I hate every ape I see

Chimpanzees, although expensive,  are really useful for medical research, since they’re much closer to humans than any other experimental animal. Yet the Feds are phasing out chimp research, and are sending them off to Club Chimp.  Francis Collins, director of NIH,  says that “new scientific methods and technologies have rendered their use in research largely unnecessary.”  Collins is full of crap, as usual.

 

 

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113 Responses to I hate every ape I see

  1. So, anthropomorphic cuteness trumps experimental representativeness? Its enough to make you want to shoot a badger.

    • The problem is that in this case ‘anthropomorphisation’ (sp?) really is just recognising genuine similarities. There is no argument that justifies using chimps as models that couldn’t also justify the use of non-consenting human models. (All organisms share a MRCA at some point ergo human rights based upon descent from a chosen ancestor are as illogical as ape rights.)

      • gcochran says:

        Nonsense. I can probably think of 20 arguments off the top of my head.

      • Asher says:

        Ethics/morality is based on prospective reciprocity. Apes arent capable of moral reciprocity, hence , they arent moral objects. The impulse to avoid cruelty to apes is aesthetics, not ethics.

      • Joe Walker says:

        Chimps can’t hire lawyers to sue you if they believe that you have done them permanent damage as a result of medical testing. Humans can. Also the police will not arrest you for murder if you kill a chimp. They will if you kill a human. In other words, it is safer for the researchers to experiment on chimps than it is to experiment on humans.

      • Asher says:

        @ joe walker

        Um, there are animal cruelty laws that will get you pretty significant punishment for heinous acts of cruelty. Your insinuation that humans can do to animals whatevwr they feel like doing is blatantly false and intellectually dishonest.

      • Sean_anon says:

        “Ethics and morality is based on prospective reciprocity”

        If so this argues against the severely retarded as one human example as being “moral objects”. I would have to categorize new born babies the same

      • Sideways says:

        Good luck coming up with a non-religious ethical system that can draw a firm line on that, Sean, and keeps the severely retarded on the side of humans.

      • anon says:

        I can think of a few

        1)Apes have no economic utility as individuals other than in a menagerie or a lab.

        2)Unlike some deformed or retarded human apes are not broken and there is no prospective of repair via any sort of treatment, as infinitesimal as that prospect is once an investment is made minimal maintenance can be an acceptable cost even if it is a poor investment.

        3)Apes cannot be part of anyone’s breeding group and therefore of of now use in that capacity.

        4)Their continued existence does not enhance the survival of the parties in question to a greater extent than their vivisection would.

        Sentience and sapience and reciprocal behaviors are merely tools to facilitate survival like any other, they have no inherent value. I’d torture and mutilate any non-human (defined as sapiens sapiens) for my personal gain as I can see no drawbacks to doing so because I prioritize my family over all other concerns. The deaths of humans are acceptable though obviously not desirable, the deaths of nonhumans are entirely irrelevant beyond economic interests.

        As for comparisons with say abortion as some have made. A fetus represents a potentially useful human organism. I would only advocate killing retarded unborn since they are virtually useless and have little hope of ever being useful, valid unborn should be allowed to develop then live or die by their own merits. I hate interfering with normal selective pressures because I don’t think it is in the best interests of my family line.

    • sean_anon says:

      “Good luck coming up with a non-religious ethical system that can draw a firm line on that, Sean, and keeps the severely retarded on the side of humans.”

      Right. The same arguments can be made for infanticide since babies are no more “people” than are fetuses.

      • reiner Tor says:

        Good luck coming up with a non-religious ethical system that can draw a firm line on that, Sean, and keeps the severely retarded on the side of humans.

        I am not religious, yet I feel utter moral revulsion at the thought of treating people (any people, including Pygmies or Bushmen with IQ points in the range of 50-60 or even less) as gorillas. I also cannot see how someone cannot distinguish between the few cases when a gorilla went close to a baby and for a few minutes protected him from, umm, other gorillas, and many cases when Bushmen spent considerable time and energy on saving adult white males.

        I also think that since most ethics is largely innate anyway, we do not need to give very elaborate reasoning why we treat any and all humans (with the exception of moral transgressors and occasionally enemies – but that’s also innate), but humans only, as worthy of highly different ethical treatment than even animals most close to us, like horses. I also think it’s rather pointless to ask questions like “what if Neanderthals were still alive” – obviously they are extinct for the past 20 or 30 thousand years or so, and therefore in no need of ethical considerations whatsoever. Because ethics is largely innate and therefore a product of evolution, it is highly unlikely to produce something that is applicable to situations highly different from those we have encountered in our recent evolutionary history. I guess the treatment of Neanderthals would largely depend on their behavior, and if they were difficult to categorize (like sometimes they behaved like a psychopath, murdering for feeling some antipathy, without any remorse, and at other times like a deeply feeling person, sacrificing their lives for strangers), then maybe our feelings and behavior would also be ambivalent.

        I also don’t think it’s possible to create an ethical system with no loose ends. Such an ethical system might even handle situations like “what if we met space aliens who looked exactly like chimpanzees and who kept other animals in zoos, including one species who looked exactly like humans”, yet it might encounter difficulties in a real-life situation our revered ethicists forgot to think about. I would bet our recent evolutionary history (for all its imperfections) might still be a better ethical guide than any such ethical theory.

  2. gcochran says:

    Someone else say it.

  3. In the limit, all worthwhile research will be done in Switzerland and East Asia.

    • dave chamberlin says:

      Damn do gooders won’t let us make genius chimps, just too disconcerting. So…push us say twenty years into the future what animal can we monkey with, assuming we actually have some real info on intelligence enhancing genes. Genius pigs! I want em. I want the politically correct crowd all hot and bothered that them damned Chinese are genetically engineering genius pigs. And if it isn’t happening, well then making them believe it is happening is the next best thing.

      • albatross says:

        Does this mean my plan to sequence all the remaining chimp populations and come up with an averaged out genome for my superchimp project is off?

      • I think we might get a ~0 defects dog first. There’s real money to be made from selling such a pet, and realistically, they may be extremely desirable as companions.

