Is human life worth more than the lives of other species? Watch

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we all belong to mother earth, mother earth doesn't belong to us
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(Original post by TheProctor)
Objectively speaking, if the purpose (innate drive) of biological life is to reproduce and spread genes, then humans must be the most crucial component of life to work towards such objective, no? Considering our technological advancements and future potential, intelligence and self-awareness, we have the environment at our fingertips which we can manipulate to create rockets and colonize other planets.

Even if some humans are evil and create chaos for biological life (a mass murdurer, say) they still carry with them the potential of self-actualization and contribution to his or her species, whereas 10, 100 or 1000 elephants do not. It just so happened that a particular set of events occurred to drive this person into such as delusional and flawed mindset (be it partially genetic, due to upbringing or bad life experience).

Though, of course, this does not mean eradication of species is okay, however the sacrifice of animal life for the betterment of the planet's apex species should not be argued with (in the case of animal testing for example). It is an investment into the progression of biological life as a whole. Consider what would happen if humans were to die out to a epidemic of some kind which could have been prevented through mass animal testing to find a cure. Even if life were to continue up until the expansion of the sun into a Red Giant, it would be unlikely that something as complex as humans would arise again.

Again I am not saying killing animals for any reason just because we're humans is okay, what I am saying is that the argument against animal testing is wrong in my opinion.

Yes we are animals just like elephants or turtles, intelligent apes even, but we are apes with rockets, cities and satellites who are striving to spread the biological seed into the universe.

Just wanted to know other people's opinion on this topic.
"Objectively speaking, if the purpose (innate drive) of biological life is to reproduce and spread genes, then humans must be the most crucial component of life to work towards such objective, no?" - Most probably not, chances are the more we progress through science and technology the less need we will have to procreate - as society goes forward we see a general trend for us humans to stray away from our instintucal desires to procreate, kill, rape.etc.

The most probable outcome is that we will rely much more on AI to do much of the work that humans do currently or will do in the future so will not need that many humans to be alive. If we look to the most developed countries in the world they are usually the counries with the lowest birth rates. I seriously doubt that we will ever even come close to beating other species like, ants and single celled organisms like bacteria in our ability to procreate. Even if we went to another planet to procreate we would still need bacteria which would still end up over taking us in terms of number and even spread, so in this case we would simply be acting as a vessle for the transport of the ture apex species that is the single celled variety.

"Even if some humans are evil and create chaos for biological life (a mass murdurer, say)" - well see this is a massive issue for us humans though. If we were to take the average human, and we were to give it a value of 1 and then say that the average value of an animal is that of 0.5, and the life of plant life is 0.1, since the averge human does absolutely nothing of any postive worth during their life that's not finite - i.e will never cure cancer, provide world peace, it's pretty much means that throughout the humans life it'll do an overwhealming amount of damage to the environment (through eating meat, driving cars, living in a city .etc) that it'll be far better to kill the human in this case or never have it be born. I mean we are literally talking about 100,000 or even 1,000,000 more lives lost of animals and plants, for the sake of one human being alive. Through this line of thinking one could easily argue for a massacre of himans at a very large scale say 95%-99% humans for the sake of doing the right thing since humans will do much much more bad than good being alive.

"However the sacrifice of animal life for the betterment of the planet's apex species should not be argued with (in the case of animal testing for example). It is an investment into the progression of biological life as a whole." - like i said this would only be true for the most intellegent human populations (if u value intellegence and so becomes a justification for existance) not humans as a whole species, since they are the only ones who have the potential to do a net postive thing by simply being alive. It's very possible that there are animals much more intellegent and has more intellectual potential than humans, take for example a mentally disabled individual there is no way he has the potential to have the intellectual capabilities of an average human, if we were to compare him to the the average ape, the ape would be more intellegent. Many mentally diabled people can't speak, or communicate, or even feed them selves, from this perspetive almost every animals on the planet has more of a justification to be alive than this mentally disabled individual.

"Even if life were to continue up until the expansion of the sun into a Red Giant, it would be unlikely that something as complex as humans would arise again." - humans have only existsed for around 200,000 years, there's around 5 billion years till the death sequence of the sun starts, which is a much greater time than life has been on earth, or even the creation of earth itself (4.54 billion years), so i highly doubt that's the case.
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Zamestaneh
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Cbb to read the other posts in the thread, so sorry if I repeat anything already mentioned.

