Dominion over the earth

Moran, Gabriel

DOMINION OVER THE EARTH DOES ETHICS INCLUDE ALL CREATURES? GABRIEL MORAN ¦ recently attended a seminar by one of the leading ethicists in the country. He described the outline of a project in...

...The right wing of contemporary Christianity wishes to have no blurring of the line between "animal" and "man...
...even the man's own body should disappear or at least keep quiet...
...at least, any big change among professional ethicists is not yet discernible...
...Animals can be cultivated for food that form a more efficient part of the ecological cycle...
...In regard to these life forms, however, human beings must realistically attend to the protection of the species rather than every individual of the species...
...For Bentham, we should improve the condition of all who "assist our labors or supply our wants.'' The concern is for the useful animals...
...A half century ago, Albert Schweitzer wrote that' 'the time is coming when people will be amazed that the human race was so long before it recognized that thoughtless injury to life is incompatible with real ethics" (Civilization and Ethics...
...Although some animals are likely to be well treated in such a system, an ethic centered on possession, use, and consumption is inadequate for today...
...Both Eastern and Western religions situate the human being at the center of a matrix of living beings...
...animal" and then try to defend the animal are trapped in a futile rebellion...
...This line of thinking, most closely associated with Jeremy Bentham, has at least some place for the nonhuman animals...
...However, this term can carry a wide range of meaning...
...However, among ordinary people there has been a slow but steady change over the past two decades...
...Kantian ethics is a kind of final abstraction from what was taken to be the Christian view of the world...
...However, they can today combine scientific knowledge and moral sensitivity so as to lessen unnecessary pain to all the animals...
...But moral worth, it seems to me, lies not in such generalized abstractions, but in the concrete reality of living organisms themselves...
...4 December 1987: 701...
...The separating out of the rational, aggressive, controlling "man," has been the glory but also the danger in Western religion...
...one has to accept competition and conflict as a regular fact of life, not just an invention of human civilization...
...Thus, if a man shoots his dog, writes Kant, "he does not fail in his duty to the dog, for the dog cannot judge, but the man's act is inhuman and damages in himself that humanity which it is his duty to show toward mankind" (Lectures on Ethics...
...Now it is evident that if a man practices a pitiful affection for animals, he is all the more disposed to take pity on his fellow man...
...what reigns on high is "man the user...
...Sensitive experimenters and well enforced legal codes could reduce the amount of pain that lab animals suffer...
...The individual in these species asserts its right to exist and to develop toward its own fulfillment...
...It is not simply a question of whether'' man'' is or is not superior to the animal...
...Perhaps they still would do so, but their sensitivity to allowing excruciating animal existence for unnecessary human luxury is not given the chance to be tested...
...Such a reintegration does not eliminate all distinctions of moral worth...
...Man" the isolated, rational, aggressive male is put at the top of creation...
...Thus, when people become sensitive to the issue of "cruelty to animals," the tendency is to extend the concept of rights beyond the human individual...
...His most recent book is No Ladder to the Sky: Education and Morality (Harper & Row...
...The past is "put behind us" and the future can be whatever "man makes for himself...
...Experimentation is a more complicated area...
...This science provided the background for Kantian ethics, that is, animals 4 December 1987: 699 are things for use, man is mind and soul...
...Nietzsche did not think that Kant's propped up piety could stand on its own for long, and the twentieth century is proving Nietzsche right on this point...
...In comparison to Buddhist or Native American religions, Western Christianity has often been deficient in recognizing the sacredness of each living thing...
...His primary ethical principle was "to treat each man as an end, never merely as a means.'' That principle is still quoted widely and solemnly as if it were beyond question...
...Kantian ethics, centered in agency, deliberately broke with the bodily organism as the basis of ethics...
...rather, it affirms life in all of its various forms placing men and women at the responsible center of the whole process...
...For example, the forced feeding of toxic substances to nonhuman animals in order to see if 50 percent of them die is a form of protecting human life that is out of proportion to the good being sought...
...Surely some moral distinctions have to be made in the continuum of creation...
...A person who takes pleasure or spends a lot of time in killing bugs may be morally obtuse...
...The language of rights is almost the only ethical language that we speak in this country...
...The question then becomes how do human beings respond to, care for, and love what is not entirely outside themselves...
...One asks how to share, how to understand, how to reach a harmony...
...But crossing the line to the nonhuman world is another kind of step...
...Perhaps...
...People who accept the language of "man" vs...
...At the other end, attacks on speciesism can be made in the name of complete equality among species...
