentators seem to expect that he should be able to do this--give a specific date for his return to golf. But such an attitude ignores the reality of how difficult, and serious, and unforeseeable, a sincere project of rooting out deeply ingrained sin is.

I hope that Tiger's expressions of sorrow and his desire for reform are genuine. I have no reason to think that they aren't. One indication of an authentic desire for reform is to realize that one cannot predict ahead-of-time how long the path to a more healthy, more virtuous life will take. You simply have to embark upon that path with the help of God and others, not knowing how long or what that path will look like in detail. It will be a long, arduous road. And for any person who has allowed himself to become grievously malformed in his soul by a deeply ingrained pattern of grave sin, the work of untwisting what is twisted can only be be accomplished with the assistance of divine grace working through the human community. God promises us help when we sincerely ask for it. But he does not thereby give us a crystal ball.

The fact that some people apparently think that it would be reasonable for Tiger to pick a date by which he will be sufficiently recovered to resume a normal life is a sad witness to how much our culture has departed from the wisdom of the ages about the human condition. Sin and vice become pressed and glued into our souls more and more deeply the more they are indulged. Separating them out is not an easy, predictable project. It never has been and never will be. With God, there is always hope. But He has His own timing unknown to us. It's very unfortunate when we no longer seem to know this about ourselves.

We should pray for Tiger Woods, and for ourselves, for the grace to recognize any patterns of serious sin in our lives before they take over like monsters in our souls. And may we have the trust, humility, and love (for God and for ourselves) to wholeheartedly embark with Christ (and the Saints and others who love us) upon whatever journey toward wholeness and healing we need to travel. And may we be willing to do so on God's terms, not our own.