        I expect such animals to fastrack the acceptance of reducing mutational load in humans, because they straddle the animal/person gap, and would be very difficult to fear and hate.

    • DK says:

      Just how formidable a zero-defects superchimp would be is an interesting question

      What *is* a zero-defects chimp? A version with humanized ORFs? Seems to be a problem with reference point. A version that can make ascorbate does not sound like a huge contender for a super-chimpness.

  4. JayMan says:

    Oh? Check this out (tweeted by Stephan Guyenet):

    Developing ‘integrative’ zebrafish models of behavioral and metabolic disorders

    We are now trying to generalize from fish</I< to humans… :\ Because it's convenient and cheap, of course.

    And people wonder why the medical establishment seems lost in a tailspin with their ever contradictory wisdom-of-the-month advice.

    (For those interested, on that matter: Even George W. Bush Has Heart Disease | JayMan’s Blog)

  5. j3morecharacters says:

    Only yesterday I heard somebody at the New Year table say that those eating meat will be prosecuted for cannibalism. The meat was excellent.

  6. misdreavus says:

    Regarding chimps being nasty, temperamental creatures:

    They behave like this in the wild, too, so I wouldn’t chalk it up to stress imposed by life in captivity.

    Jane Goodall apparently opposes animal testing in all invasive forms. I’m not sure why.

  7. misdreavus says:

    Youll never make a monkey out of me!

  8. On the medical device side of the industry, there is a shift to testing experimental devices on humans in limited trials. Animal models are useful, but they are, after all, only models. Biocompatibility testing still requires animals, but you don’t use primates for that. https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2011/11/10/2011-29117/draft-guidance-for-industry-and-food-and-drug-administration-staff-investigational-device-exemptions

    • JayMan says:

      It continues to amaze me to see researchers trumpet some discovery in animals (usually rats) and gush about how this has big implication for some health aspect in humans…

      Seriously people.

  9. Patrick Boyle says:

    I can’t find the reference now but I saw it on John Hawks blog site about a month ago. It seems that chimpanzees in captivity as lab animals who are fed only something like Purina’s Chimp Chow are nevertheless gaining weight. Several other lab animals are also.

    I have the greatest difficulty keeping my weight down but it seems that whatever is wrong with me is also wrong with our tubby lab chimps. Electric lights? Some virus? A pesticide residue?

    Surely this mystery alone should be enough to justified their continued use in research not to mention malaria.

  10. Anonymous says:

    When political correctness invades science, it leads to “…ascendancy of politically correct mediocrities or incompetents such as T.D. Lysenko.” Something to look forward to, I guess. Maybe we’re already there.
    http://www.jpands.org/vol18no3/lindzen.pdf

  11. AKAHorace says:

    So have we got to the point yet where we can cure anything in lab rats ?

  12. I always wondered what was meant by the phrase “chimping out”. Now I understand 😉

  13. Greg, I notice you didn’t actually present me with those twenty or so reasons to justify using chimps as experimental models but don’t better justify the use of human models instead. After all humans are naturally better analogs for the biology of other humans than are even (the other) apes and I don’t see a way out of this.

    Even though I’m a bit “racist” I wouldn’t want to justify vivisecting blacks(!) just because of their genetic distance from white people – though at least there was more logical consistency from advocates of human experimentation, something even extremists wouldn’t justify today although it was pretty normal during the 20th C. And I don’t understand why contemporary ape experimentation should be thought of any differently, given that it follows precisely the same moral reasoning. Whether or not there exist differences between any two populations there exist also relevant similarities that people can’t just dismiss by saying ‘anthropomorphism’. Just because chimps aren’t us doesn’t mean they aren’t like us and abolishing ape vivisection feels like tying up a few loose bioethical ends rather than some radically new position.

    What about neanderthals if they were still with us, or what if someone clones one – presuming they had more ‘humanity’ than a chimp but were still more different from us than a Bushman or a Tasmanian. I’m sure you must have noticed the parallels between ‘ape rights’ arguments and the implicit ‘anthropomorphism’ involved when people decide which fossil hominins were human. The currently chosen cut-off point is in place only for indefensible cultural reasons and without the whole argument that humans are drastically different from the animals, either created separately or merely ‘descended from’ apes (as though our past evolution has stopped and no impact on our behaviour today), its hard to justify man’s treatment of his closest living relatives.

    There isn’t really much to be said about this given that there isn’t one ‘real’ place to make an ethical boundary, but advocates of ape experimentation are nowhere near as rational (nor their opponents as sentimental) as they might like to think.

    • gcochran9 says:

      I didn’t list them because it wasn’t worth the effort.

    • SwampOwl says:

      Bones, here is the argument:
      -We (mankind) value human life more than that of any other species.
      -Apes are the best models we have for testing drugs safety outside our own species.
      -Human lives are on the line waiting for breakthroughs in medical research of all types, including this one.
      If you agree with all of the above then it follows that we are justified in sacrificing animal lives for human lives. Clearly opinions are all over the place, some people don’t give a rat’s ass about animals and would shoot Bambi and the last whatever of any species for the fun of it; while others risk death to save trees. Yet there has to be a reasonable limit, what do you propose? Vegetarians put the barrier between plants and animals. Their argument is that we should not cause pain or kill anything sentient just to enjoy a more varied diet, since we in principle could survive by eating flora. Do you agree? Did you give up steak? If you didn’t, would you then put the barrier between all apes and the rest of the living world? On what arguments?
      There must be a compromise between animal’s right to exist -if there is such thing- and our necessities. If this seems frivolous to you, just imagine a relative of yours terminally ill, a new untested but promising drug that could save them (but also could kill them), and the possibility of testing the drug in an animal first. Would you risk your relative’s life? Would you risk your own child just to protect an animal?
      I hope not!

