Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Brian May Not Like This

Two recent news stories about the sea have been the resumption of whaling and the wastage of cod. Both were referenced in last Tuesday's musing/raving by a well known astronomer, physicist, guitar-maker, animal-rights activist and rock legend.

I share his disgust regarding the slaughter of whales. There is no scientific research that justifies it. Whales seem to have an intelligence, a compassion and a "conscience" that corresponds to that shown in many human societies. The care and attention that they show for society members, as with humans, goes way beyond personal survival. Weaker animals who would never survive alone are nurtured and defended by others. Youngsters are taught, praised and punished. They develop customs over time and over generations. And those who have lost family members can behave with what appears to be genuine grief.

But cod are completely different. There are various technical definitions of pain, but I would expect extreme stimulation of nerves to elicit withdrawal responses in any animal. Yet fish generally do not care for their colleagues or even for their offspring, although those species that have survived evolution tend to be those who tend not to eat their own, whether by migration or instinct. An individual fish seems to have little objective in life except to reproduce.

Dr Brian May remains an icon, my all time guitar hero. I am sure he knows the difference between a fish and a whale. Only an ignoramus could confuse the two.

3 comments:

evanescent said...

Hi RNB,

Is your standard for what is good or bad based on the 'suffering' of those involved?

And on what foundation do you attribute rights to animals?

RNB said...

In answer to your first question, broadly yes.

Biologically we are omnivores. It is perfectly natural for us to have a similar diet to other members of the chimp family.

But over the last few million years, humans seem to have developed the ability to "empathise" with animals that share our better characterisics, such as the ability to cherish our friends and families.

I cannot exactly place the fixed line across which "rights" should be granted or denied. But I think it is somewhere in that huge divide between the average whale and the average fish.

evanescent said...

Hi RBB,

What is "natural" for us to eat is not a guide as to what is good or not. That is committing the Naturalistic Fallacy. Morality isn't dictated by nature.

As for suffering being the standard of good or bad, by this reasoning you should be a vegetarian. And avoid stepping on ants etc. The reason suffering can not be the standard for determining good or bad is because suffering, like happiness, is the END result of a system of morality, it is not the determiner. For example, consider an alien with all the intelligence and reasoning of a human being, but without the capacity to feel any pain at all. Would this person still have to be treated morally? Of course!

Similarly, suffering is not a good guide to morality for the same reason that happiness isn't, otherwise "do whatever makes you happy" would be the most moral thing, but of course doing whatever makes you happy isn't always moral.

Perhaps I can identify where rights come from, and where they should be denied or not. In short, animals have NO rights at all. Rights only apply to moral beings. I've just written about this here:
http://ellis14.wordpress.com/2007/12/08/what-is-morality-and-what-are-%e2%80%98rights%e2%80%99/

I encourage you to read and give me your opinion.

All the best.