Stripping of Species Identity

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This topic contains 5 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  JacquelynPCruz 7 months ago.

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  • #5823


    In chapter 9 Bess discusses the possibility and implications of the concept of “uplift” among species. I was particularly struck by the idea that this could be a new form of “the white man’s burden”. There is no universally standard of positive or beneficial characteristics. Thus how can we justify modifying and imposing human like characteristics on lower-level species? It seems to me to be completely inhumane. In his vignette the orangutan Jeremy is completely miserable after undergoing such modifications. Is it possible to ethically justify such modifications when instances like Jeremy seem inevitable? Would it not be simpler to not engage in these kinds of animal modifications? What are the inherent benefits of such modifications if any? I find it difficult to understand how giving animals more human-like qualities create anything but complicated ethical issues. In doing so it would seem to me that we strip such animals of their species identity. If there is no direct scale of beneficial characteristic, how would we justify “uplift”?

  • #5824

    Michael Bess

    I accept your argument that the concept of Uplift has all kinds of serious moral problems. However, I nonetheless believe that such creatures could end up being created, simply as a by-product of the need for animal testing of bioenhancements before they are applied to humans. Thus, for example, if you were considering adopting a package of epigenetic cognitive enhancement for yourself, would you choose one that had only been tested in mice, or would you prefer one that has also been tested in primates? A company that offers its customers the latter option would have an advantage in the market, and hence an incentive to conduct such experimental modifications with primates.

    • This reply was modified 7 months, 2 weeks ago by  Michael Bess.
  • #5833


    I believe both of these arguments are valid yet I am still struggling with the question of what happens to these animals after their experimental use is complete. Say you were to try out a cognitive enhancement package on an ape and it was successful. Then you have the created the problem of how to integrate this animal into a society of humans where they are both on the same cognitive level. As a cognitively enhanced ape, the animal would be very much aware of the drastic difference between it and the rest of the human population. You have also created the problem that there is now a population of enhanced apes running around who pose a threat to the human population. (May seem dramatic but I am imagining a sort of Planet of the Apes scenario here). Or there is the opposing scenario to consider: you try out a cognitive enhancement package on an ape and it is unsuccessful. You inflict severe mental damages or psychological damage on multiple apes because you test a package, modify it, test it again, and so forth. This opens up the potential for dozens of animals to be left with crippling mental physical, or psychological damages. Essentially this is using animals as a mere means.

  • #5834

    Tony Osorio

    I agree with acoyle that the damage/benefit done to animals during testing is really troubling once the tests are completed. In the end of Chapter 9, Bess ponders the question of whether we would diligently work to find a way to integrate these enhanced animals into a fitting spot of society, or if we would be overcome with pity and end up not doing the animals justice — I think you are tackling the same question acoyle. I think we can already assume that the opposing scenario will come to pass: many testing animals will be harmed before we arrive at your first scenario, and over time there would be far more than dozens of animals left harrowed.

    I agree with Laura that purposeful enhancement of animals is inhumane, but for for me it is especially wrong because it will occur through animal testing for human benefit. Kantian ethics finds treating anyone as simply a means to an end very wrong. Individuals are to be treated as an end in themselves. I did not use the words ‘human’ or ‘animal’ because I don’t think we can should make a distinction when it comes to what is ethically right. The question that I am afraid to answer is whether morality or human greed will win the debates that are certain to occur in the near future.

  • #5853

    Brent Huang

    On the other hand, I find it interesting that it is stated that such actions would be “inhumane”, as if humanity were still the metric by which one makes moral claims. It seems to me that if we had some sort of treatment that could “raise” a mentally challenged person to average function, e.g., somehow turn off the extra chromosome in Down Syndrome, then no one could complain about that. Similarly, if we have chimpanzees that are reasonably intelligent, it does not seem unreasonable to try to raise them up to human level intelligence. If there are issues with that, it seems to be solely based on an arbitrary claim of speciesism as opposed to specific claims about why increasing intelligence is harmful.

    Furthermore, the idea that there is some sort of issue with “white man’s burden” seems unimportant in this context. We already assume a number of things about making animal’s lives better (and often promptly ignore them in factory farms for personal benefit), like assuming that our pets are better off in our houses instead of the wild, that they would prefer not to have heartworm as opposed to having it, and so on, because we simply feel like it is more likely that they would prefer this. The idea of simply giving them improved intelligence does not seem harmful in itself.

  • #5903


    In response to the first part of Brett’s post, I disagree with the idea that uplifting an advanced species such as apes is comparable to uplifting a human. Humans (granted they follow laws and do not bring harm unto others) are allowed to live freely no matter their IQ. They blend into society as we know it and are not a major threat to daily life. Uplifting a human, then would only allow that person greater abilities and opportunities in society. Uplifting an ape, on the other hand, brings in large moral implications in that the ape now has higher cognition while still living in an ape’s body. Since apes are much larger and stronger than humans and have evolved to show their power through the use of physical strength, they are a huge threat to humans. Uplifting them does not benefit them, but instead brings them a higher cognition with which they can realize the captivity they live in. Nim, for example, is raised around humans, giving him what seems to be a higher cognition simply through nurture. Although Nim does not undergo any genetic modifications, it is clear by the end of “Project Nim” that he becomes too intelligent and comes to know too much to be trapped in a cage. Since Nim proved to be a danger to those around him, however, he could not be free to mingle with humans. Thus this creates a moral dilemma since humans cannot allow Nim to run free, yet they find it unethical to treat him like other apes.

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