      • But I don’t agree with all of the above. Humans don’t necessarily value human life over that of any other species (to a Bushman you are either another Bushman, a non-prey animal or their dinner), and you are missing my point by saying apes are the closest model outside our own species when I’m saying humans cannot be regarded as a separate category from animals. This last taboo might be extremely controversial, but its not really because of chimps is it. 😉

      • reiner Tor says:

        to a Bushman you are either another Bushman, a non-prey animal or their dinner

        It might be so, but I think anthropologists arriving among Bushmen somehow still found acceptance. I read stories of Bushmen going to considerable length (like after a 4 hour hunt spent running, running another couple of hours back and forth to get water for a dried out anthropologist) to save anthropologists. So I wouldn’t accept Bushman claims about them being the only humans at face value.

      • This reply doesn’t seem to have gotten through last time.

        Reiner Tor,

        I don’t see the difference between the Bushmen helping the non-Bushman and the gorilla I mentioned in another comment protecting the human boy who fell into his enclosure at Jersey Zoo. On Jambo’s part he was ‘anthropomorphising’ from a gorilla’s perspective because humans resemble himself, the same way humans are instinctively recognising our shared evolutionary history with chimps when people oppose ape vivisection. The brain activity that is involved during anthropomorphism is the same as during personisation, showing them to be the same phenomena, and humans read the faces of monkeys instinctively the same way we do another human face – because human-like faces provide the right stimuli.

      • reiner Tor says:

        @Bones and Behaviours: I actually do see a difference, namely, that Bushmen are humans, and gorillas are not. However, I’m sure I’d be particularly grateful if a gorilla saved my (or even any other) child, and I would be outraged if such a gorilla would be subjected to anything worse than enough quality food, comfortable living quarters and Medicare for the rest of its life.

        I don’t know if Henry Harpending (who, I think, has actually met Bushmen in his life) would want to weigh in, but I strongly believe that Bushmen are infinitely more similar to white Europeans than to gorillas.

      • SwampOwl says:

        Greg was right about Bones. He just can’t figure out what the difference is between a human and a gorilla. Not worth pursuing further.

      • Reinor Tor, to be human is just descent from a common ancestor – and all living things have a common ancestor. The only way that science can inform ethics is by information about genetic similarities, but science cannot demonstrate subjective cut off points.

        I’m not saying that drawing the line to prevent the abuse of apes is any less arbitrary than protecting Africans, but not gorillas,but the reason why people endorse protecting apes from vivisection is the same reason why they are useful experimental subjects – they really are pretty much ‘us’. Of course they aren’t exactly us, but nor are the Bushmen. People don’t need to know the genetic information to recognise the similarities because what some people denounce as ‘anthropomorphising’ apes is simply the instinctive recognition of qualities that really are present as homologies. As such, recognising other races such as the Bushmen as human is also ‘anthropomorphising’, for although they are biologically closer to us than chimps they are still most definitely different of kind from us.

        Now of course the same applies to images of the neanderthals, which 100% proves my point. The more human neanderthal behaviour appears to interpreters the more human the representations appear – to the point where reconstructions of neanderthals frequently hide the chin region with convenient facial hair so as to visually obscure their actual difference. Though this is tantamount to fraudulently presenting neanderthals to anthropomorphise them, the homologies we share with neanderthals nonetheless remain as real as such differences. They both are us and aren’t us – and this would still be true even if there were no neanderthal DNA in non-Africans.

        I’m repeating all this because people are acting as though they don’t understand, but I can tell some people don’t so much not understand this, as just wish they didn’t because it makes some people uncomfortable.

      • reiner Tor says:

        Bones, of course all lines are arbitrary, but there is much more to Bushmen than common descent from Y Adam and Mitochondrial Eve. We can interbreed with them, which we cannot with chimps. We can talk to them, which is impossible for chimps. Moreover, the arbitrary line setting common descent at – say – two hundred thousand years is very robust: you can decrease or increase it threefold, and the result would be the same: all humans, and humans only. You can even increase it twentyfold, and the result with still be the same: all humans, and humans only. Any other descent threshold is doomed to be less robust.

        But of course you are right, people anthropomorphizing these creatures are really just reflecting to features that are also present in us and that have a common origin. (Except maybe some features in dogs, which might have been the result of human selection.) I certainly don’t disagree with the notion that unnecessary cruelty should be prohibited – we are merely arguing about what is necessary, and what is not. But I think the line between humans and animals is much stronger than you assert.

  14. If you squint hard enough, anything can resemble anything

    • kai says:

      Well, yes, but you don’t have to squint too hard to find similarities between chimps and humans…on the contrary, it takes a lot of effort to ignore (having been hit on the head repeatedly with a heavy holy book can help a lot, maybe through IQ reducing trauma).
      That being said, chimps do not trigger too much cute anthropomorphic sympathy, at least for me…on the contrary, the adults fall square in the uncanny valley…definitely the least sympathetic of the apes, and they often acts like vicious bastards too, among themselves or with humans…I am not too fond on experimenting on them though, they are an intelligent, endangered species expensive to maintain, so I would not use them except for crucial research that really need the closest human model possible…

      • Rosenmops says:

        Chimps don’t seem very cute or appealing to me, either. I feel more upset about dogs being used for experiments than chimps.

    • Asher says:

      Yeah, but few people squint very hard about much of anything.

  15. Asher says:

    I wouldn’t want to justify vivisecting blacks(!) just because of their genetic distance from white people

    Every group in the human species is capable of following rules in so many ways that chimps aren’t.

    Ethics/morality is based on prospective reciprocity. Apes arent capable of moral reciprocity, hence , they arent moral objects. The impulse to avoid cruelty to apes is aesthetics, not ethics.

    • Ambacti says:

      How does this line of reasoning apply to the millions of humans who through congenital defect are also rendered incapable of moral reciprocity?

      Surely the most rational course of action is to use condemned or vegetative humans for gravely dangerous medical research. This is not an argument about what is the most rational and efficient way to increase human knowledge, but about the best way to increase human knowledge while crossing as few constantly shifting moral red lines as possible. Needless to say, the moral red lines on this side of the internet do not perfectly line up with those of the outside world. Chimps elicit increasingly sympathetic emotions from a politically influential segments of the population and the state needs to react.

