An Animal of no Significance? – Amakiri Welekwe

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An Animal of no Significance?

The strategic position of humans in the created order has been called many names in the secular world: human exceptionalism, human supremacism, human superiority, anthropocentrism, humanocentrism, speciesism, and so on. It should be obvious to everyone that there are powerful forces who don’t want humans to be in this unique position. These forces are determined to knock humans off the pedestal of exceptionalism in order to erase the ultimate vestige of God from humanity. They have totally dedicated themselves for various reasons to convincing us that we really aren’t all that significant. It is therefore not surprising the ferocious efforts being made to blur the lines between humans and animals, on the one hand, and between humans and machines on the other hand with the intent of reducing us to nothing but physics, chemistry and algorithms.

Yuval Harari, who writes from a purely naturalistic standpoint, wastes no time in tearing down human exceptionalism by portraying humans as having no greater importance than animals such as apes, pigs, and chickens. According to Harari, “Homo sapiens long preferred to view itself as set apart from animals, an orphan bereft of family, lacking siblings or cousins, and most importantly, without parents. But that’s just not the
case … Our lack of brothers and sisters makes it easier to imagine that we are the epitome of creation, and that a chasm separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom.”

Such efforts are driven in part by the desire to enthrone Darwinism and its notion that humans are just another creature along the animal chain that is not qualitatively any different from other animals. As noted by Wesley J. Smith, a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism, the unrelenting assault against human exceptionalism of which many remain unaware is being mounted on many fronts. One of such is the idea of extending legal personhood (the status of being a person) to animals. For years, animal rights advocates have sponsored so-called “animal-welfare” laws to pave the way for the legal consideration of animals as persons, a position solely enjoyed by humans. These laws would inevitably give your cow or your chicken the right to bring a lawsuit against you or anyone who tramples on their rights, of course not by themselves directly, but via human proxies.

Let me clarify that I am not justifying any form of animal abuse or cruelty. Although animals are given to serve humankind, that does not grant us permission to inflict harm or to make them extinct. It’s our obligation as humans to treat animals humanely. That’s in fact an intrinsic part of human exceptionalism. This is an important point to grasp in today’s world where more value seems to be placed on the protection of animals than on upholding the sanctity of human life. However, to the surprise of many, the concept of animal personhood has garnered endorsement
from several renowned legal experts affiliated with Ivy League institutions.

Some even claim that granting legal personhood to animals is not even enough; they are now actively calling for personhood and legal rights for individual plants and Mother Nature. As bizarre as these ideas may seem to some people, it has transitioned from being solely within the confines of academic institutions to being implemented in public policy in Europe and other parts of the world.

And now, a new front appears to have been opened in an effort to blur the lines between man and machines. This new front sees human beings as just biochemical algorithms and data processing systems just like machines (computer algorithms), and questions the continued assignment of special value to human life. It sees members of the species Homo sapiens as completely losing their economic value because of the rise of intelligent machines. According to the proponents of these ideologies, it is just a matter of time before computer algorithms outperform biochemical algorithms in terms of intelligence. If that happens, would the machines rule over humans and treat them as a lower class of beings?

But are humans just biochemical algorithms lacking in free will? David Hodgson, an Australian legal expert, counters this claim by stating that it is the combination of our consciousness and a type of reasoning that is not accessible to non-conscious AI, that gives us libertarian free will. Humans can operate algorithmically, but this is not the only way that humans operate. According to Hodgson, there are two types of reasoning that humans can perform: algorithmic reasoning and plausible reasoning. Hodgson further noted that our ability to engage in plausible reasoning is a vital component of human rationality, allowing us to evaluate and determine what actions or beliefs to adopt. This according to Hodgson is a unique capability of human consciousness that non-conscious intelligent machines lack, and it plays an essential role in our ability to make moral judgments. Plausible reasoning occurs when individuals are faced with the challenge of weighing incommensurable options about “what to believe” or “what to do.” For instance, when you are torn between honoring a request to help a person in need (an act of
love) and accepting an invitation to dine with someone (not your spouse) you have a romantic interest in (pursuit of lust), both of which require your physical presence at the same time.

We have the capacity to make decisions that are not wholly determined by the way we are or the way the laws of nature work. We are not merely biochemical algorithms and algorithmic choosers. We are not just a brain. Yet, there are many who believe that physical matter is all that exists; and that everything can be explained in terms of physics, chemistry and biology. Those who hold this view believe that we’re no more than robots, and that free will is just a fable.

Accepting an algorithmic account of humanity is the sort of reductionist position that typically leads to the conclusion that humankind is no different from machines and therefore should not be accorded any special position. Much is at stake. It’s apparent that there are some who are bent on “liberating” society’s general embrace of human exceptionalism. This poses a great risk to the survival of humankind, and would inevitably set the stage for totalitarianism. A complete opposite of what God envisioned for humanity.

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