chapter  12
6 Pages

Apes and human dignity


In his contribution to the present volume, Dale Jamieson (Chapter 11) identifies several sources of the human resistance to acknowledging the moral equality of the great apes. He identifies five such sources in terms of the reasons that people typically give against the claim that we should recognize “our moral equality with the other great apes”. According to Jamieson’s speculative diagnosis, such reasons typically concern (1) the menace of momentous practical implications (“radical social change”, in Jamieson’s words) that recognizing other great apes as our moral equals would probably bring; (2) massive differences in appearance between us and other apes that make the idea our moral equality with such creatures “seem outlandish”; (3) the inability of other apes to communicate effectively with humans, which means that humans must argue their case for them “and such appeals have limited efficacy”; (4) recognition of the setback to human interests that would result from removing the moral species barrier between us and other apes; and, finally, (5) the religious entrenchment of a strong moral barrier between human beings and other animals: “In orthodox Christian views humans are so special that God even took the form of a human; it would be unthinkable that He would have taken the form of a chimpanzee, gorilla, or orangutan” (p. 201).