Animal Rights(was Re: Need Safeguards for Gene-Tinkered Foods)

Jim Wellehan James.F.X.Wellehan at
Thu Jul 8 13:02:45 EST 1993

In article <21fhid$si9 at>
toby at (Toby Bradshaw) writes:
> If you _really_ want to be picky, you wouldn't eat any fruit that
> another organism needs to survive, nor would you plant fruit
> trees where they displace native vegetation.

It would seem necessary to eat something in order to provide for
organisms dependant on it.  If I recall correctly, there are more
prokaryotic cells inside a human than human cells.
On a side note, Dracunculus medinensis, the Guinea worm (parasitic
nematode), is predicted by the WHO to be extinct within a few years. 
Should we maintain live specimens?

>  To those who cannot bring
> themselves to kill an "innocent" animal to save a human life, I
> can understand.  However, such persons should have the courage to
> deny themselves (easy) and their children (very, very difficult)
> access to any medical advances that resulted from animal 
> experimentation.

Wouldn't the Child Welfare people come down pretty hard on this?  I
remember some sort of fuss with Christian Scientists over a similar
problem, but don't remember the outcome.

>>This would not be a demonstation of lack of merit of a human to live. 
>>Just because a human (or any organism) dies does not necessarily mean
>>it should.

> "Deserve" and "should" revolve around the concept that the world
> is fair.

No, just that there is such a thing as "fair" or "just".  The world
doesn't necessarily have to be fair for the concept to exist.

> >If you believe that all people deserve a minimum standard of living
> >that could be provided by killing your dogs and diverting those
> >resources to human needs. ;-)
> In principle, I probably do believe it.  In practice, I behave
> differently.  I conclude that I am a selfish hypocrite, not an
> entirely satisfactory state of affairs but one that leaves me
> in the company of many others.

I'd think that you don't really believe it.  Do you really value a
human you've never met or heard of more than your dog?

> Who among us could not do humanity more good
> by donating the time and energy we spend throwing ideas around
> in this forum to teaching a disadvantaged child to read or working
> in a garden to feed a homeless person?

What is best for humanity is debatable.  Is it better to feed a
homeless person or to educate people on birth control?  Who knows,
maybe we'll come up with the answers to all life's problems in this
forum. ;-)

> >I'd like to bring up lemmings, who sacrifice themselves to make more
> >room in an ecosystem.
> If you can document that lemmings use such reasoning, I'm all ears.

I didn't say they used reasoning.  I just think it's an interesting
behavior.  They breed to overpopulation, and then there is mass
suicide.  (This seems like a great niche for a pathogen.  It would save
the lemmings some trouble.)  Is there a potential human parallel?

> Group selection is not the easiest topic to defend, but I'd be
> happy to see somebody give it a try.  Group selection where an
> entire species works "for the good of the ecosystem" is well nigh
> impossible, I'd wager. 
> Imagine for a moment that an allele arises that causes one to favor 
> the welfare of the group over the welfare of the individual bearing
> the allele.  Now describe how this allele might spread in the
> population, that is, how is the Darwinian fitness of such an
> individual is increased?

Excessive virulence in parasites is usually selected against.  It's not
usually advantageous for parasites to kill their host.  That's not to
say it isn't common, though.


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