02
Dec
09

Another lawyer

pretending to be a bioethicist, this time, it’s Wesley J. Smith. I stumbled across a blog of his quite accidentally in which there is this post. I figured it deserves dismantling.

Misanthropy is all the rage these days, Daahling.

I suppose it’s a bit of cynicism combined with a distaste for reality being a popularity contest, but sure, I’m a bit misanthropic at times.

We have the animal rights crowd and bioethicists disdaining human exceptionalism as “speciesist.”

Well, human exceptionalism is one thing, but the “speciesist” notion is quite another. Humans are, in no way, exceptional in terms of biology and physiology, however, to then make the argument that because we are so similar to other organisms, we should not use other organisms to understand biology, medicine, and so forth misses the point of these explorations entirely. To equivocate a lack of human exceptionalism to the anti-animal research crowd is blatantly dishonest at best.

The Darwinists think species distinctions are really fiction since we all evolved out of the ooze. The radical environmentalists take it further, branding us as the villains of the planet.

Since when are those of us grounded in science “Darwinists.” I prefer the a description of these individuals, including myself, as follows: “in agreement with observed facts and not trying to include unjustified or unsubstantiated ideas within a scientific framework.” Equating the modern evolutionary synthesis to Darwin’s original theory indicates your unfamiliarity with the work of Gould, “Stephen Dawkins” (i.e. Richard Dawkins), Ernst Mayr, Lenski, Dobzhansky, R.A. Fisher, and many, many others. Please feel free to read a book on evolutionary biology before making claims such as this. As far as considering me a “radical environmentalist,” sure, I speak out when I spot bullshit, I suppose that makes me radical. I’m a radical/militant atheist, my weapons are words. Remind me, what kind of weapons do radical/militant religious fanatics use?

And now the atheists apparently are jumping on the human unexceptionalism bandwagon. From an atheist blog, “Why I Am Not a Humanist:”

The cult of Man with a capital M is only a slight improvement on the cult of God. It still leaves a lot to be desired, women for instance. If the Christians’ idea that they belong to the same exclusive club as the creator of the universe sounds to us infidels as monstrous conceit, I can only add that I find almost as pompous and egotistical the notion that man is some marvellous pinnacle of evolution; that because Homo sapiens has produced Einstein and Michelangelo we can forget about the Nazis, the Crusaders and the Khmer Rouge; or that a Gothic cathedral, an air-conditioned office block or the mausoleum of some ancient megalomaniac justify our destruction of the world’s forests, some of the most biologically valuable and breath-takingly beautiful places on earth.

Reads like a cautionary tale about the broad spectrum of human behaviors and dangerous ideas, not a hatred of humanity. I didn’t read the rest of the post, but this doesn’t seem terribly misanthropic.

Worse still, the adulation by some humanists of the human intellect (unique as it appears to be) encourages the old-fashioned nonsense that men and women are specially set apart from other living organisms and, worst of all, that the human race has an evolutionary destiny (formerly God’s permission) to conquer and subdue nature.

It’s stating that, evolutionarily, we are the result of the same evolutionary processes which produced all other organisms. We are not “above” other organisms, but relatives.

“Glory to Man in the highest! for Man is the master of things” wrote Swinburne, my favourite poet. The words are marvellous rhetoric, intended to shock mid-nineteenth century piety, but today, if taken seriously, they would be a recipe for an ecological nightmare. If any other species of animal had caused a quarter as much destruction of life (including annihilation of whole species), degradation of landscape, fouling of the seas and pollution of the air as humanity has, we would have declared such an animal – however smart and intelligent – to be dangerous vermin and would be spending vast resources on destroying it.

Well, here is makes an error stating that other animal species don’t contribute to the extinction of others. This is patently false, as anyone familiar with the destruction caused by invasive species can attest. As far as our pollution and manipulation of landscapes, we should try to minimize our pollution levels and ecological damage. I think this individual is being a bit reactionary here.

Oh, yawn. At first thought this might be something different. But it’s just the same old, “human hubris will destroy the planet “claptrap,

I’m more worried about human greed to result in our own destruction, the planet will still be here.

but believing we are “just part of nature” will convince us to be humble and usher in a new Eden. (See the last paragraph.)

Eden? No, understanding we are just as intertwined with the rest of the planet will give us reason to be careful when exploiting a resource beyond the limit at which it is sustainable.

But if we are not exceptional, why should we care what we do to the planet?

Because we are very closely connected to this planet and the other organisms within it.

Or to put it another way, if being human is not what gives us the duty to treat the planet responsibly, what on earth does? Hmmmm?

Our own self-serving nature and desire to survive. How about that for a motive? It doesn’t require you to ignore all evidence that indicates humans are not special among animals and it doesn’t require a deity, and it doesn’t allow you to make up excuses for exploitation of resources beyond sustainability.

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1 Response to “Another lawyer”


  1. 1 Pliny-the-in-Between
    December 2, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    to very loosely borrow for George Santayana, those sentient species that ignore the biological processes of their extant cousins and extinctions of their ancestral forms, are doomed to repeat them.


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