Discovery Institute and Human Exceptionalism

You may have read about a recent court decision in Argentina — Captive orangutan has human right to freedom, Argentine court rules — in which:

Animal rights campaigners filed a habeas corpus petition – a document more typically used to challenge the legality of a person’s detention or imprisonment – in November on behalf of Sandra, a 29-year-old Sumatran orangutan at the Buenos Aires zoo.

The trial court ruled that:

An orangutan held in an Argentine zoo can be freed and transferred to a sanctuary after a court recognized the ape as a “non-human person” unlawfully deprived of its freedom … .

We thought a writ of habeas corpus was an Anglo-American remedy, but it seems to be recognized elsewhere. Anyway, despite the outcome favorable to the orangutan, this is similar to a case in the US we wrote about earlier — see Oook, Oook — Chimps Lose in Appellate Court.

The Discovery Institute is keenly interested in such cases, because of a new campaign they’ve launched, in which they pose as the champions of what they call “human exceptionalism” — a thinly disguised claim that humans aren’t related to other animals, and therefore, as the creationists always say: “I ain’t no kin to no monkey.” We wrote about that campaign here: Discovery Institute: Two New Themes.

The Discoveroids were delighted when the New York chimp case turned out as it did, and they even went a bit overboard about it, demanding sanctions against the lawyers who represented the chimp’s position — see Discoveroids Oppose Frivolous Lawsuits. We intend to remember that the next time they champion some crazed creationist who sues about “viewpoint discrimination.”

Anyway, here are some excerpts from the Discoveroids’ reaction to the Argentine case: Court Declares Orangutan “Non-Human Person”! It’s written by Wesley J. Smith. We don’t hear much from him, but he’s a Discoveroid “Senior Fellow” and a lawyer. The bold font was added by us:

I have been warning you and warning you: It takes just one judge, wanting to make history, to kick the props out from under our tottering societal embrace of human exceptionalism.

Yes, he seemed to be a voice in the wilderness, but now the horror he warned of has come to pass. He describes the court’s ruling and then says:

One hopes this will be overturned on appeal. If it isn’t, some will simply shrug. Others will laugh and roll their eyes. But indifference is the enemy of maintaining a righteous society and there is nothing funny about erasing human exceptionalism.

Oh no! This is the culmination of Darwin’s evil work — we are no longer exceptional! Let’s read on:

The animal rights agenda — completely unnecessary to protect animal welfare — won’t elevate animals to the level of humans, but will reduce us to the value of animals. And that means that the weakest and most vulnerable — the disparaged and the outcast — will eventually lose their inherent protections based simply on being human.

Egad! Only the Discoveroids and their intelligent designer — blessed be he! — can save us from impending chaos. Smith then cites his own book, and some writings of others, which predict (with bracketed material in Smith’s original):

If they [the animal-rights movement] established through culture or law that human beings have no intrinsic dignity greater than that of any animal, the world would not be a better place for either humankind or animals.

Instead, it would be a utilitarian nightmare in which the strong would destroy the weak, in which power-crazed leaders would destroy everyone who loved peace, in which the wealth of the world would be concentrated in the hands of a murderous few, in which mercy would be unknown and the only virtue would be the ability to survive, in which the only right would be the right to die.

Aaaargh!! A “utilitarian nightmare.” He concludes with this:

Our courts must say no, and do so with unequivocal force and ringing eloquence. Human well-being and liberty are at stake.

So there you are. The Discoveroids, in their glorious battle against materialism and evolution, are fighting for your rights, dear reader. Join them and proclaim, loudly and proudly: I ain’t no kin to no monkey!

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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21 responses to “Discovery Institute and Human Exceptionalism

  1. It’ll “reduce us to the value of animals”? I say, bring it on. Animals have a lot more value than many humans (yes, Discoveroids, I’m looking at you). Animals don’t act with intentional cruelty or evil, or try to push idiotic ideas and policies that lead to others living in Dark Ages ignorance.

    When all humans quit doing that, I’ll value them more than my cat. (Maybe.)

  2. “And that means that the weakest and most vulnerable — the disparaged and the outcast — will eventually lose their inherent protections based simply on being human.

    Instead, it would be a utilitarian nightmare in which the strong would destroy the weak, in which power-crazed leaders would destroy everyone who loved peace, in which the wealth of the world would be concentrated in the hands of a murderous few, in which mercy would be unknown and the only virtue would be the ability to survive, in which the only right would be the right to die.”

    Hmm, we exceptional humans already seem quite adept at doing this on a world-wide scale, and throughout history. For us in particular, republicans seem quite comfortable with attacking the weakest and most vulnerable in the U.S., and our global support of autocrats continues as well. And the DI wants to continue with that?

  3. @DavidK: You beat me to it. I was going to quote that same bit from the sublimely ignorant lawyer and ask how that’s different from what’s been going on since long before the discoveroids invented the intellegent designer (blessed be he/she/it) who, in any case, seems unlikely to improve the situation.

  4. I’m having a really hard time reconciling “human exceptionalism” with the unconscionable savagery of the recent Taliban attack on a Peshawar school that resulted in around 140 deaths of which more than 130 were students. Must be that “free will” that’s all part of “human exceptionalism”…

  5. Sounds like the “dark ages”. And wasn’t that before Darwin?

  6. Charles Deetz ;)

    From a favorite Car-Toon as a kid: “No he doesn’t eat like an animal, animals know when to stop.”

