"If there is life, then I believe we should do nothing to disturb
Mars then, belongs to the Martians, even if they are microbes."
-Carl Sagan, COSMOS, episode "Blues for a Red Planet"
You can hear Carl make the Mars statement here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKKPRJRSr7o It starts at about
"How smart does a chimpanzee have to be before killing him
constitutes murder? If chimpanzees have consciousness, do they not have
what until now has been described as 'human rights'?"
"Humans -- who enslave, castrate, experiment on, and
fillet other animals - -- have had an understandable penchant for
pretending animals do not feel pain. A sharp distinction between humans
and "animals" is essential if we are to bend them to our will, wear
them, eat them -- without any disquieting tinges of guilt or regret. It
is unseemly of us, who often behave so unfeelingly toward other animals,
to contend that only humans can suffer. The behavior of other animals
renders such pretensions specious. They are just too much like us.
In the annals of primate ethics, there are some accounts
that have the ring of parable. In a laboratory setting, macaques were
fed if they were willing to pull a chain and electrically shock an
unrelated macaque whose agony was in plain view through a one-way
mirror. Otherwise, they starved. After learning the ropes, the monkeys
frequently refused to pull the chain; in one experiment only 13% would
do so -- 87% preferred to go hungry. One macaque went without food for
nearly two weeks rather than hurt its fellow. Macaques who had
themselves been shocked in previous experiments were even less willing
to pull the chain. The relative social status or gender of the macaques
had little bearing on their reluctance to hurt others.
If asked to choose between the human experimenters
offering the macaques this Faustian bargain and the macaques themselves
-- suffering from real hunger rather than causing pain to others -- our
own moral sympathies do not lie with the scientists. But their
experiments permit us to glimpse in non-humans a saintly willingness to
make sacrifices in order to save others -- even those who are not close
kin. By conventional human standards, these macaques -- who have never
gone to Sunday school, never heard of the Ten Commandments, never
squirmed through a single junior high school civics lesson -- seem
exemplary in their moral grounding and their courageous resistance to
evil. Among these macaques, at least in this case, heroism is the norm.
If the circumstances were reversed, and captive humans were offered the
same deal by macaque scientists, would we do as well? (Especially when
there is an authority figure urging us to administer the electric
shocks, we humans are disturbingly willing to cause pain -- and for a
reward much more paltry than food is for a starving macaque (cf. Stanley
Milgram, Obedience to Authority: An Experimental Overview). In human
history there are a precious few whose memory we revere because they
knowingly sacrificed themselves for others. For each of them, there are
multitudes who did nothing."
~ Drs. Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan,
Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
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