If one is speaking from an irreligious perspective, then there is no intrinsic value to anything. Any model for value assignment is arbitrary, subjective and epistemologically equal to any other model - to say a human's value is derived from its superior intelligence relative to other species is as equally valid as saying that a human's value is derive from how much it contributes to the survival of its fellow human, or perhaps even a combination of the two.
Humans subsequently have as much value as rocks, trees, a molecule of Hydrogen Fluoride, urine etc.

Pick a model of value assignment if you wish, but one can hardly force someone to accept their model unless they reinforce it with a reward/punishment system. From an irreligious perspective, there is no innate difference between killing a human and plucking a blade of grass.
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lively tree
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According to us as humans, human lives are more important than any other species' lives. Without this way of thinking, our species would've died out long ago.
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I think value is a subjective concept. We assign value to different things because of the way we feel about it, and how important it is to us. Something might have a different value for me than it does for you.

So regarding the question of whether human lives are more valuable than animal lives - for most of us, the answer would be "yes". This is because we benefit much more from the lives of other humans than from the lives of other animals. Humans provide us with social company as well as economic goods and services. Animals do as well, but to a far lesser extent. If all the tigers in the world disappeared today it probably wouldn't make much of a difference to me, whereas if all the humans in the world (apart from me) disappeared, then it probably would.

On the other hand if I were a tiger living in the wild, I might think that the lives of other tigers are more valuable to me than the lives of humans.
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Kinyonga
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(Original post by TheProctor)
Though, of course, this does not mean eradication of species is okay, however the sacrifice of animal life for the betterment of the planet's apex species should not be argued with (in the case of animal testing for example). It is an investment into the progression of biological life as a whole. Consider what would happen if humans were to die out to a epidemic of some kind which could have been prevented through mass animal testing to find a cure. Even if life were to continue up until the expansion of the sun into a Red Giant, it would be unlikely that something as complex as humans would arise again.
It may indeed be "an investment into the progression of biological life" to make sure the human species comes out on top and continues reproducing and evolving, but I don't see that that's any reason to invest. Why does it matter whether biological life evolves or not? Why would it matter if humans died out and nothing as complex as them arose again?

In addition I fail to see how it's possible to argue that the progression of life as a whole should be the measure of all things, and not end up with a completely dreadful world where there's a selective breeding programme, the weak are killed off, and only a close alliance of the fittest survive.
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Jingo7
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(Original post by Kinyonga)
It may indeed be "an investment into the progression of biological life" to make sure the human species comes out on top and continues reproducing and evolving, but I don't see that that's any reason to invest. Why does it matter whether biological life evolves or not? Why would it matter if humans died out and nothing as complex as them arose again?

In addition I fail to see how it's possible to argue that the progression of life as a whole should be the measure of all things, and not end up with a completely dreadful world where there's a selective breeding programme, the weak are killed off, and only a close alliance of the fittest survive.
There is no such nonsense as the 'investment into the progression of biological life'. What rubbish. We kill countless animals because we ****ing want to and we don't even need to justify it, we just ****ing do it, for shampoo or life-saving medicines. Doesn't matter, animal life is worth only as much as we deem it to be worth, which is exactly as much as we can benefit, directly or indirectly, from its being there.
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Kinyonga
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(Original post by Jingo7)
There is no such nonsense as the 'investment into the progression of biological life'. What rubbish. We kill countless animals because we ****ing want to and we don't even need to justify it, we just ****ing do it, for shampoo or life-saving medicines. Doesn't matter, animal life is worth only as much as we deem it to be worth, which is exactly as much as we can benefit, directly or indirectly, from its being there.
If something is only worth anything because you benefit from it, I take it people on the other side of the planet going about their lives, in a manner which in no way benefits you, are worthless, then.
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Jingo7
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(Original post by Kinyonga)
If something is only worth anything because you benefit from it, I take it people on the other side of the planet going about their lives, in a manner which in no way benefits you, are worthless, then.


Oh lord, here we go again.



I said specifically. Animal life is worth what we deem it to be worth. That means that if we decide that fluffy bunnies have souls and need to be worshipped, that's what they would be worth. I'm not making some sophisticated point. I'm saying only that the worth of something is judged, accorded, socially, collectively. We generally, correctly, consider animal life to be far inferior to our own. Unfortunately we do not understand just HOW inferior it is, since we think it's just a matter of 'orders of magnitude' of 'reduced intelligence' or something like that.



My post earlier in the thread:


(Original post by Jingo7)
Agree with OP more or less, but the question is wrong.

It's not that human life is 'worth' any more or less than anything else in this universe, because that would assume that there is an objective measure of worth which is not wrought by human beings ourselves (i.e. God's measure).

