Imagine the money to be made! A whole new category of oppression can be added to the gold mine this is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training and administration.
What new hell is this? Well, PETA ideology is going mainstream, at least if these University of California Berkeley professors and their colleagues have anything to say about it. These biologists have discovered that “species” is just a made up category that exists to empower human beings to oppress Gaia’s creatures.
The book, Speciesism in Biology and Culture: How Human Exceptionalism is Pushing Planetary Boundaries, is edited by two UC Berkeley professors, Brian Schwartz and Brent D. Mishler. As with all edited works, some of the essays are superior to others both in writing and intellectual quality (yes, I actually dove into the book, reading some, skimming all chapters), but the overall thrust boils down to this: human beings have used the concept of “species” in order to oppress others in the tree of life, much the same as racists created a hierarchy where some races are naturally superior to others.
In other words, we are “speciesist.” And as with colonialism and racism, human beings are taking liberties with the rest of the biome based upon our supposed greater moral worth.
The intellectual underpinning, of course, is critical theory. “Species” is a human invention, and our use of it is about the assertion of power. Yada yada. Heard it before. Nothing new here. Have 1/10th of a good point. The authors deconstruct our language and categories to reveal the underlying power structures they buttress.
In a sense they are right. Species is only one of many categories we use to slice and dice the world, and is hardly the only one that living beings can use to think of the world. Mammals are a category. Primates are. Bacteria. Male. Female. Family. Even living and non-living are “invented” categories, in a sense. But they are useful and reflect an important aspect of reality. I am, for instance, human, male, a primate, a mammal… None of these categories captures me entirely, but each tells you something important, including my role in the world.
The authors use the inadequacy of any one category to comprehensively describe a being as proof that the category is invented, and of course it was invented for the purpose of oppression.
The authors are also correct, in a sense, that we do use our membership in our species to distinguish our group from other animals. We raise and eat other animals, and indeed plants as well, which are members of species. We treat members of our species differently than others. Not sure how that changes things in any appreciable way. It certainly doesn’t directly contradict our conclusion that the moral status of living beings is related to its possession of consciousness.
Every animal with a level of consciousness views its species as an important category, and relates to its members differently than other animals. It is no less legitimate for us to do so as it is for whales, sharks, tigers, or cats.
That is the nature of living beings. Human beings are frequently at war with bacteria, who are, I suppose, trying to oppress us by hijacking our bodies for their own survival. Parasites do the same. Large animals are perfectly happy to eat us, if they can get their jaws around our body. Nature in tooth and claw. Human beings are the only animals of which I am aware that would even consider not shaping their environment to suit them, or using other animals to further their own lives.
Try convincing a tiger not to eat you because it would be immoral.
As is so often the case with Leftist interpretations of the world (and if you skim the essays and the sources they use, they are very Left), the points are anti-Western, anti-Christian (Genesis takes quite a few hits), and ultimately anti-human. Their objection isn’t that living beings use each other or look out for themselves, their families, and often their species before others; it is that people do it, and especially Westerners.
If the authors’ points were simply that we should strive to recognize that other animals have moral value and should be given some level of respect and empathy, I would be with them there.
But no, their point is much simpler and sicker: human beings are uniquely evil because we exploit other species of being by defining them as essentially different from us.
I won’t begin to take this kind of argument seriously until its advocates are ready to put predators on trial for killing and eating their prey. Unless their point is utterly pacifist–that any killing of any animal for any reason is evil–then I can’t take this line of thinking seriously.
The message is the same-old same-old: quit despoiling Mother Earth and her creatures. My response is that God has created a universe where each living being shapes the world around it to suit its needs. This is what it means to be living.
And human beings have at least as much right as any being to do so.