...While Darwin's theory, when it was extended into social policy, was often used in brutalizing ways, his idea of evolution attempted to restore a sense of unity and dignity to the entire realm of life...
...If, however, one speaks of human and nonhuman animals, then what first surfaces are the various forms of interrelation and interdependence...
...A shift toward eating more fish has been occurring...
...To his recollection, the issue had never been raised during the several years of discussion...
...it differentiates Bentham from the likes of Schweitzer...
...At the other end of the spectrum it is not apparent that the individual has the same value which is not to say that it is valueless...
...Everything and everyone is put under him...
...Thus, a concern with nonhuman animals does not of itself guarantee a new ethical stance, but an obliviousness to the issue strongly suggests that we are still stuck in the rationalism that has dominated modern ethics...
...The result is a furious attack on Darwin and evolution...
...Kant professed to be giving a philosophical basis for what pious people already believed...
...the human being properly discriminates, for example, between an animal that obviously suffers pain and organisms that give no evidence of pain...
...With its stress on "man's dominion over the earth," Christianity helped prepare the way for the project of seventeenth-century science: "Man will put nature to the rack and demand answers" (F...
...Nothing in the world can be called good without qualification, wrote Kant, except the human will...
...The last phrase in this quotation bears noticing...
...But I wonder if people were to see at close range how milk-fed calves live in motionless and darkened existence, whether the same people would order veal marsala in a restaurant...
...But to see the issue through such aberrations is no more reasonable than to see respect for human life equated with the bombing of abortion clinics...
...The ethicist was somewhat perplexed and intrigued...
...To Aquinas, "it is evident" that the opposite is the case...
...GABRIEL MORAN is the director of the graduate program of religious education at New York University...
...The case for equality seems to me impossible to make...
...That witness needs the cooperation of those who wish to reform eating patterns in less radical ways...
...The argument of this essay does not necessarily lead to vegetarianism...
...The existing reality even here is an individual not a general life force...
...Has Lasch never tried to get a cat off his lap or watched chimpanzees at play...
...This "cause" does have its bizarre fringe...
...Obviously, the humans are supposed to use their intelligence as part of the process of negotiation: intelligence situated in the middle of bodily life...
...Some people argue for a complete ban on the use of nonhuman animals in the laboratory...
...The distinctiveness of the human being emerges in the middle of bodily, animal life not above it...
...The feminist and ecological movements have frequently regarded Christianity as the enemy...
...Returning to the other end of the spectrum, we can see that the protection of complex nonhuman animals also involves a sense of moral and aesthetic wholeness...
...The reason seems to be the assumption that the human being has a fixed amount of care to dispose of so that any care for nonhumans diminishes care for humans...
...To walk across the lawn, take a shower, or even breathe is to assert that some human concerns outweigh some nonhuman concerns...
...the idea has provided important even if limited protection to many human individuals...
...The Eastern respect for life and Western scientific detail need finally to be combined so that we can protect in effective ways the ecological texture of life...
...And yet, it is a prescription for ecological disaster...
...At least, contemporary humans ought to consider as morally important the permanent destruction of species, which human beings had no part in creating and which had been here for hundreds of thousands of years...
...Indeed, the modern notion of "human rights" was projected against the nonhuman world...
...A combination of hidden paternalism and sentimentalism is not going to make the world safe for women, children, men, and nonhuman animals...
...In making that statement, one is exposed to being considered either a little batty or else a faddish enthusiast for bizarre causes...
...At least Aquinas in this passage talks about the relation of irrational animals and the other (that is, human) animals, about the need for practicing a pitiful affection for (nonhuman) animals, and about the fact that such affection, far from being in opposition to care for human beings, is joined to such care...
...Of course, the animal might not have had existence at all if it were not being grown for food and, furthermore, scientific 700: Commonweal methods can lessen pain as well as mass produce it...
...The human hunter and the nonhuman animal may have confronted one another at the level of survival...
...Lasch may be right about what "nature knows," but he is wrong about individual nonhuman animals in nature who, like the human kind, assert their preferences and delight in being themselves...
...As this shift continues, it is crucially important that natural cycles of fish life in the ocean not be destroyed...
...After his presentation, someone asked if there had been any discussion of the treatment of nonhuman animals...
...Within that context, one has to ask realistically about which human concerns are more important than others...
...The change of attitude which Schweitzer did foresee is apparently still in our future...
...However, Nietzsche was to the point in calling Kant "the great delayer," the one who merely postponed the collapse of an...