Yes our measure of worth is subjective. Of course it's subjective, but subjective as opposed to what? God's objective truth? Some kind of animal intelligence? Nonsense.

I know for you this is going to sound very strange, even brutal, but here it is: outside of the window of perspective that we human beings have on the universe, the perspective of our society, there is nothing. Nothing, no perspective, no position from which to observe anything, nothing. Nature is random, chaos, accident. Nature is the Real (in a Lacanian sense (look up Lacan)), it has no meaning unto-itself, it isn't really even a 'thing', it is simply the name we attribute to non-human processes. It (plants, animals etc.) cannot 'view' themselves or anything else, they have no consciousness and thus no perspective.

Outside of the human social order there is nothing, we give meaning to things in the universe and our own social order and that's the final and only word on the matter.

Difficulties arise because the meaning we give to our own society, to processes within it, are controversial. That is, questions of ideology, religion, science. We attribute society's reproduction to something 'outside' of human power, to nature, to God or whatever else, when the fact is that human society is reproduced solely by the ideas people have about that society and their position within it, ideas which are in turn produced by that society itself, in it's attempt to reproduce the conditions of it's existence.
Does this mean I don't care about people living on the other side of the world? What a stupid thing to say in the first place, since we live in a massively complex inter-connected economy where the labour, politics etc. of people on the far side of the world has effect on our lives and vice-verse.
Secondly, you're not getting it, human life is a whole step beyond, an entire order-of-being beyond mere biological life. It is not a matter of 'grades of intelligence', it is that it is fundamentally impossible for an animal, plant or any object, to have a sense of being, of concept, of subjectivity, of perspective, in the first place.
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Kinyonga
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(Original post by Jingo7)
We generally, correctly, consider animal life to be far inferior to our own. Unfortunately we do not understand just HOW inferior it is, since we think it's just a matter of 'orders of magnitude' of 'reduced intelligence' or something like that.
Human beings may perhaps have a "superior" "intelligence", awareness, etc, to that of an animal, but all life is of the same value.
What do you mean by your second sentence?

(Original post by Jingo7)
Does this mean I don't care about people living on the other side of the world? What a stupid thing to say in the first place, since we live in a massively complex inter-connected economy where the labour, politics etc. of people on the far side of the world has effect on our lives and vice-verse.
I am well aware that our world is an extremely intricate and inter-connected one. I assumed you would not be stupid enough to think I was so stupid as to think otherwise. I was merely taking the, perhaps unlikely, theoretical example of someone who was in no way affecting your life; e.g. a self-sufficient hermit.

(Original post by Jingo7)
Secondly, you're not getting it, human life is a whole step beyond, an entire order-of-being beyond mere biological life. It is not a matter of 'grades of intelligence', it is that it is fundamentally impossible for an animal, plant or any object, to have a sense of being, of concept, of subjectivity, of perspective, in the first place.
I fail to see how human life is "a whole step beyond [...] mere biological life", perhaps you would care to elucidate me on how you came to this conclusion. Nor do I see where the "fundamentally" in your second sentence comes from.
Leaving aside plants and objects for the time being, what do you mean animals have no sense of being? Do you subscribe to Descartes's theory that they are mere automata? They exist, they are alive, they interact with another. They have a sense of subjectivity and perspective (at least in the sense they recognise that other beings have different needs/desires/wants from them), and many have concepts. Science is not on your side in this matter.
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Jingo7
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(Original post by Kinyonga)
Human beings may perhaps have a "superior" "intelligence", awareness, etc, to that of an animal, but all life is of the same value.

What do you mean by your second sentence?
Value as according to what? Value as according to God? If not God, then what? Do we place equal value on the life of a child to that of a lizard, a cockroach, an elephant? No we don't, because we, very practically, value children and human beings generally, more than animal life. If value is an attribute that doesn't come from society, it can only come from God. Since I'm sure you think you don't believe in God, I'd be interested to know where this 'equal value' comes from.

(Original post by Kinyonga)

I fail to see how human life is "a whole step beyond [...] mere biological life", perhaps you would care to elucidate me on how you came to this conclusion. Nor do I see where the "fundamentally" in your second sentence comes from.

Leaving aside plants and objects for the time being, what do you mean animals have no sense of being? Do you subscribe to Descartes's theory that they are mere automata? They exist, they are alive, they interact with another. They have a sense of subjectivity and perspective (at least in the sense they recognise that other beings have different needs/desires/wants from them), and many have concepts. Science is not on your side in this matter.
Let me try to explain in more detail.

