A self-defined troll, Siricou Raven, asks,
Merely being human genetically isn’t enough – so what do humans have that makes them protected over all other species? And when do they aquire whatever this is?
SR, I don’t have to weigh, measure and evaluate – you do. You are the one asserting that “being human genetically isn’t enough.”
Why isn’t being human enough?
The problem is more that you find it necessary to justify killing some humans and so you are the one looking for that something that makes some humans less “protected over other species.” A more precise way to phrase your premise would be,
“[W]hat do humans have that makes them protected” – from other humans – “over other species,” — while still protecting yourself?
I, on the other hand, follow long-standing philosophic tradition that all humans have the right not to be killed, and the slightly less common tradition that every member of our species is human-enough to be protected from deliberate killing and enslavement. (As I say, “We’re the only species having this conversation.”)
I believe that anyone can come to the same conclusion – with a little study of biology, logic, history, and even some imagination.
The biology is self-evident. Follow the embryology, anatomy and physiology. The one-celled embryo is the same entity as the rational adult. Our repetitive discussions about “why” and “when” are simply more proof of the continuity, rather than any discrete discontinuities.
It goes against logic to proclaim that “Some of us are more equal than others.”
And it requires a lot of energy to defend your philosophy. Energy used up in defining, renaming, listing characteristics and measurements. Then, you need convoluted laws, an army or police force trained to discriminate and protect the “special” people.
If you want to skip logic and efficiency, study the subject of human rights from a historical perspective: Historically, the more inclusive a society, the more freedom for all. Societies that discriminate spend too much energy protecting the special people and their “right” to kill and enslave others.
Even the societies with historical caste systems, where the discrimination is internalized all along the spectrum of human-ness, exposure to ideas about human rights – or the birth of a William Wilberforce, Susan B. Anthony, Ghandi or Martin Luther King, Jr. – weakens former “protections” for the privileged. Society changes. (Far too often, after a period of violence between the “more equal” and “less equal.” The dispute about the humanity of embryos created in the lab won’t follow this pattern.)
Failing logic, efficiency or the effort to study history and sociology, try imagination.
In the West, children who could have been legally aborted are questioning the assumptions of their mothers’ generation about “personhood.” They can imagine that they were at risk – they empathize with their missing siblings.
It’s hard for me to avoid imagining the outcome of experimentation on the embryo. I’ve got the examples of how humans have exploited humans in the past. (Last night, I was reading about the Nuremberg trials.) For the imagination-deprived, try reading William Saletan’s confused discussion about “Making Manimals,” the current experimentation on human genetic material.
Or, you could read some of the wealth of Science Fiction speculation on the results of created-less-than-humans. Recently, there’s “Never Let Me Go.” For other speculative fiction on the use of human offspring by their creators, read Lois McMaster Bujold (Free Falling, or the Miles stories), or David Webber. One of my favorites is Nancy Kress’ Beggars in Spain (a good review, here).
(wow – don’t get lost following Nicholas Whyte’s links – but do peek at this post, with a link to a page with a link to a 1927 “home movie” of a meeting between Madame Curie, Bohr, Eistein, and the gang.)
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