...At an earlier period of human history, the use of an animal's fur for keeping a person alive may have been justifiable...
...The nonhuman animal is a stubborn reminder that morality concerns the reduction of violence, the protection of the vulnerable, the preservation of the life cycle, the union of all things...
...the human being in particular cannot avoid inflicting some pain...
...Life on earth does involve some competition and conflict...
...The animals that humans recognize as most similar to themselves have something akin to personality...
...Animal rights activists in England and the U.S...
...No doubt there are misanthropes who die among their hundreds of cats in foul-smelling houses...
...It is assumed that the concept of rights can simply be expanded from blacks to women to gays/ lesbians to...
...animals, including the human kind, need ways to negotiate their conflicts...
...have been known to use violence against human beings to save rabbits or mice...
...the question concerns the thousands of gradations of importance in the interrelation of living beings...
...One can distinguish today three areas of debate over the treatment of nonhuman animals: cosmetics, experimentation, and food...
...ethic that had grown up with modern Western Christianity...
...but a person who suffers guilt or spends much time in trying to avoid the killing of a single bug may also be misdirecting his or her moral concern...
...But conflict does not have to mean indiscriminate violence...
...When the question is "man and animal," and when some competition in this world is inevitable, then the issue of superiority is immediately clear...
...The humans have an appropriate predilection for the human animal but their feeling for the defenseless nonhuman animal is a good test of their resistance to violence everywhere...
...With the Kantian ethic having come to such dominance in the nineteenth century, we find it difficult to remember any other way of thinking...
...But it also involves a re focusing of the question upon the individual's well being...
...In contrast to the two competing systems of modern ethics in which the good is the object of human desire, Jewish and Christian religions recognize the good to be whatever exists, whatever receives existence from the hand of God...
...At one end, speciesism can refer to the belief that any human desire, however trivial, outweighs any considerations on the side of the nonhuman...
...The argument can be made that, while horses, chimps, seals, or porpoises should not be tortured, there are far more important issues toward which our moral passion should be directed...
...Bacon...
...To his credit, Kant did notice the issue of (nonhuman) animals and agonized a bit over what happens to them in his system...
...Most discussions in this area are still trapped in the language of "man and animal...
...I do not see that position as morally necessary...
...in a series of volumes soon to be published, a group of ethicists is attempting to refocus the discussion of ethics...
...We need a moral language in which relations other than usefulness are able to be perceived and appreciated...
...The language of "man and animal'' prevents us from asking the appropriate questions about reducing violence to all living things...
...write: "The time will come when humanity will extend its mantle over everything which breathes...
...Especially significant for a moral life is how the human being treats other animals that appear to be "useless...
...The nonhuman animals tended to get absorbed into an abstraction called nature...
...Nearly all of modern ethics runs through the person of Immanuel Kant...
...The tale of human suffering on any nightly news broadcast is already more than we can handle...
...Nature knows no will-to-power, only a will-to-live...
...What is typically defended in "creation science" is the scientific picture of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries...
...As we should not unnecessarily inflict pain upon a human being, so a dog or a cow or a deer merits our concern not to impose pain on the basis of human whim...
...one has to ask about the weighing of a variety of 698: Commonweal important concerns in a total ecological system...
...In earlier periods of Christianity, there were at least other strands...
...The latter phrase already implies the intrinsic relations that constitute bodily life, including human life...
...The theory of evolution does not "degrade man to the level of the beast...
...it is inconceivable that they could do otherwise...
...The "man" with his abstract principles is incapable of engaging the bodily suffering that cuts across human and nonhuman worlds...
...There remain complicated questions about how animals are obtained for laboratories, how they are kept in captivity, and how they are actually used...
...a retracing of the path of modern ethics is needed...
...He described the outline of a project in which he has been a participant...
...Between such extremes as these, human beings have to make fallible and always biased decisions about what lives and what dies...
...What we should be morally concerned about in this country is the continuing destruction of whole species...
...What is respected and sometimes almost deified is "nature" or "life...
...early all of the major religions have been especially concerned with the treatment of nonhuman animals...
...While Thomas Aquinas was not entirely opposed to Kant on this point, one can perceive some differences, such as in this passage from the Summa Theologicae:' 'Since it happens that even irrational animals are sensible to pain, it is possible for the affection of pity to arise in a man with regard to the sufferings of animals...
...The human need for food outweighs the apple's proclivity to stay on the tree as long as possible...
...Animal" is not an alien over which the human has dominion...
...Eastern religions or the life mysticism of a Schweitzer do not offer a perfect model because there is still too much reliance on a single line dividing "life" and everything else...