I'm well aware that science is not on my side in this matter, and you are right to point it out. I am of the belief, I know it sounds crazy, that although the study of natural science proceeds with all earnestness, it is unable, for ideological reasons, to understand the key difference between human beings and animals. It's because this difference doesn't lie within the stuff, the organs, cells, atoms, of living creatures. We know that little to nothing separates us biologically from the higher mammals. The difference is a philosophical one.

What do I mean by this? I mean that the difference lies outside of the 'matter' of life, and concerns the existence of the social order. No other animal has this social order. They have nothing, no language, no society, nothing. You mentioned Descartes. Yes, animals are biological machines behaving according to patterns selected for by millions of years of evolution, and there is not one scrap of evidence to the contrary, regardless of how much, how dearly the various ecologists etc. wish to see it. All they are doing is projecting purely human, social feeling/phenomena, on the animals of their study. That's all. If you want to say that a pig can accomplish some basic tasks for a food reward, that's fine, but that doesn't mean that pigs are doing anything other than Pavlov's Dog. That is, mechanical learning based on repetition which eventually hard-wires the animal slightly differently.

I cringe at myself, I'm no biologist, I try my best.
Listen. Descartes' distinction was true, but it was based upon a religious conception of the soul, a soul which it would have been blasphemous to ascribe to animals. Animals having souls? How then could it be said that man, God's chosen creature, could be any different from the beasts? You get the point. It would be the path of philosophy to expand upon this point, through Kant, the conclusion of which is (arguably) that nature is a meaningless vacuum. Kant tried to conceptualize the 'thing-in-itself', that is, a nature/object existing outside human conception of nature/object, but he reached a rather unsatisfying impasse.

Marx took it as a given that human beings and animals were of a different order of being. For Marx it was those productive relations which were exclusive to human beings, which characterised this difference.

Marx: "The first premise of all human history is, of course, the existence of living human individuals. Thus the first fact to be established is the physical organisation of these individuals and their consequent relation to the rest of nature....Men can be distinguished from animals by consciousness, by religion or anything else you like. They themselves begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they begin to produce their means of subsistence, a step which is conditioned by their physical organisation. By producing their means of subsistence men are indirectly producing their actual material life."

Let me emphasise. The difference is when men begin to 'produce their means of subsistence'. That is, when they actively reproduce their condition, and must relate themselves to this condition as the means of doing so. No longer are they animals, reproducing their conditions biologically, mechanically. Men must think, speak and socially organise the means by which their subsistence, their lives, will be sustained. They cannot fall back on any biological crutch, because as a consequence of becoming human, this biological determinism disappears. It is replaced with the social order, which must actively reproduce all those functions which were previously regulated by biology. Child-rearing, food gathering, home building etc. All these functions must be regulated socially, in contrast to all the rest of animal-kind.

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Kinyonga
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(Original post by Jingo7)
Value as according to what? Value as according to God? If not God, then what? Do we place equal value on the life of a child to that of a lizard, a cockroach, an elephant? No we don't, because we, very practically, value children and human beings generally, more than animal life. If value is an attribute that doesn't come from society, it can only come from God. Since I'm sure you think you don't believe in God, I'd be interested to know where this 'equal value' comes from.
Perhaps a disagreement more around semantics than ideology. I do think we have more of a "right" to take an animal's life over a human's - but not because their life is of less "value", not because they have less of a right to exist, but rather because they have less to lose by ceasing to exist. They are, perhaps, less aware, and less attached, I think, to our current reality. (Do bear in mind that the degree of awareness etc varies according to the species.)

And I wouldn't take my supposed atheism as a given either way, I will address this matter from an atheistic viewpoint.

(Original post by Jingo7)
I'm well aware that science is not on my side in this matter, and you are right to point it out. I am of the belief, I know it sounds crazy, that although the study of natural science proceeds with all earnestness, it is unable, for ideological reasons, to understand the key difference between human beings and animals. It's because this difference doesn't lie within the stuff, the organs, cells, atoms, of living creatures. We know that little to nothing separates us biologically from the higher mammals. The difference is a philosophical one.

