Re: Extropians and animal rights

Ian Goddard (
Mon, 11 Jan 1999 12:55:17 -0500

At 08:03 AM 1/11/99 -0800, Terry Donaghe wrote:
>What does Ayn Rand say about rights as far as humans are concerned?
>Something about us being the only animal capable of rational thought
>(any arguments on that point?), and without certain rights such as the
>right to ourselves (no one own's us) and the right to keep what we
>earn, we're unable to excersize rational thought which reduces us to
>the realm of animals (those without the capacity for rational
>thought). That's a very abbreviated version, but close, I think.
>Correct me if that's wrong.

>If animals are incapable of rational thought, then do they deserve the
>right to themselves, i.e. can we own them? Should we free heards of
>cows to fend for themselves? My opinion is that animals which are
>incapable of rational thought can and should be treated in any way
>wished by those who own them.

IAN: Well, I don't believe animals are really so irrational, in fact, their thinking is good enough to have ensured their survival for millions of years, allowing the evolution of the animal called "human."

If degrees of rationality define rights possession, maybe we could beat up on some demented people, or use them in experiments... "greater good" and such. Imagine that we have an unbroken chain of primates before us, from tree monkeys to humans with all the missing links, it's like a morph from tree monkey to man with an individual for each step of the way. Which individual would you declare the right to saw off their leg against their will and why?

For those in the primate chain that area only a little "less rational" (a claim I dispute) could you only saw their leg part way off? The human the saw can't touch, the next guy it can touch, the next it scraps a little, and by the time the rights-allocation gets down to that tree-climbing dude, he can have his whole leg sawed off.?

It's a fuzzy-logic scale of primate rights allocation.

Of course a few humans might declare the right to saw all their legs off (Hitler et al), and some would declare NO right to saw any legs off (nice folks), which is inherent in the fact that rights are ultimately what any one being declares they are and what others can or can't stop, which means that in the final physical fact, "might makes rights," which is not the preferable basis for an ethical ideology.

>That said, our only "rights" are the right to self and the right to
>property. All other "rights" either flow from those two (like gun
>ownership, police protection) or are bogus, nonexistent rights (rights
>to medical care, "fair" wages, protection from "evil" monopolies, etc.).
>Animals certainly can't earn things of their own volition, so I don't
>think there's a question of animal property rights.

IAN: Animals can't earn things? If no animal earned a living, the human race would never have occurred.

>Are there any other "rights?" If I can own an animal, then I can
>treat it as I wish. If you (or government or whatever) decides that I
>can only treat my property (an animal in this case) in certain ways,
>then I don't truly OWN it. I'm just borrowing it from the government
>which is nice enough to let me use it for certain pre-approved

IAN: There is a fringe school of libertarians who adopt that SAME philosophy with respect to children, such that they argue that they could kill their kids if they wanted to, and if anyone came to save them, the parents would have the right to shoot those coming to the child's rescue (one advocate of that ideology actually threatened to shoot me as I was harshly critiquing that idea, which says something).

That line-of argument fails to see an individual being as an inherent self-owner, and seeing them as such, to save a tortured child or animal is to liberate a self-owner, not necessarily to claim to own that self-owner, as your analysis states.

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