      • reiner Tor says:

        I wouldn’t oppose convicts to be used for drug experimentation.

      • Asher says:

        How does this line of reasoning apply to the millions of humans who through congenital defect are also rendered incapable of moral reciprocity?

        I have a severely handicapped cousin who is clearly capable of moral reciprocity. The thing is that 99.99 percent of homo sapiens born are capable of it, whereas zero percent of chimps are so. We can’t possibly know the capacity of individuals with a degree of capacity that is beyond a reasonable doubt for humans; we can with chimps.

      • Asher says:

        oops, should read:

        zero percent of chimps are not so

        Also, this is why I tend to agree that humans have an innate tendency to distinguish between homo sapiens and other species in a qualitative manner that is not reducible to a pain/pleasure calculation.

      • Asher says:

        Being a convict does not mean that one is not capable of being a moral agent but, merely, that one did not follow the rules. I mean if there was a physically established pathology for sociopathy or borderline personality, then, yes, I might be sanguine about sanctioning that sort of experimentation. But, then, such a criterion wouldn’t even require criminal activity.

        Lest, anyone think I am violating the is/ought distinction what I am doing is simply abolishing “ought” from rational discourse. What people *feel* as “ought” in any particular time and place is almost certainly not governed by the faculty of reason, whereas providing a general description for how “oughts” form is a descriptive measure that is governed by reason.

        I mean, if the world is a world of facts and if human cognition is a product of the objects of its experience then all “oughts” really are derived from “is”; it’s just that we lack the capacity to understand how this happens in any particular case.

      • reiner Tor says:

        The way I’d imagine that convict thing would be that it would be part of the sentence. Some people would get, say, 10 years in prison, others 20 years, some 30 years, and then there would be people sentenced to 30 years plus light experimentation, and maybe even people sentenced to life in prison plus hard experimentation, which would mean anything goes. Obviously the more serious the crime, the more could go on.

        But I cannot be accused of seriously having thought this out. If there are just a few people sentenced to this, then we don’t have enough of them, and sentencing people for light offenses to experimentation would sound too cruel to me.

        So probably it wouldn’t be practical. But I wouldn’t oppose any serious criminal being used in that way, if somebody ever asked me. But they never ask me, not even as part of the people. In some European countries the majority would support the reinstatement of capital punishment, but somehow the elected representatives do nothing to reinstate it. This state of democracy reminds me of the old joke in communist countries that cognac is the drink of the laboring masses which they drink through their elected representatives.

      • Ambacti says:

        Moral reciprocity is an arbitrary and unmeasurable concept. Why should chimps with an average IQ of 30-40 all be incapable of it, while pygmys with an average IQ of 50 all be considered in possession of this innate attribute?

        I dislike how this whole debate takes on airs of rationality, when in fact it is merely a conflict between slightly diverging arbitrary conceptions of the same harm-centered moral system.

      • reiner Tor says:

        IQ of 30 or 40 is not 40 or 20% lower than IQ50. Moreover, moral reciprocity is not even fully dependent on IQ.

      • Ambacti says:

        Let’s just admit that by capacity for moral reciprocity we mean IQ. The two are so closely correlated that it strikes me as absurd to pretend otherwise.

      • reiner Tor says:

        I would think dogs are capable of moral reciprocity, whereas high IQ psychopaths are incapable of that. But let’s just assume IQ is fully correlated with moral reciprocity. My point is that IQ 35 means that it’s 1SD lower than 50 IQ, it doesn’t mean it’s 30% lower. In other words, 35 and 50 are not necessarily close to each other. In still other words, I think it’s not very meaningful to speak of chimpanzees having 30 or 40 IQ, especially in comparison to pygmies (pygmy humans, not pygmy chimpanzees). I would consider pygmies to be immeasurably more intelligent than chimpanzees. (I’m not even sure where you got your numbers of 30 or 40 for chimps.)

      • Ambacti says:

        30-40 IQ is an inference based on comparison to severely mentally retarded humans, it seems plausible enough to me given that they are capable of learning basic sign language, something severely retarded humans would struggle with. It is difficult to place chimps within the human intelligence spectrum and it doesn’t seem like researchers are eager to do so, but I am sure that it could be done. If you have an estimate that you like better, feel free to use it, but my line of reasoning doesn’t require an unassailable chimp IQ estimate.

        Your assertion that there is some qualitative difference between IQ 35 and IQ 50, more so than say, between IQ 50 and IQ 65 is groundless. What is being measured is a spectrum of human cognitive abilities, the lower end of which certainly overlaps with the spectrum of chimpanzee cognitive abilities.

        High IQ psychopaths are certainly capable of moral reciprocity, they simply have inclinations that are stronger still. With dogs you are mistaking domesticated obsequiousness for a moral sense.

      • reiner Tor says:

        Humans in the IQ range of 35 are very high on genetic load (regardless of ethnicity or race), whereas normal chimps are normal. This is something like 70 IQ whites (who are barely capable of anything) and 70 IQ African blacks (who seem to be more or less normal human beings, albeit somewhat less intelligent than rocket scientists). This is why there is a fundamental difference between 50 IQ pygmies and 35 IQ whites (which is probably the reference point for your inference), or even 50 IQ pygmies (who are slightly below average) and 35 IQ pygmies (who are already high on genetic load).

        Regarding sign language, most cognitive scientists seriously doubt if they really used sign language at all. They merely used vague signals barely resembling normal signs and used totally ungrammatically etc., which then wishful thinking keepers interpreted as sign language. But not one of the celebrated apes (like Nim Chimpsky) learned a grammatical and proper sign language, however simple. I mean, even a dog can communicate simple subjects (like “I’m hungry”) to a human somehow, but you wouldn’t say a dog is using “language”. Sign “language” using apes couldn’t communicate more complex thoughts either.

        I still think there is no meaningful way you can compare chimps to pygmies or any functioning human groups.

