16 November 2007

On the theme "those guys are people too" (replace "those guys" by chimpanzees, bonobos, dolphins, lawyers, talibans, .. whatever point you feel like making) here is one of the many bonobo video found on youtube.com (including some bonobo porn)

I have already discussed some of that theme here and there.
Interesting that Danny concludes "couldn't' they be apes AND people, because after all isn't that what we are?". Right we are apes too, but are they people? Are they of our people? Can we just raise them as humans and integrate them into our society as some people suggest? So to make things clear what are "people", "persons" and "humans"? First, humans are us, the genetically defined Homo sapiens species (that's a narrow definition there are broader definitions based on cognitive and spiritual qualities). A person, to me, is just a legal term translating an individual's place in a human society. People are about the same thing but with a cultural flavor, in the sense of "our people", I think that's more or less what Danny is trying to say. The logical consequence is that bonobos and other non-human apes cannot be persons, they are too different, and they certainly are not of our people, our "human race". But they are apes like us (dogs are mammal like us, etc..), and thus share many common behavioral traits.

The idea, mentioned by Danny, to raise an ape as a human he is of course not new, it's been attempted before, and Sue Savage-Rumbaugh is doing it here with Bonobos. Others have tried with chimps and they became cool chimps, but still.. chimps. Same with Sue's bonobos as far as I can tell. Because, really, can a human-raised bonobo hold a job and function like a socially-fit individual in human society? A person? I don't think so. Just look at the sex scene in that video for instance. No comment. We certainly can't apply most human laws to any other species. In fact, just human social and moral laws can be incompatible among themselves; wanting to merge them all in one universal human law may not be the wisest endeavor (euphemism), so why would we want to do that with bonobos and make them persons of any human human country?
This doesn't make sense, but we ought to pay those non-human folks respect and give them space on this planet to at least live in harmony with their environment and avoid suffering. In fact we should be able to to that with any life form that doesn't make us suffer (i.e. exclude damn mosquitoes;-). Of course the temptation is great to impose our moral values to any other species, especially the ones closest to us genetically (just as it is done of fellow humans of different cultures). Still we cannot simply treat them as mice. In fact lab experiments that are done on mice are unthinkable on primates, even less apes. There exist already a hierarchy among species, a differential treatment. As we try not to be racist, we are "specists". Treating cute species or those that look more like us better than ugly or evolutionarily distant ones.. is so human (and maybe too.. so animal).

So, OK, we bonobos and us are in the same "ape tribe" and maybe we can look down on monkeys. They have a tail and we don't. Boo. And together with monkeys we can look down at other mammals. Boo. Etc.

And if we humans have a soul, who else does?

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