What do I mean by this? I mean that the difference lies outside of the 'matter' of life, and concerns the existence of the social order. No other animal has this social order. They have nothing, no language, no society, nothing. You mentioned Descartes. Yes, animals are biological machines behaving according to patterns selected for by millions of years of evolution, and there is not one scrap of evidence to the contrary, regardless of how much, how dearly the various ecologists etc. wish to see it. All they are doing is projecting purely human, social feeling/phenomena, on the animals of their study. That's all. If you want to say that a pig can accomplish some basic tasks for a food reward, that's fine, but that doesn't mean that pigs are doing anything other than Pavlov's Dog. That is, mechanical learning based on repetition which eventually hard-wires the animal slightly differently.
Even if animals did not have society or language, I do not see that that means they are so much more worthless than human beings. There are humans that live outside of society, humans that cannot speak; that does not make those specific individuals of less worth than others.
But, to return to semantics, all depends on what you mean by "language" and "society". Animals do not write books or create such institutions as the NHS, granted. They do, however, communicate with each other. To take an oft-used example, meerkat sentinels, with different-sounding cries, inform their group whether a predator is air-borne or terrestrial, and how urgent the situation is. And primates have not only been taught sign-language, but they have been able to innovate and create new combinations of words with it - hardly a simple case of Pavlov's dog. [Besides which, teaching and repetition cannot hard-wire the animal differently - assuming by "hard-wiring" you mean the way the animal is biologically determined to act - as the behaviour would then be passed on to its descendants - which it's not.]
Anyway, an example is Koko the gorilla not knowing the word for "ring", but knowing "finger" and "bracelet" and combining the two to give a name to the object. She was also able to sign moods like "sad" or "happy" when she felt that way or saw someone who did - also an indicator (if one is seriously needed) that animals do have feelings. I'd hope that was evident, however, with the simple observation of the distress of a mother cat who has lost her kittens, or a bored bird in a cage.
As for society, certainly not all animals are social, but of those which are, perhaps one could describe their system as more of a tribe than a society. Lions in a pride, of course, hunt strategically together and help each other out with caring for and feeding the young. Ants and bees have a complicated hierarchy...

(Original post by Jingo7)
Let me emphasise. The difference is when men begin to 'produce their means of subsistence'. That is, when they actively reproduce their condition, and must relate themselves to this condition as the means of doing so. No longer are they animals, reproducing their conditions biologically, mechanically. Men must think, speak and socially organise the means by which their subsistence, their lives, will be sustained. They cannot fall back on any biological crutch, because as a consequence of becoming human, this biological determinism disappears. It is replaced with the social order, which must actively reproduce all those functions which were previously regulated by biology. Child-rearing, food gathering, home building etc. All these functions must be regulated socially, in contrast to all the rest of animal-kind.
Plus, child-rearing, food-gather and home-building are all regulated socially among many species of animal; the three I mentioned above, for example. A pair of birds, also, will build a nest together, look after the chicks together, and gather food together.
And when did humans start to "produce their means of subsistence"? Did they all evolve this ability at the same time, across the globe? I think trying to draw a dividing line between animals and humans is like trying to say at exactly what point some grains of sand become a pile of sand.

Apologies if I've missed addressing part of your argument (haven't got much time right now), don't hesitate to point it out.
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QE2
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(Original post by Zamestaneh)
From an irreligious perspective, there is no innate difference between killing a human and plucking a blade of grass.
That may be how you think you would feel without religion, but there are hundreds of millions of irreligious people who understand the difference. This is because we have an evolved, innate empathy and display an altruism that rewards the whole as much as it rewards the individual.

However, this is different from the argument that life itself has any fundamental, ultimate purpose or value. It doesn't. If the entire human race disappeared this evening, the universe would not care. It would continue on, exactly as it was doing this morning. We do not register. We are completely irrelevant. And it is because of this that our subjective, personally assigned values and purposes are so meaningful to us and each other.

You don't think that your life has any meaning compared to the eternal afterlife that you believe awaits you. Your life is only given meaning by your death.
I think my life has meaning because of how it affects me and others while we are alive. I worship the cult of life, if you like, rather than the cult of death.
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Plantagenet Crown
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From the universe’s perspective, no. From most people’s perspective, yes.
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Kinyonga
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(Original post by Plantagenet Crown)
From the universe’s perspective, no. From most people’s perspective, yes.
Exactly. The universe can't find anything intrinsic because the universe does not have a perspective. Most humans, I think, will indeed find life of intrinsic value, irrespective of whether they are religious or not.
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Zamestaneh
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(Original post by QE2)
That may be how you think you would feel without religion, but there are hundreds of millions of irreligious people who understand the difference. This is because we have an evolved, innate empathy and display an altruism that rewards the whole as much as it rewards the individual.

However, this is different from the argument that life itself has any fundamental, ultimate purpose or value. It doesn't. If the entire human race disappeared this evening, the universe would not care. It would continue on, exactly as it was doing this morning. We do not register. We are completely irrelevant. And it is because of this that our subjective, personally assigned values and purposes are so meaningful to us and each other.