      • Asher says:

        High IQ psychopaths are certainly capable of moral reciprocity,

        No, they don’t Such individuals, merely, mimic moral reciprocity to the point that they get what they want. However, there is no emotionally imprinting aspect to their behavior and their seeming moral reciprocity just comes and goes in a seemingly arbitrary fashion to us non sociopaths.

        Having seriously dated, for three years, a woman with a high IQ and borderline personality disorder, which is just probably the female version of sociopathy, I know of what I speak. Her seeming moral reciprocity was merely a facade and not a real part of her emotional experience of the world.

      • reiner Tor says:

        Moreover, IQ tests are scaled in a way that the difference between say 85 and 100 need not be exactly the same as that between 35 and 50. It is actually quite likely it’s different, because scaling has nothing to do with difference between mental abilities (which is not easily quantifiable anyway), it has everything to do with standard deviations. For example 35 IQ is set so that out of a population of a million everybody except seven particular individuals will exceed that level. Since in the extreme left tail of the distribution you will find individuals with all different kinds of odd genetic load, the distance between two neighboring IQ points (say 30 and 31) will get less and less reliable, because it will depend on just a few individuals.

        That is why I think it’s not really meaningful to say that a swine has 10 IQ.

      • Ambacti says:

        High IQ psychopaths are certainly capable of moral reciprocity,

        No, they don’t Such individuals, merely, mimic moral reciprocity to the point that they get what they want. However, there is no emotionally imprinting aspect to their behavior and their seeming moral reciprocity just comes and goes in a seemingly arbitrary fashion to us non sociopaths.

        Various breeds of human have evolved a capacity for social obsequiousness as a means for coping with high population density. Psychopaths are merely domesticated humans that are born with fewer of these social coping traits. Psychopaths deserve more credit not less, for their acts of moral reciprocity, since they do so out of free will, while the rest are hardwired to do so. Capacity for true moral reciprocity is correlated with intelligence and should not be mistaken for various forms of domesticated servility. When low IQ is combined with few traits of social domestication, we get a different behavioral set altogether.

      • reiner Tor says:

        Psychopaths deserve more credit not less, for their acts of moral reciprocity, since they do so out of free will, while the rest are hardwired to do so. Capacity for true moral reciprocity is correlated with intelligence and should not be mistaken for various forms of domesticated servility.

        Free will is a religious (Christian) concept, and your notion that psychopaths are more capable of it than anybody else is – needless to say – preposterous. Psychopaths are not hardwired to feel moral gratitude, so any time they will reciprocate, will do so not because of any gratitude, but because they feel it’s in their interests to do so. Usually because they want the non-psychopath to feel gratitude to them, sometimes they want to dupe others, or something similar. But because they are incapable of (not hardwired to) feel any attachment to anybody, they will dispose of such duped people as soon as they no longer feel the need for their gratitude.

  16. Asher says:

    What about neanderthals if they were still with us, or what if someone clones one – presuming they had more ‘humanity’ than a chimp but were still more different from us than a Bushman or a Tasmanian.

    Current anthropological evidence is unable to determine whether or not neanderthals were capable of being moral actors. Chimps, clearly, aren’t.

  17. ziel says:

    I must confess to being completely ignorant of the kinds of experiments we actually do with apes. I suppose I naively imagine that we test promising drugs on them to gauge any potential side-effects. That seems rather innocuous – we do the same with people to a large extent as well. I’m sure many apes suffer negative consequences from such experiments, but they obviously are not “aware” (in any meaningful sense of the term) of what’s actually happening. The term “vivisection” appears to be rather loaded, the implication being that apes are cut open while conscious, which is no doubt not true.

    I guess I’d be interested in descriptions of the kinds of practices that are inflicted on apes for experimentation purposes – preferably without the use of loaded terms or emotional language.

  18. Asher says:

    As someone with a voracious curiosity I have seen videos of chimp on chimp brutality. The videos with adult chimps brutalizing other adults was fascinatingly morbid but the ones with adults brutalizing babies was sickening. I suspect that we have an innate instinct to protect things we find adorable and that this is an aesthetic, not ethical, response, which is why babies can be non moral object and, yet, the notion of them being injured produces feelings of revulsion. Also, their parents are moral agents and are invested in those babies, making the state of the child a moral extension of their parents.

    • reiner Tor says:

      I think that we as human beings have an innate tendency to view humans vastly different from the rest of the animal kingdom. So we innately perceive a human baby as being vastly more valuable than a thousand chimps. There are exceptions, when we dehumanize other humans (while non-psychopathic people find it difficult to murder a human baby, many have found it possible to murder a baby gook or a Judaic baby or whatever dehumanized, i.e. no longer human baby), but these cases are usually superficial: Nazi mass murderers got used to murdering, but rampant alcoholism, occasional suicides, etc. etc. were the price they had to pay for that. Clearly they never got used to their jobs as well as a butcher gets used to his job. Another exception is when we humanize non-humans, like dogs. But even in these cases, most people somehow understand that there is at least a case for the dearest dog being inherently less valuable than even the life of a worthless human.

      So I think that not murdering babies is not aesthetic (and has certainly nothing to do with their parents, who might not want to keep the baby, or might even be dead – nevertheless, we find murdering orphan babies just as bad), but clearly ethical. Moreover, even if the baby belongs to an ethnic group or race which one dislikes or hates (like a black or Jewish baby, or a white baby for a Black Panther), murdering the baby is still considered to be deeply wrong. Actually we find it worse to murder a baby than an adult, which also points that it is deeply ethical and innate. Adult males were and are the most likely targets of mass murder (e.g. in Bosnia), women and babies are murdered much less frequently. At least in part because it is more difficult for the murderers to commit that, and they find killing babies somehow more deeply wrong than killing adult males (who are potential soldiers, after all).

      • Asher says:

        vmurdering the baby is still considered to be deeply wrong. Actually we find it worse to murder a baby than an adult, which also points that it is deeply ethical and innate.

        Part of my point is that not all we consider “deeply wrong” is governed by ethics, which comes from the Greek term meaning nothing more than “shared understanding”. Throughout history, there are things of profound “wrongness” that fall outside of shared understanding.

