Tuesday, July 16, 2013

One more thing the US is behind on.

I have been a science fiction fan since I was twelve and I picked up a copy of Robert Heinlein's book, "Have Space Suit, Will Travel".  These days, I waffle between sci-fi and fantasy, but sci-fi was my first love.

A recurring theme in sci-fi is the issue of non-human intelligence.  Robert Heinlein had at least one book, which I can't remember the name of, that dealt with this issue head on, using the literary tool of a trial to show how the legal system might handle the idea of a chimpanzee having enhanced intelligence equal to a human.

Enter the humble dolphin.  People have been fascinated with these beautiful creatures for centuries, and we interact with them constantly along America's coastlines.  Stories abound where they have saved lives, made friends and interact with humans in very intelligent yet somewhat alien way.

It is that alienness that keeps them from being recognized as fully sentient.  Science has shown a very high level of intelligence in them, and some even say they are one of only a couple of species other than humans who recognize themselves in a mirror - a critical test of intelligence.

Yet, we still hesitate to declare them fully sentient - is it because of the profits gained by the big aquariums which draw huge crowds and millions of dollars in profits by using captive dolphins to attract the crowds?  They ARE popular!

Well, chalk up one more way the US is behind the international community in a rather new field:  sentient rights.

Yes, you heard it right, sentient rights.  NOT human rights, but sentient rights!  Defined as the rights of sentient beings of whatever species based on their individual rights as sentient, thinking and aware beings.

We humans have an atrocious record of violating the individual rights of other species, based on our perceived place at the top of the food chain.  Actually, it is based on, in the West for sure, our religious beliefs that we were given, by god, dominion over the other animals.  Dominion is an interesting word, and given the modern umbrella group that called itself Dominionists, it has traditionally meant, in English, that one who has dominion, has control over and can rule over, those over whom he has been given dominion.  It confers god-given rights, powers of life and death, in particular.

It seems that India has passed a law banning "any person / persons, organizations, government agencies, private or public enterprises that involves import, capture of cetacean species to establish for commercial entertainment, private or public exhibition and interaction purposes whatsoever.

Costa Rica, Hungary, and Chile are the other three countries that also ban that captivity, and it is interesting to note that while only one of those is in Europe, all of them but India are or used to be heavily Catholic countries.  India, of course, isn't, and has a heavily buddhist influence, which at least makes some sense.

So much for Dominionism, at least over animals.  Now all we have to do is prevent them from establishing their "dominion" over Americans.

But, hooray for India, and a BIG high five!


Susanne Ahrens said...

Are you thinking of Mycroft Holmes or possibly Dora?

Robert Ahrens said...

No, I don't think so. It definitely wasn't Dora. The story dealt heavily with genetic modifications, things like miniature elephants, unicorns, etc. as toys for the rich, and enhanced chimps were used as servants or workers.