You don't think that your life has any meaning compared to the eternal afterlife that you believe awaits you. Your life is only given meaning by your death.
I think my life has meaning because of how it affects me and others while we are alive. I worship the cult of life, if you like, rather than the cult of death.
Can you substantiate the claim that human beings have 'evolved' a disposition to altruism, or is this an assumption or inference? I have not looked into the concept of biological evolution in conjunction with psychology/behaviour/anthropology, so this is a genuine question which you may know more about than myself.

Anyways, there is still no intrinsic reason to act altruisticly or empathetically with others even if one has the innate ability or disposition to do so; humans also have the innate ability or disposition to act selfishly. It is not a situation with defined absolutes - in some situations, humans are selfish at the expense of others as it benefits themselves, and in other situations they are empathetic and/or selfless for no reciprocal reason. The balance between altruism and being selfish is thus completely subjective and arbitrary, as you and I would agree, even if such traits do not maximise the survivability of that individual or community.
In short, the only way you can argue a difference between the blade of grass and the human is through adopting a subjective reality which elevates the value of human life for an arbitrary reason. That human may have no survival value to you (or may actually be a burden which instead decreases it), yet the only reason that person may be kept alive is because they are a human being.

Okay, so subjective values and meanings are important to people... but the over-arching point is that since each subjective view has the same weighting as each other, one could still have a rather selfish outlook on life, and they could plunder, rape and kill, and nothing would be intrinsically wrong with that - and as you said, humanity could die out and it wouldn't matter to the universe, so why should the death or suffering of less than the whole of humanity matter to the universe? Obviously it doesn't, so I guess to all atheists out there: do as you wish - you are ultimately accountable to only yourself up to your point of death.
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Kiritsugu
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(Original post by TheProctor)
Objectively speaking, if the purpose (innate drive) of biological life is to reproduce and spread genes, then humans must be the most crucial component of life to work towards such objective, no? Considering our technological advancements and future potential, intelligence and self-awareness, we have the environment at our fingertips which we can manipulate to create rockets and colonize other planets.

Even if some humans are evil and create chaos for biological life (a mass murdurer, say) they still carry with them the potential of self-actualization and contribution to his or her species, whereas 10, 100 or 1000 elephants do not. It just so happened that a particular set of events occurred to drive this person into such as delusional and flawed mindset (be it partially genetic, due to upbringing or bad life experience).

Though, of course, this does not mean eradication of species is okay, however the sacrifice of animal life for the betterment of the planet's apex species should not be argued with (in the case of animal testing for example). It is an investment into the progression of biological life as a whole. Consider what would happen if humans were to die out to a epidemic of some kind which could have been prevented through mass animal testing to find a cure. Even if life were to continue up until the expansion of the sun into a Red Giant, it would be unlikely that something as complex as humans would arise again.

Again I am not saying killing animals for any reason just because we're humans is okay, what I am saying is that the argument against animal testing is wrong in my opinion.

Yes we are animals just like elephants or turtles, intelligent apes even, but we are apes with rockets, cities and satellites who are striving to spread the biological seed into the universe.

Just wanted to know other people's opinion on this topic.
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QE2
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#58
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#58
(Original post by Zamestaneh)
Can you substantiate the claim that human beings have 'evolved' a disposition to altruism, or is this an assumption or inference? I have not looked into the concept of biological evolution in conjunction with psychology/behaviour/anthropology, so this is a genuine question which you may know more about than myself.
Other species display empathy and altruism. The closer they are to humans (evolutionarily speaking), the more developed it appears.
Of course, you could claim that it is only evolved behaviour in those other species and it is divinely bestowed in humans, but I'm sure that even you would have trouble justifying that to yourself.

Anyways, there is still no intrinsic reason to act altruisticly or empathetically with others even if one has the innate ability or disposition to do so; humans also have the innate ability or disposition to act selfishly. It is not a situation with defined absolutes
Indeed. It is a combination of both. Society can override either, to varying degrees. For example, the Scandinavian secular socialist model overrides the greed and self interest, while the Islamic model overrides empathy and altruism.

In short, the only way you can argue a difference between the blade of grass and the human is through adopting a subjective reality which elevates the value of human life for an arbitrary reason.
Wrong. A human can objectively feel pain and be aware of the pain of others, while a blade of grass cannot, so your example is fundamentally flawed.
Now, if you had used a human being and a chimpanzee or dolphin, I would agree with you.

Okay, so subjective values and meanings are important to people... but the over-arching point is that since each subjective view has the same weighting as each other, one could still have a rather selfish outlook on life, and they could plunder, rape and kill,
As many people do, including devout religionists. Muhammad and his companions are good examples.

and nothing would be intrinsically wrong with that
You actually consider their behaviour to be morally admirable!