...I was not overly surprised by his answer, but I found it dismaying...
...animals...
...Their science may have been primitive but perhaps their moral sense was correct...
...What we could hope for, however, is increasing openness about what is being done and how...
...Health concern more than the moral treatment of nonhuman animals appears to be the reason, but healthy diet also has its proper place in morality...
...In classical and medieval times, philosophers considered it important that the whole chain of being be complete...
...Nonhuman animals are reduced to "means," that is, to being used in any arbitrary way if it is for the good of "man...
...But at the least it does lead to questioning how meat is produced and whether we need further radical changes in the direction of deriving protein from nonanimal sources...
...In the course of history, Jewish and Christian religions seemed to jump too quickly from the general proposition that "everything is good" to the central affirmation that "man is good.'' Other animals did not receive the affirmation that they deserved...
...Christopher Lasch, in his book The Minimal Self (Norton, 1984), writes: "If men were moved solely by impulse and selfinterest, they would be content like other animals, simply to survive...
...The Jewish-Christian tradition begins with a Creator who brings into existence a hierarchy of things...
...But "nature" certainly seems to be saying something different at this end of the spectrum...
...The Catholic church often issued warnings against societies for the protection of animals...
...It is because of the need for relational language that the question is not "man and animal" but human and nonhuman animals...
...Granted that the idea of rights is important in modern political systems...
...The theologians held that once God had decided to create, then He had to create every kind of thing...
...4 December 1987: 697 I am very suspicious of the phrase "animal rights...
...Although there is extensive literature on animal rights and cruelty to animals, that particular discourse remains neatly segregated from the main body of ethical discussion in the Western world...
...He was impressed by the care which animals give to their young and he thought that they have something to teach us...
...We have begun by attending to the condition of slaves...
...That attitude surely needs criticism and a persuasive case can be made against it...
...In the nineteenth century, Bentham couii...
...I think that this attitude of "yes, but" misses the point which is not simply to add ethical problems to existing ones or to disperse further our limited moral energies...
...Women and children tend to disappear...
...Nevertheless, animals are not ends in themselves because they are not rational...
...On the contrary, instead of drawing a single line between what is valuable and what is not, we need numerous moral distinctions...
...What is at stake is finding an overall moral stance that has deeper roots than either the utilitarian calculus on one side of ethics or the language of individual rights on the other side...
...The vast majority of "men" are going to come down on the side of the "man's" superiority...
...If an organism's life expectancy is by human measuring a single day, can it have a. sense of historical development toward maturity...
...No sudden flip of the relation will be sufficient for today's problems...
...Each thing is pronounced good, with the living things having a special dignity that gives witness to the "living God...
...The human desire for mink coats does not outweigh the sufferings of millions of animals that die excruciatingly painful deaths...
...Of course, the meaning of "necessary pain" raises difficult questions...
...If a cockroach can reproduce 400,000 offspring, it is difficult to believe that it has a special parental feeling for each of its progeny...
...Starting from that phrase, animal rights activists launch attacks on'' speciesism," a word coined in the mid-1970s to refer to an ideology of human superiority...
...Finally, there is food...
...t one end of the organic spectrum is the highly complex animal...
...Some of these decisions should be morally clear...
...If the question of nonhuman animals is not part of the reorientation of moral attitude and the reshaping of moral vocabulary, then the "animal rights lobby" may indeed be little more than an ethical sideshow...
...Today, however, the fur industry uses methods that are barbaric in order to produce a product that is unnecessary...
...there must exist some reasonable differentiation between dolphins and mosquitoes, redwoods and crabgrass...
...Most of us are completely sheltered from the harsh reality between the animal grazing contentedly in a field and the piece of steak on our plate...
...Starting with the first and easiest, one can say simply that the use of animals for cosmetic purposes ought to be banned...
...Vegetarians provide a witness of protest against the rest of the meat-eating culture...
...A continued reduction in the amount of meat would be good for human health as well as nonhuman discomfort...
...we shall finish by softening that of all the animals which assist our labors or supply our wants...
...A total ban on animals for food is not likely to happen although there has been a dramatic shift away from a red meat diet...
...The chief competitor to Kantian ethics is a utilitarianism based upon the calculation of actual effects in the world of bodily organisms...
...In contrast, the use of some animals in developing a serum to stop an epidemic is a position that could gain support from Eastern religions as well as Western science...

Vol. 114 • December 1987 • No. 21


 
Developed by
Kanda Sofware
  Kanda Software, Inc.