It’s endlessly fascinating to observe how modernity rapes the very reason in whose name it was inaugurated, the foundation on which it’s supposedly built.
Upon closer examination, however, one realises that the foundation is subsiding and termite-ridden.
Detached from its divine source, reason can become very unreasonable indeed. Actually, as if striving to vindicate Hegel’s odd notion that opposites exist in some sort of dialectical unity, modern reason becomes downright stupid with metronomic regularity.
To wit: New York’s Supreme Court is considering a test case brought by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NRP).
This peculiarly named organisation claims that keeping chimpanzees in cages denies their human rights, or nonhuman if you’d rather. Human or nonhuman, what’s the difference? We are all primates, and that’s all we are.
Therefore keeping the lovable chimp Tommy in a cage, claims the organisation, is the same as holding a man in permanent solitary confinement.
One infers that in the eyes of this weird setup a chimp is a human being, or near enough to be entitled to all the same rights.
This goes to show how a false premise can undermine every subsequent argument based on it. This regardless of how logical the argument sounds.
In this instance, it sounds very logical indeed, which only goes to show yet again that logic is the lowest, if useful, form of reason.
If we accept that man is nothing but a confluence of molecules coming together over a jolly long time as a result of some kind of initial biochemical accident, then the NRP’s argument makes perfect sense.
It can be demonstrated that chimpanzees are so genetically close to humans as to make no difference. The two share 99 percent of their active genetic material, and the genetic distance between them is a mere 0.386.
If that’s all there is to it, then chimps are practically human, even though their intelligence admittedly falls into the low end of the human range, the one inhabited by Richard Dawkins, Ed Miliband and most supporters of Chelsea FC.
Naturally, if we accept simian humanity then it would be churlish to deny Tommy’s right not to be incarcerated without due process.
In fact, I’m surprised it has taken Americans so long. After all, it was as far back as in 1993 that Peter Singer, Princeton professor of bioethics (whatever that is), founded his Great Ape Project (GAP – not to be confused with the retail chain of the same name).
This trailblazing academic has the sexual power of his convictions: in 2001 Singer allowed that humans and animals can have “mutually satisfying” sexual relations because “we are animals, indeed more specifically, we are great apes.” Therefore such sex “ceases to be an offence to our status and dignity as human beings.”
For his wife’s sake one hopes he doesn’t practise what he preaches. Poor Mrs Singer would be heartbroken to find out her hubby-wubby is two-timing her with a chihuahua.
Singer is an Aussie, but it’s not surprising that he found in America the perfect environment for developing his bizarre notions. The United States is the proud pioneer of most modern inanities, such as political correctness, psychobabble, litigiousness, neoconservatism and the belief that all men are created equal.
Yet this once, before returning to its native habitat, an American idea first found its practical realisation in Europe. In 2008 the Spanish parliament passed a resolution granting human rights to apes, committing the country to the dictates of Singer’s GAP.
Soon to follow was the UN Declaration on Apes, stating that all primates, including man, are “members of the community of equals” who are not to be deprived of their liberty without due process.
Such ideas may be driven by the best of intentions, of the sort that the road to hell is paved with. But it’s reason that is the subject of this comment, and people endowed with that faculty ought to consider the practicalities even as they try to assuage their flaming consciences.
How will due process work with apes? How would the jury, presumably made up of the defendant’s peers, who can only be other apes, follow the proceedings and then communicate their verdict? How would the defendants confer with counsel? Be sworn in? Give testimony? And if convicted, how would they be punished? Would they ever be found fit to stand trial in the first place?
Even beginning to consider such, and numerous other, details will quickly lead one into an area where madness begins and the men in white coats are just round the corner. The only way to reclaim one’s sanity is to go back to the beginning and realise how fundamentally idiotic the core assumption is.
Whatever their genetic similarity with humans, apes are typologically closer to cats or cows. Apes are animals and, as such, they by definition can have no rights, human or otherwise.
Rights can only exist in a dialectical relationship with duties and responsibilities. Thus our right to the state’s protection is contingent upon our allegiance to the state (protectio trahit subjectionem, et subjectio protectionem in the original).
Since apes are incapable of pledging such allegiance they are not entitled to the protection. Therefore they can have no rights.
The NRP build its case on insisting that humans and simians had a common ancestor 7,000,000 years ago, which may or may not be true. Either way, it’s irrelevant.
When a card-carrying evolutionist goes back far enough, he claims that all life on earth sprang from a single cell. Hence we have common ancestry not just with chimps but also with flies. Does this mean swatting one constitutes a violation of its rights?
When Darwin first came up with his sensational but rather slapdash theory, John Henry Newman had no problems with it. His complacency stands to reason: being omnipotent, God is as capable of creating things slowly as fast.
It’s only when Darwin’s theory is married to unwavering materialism that it falls apart. It’s quite possible, if to me uninteresting, that man’s body evolved from a lower order of life, some kind of primate.
But that primate would never have become man if God hadn’t breathed a particle of his soul into it. This is the only explanation that makes the origin of human life intelligible.
Replacing that premise with a materialist one inevitably produces intellectual perversions like the GAP or the NRP, intellectual perverts like Peter Singer and perverse ideas like giving human rights to chimps.
If this is what the Age of Reason is about, can we please go back to an Age of Faith? That’s when mankind still practised real reason, despised false reason – and knew the difference between the two.
My forthcoming book Democracy as a Neocon Trick can be pre-ordered, at what the publisher promises to be a spectacular discount, from http://www.roperpenberthy.co.uk/index.php/browse-books/political/democracy-as-a-neocon-trick.html or, in the USA, http://www.newwinebookshop.com/Books/0002752