- and as you said, humanity could die out and it wouldn't matter to the universe, so why should the death or suffering of less than the whole of humanity matter to the universe?
It would't.

so I guess to all atheists out there: do as you wish
Indeed. And it appears that they generally wish to behave with responsible, altruistic and empathetic self-interest.

you are ultimately accountable to only yourself up to your point of death.
No. We are ultimately accountable to no one.
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Kinyonga
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#59
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#59
(Original post by Zamestaneh)
Can you substantiate the claim that human beings have 'evolved' a disposition to altruism, or is this an assumption or inference? I have not looked into the concept of biological evolution in conjunction with psychology/behaviour/anthropology, so this is a genuine question which you may know more about than myself.
As QE2 said, it would appear that the more "advanced" an animal is, the more it displays altruism, a behaviour that evolved for (or partly for, if religious) purposes of survival.

(Original post by Zamestaneh)
In short, the only way you can argue a difference between the blade of grass and the human is through adopting a subjective reality which elevates the value of human life for an arbitrary reason.
(Original post by QE2)
Wrong. A human can objectively feel pain and be aware of the pain of others, while a blade of grass cannot, so your example is fundamentally flawed.
Whether humans feel pain or not is still an abritrary reason for killing a plant (taking that instead of a blade of grass, because plucking one blade of grass probably will not kill the plant). Why, from an objective point of view, does it matter whether a human feels pain or not? Of course from a moral point of view you could say it was worse to kill the human than the plant, but that does not make it intrinsically wrong.
I don't think (correct me if I've erred, this whole idea of intrinsicness is making my brain fuzz, especially after a long day) an atheist can say any natural object has an intrinsic value, as that essence would be ascribed by the Creator.

(Original post by Zamestaneh)
Okay, so subjective values and meanings are important to people... but the over-arching point is that since each subjective view has the same weighting as each other, one could still have a rather selfish outlook on life, and they could plunder, rape and kill, and nothing would be intrinsically wrong with that -
Agreed. Either morality is objective or it's subjective. Objective then measurable against the ultimate good and bad, subjective and then each can decide what's right. (Do note context may or may not have a place in both of these options.)

(Original post by QE2)
You actually consider their behaviour to be morally admirable!
I would be fascinated to know where you saw Zamestaneh say that. There being nothing "intrinsically wrong" with murder and so forth would appear to be correct from an atheist's view point as there is no intrinsic, fundamental right or wrong to measure it against.

(Original post by QE2)
Indeed. It is a combination of both. Society can override either, to varying degrees. For example, the Scandinavian secular socialist model overrides the greed and self interest, while the Islamic model overrides empathy and altruism.
Please oh please can we not have this debate. Let's stick to the question, yes?
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Jingo7
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#60
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(Original post by Kinyonga)
Perhaps a disagreement more around semantics than ideology. I do think we have more of a "right" to take an animal's life over a human's - but not because their life is of less "value", not because they have less of a right to exist, but rather because they have less to lose by ceasing to exist. They are, perhaps, less aware, and less attached, I think, to our current reality. (Do bear in mind that the degree of awareness etc varies according to the species.)

And I wouldn't take my supposed atheism as a given either way, I will address this matter from an atheistic viewpoint.
No, they are not aware or attached to our current reality at all. What does an animal have 'to lose' by ceasing to exist? When a human being dies, an entire subjectivity dies with them. When an animal dies, nothing is lost, because this subjectivity wasn't there to begin with.

Animal are 'attached' to reality only in the sense that they perform functions which reproduce their existence. If they can no longer perform these functions, say because their habitat has been destroyed or whatever, they will simply perish. If their environment changes faster than the pace of evolution, they will perish. If they continue to perform their functions but are out-performed by a rival species or sub-species, they will perish. It's utter meaningless chaos, this is the chaos of nature. Untold death and carnage. We communists are not in awe of it, simply because of it's longevity or scale. If anything, it is something quite revolting, this world which has yet to be tamed and developed by humankind, sculpted after our own image, put to the use of society, conquered by the productive forces of humankind. The fish, the bugs, even the galaxies, those grotesque carousels, so much garbage revolving around a pitiless super-massive black hole. Today one is supposed to be over-awed by it, to feel 'humbled' by it's majesty, to feel as though all the efforts of humanity are nothing in the face of it.

