On Monday I wrote a column explaining my revolutionary position that human beings are more important than apes. I felt it necessary to write a piece elaborating on this provocative concept after witnessing the National Outrage over the gorilla that was killed at the Cincinnati Zoo.
For those who didn't hear about this historic tragedy, a quick recap: A child fell into an enclosure occupied by a 450 pound gorilla named Harambe. Zoo officials quickly determined that the gorilla needed to be shot in order to save the boy. This logical and humane decision sparked anger all across the country, with people holding vigils, staging protests, signing petitions, and venting on social media that the ape should not have been killed just to spare the human child. "Justice for Harambe" became the marching slogan, as thousands of lost souls turned a dead ape into a saint and a hero.
Animal rights activists and mourners gather for a Memorial Day vigil outside the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Monday, May 30, 2016 in Cincinnati for Harambe, the gorilla killed Saturday at the Cincinnati Zoo after a 4-year-old boy slipped into an exhibit and a special zoo response team concluded his life was in danger. There has been an outpouring on social media of people upset about the killing of the member of an endangered species. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
My opinion, as I explained it, is that people are more important than apes, so we should feel more relief than anger at the result of this situation. Indeed, I believe a person is more valuable than two apes, or three apes, or 14 apes or all of the apes. I believe there is no exchange rate between people and apes. A person doesn't equal one ape, and he doesn't equal 7 apes, or even 800 apes. A person is infinitely more valuable.
I can justify this fantastic position on two levels. First, practically, human beings do things that animals cannot do, think things that animals cannot think, and perform wondrous feats than animals cannot perform. Even the most advanced ape or intelligent dolphin will never cure a disease, or make great art, or ponder the questions of the universe, or strive to be moral, or build civilizations, or love with the depth that a human can love, or, yes, hate with the fury that a human can hate. Many species have occupied the Earth, but only one has flown to space, constructed skyscrapers, developed complex languages and written novels and poetry, and given birth to philosophers, doctors, engineers and humanitarians. Animals are inferior in every sense, and that fact is among the most obvious facts in existence.
Second, spiritually, humans have rational and eternal souls. Animals do not. Christ came and died for the salvation of man, not the salvation of cockroaches. And he was incarnate as a human, not a squirrel. This alone makes a human's worth eternally greater than that of a beast. And eternally means that no ratio will change the equation. If a human is infinitely superior to one ape, he is infinitely superior to a thousand.
On that point, I am somewhat surprised by the number of people who would agree that a human is superior to an ape but not necessarily to a thousand. If you're taking that position than you must believe that there's some specific number that can be reached where suddenly the value of the apes exceeds the human. But what would that number be? One ape is not more important than your child, but a dozen may be? Two dozen? And how does this translate to other animals? A human is equal to 24 apes, 47 dogs, or 1,908,958,109 earth worms? Do you see how absurd this becomes? Either humans are infinitely more valuable than any and all animals, or we are equal to them. You really cannot settle on anything in between.
In any case, one might understand why apes would take exception to this opinion, if they could understand it, which they can't because they are lower creatures. But my position that humans are valuable has proven to be one of my most controversial to date even among my human audience, garnering hundreds of furious comments, tweets, and emails in just the past 24 hours.
A boy brings flowers to put beside a statue of a gorilla outside the shuttered Gorilla World exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Monday, May 30, 2016, in Cincinnati. A gorilla named Harambe was killed by a special zoo response team on Saturday after a 4-year-old boy slipped into an exhibit and it was concluded his life was in danger. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
If you're curious for a sample, you can check my Twitter page. But if you don't want to be exposed to a sudden tidal wave of raw sewage, allow me to summarize: A lot of people think I'm an idiot, a piece of sh*t, vile scum, human garbage, and so forth. Many of those same people suggested that I be killed by whatever means necessary. One person proposed that I be run over by a bus along with my children. Others stayed on theme and fantasized about a group of apes beating me to death. Every once in a while these death wishes seemed to verge close to death threats, with a few people saying they would like to do the honors themselves.
Because I drew comparisons between the outrage over the ape death and the lack of outrage over the atrocity of abortion, many people assured me that it's good unborn babies are killed because there are too many people already. One woman said my article made her want to mix a hundred dead babies in a blender and drink it. Another said the child at the zoo deserved to die for being "reckless."
A great many people proclaimed with confidence that people are not more important than apes. Some think apes might actually be superior, considering humans are "viruses" and "plagues" destroying the goddess Mother Earth. Naturally, from the perspective of these readers, no human is as much a disease as yours truly. And on and on. You get the idea. And these are mostly the public comments. As you can imagine, the private messages were even more... colorful.