        A counterpoint is that when the Romans finally conquered Carthage they spent a considerable length of time publicly throwing the infant children of the Carthaginians from the citadel onto the rocks below. I highly suspect that the alcoholism and suicide of the Nazi executioners was due to the fact that they the Holocaust took place in secret; had it been done to public fanfare then those same SS troops would have slept untroubled and lived, otherwise, normal lives. I mean, do you really think that the soldiers who nailed the slaves of the Spartacus revolt to crosses along the Appian Way experienced any emotional discomfort from the experience?

        Mass slaughter probably has little emotional effect on individual homo sapiens if it is publicly sanctioned.

        You do have a way out, which is to say that people over the past thousand years, or so, have genetically evolved to be queasy about, even, public mass slaughter. That possibility does not strike me as implausible, on its face.

      • reiner Tor says:

        My point is that it is all innate. I call this whole innate system of feeling about what is right and wrong “ethics”, whereas you seem to define “ethics” as a philosophical subject, i.e. the rationalization of that innate system. If I use your definition, than nothing is ethical, because no feeling of right or wrong comes from that rationalization (reciprocity or whatever); there is first the deeply innate feeling of wrong, and then later we rationalize it (or learn the rationalization created by others).

      • Asher says:

        @ reiner tor

        If I use your definition, than nothing is ethical, because no feeling of right or wrong comes from that rationalization (reciprocity or whatever); there is first the deeply innate feeling of wrong, and then later we rationalize it (or learn the rationalization created by others).

        It’s a classic reversal of cause and effect. The reasoning comes from the feelings and not the other way around. In performing this act of intellectual judo many, probably most, philosophers in the past few centuries have undermined the very basis for practical morality, which is just, simply, group cohesion and coordination – that’s really all ethics has ever been.

    • If you’re going to say that an action must be reasoned to be ethical, otherwise it is merely aesthetic, then it would be aesthetic and not ethical to jump into a burning building on the spur of the moment. Although its the same outcome – either the rescue is successful and someone is pulled out alive, or the would-be hero gets a Darwin Award.

      Anyway the Zen Buddhists are self-evidently right in refusing to recognise ethics as separate from aesthetics. Ethical judgements have an appeal that is subjective, yet nonetheless like music they appeal at the level of gut feelings that can be scientifically understood. There exist six moral foundations and all of them are surely shared with other species because they all originated during our evolutionary past.

      I don’t get your obsession with moral actors, and in any case chimps are capable of reciprocation. Besides I don’t know about any chimps rescuing humans, but gorillas at least will help a child (like Jambo at Jersey Zoo).

      • Asher says:

        it would be aesthetic and not ethical to jump into a burning building on the spur of the moment.

        Two different people might engage in an identical action for different reasons and we would have to know lots of specifics about those different people.

        There exist six moral foundations and all of them are surely shared with other species because they all originated during our evolutionary past.

        Tell you what, you go find a chimp and ask him if he agrees with those same six foundations. If he does and you get it on video then I will give you a million dollars.

        gorillas at least will help a child

        I suspect that focusing on children as the focal point of morality is a sign of civilizational decay. Consider the two following scenarios:

        A) Everyone ten and under just disappears
        B) Everyone between 30 and 40 disappears

        Which would be worse? B would, and probably by an order of magnitude. Harms done to any specific individual and harms done to a society are two distinct things and are, often, unrelated and, even, oppositional. Ethical rules either exist to protect individuals in their particularity or they exist to govern the overall functioning of a specific society, but not both. In fact, throughout most of human history rules were commonly understood to be about facilitating the functioning of a specific group and focusing on protecting particular individuals is a fairly recent development.

    • Asher, in another comment did you not just say, “I mean if there was a physically established pathology for sociopathy or borderline personality, then, yes, I might be sanguine about sanctioning that sort of experimentation. But, then, such a criterion wouldn’t even require criminal activity.”

      Doesn’t such an endorsement of unprovoked violence against the non-guilty sound pretty sociopathic in itself to you?

      Common sense says that harming those proven guilty of harmful practice is more moral than harming those who have not yet harmed – that is, assuming the moral actor recognises the concept of punishment. Thank god most people act according to what they feel, instead of living by ethical philosophies that could justify any atrocity.

      • Asher says:

        Doesn’t such an endorsement of unprovoked violence against the non-guilty sound pretty sociopathic in itself to you?

        By the terms of folk psychology, I suppose, but, then, I am many standard deviations removed from folk psychology. Your average person is functionally incapable of abstracting away from themselves to even conceive of the functioning of an actual sociopath so when the average person says “sociopath” all they really mean is someone they consider to have done something very wicked. I doubt most of the Roman soldier who made sport of dropping Carthaginian infants onto rocks and enjoying the spectacle of their brains being splattered were clinical sociopaths. Yet, the average person, today, would doubtlessly label that behavior sociopathic.

        <b?Common sense says that harming those proven guilty of harmful practice is more moral than harming those who have not yet harmed

        In order to have a coherent theory of ethics your theory needs to predict past behavior. One convenient method is to simply say that all of human history has been profoundly immoral, and this is a stock method used by political leftists. The problem with that is that you then have to explain what caused the rise of ethics in the past few hundred years, in strictly causal terms. I have never encountered a leftist capable of explaining that and the standard explanation is simply “because we’re more evolved”, which is just circular unless you’re talking about genetic selection- something leftists seem, uniformly, unwilling to do.

        Thank god most people act according to what they feel,

        Then you are stuck having to explain why people feel what they feel at any particular point in time and why others at different times and places felt differently. BTW, I actually know the answer to that riddle which is … civilization, something chimps are incapable of participating in and something that people with personality problems, in large numbers, tend to destroy.

        I mean, I’m pretty sure that equal political participation is something that most people *feel* is an ethical obligation, therefore, by logical extension chimps should be voting in the democracies where they reside. If you extend full ethical considerations to chimps the logical conclusion becomes incoherent and silly; the same cannot be said for any organic human groups, such as pygmies.