    There are some things we humans do that certainly would be considered ‘unique’ but certainly not ‘exceptional’.

  7. michaelfugate

    human exceptionalism is another cliché like traditional family values and objective morality – code words for social conservatives to further their war against the enlightenment. Utterly without meaning.

  8. Eddie Janssen

    Maybe Wesley Smith should watch this:

    about an electrocuted monkey brought back to consciousness by one of its comrades (if i am allowed to use that word…).

  9. “Instead, it would be a utilitarian nightmare in which the strong would destroy the weak, in which power-crazed leaders would destroy everyone who loved peace, in which the wealth of the world would be concentrated in the hands of a murderous few, in which mercy would be unknown and the only virtue would be the ability to survive, in which the only right would be the right to die.”

    What!? You mean the world isn’t any of these things already? Gee wiz Spanky, I guess things aint so bad after all.

  10. Diogenes Lamp

    “It would be a utilitarian nightmare in which the strong would destroy the weak, in which power-crazed leaders would destroy everyone who loved peace, in which the wealth of the world would be concentrated in the hands of a murderous few, in which mercy would be unknown and the only virtue would be the ability to survive”

    Since when has the Discovery Institute opposed capitalism?

    Because that’s what he’s describing.

    Note the irony: the DI is opposing a “dystopia” of utilitarian ethics… by describing its consequences… which is a consequentialist argument that assumes utilitarian ethics.

    And “power-crazed leaders would destroy everyone who loved peace” is Orwellian coming from conservative Xians who amass vast personal arsenals and want us to bomb ISIS, nuke Iran, attack Russia etc. etc.

    Intelligent Design: the Religion of Peace!

    The IDers don’t even pretend to be intellectuallly sophisticated conservatives anymore. They stopped trying. With this crap, they prove they’re WorldNutDaily. Ellis Washington will be the DI’s next Senior Fellow.

  11. Intelligent Design says that the reason that humans are closest, physically, to chimps and other apes is that there is a commonality of plan of the common designer.
    The question is how Intelligent Design can distance itself from commonality of treatment, given that the commonality in purposes stems from an agency which is presumably acting in the furtherance of moral ends.
    Intelligent Design cannot appeal to the “is-ought” distinction.

  12. That there are people so concerned with the welfare of others, and even other species, is wonderful. One might even call it exceptional.

    My guess is that the author (yes, I’m too apathetic to scroll back up to find his name, even though I would have been done with this comment by now if I had) is of the belief that God gave people dominion over the animals, even the orangs. Which makes perfect sense because bible. Or something.

  13. Our friend the Wiki says:

    Wesley J. Smith (born 1949) is an American lawyer and author, a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. He is also a lawyer…

    The Disco Tute is all about projection. They’re the ones who want to be on top telling everybody what to do. Of course, the reality is that the only thing they’re on top of is an old gym in Seattle. Is that old socks or did Luskin just walk in?

  14. Diogenes Lamp

    Oh jibbers crabst, another ID lawyer? I’ve lost track of all their flipping lawyers.

  15. Having jumped the shark at Dover, the Discoveroids continue their slide into irrelevance while holding out their begging bowls.

  16. About 25 years ago, as I recall, there was an incident in Ann Arbor, Michigan in which a couple of frat guys caught a couple of neighborhood cats, cut off their feet so they couldn’t run, doused them with lighter fluid, and set them on fire. The incident generated tremendous public outrage.

    These guys were hauled into court and given jail time and then had to do public service for a considerable length of time after they got out of jail. They showed no remorse and, instead, were quite indignant and defiant; claiming that the animals were just cats and nobody had any right to get upset at people “just having some fun.”

    I think the justification for the punishment came under some law about cruelty to animals, but the more relevant issue that generated public discussion was that the sheer cruelty done to those cats demonstrated some severe personality and character defects that warned of what these guys might also do to other humans some day.

  17. The whole truth

    If I were to say what I actually feel I would likely be banned for life from this site, so I’ll settle for saying this: The discorrhoids and their ilk are only exceptional in the sense that they are exceptionally despicable. They are the ones that should be caged.

  18. I’m waiting for some “human exceptionalist” to step up and challenge the Supreme Court’s ruling that corporations, as Mitt Romney said, are people too. If nonhuman primates don’t qualify, how does a nonliving, entirely abstract entity created not by God or nature but by legal fiat?

  19. Say, I wonder, have any of these “esteemed” lawyers belonging to the Dishonesty Institute ever heard a case or actually practiced their lawyership in any way? Or do they simply engage in writing jibberish for the DI and threaten to sue scientists and the scientific establishment and/or provide “expert” testimony for their academic freedom bills to ignorant legislators and school board members?

  20. A “utilitarian nightmare”? I do not think that this clown understands utilitarianism. Still, it is a nice long word, and probably sounds good to IDiots.

  21. Another thought regarding exceptionalism. Recall that in the imaginary idyllic garden of eden, both Adam and Eve were totally vegetarians. After their so-called fall, they needed an excuse to devour their one-time friends, hence they now gained dominion over every savory animal from that time onward. Yum, yum.