So it's clear - and it was already clear long before this week - that many humans are incredibly, even viciously, hostile to the notion that human life is sacred. The next question, then, is why. Why would a human being actually place human life on the same rung as, or on a lower rung than, animal life? In our narcissistic age, this is surprising because it seems almost like an extreme and misguided form of humility. But when you look deeper, you see that it is precisely narcissism and cowardice that drives it.
Before we get there, it's important to note that, despite how the preceding paragraphs make it seem, very few human actually do put animals above people. At least not completely, and rarely in practice. Despite what they say, none of the people who got angry at my column would react the same to a dead human body on the side of the road as they would to a dead raccoon. None of them would feel the same anger over seeing a cow chained up in a barn as they would to an slave chained up in a shed. None of them feel the same about a guy who hunts deer for fun on the weekend and a man who hunts people.
Hardly any of them would hesitate to use mouse traps or roach spray in their homes if they had an infestation, yet I'm guessing they've never shooed away an irritating house guest by spraying a bottle of Raid in his face. I'm willing to bet that a lot of these folks aren't even vegetarians. And if they are vegetarians, they simply do not feel the same about Outback Steakhouse as they would if I opened a shop down the street selling roasted human flesh harvested from people I kidnapped and slaughtered in the basement. Only a true lunatic would view the two as absolute equivalents, and these people are not lunatics, no matter how they present themselves.
Further, if any one of these animal rights proponents found themselves in that gorilla enclosure, you can bet they wouldn't be willing to risk a brutal death in order to preserve the raging beast's life. You know a cause is phony when it has almost no martyrs.
Yet, in theory, they react with indignation at the idea that humans are greater than animals. In theory they treat humans like consumer goods that lose value when supply exceeds demand, but in practice hardly any of them would actually celebrate over a genocide in a third world country, as they should if they wish to put their theories into practice.
Well, the reason is partly that "progressive" ideas are inherently irrational and cannot be consistently followed without quickly leading to insanity. It's almost impossible to actually live by the belief that humans are equal to animals. It would require, among things, that you to collapse into a puddle of tears every time you see a dead gnat floating in a cup of juice or a bunch of murdered flies stuck to a piece of flypaper. I have never seen anyone do that, yet I have heard many people posit the theory that the gnat and the fly are equal to humans in every sense that matters.
A sympathy card rests at the feet of a gorilla statue outside the Gorilla World exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Sunday, May 29, 2016, in Cincinnati. On Saturday, a special zoo response team shot and killed Harambe, a 17-year-old gorilla, that grabbed and dragged a 4-year-old boy who fell into the gorilla exhibit moat. Authorities said the boy is expected to recover. He was taken to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
It seems that many in our culture cling - if incompletely and abstractly - to the notion that human life is not sacred because, while they lack the lunacy to fully put the idea into practice, they also lack the moral courage to fully accept the opposite position.
To say out loud what they instinctively recognize as true - that they themselves are somehow more significant than a salmon or a beetle - is to fling open the door to a whole new philosophy and worldview. It is to expose themselves to difficult questions like:
Why is my life sacred? Is it because I am a member of some dimension that transcends our material world? Is it because I was in fact created by a force beyond my understanding?
And if that's the case, does that mean I am obligated to treat all human life with a certain dignity and respect? If human life is indeed sacred, doesn't that mean it must be sacred inherently, and not by degrees? And if that's true, doesn't that mean human life should be protected even at its earliest stages? Does that make abortion evil?
Wait, does that mean there is such a thing as evil? Does that mean I have to start acting according to some objective code that is not calibrated or adjusted according to my desires and whims?
Oh, no. Duties. Responsibilities. Moral absolutes. God. Virtue. Evil. Sin. Is there actually something to all of this stuff?
The progressive has now gone tumbling off a cliff, and the plunge will be terrifying and disorienting. If they allow themselves to hit the ground, they will discover that they were wrong about virtually everything, and now their entire lifestyle must change, and it must change according to a truth that is outside of their own control.
Few are willing to take that trip all the way to the bottom. Out of selfishness and fear, they grab onto whatever they can and cling desperately to their half-truths and their fantasies, knowing full well that they can only maintain their worldview if they refuse to think much about it. So they lash out at people who suggest that human life is sacred, not to involve them in a discussion on the point, but to shut down the discussion before it threatens to send them barreling back down the rabbit hole. That is what passes for debate in our culture.
That's why our job, as those who recognize these fundamental truths, must be to drag these people kicking and screaming back to the rabbit hole and throw them into it, against their will if necessary. And we should be ready for the backlash when we do. It can be startling, but at least it lets us know we're on the right track.
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