        The distinction between organic group, such as pygmies, and a categorization, such as the developmentally disabled, is crucial. Pygmies form their own particular moral systems for the functioning of themselves as a group, whereas the developmentally disabled do not.

        I am making the case that all ethics is local and that most human individuals have, at most, a few thousand other individuals throughout their entire lifetime that are reciprocal moral objects. The most common objection I get to this reasoning is that if people encounter, in passing, others they realize aren’t moral objects to them, specifically, that they will feel not need to avoid, say, shooting them. My response is that there is a large rock sitting in front of my parents house; I do not consider that rock a moral object, also, I have yet to shoot that rock.

  19. Ralph Hitchens says:

    Collins is “full of crap, as usual.” What a reasoned, judicious evaluation, although I look in vain for any rational examination of the basis of Collins’ claim. Judging from his record Collins would appear to be nobody’s fool. “Crap” seems a bit mean-spiritied from a couple of bloggers who have no reason to be that way.

  20. Asher says:

    When it comes to understanding morality as a universally binding rational system most people … don’t. Will they say they do? Sure. Does it have any practical applicability to their lives? Uh, no. What is going on is that a pretty small fraction of the population, a fraction that probably has an average IQ of at least 3 SD above the mean, have gotten it into their heads to posit the concept of morality as universal.

    The reality is that the average person is very suggestible and that those smart people have the power to exact severe social punishment on those who dissent. Therefore, most people will mouth assent to a rationalist universal morality without either really believing it or without comprehending what they are mouthing.

  21. Asher says:

    to a Bushman you are either another Bushman, a non-prey animal or their dinner

    Consider a society of 50 Bushmen and 50 non-Bushmen. The bushmen do no consider the nonbushmen moral objects, but the nonbushmen do consider the bushmen moral objects. What happens? The bushmen quickly eat the nonbushmen and you’re left with a reigning system whereby outsiders are not moral objects. Of course, those 50 nonbushmen might not be one homogeneous group and the solution is for those 50 who might have some significant differences in moral understanding to agree to not treat the bushmen as moral objects, in return.

    The lesson is that fully functioning human adults are dangerous creatures and it is foolish to offer moral consideration to one that does not or cannot offer it in return.

    Babies, chimps and the developmentally disabled are not that dangerous in a systemic manner, so we need a very different manner of regarding them than we do normal adult homo sapiens. I simply used “aesthetics” as a label for “that which we like/don’t like but can’t explain in rational terms”; you’re free to use whatever term you like. As Nietzsche said “call like things alike” and the functional interaction between a baby and an adult is radically different from that of two adults.

  22. Asher says:

    Consider the following syllogism:

    A) Chimps deserve ethical consideration
    B) Voting rights are an ethical consideration
    C) Therefore, chimps deserve to vote

    I mean if you accept A and B then you have to accept C. My solution is to reject A, where as most people’s solution is the far messier method of providing a hefty dose of exceptions to B. But, Occam’s Razor. Also, most exceptions I encounter to B involve circular reasoning or ad hoc arguments with no real justification.

    • But this is not even a valid syllogism. And when people decide upon whether animals deserve ethical consideration regarding issues like vivisection, it has nothing to do with voting rights. Human babies and children deserve basic ethical consideration, but it doesn’t follow that they be allowed to vote.

      One or two of the other things you’ve said have been odd. I mean you mentioned ‘the rise of ethics in the past few hundred years’ – so you believe that before the past few hundred years, people actually lacked ethics?

    • Sideways says:

      Yes, most people reject B and aren’t afraid of telling others that. Babies shouldn’t be voting.

      • Asher says:

        Either babies *should* be voting or voting isn’t a fundamental moral consideration. Is this silly? Sure, but, then, the entire project of morality as a product of the legislation by reason is equally silly.

      • Sideways says:

        How did you read my second sentence but not the first?

    • SwampOwl says:

      No Asher. You are just using “ethical consideration” differently in A and B. A simple bait and switch.

      • Asher says:

        No, I am not. I am saying that voting rights are a particular instance of ethical considerations. If you think that there are specific reasons why ethical considerations are applicable in some circumstances, but not others, then you must establish a demarcating criteria. Further, this criteria must not be fact-related or you are violating the is/ought distinction.

        Note, that if you do not hold to the notion that ethical considerations are universal principles legislated by reason then this criticism does not apply to you.

      • Asher says:

        In other words

        Ford;Car
        as
        Voting Rights:Ethical Considerations

        Premise B merely cites a particular instance of a commonly held ethical consideration, i.e. voting rights.

        FWIW, I do not consider voting rights to be some universally binding ethical consideration legislated by reason, so, I simply don’t accept either premise. However, if you have a notion that ethics are a universal set of principles governed by reason then you probably accept B; further, if you accept A and B then you must accept C.

        I mean, maybe you don’t accept that voting rights are a universally binding principle but then you’re going to have to confront the reality that hundreds of millions, worldwide disagree with you.

      • Asher says:

        Also, a reasonable response would have specified how I used a double meaning. I am still open to hearing how I performed a bait and switch, although less patient about it than if you had come out and specified it in the initial comment.

        I have little patience for people who beat about the bush or who think their assertions are so self obvious as to not require explanation.

    • SwampOwl says:

      I propose that, using your example, they deserve Fords but not Ferraris. They would need to meet additional criteria in order to be granted all types of ethical considerations. You use “ethical considerations” in A (or at least most people would think of it) as not being subject to gratuitous pain or death. In B you are referring to voting rights, but calling them both ethical considerations simply obscures the difference; that is the switch. In order for your argument to be valid, you would need to state A as “Chimps deserve all ethical considerations”.

  23. Asher says:

    so you believe that before the past few hundred years, people actually lacked ethics?

    Of course not. Ethics just happen to be whatever a particular people at some particular time and place believes to be ethical.

    Nazism was an ethical system. Certainly not my ethical system, but one, nonetheless.

  24. Asher says:

    And when people decide upon whether animals deserve ethical consideration regarding issues like vivisection, it has nothing to do with voting rights. Human babies and children deserve basic ethical consideration, but it doesn’t follow that they be allowed to vote.

