Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Difference Between Humans and Animals, Part X

Conservative Wesley Smith claims it is our morality and what that means for our interaction with the rest of the natural world:
Humans, Smith argues, are the only moral creatures: they have innate moral worth and their well-being always takes precedence over the well-being of animals, who are amoral creatures. Humans do indeed have a moral obligation to promote animal welfare, but they are also entitled to use animals, particularly if the use of animals alleviates human suffering.
What's the difference between humans and animals? Perhaps it the fact that we are even asking that question gives us the right to use the animal kingdom for our benefit. My next question is, in value, how many animals make one human?

Here's part one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, and nine of this series.


  1. What Smith is saying seems to be a claim about how the world is, but not really evidence that the world is actually like that.

    How do we know that animals aren't moral creatures? How do we know that humans have innate moral worth?

    "Humans specialize and trade and animals don't," is a claim about how the world is and can be refuted or supported with evidence.

    What is the evidence for "Humans have a moral worth?"

    Are you claiming that the ability to ask the question "does X have moral worth?" is the determinant of moral worth?

    How do we know that animals don't do that? Are there people who don't ask that questions that are somehow not human?

  2. Great point Bryan. There is definitely no empirical here, but I don't think that means there's no truth.

    Do you really think animals and humans have morality in the same way? General observation would say no. Humans are given more value (admittedly by humans) almost universally. In fact, suggesting a human life is equal to an animal feels morally reprehensible.

    This example, like most mentioned in this series, is that humans are able to take animal traits to an incredibly complex level.

    As for your last question: "Are there people who don't ask that questions that are somehow not human?" I honestly don't know. Though calling immoral actions "animal" seems to reveal people can at least momentarily ignore their humanity.


You are the reason why I do not write privately. I would love to hear your thoughts, whether you agree or not.