Once upon a time, a learned man sat in his ivory tower and penned these words:
Why should we not attribute "intrinsic dignity" or "intrinsic worth" to ourselves? Fellow-humans are unlikely to reject the accolades we so generously bestow on them, and those to whom we deny the honor are unable to object. Indeed, when one thinks only of humans, it can be very liberal, very progressive, to talk of the dignity of all human beings. In so doing, we implicitly condemn slavery, racism, and other violations of human rights. We admit that we ourselves are in some fundamental sense on a par with the poorest, most ignorant members of our own species. It is only when we think of humans as no more than a small sub-group of all the beings that inhabit our planet that we may realize that in elevating our own species we are at the same time lowering the relative status of all other species.1
His name is Peter Singer, and he’s also famous for preferring pigs to people if the people aren’t fully functional.2 He also would allow parents to opt for an “after-birth abortion” when a “defective” infant is born.3 He’s now an esteemed professor of bioethics at Princeton University.
Many people unfamiliar with Singer or his works have embraced his utilitarian philosophy which puts apes and other animals on a par with (or above) human beings. Just look at the outcry over the killing of a gorilla in order to save a toddler.
And please consider my former 4th-6th grade Sunday school students. If a lesson involved the death of an animal -- which is often the case in the Bible -- their go-to response was a dismayed chorus of “awwww” (with a compassionate rise in tone at the end), but I noticed there wasn’t so much apparent sympathy over the death of people. Influenced by books, TV shows, and movies that anthropomorphize animals, by their own love for pets and stuffed animals, and by evolutionary theory as taught in their public schools, they had absorbed the idea that animals are us.
Today I hope they recognize the problem with pitting an ape against a person. I hope it's obvious that human beings should treat animals well, but when it comes to animal life versus human life, we must favor God's creatures who are made in His image. Passages such as Genesis 9:2-6 and Exodus 21:28-36 are instructive. Indeed, human beings are "exceptional," as this writer puts it.
What’s shocking about the current episode is the viciousness with which defenders of the sanctity of human life are being attacked. I get it, though. The attackers are just living out their credo -- that human beings are worth less than animals.
Singer must be so proud.
1. “All Animals are Equal,” from Animal Rights and Human Obligations, eds. Tom Regan and Peter Singer, 1989, http://faculty.webster.edu/corbetre/philosophy/animals/singer-text.html.
2. Peter Singer, Animal Liberation, 1975
3. Kuhse and Singer, Should the Baby Live? The Problem of Handicapped Infants (1985), cited by Giubilini and Minerva in “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?” Journal of Medical Ethics, http://jme.bmj.com/content/early/2012/04/12/medethics-2011-100411