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Agenda for a New America
The Politics of Vegetarianism
By: Vasu Murti
Chapter 3 - Reasoning Ability
What separates humans from the other animals? Psychologist Paul Chance struggles with this problem in the January 1988 issue of Psychology Today. The ancient Greeks considered man "the rational animal." Recent studies prove animals do many of the same things we consider evidence of reasoning ability. Chimpanzees, for example, can solve puzzles on their own, in much the same way as humans, and will even do it for no other reward than the mere satisfaction of having done it.
Does creativity set us apart from nature? Porpoises can be trained not just to perform tricks, but to invent tricks of their own. Making tools? Animal behaviorist Jane Goodall observed wild Chimpanzees use toolmaking in obtaining food. Language? Two psychologists in Nevada taught a chimp named Washoe the sign language of the deaf. Not Only did Washoe learn hundreds of signs, he used them in new ways to express new ideas. Sign language has been taught to other chimpanzees and to gorillas and orangutans as well.
The negative traits of humanity have also been observed in the animal kingdom. humans may rape, murder and go to war with greater efficiency and intellectual prowess than other species, but these are not uniquely human acts. Male apes have been seen forcing themselves upon unwilling females of their kind.
Apes have been known to attack and kill members of their own tribe, as well as outsiders, sometimes for trivial reasons. Goodall has even observed organized battles between rival troops of chimpanzees that can accurately be called wars.
Dr. Chance suggests that it is the human quest to find a quality which separates us from the rest of creation which really appears to set us apart. We are the only creature struggling to find its identity, the only creature asking, "How am I different from all the other creatures?" Beyond survival, eating, sleeping, mating and basic bodily maintenance, humans seek to knew their origin, the past, the universe around them and the future. Only we humans ask such questions and appear to have any interest in the answers.
As far as everyday ethics are concerned, there are no morally relevant differences between humans ant the rest of animal kingdom. The one quality which distinguishes humans from other species appears to be spiritual: man's desire to find his place in the universe, his relationship with God. This is irrelevant as far as the oppression, enslavement, torment and annihilation of creatures like ourselves is concerned. If anything, the theistic position of "human dominion" remands that humans show greater justice and mercy towards animals. As far as suffering is concerned, the animals are our equals.
Go on to Chapter 4 - Rights
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