No wonder that I stress so much that today's religion is exactly this worship of nature, animals and the non-human world, it is religion because it functions in the same way as the old religions but it is much less honest. It doesn't say 'here is your God, worship Him for he is divine', it just says 'Hey bro, be humble, don't over-value humanity, we are just one species on this planet, just a tiny pin-prick, lost among the vastness of the universe. Ultimately everything we do is futile etc. etc.' It is anti-democratic and anti-political to it's core, because it devalues the unique greatness of human productive capacity, and conceals the unique core of what separates human society from the rest of the animals, indeed, makes it, not just the greatest thing in the universe, but the only means by which the undifferentiated matter of the universe can be given any meaning or order whatsoever!

In that sense, it is simply an extension of the hopelessness of our era, it's lack of faith in any modernist political projects, it's obsession with individual fulfillment and spirituality, and the gradual erosion of what remains of our liberal democratic societies.

Ok, I went off the point a little bit there. Next.

(Original post by Kinyonga)
Even if animals did not have society or language, I do not see that that means they are so much more worthless than human beings. There are humans that live outside of society, humans that cannot speak; that does not make those specific individuals of less worth than others.
But, to return to semantics, all depends on what you mean by "language" and "society". Animals do not write books or create such institutions as the NHS, granted. They do, however, communicate with each other. To take an oft-used example, meerkat sentinels, with different-sounding cries, inform their group whether a predator is air-borne or terrestrial, and how urgent the situation is. And primates have not only been taught sign-language, but they have been able to innovate and create new combinations of words with it - hardly a simple case of Pavlov's dog. [Besides which, teaching and repetition cannot hard-wire the animal differently - assuming by "hard-wiring" you mean the way the animal is biologically determined to act - as the behaviour would then be passed on to its descendants - which it's not.]
Anyway, an example is Koko the gorilla not knowing the word for "ring", but knowing "finger" and "bracelet" and combining the two to give a name to the object. She was also able to sign moods like "sad" or "happy" when she felt that way or saw someone who did - also an indicator (if one is seriously needed) that animals do have feelings. I'd hope that was evident, however, with the simple observation of the distress of a mother cat who has lost her kittens, or a bored bird in a cage.
As for society, certainly not all animals are social, but of those which are, perhaps one could describe their system as more of a tribe than a society. Lions in a pride, of course, hunt strategically together and help each other out with caring for and feeding the young. Ants and bees have a complicated hierarchy...
Ok, the Meerkat 'language' is not actually a language, it is communication. The Meerkat, after god knows how many millenia, developed certain calls which relate to certain things like which predator might be attacking etc. The call differs according to whether a Meerkat has seen a snake, eagle etc. If it were a language, these audio signals could be combined, combined to produce meanings which, like human language, are infinite in their combination and what these combinations can designate, i.e. what you can say. But the Meerkat does not do this. When experimenters play the eagle sound via an audio speaker, the Meerkats rush to find cover. And they do this over and over, because it is not a language, it is a signal that exists as a part of an evolutionary mechanism to enable the Meerkats to survive and that's it. That sound, that call, means one thing and one thing only and it will never change. It will change only if for some reason via evolution it happens to change, and then that sound may designate something else or change to a different sound, I don't know. But the Meerkat will never use the call like a language, for a language implies an infinity of combinations of audio signifiers and therefore an infinity of possible signs. This idea was developed in the early 20th century by a guy called Ferdinand de Saussure

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferdinand_de_Saussure

As for the Gorillas, I admit I don't know enough to go into detail. Give me a couple of days and I will look into it.

(Original post by Kinyonga)
Plus, child-rearing, food-gather and home-building are all regulated socially among many species of animal; the three I mentioned above, for example. A pair of birds, also, will build a nest together, look after the chicks together, and gather food together.
And when did humans start to "produce their means of subsistence"? Did they all evolve this ability at the same time, across the globe? I think trying to draw a dividing line between animals and humans is like trying to say at exactly what point some grains of sand become a pile of sand.

Apologies if I've missed addressing part of your argument (haven't got much time right now), don't hesitate to point it out.
It's unknowable and arbitrary when exactly human beings attained the ability, the necessity, of socially organising their means of subsistence. What is likely is that gradually, everything that was regulated biologically, came to be taken over by the social, and that this caused the birth of subjectivity as we know it. This social order then supplanted the biological order, it came to regulate the biological order itself. Human religious practice for example, displays that human beings must relate the world they find themselves in, in their own heads, before reproducing it in practice. They are not 'at ease' or 'at one' with their position, they are looking for an answer to why things happen and thinking becomes integral to action. Thought and action go together unlike any of the animals.
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