    Then it’s an unprincipled exception, unless you can explicate a reason for doing so. Why aren’t voting right just another basic ethical consideration? That’s certainly not how vast swaths of the population talk on the subject.

    • SwampOwl says:

      Because there is a number of conditions you need to have in order to vote. Namely, to be able to identify the candidates for what they represent, to have an interest in the outcome of elections, among other things. It is not enough that you deserve ethical consideration.

      • Asher says:

        Then it isn’t an ethical consideration (at least of the universalist sort). One corollary to the maxim that “ought can never be derived from is” is that “ought can never be constrained by is”. This is because any particular rendering of “ought” is formed by the boundaries by which we identify it, and if those boundaries are derived from “is” then you are violating the is/ought distinction.

        Placing any limits on an ethical consideration that are derived from facts, i.e. “is”, renders it not a pure “ought”.

  25. Asher says:

    In general, a syllogism is just taking two premises and reaching a conclusion. The formal version would look like

    A) All beings deserve equal ethical consideration
    B) voting rights are an ethical consideration
    C) Therefore all beings deserve to vote equally

  26. Asher says:

    As a moral relativist I reject the first proposition, except in the most formal sense.

  27. Asher says:

    I would also point out that denying the vote to infants due to lack of capacity is the same reason that women were denied the franchise for over a century.

  28. pfqdr says:

    Dr. Cochran,

    Would you mind perhaps personally responding to me, or writing a post, elucidating how you frame your ideas about evolution in context with your religion?

    Owing to my curiosity on how the world works, I have this fatal attraction to reading about evolution, but, given that most writers on the subject are physicalists, I often have to battle with a deep, depressing nihilism over the recurrent idea that life is nothing more than the product of a replicating molecule of accidental origin.

    Feel free to delete this comment, as it’s OT.

    • SwampOwl says:

      Pfqdr,
      About the reason for your nihilism, some have called this to confuse proximal causation with ultimate causation. In simple terms, the universe will someday get cold and all atoms separate and disintegrate, yet you and the people you care about are still here and still whole. You can sit in agony all day thinking about how nothing will mater in the very end, or you can live your live because it matters now. Whether or not there is a big plan organizing all things, the fact that you are able to feel, enjoy, and influence others’ lives is reason enough to size whatever time you have. In the case that there is nothing beyond, we are nothing before birth and nothing after death. Why would you spend the time you do have paralyzed because the party will not last for ever?

  29. Jim says:

    Well we seemed to have wandered or perhaps floated into deep philosophical waters. But surely we can study parts of the evolutionary process in a scientific fashion without having to first comprehend the whole of reality.

  30. panjoomby says:

    clearly we should police all chimp behavior, & if a chimp kills or injures another chimp, the chimp should be put on trial. later we can branch out to animals that we have less in common with. it might give us something to do rather than police other countries! 🙂

  31. Anonymous says:

    But chimps ARE reciprocators in the Triversian sense-apparently they show moral outrage if an established ally doesn’t help them in a fight by physically attacking the treacherous bastard, but what does that have to do with them being (or not) “moral objects” in the sense of being entwined or entwinable (forgive my SL English, in which I must read science, but not philosophy) into an advanced system of human-style reciprocity, which has been evolved as a part of our nature to deal specifically with living as humans in human communities that are largely based on cooperation among non-relatives (and perhaps also for dealing as communities with other communities in a “metacommunity”). This is “justice”, applicable within evolved systems of reciprocation, which don’t include human/chimp relationships. However, there is more to “morality” than justice, such as the revulsion towards cruelty inflicted upon any critters one can sympathize with for their more or less resembling (or being imagined to resemble) us in their suffering ability, and genetic relatedness to apes isn’t even relevant-anybody got a dog? Both justice and sympathy are instincts, and we’re pretty much stuck with them, weather or not we elaborately philosophize about our morality. Now living does require some cruelty, and even committing suicide does, so there’s no completely escaping cruelty. Having rules against cruelty is nice and naturally satisfying, and also ultimately useful. What limits to exactly set, and exactly where is a matter of taste and even “culture”, so you can’t be exactly correct in an absolute way, and striving to be is innately fruitless. Moreover, rules are often somewhat arbitrary by technical necessity, for having to treat continua as discrete, but this is the best we can do, and few (I hope) would oppose having rules at all for the sake of philosophical consistency. Personally, I would sacrifice some chimps (even some dogs) to possibly save many humans, but I am happy with legal standards to set some limits on animal experimentation, just as I favor some standards for the treatment of farm animals, despite being a normal Greek who must eat meat twice a day, at least when employed. On the other hand, I’m not sure I’d frown upon vivisection of sociopaths, and as for the bastard whose loose car alarm kept me up all night, I wish he rots in hell (us Orthodox Christians having no purgatory to arrange the wicked in a more sophisticated manner).

  32. Jaim Jota says:

    No offense intended, but you are so yesterday. My little daughter is in “Animal Rights” and is fighting for the rights of all sentients, prioritarily the chickens. They are being massacred by the thousand every day, you know. They can ensure security and respect only if they have voting rights, which they will exercise by proxy There are ten times more chickens than people…

    • Anonymous says:

      She’ll grow out of it… At this stage though, I would commend some books by people of what can be called the Adult Left-thinkers like Joseph Heath, Andrew Potter, and their likes. Especially Heath and Potter’s “Nation of Rebels”-very easy to read, with a couple of pages specifically treating chicken farming. There is also this argument of mine, which no hippie has ever been happy to counter: what will happen to the farm animals when cloning a steak (or a chicken nugget) becomes possible and economical? Perhaps the green thing to then do will be to eat one’s gyros slain, in support of the existence of pigs?

  33. Steve Sailer says:

    I’d ban the use of chimps in entertainment. They’re only cute for six years, then they turn big and nasty and live many decades more.

  34. aandrews says:

    “Nonsense. I can probably think of 20 arguments off the top of my head.”

    Let’s hear ’em.

  35. Anonymous says:

    I’m glad that you’re not the only who hates apes.

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