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Human Treatment of Intelligent Life

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Human Treatment of Intelligent Life

Postby alextemplet » Wed Dec 05, 2007 4:48 pm

This question has more to do with xenobiology than zoology so I apologise if this is the wrong place for it; I couldn't think of anywhere better to put this but I won't shed any tears if it gets moved.

A hot topic in some recent threads has been over the preferential treatment of humans valuing the lives and welfare of our own species over that of other species. Regardless of our different moral takes on this issue, we seem to have all agreed that it is at least natural for an organism to have this preference.

My question is, how would or should we respond to any intelligent non-human lifeform (assuming of course we ever find one)? Would we treat them with the same privileged dignity worthy of our own species? Or would we treat them the same way we treat other non-human organisms (ie, exploit them like we do cattle)? I believe that either answer raises additional moral questions.

If we would treat another intelligent being with the same dignity as another human, then exactly where do we draw the line between organisms that we treat as equals and organisms that we treat as inferior? If intelligence is the determining factor, how do we determine if an organism is intelligent enough to be treated with dignity? Should great apes or dolphins be treated as our intellectual equals? Should less-intelligent humans (the mentally retarded, for example) be treated with less dignity and respect than their more intelligent cousins?

If we would treat an intelligent life form the same way we treat other organisms, then we would essentially be attempting to exploit another life form simply because it is different from us. If we do this, then what is morally wrong with exploiting other humans who are different? If speciesism (Yes, that's a word now.) is justified, why not racism? Sexism? And what is so special about being human that it alone would entitle one to dignified treatment?

Now before everyone goes off on me, I am in no way trying to say that we should become racists and retarded people should be herded like cattle. In fact I am very much against those things. What I am examining, however, is the fact that we treat other organisms with less dignity than what we reserve for our own species. My question is thus, what would another species have to do to deserve that same treatment? Should this preferential treatment be based on intelligence or on having a set of uniquely human DNA? My extrapolations above were simply to illustrate that however we draw the line can potentially affect how we treat members of our own species as well as how we treat other species.
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Postby mcar » Thu Dec 06, 2007 1:53 pm

We misinterpret that in the taxonomic classifications, we are the most superior. Everything was created the way they must be.--It's their intended design. We must treat with fairness those which are not classified like us. Afterall we are the only one who could think about it. That I think is the best superiority.
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Postby alextemplet » Thu Dec 06, 2007 6:11 pm

So are you saying that herd animals and lab mice should be treated with the same respect due another human?
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Postby mith » Thu Dec 06, 2007 6:56 pm

You can't use the intelligence test because intelligence is not a defining characteristic of humans(slippery slope for mentally retarded people).
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Postby alextemplet » Fri Dec 07, 2007 12:17 am

So how would or should we treat another advanced life form? Where would we draw the line between which organisms are worthy of human dignity and which are to be herded for food and experimented with?
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Postby mith » Fri Dec 07, 2007 1:24 am

Watch the Futurama episode with Popplers.
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Postby alextemplet » Fri Dec 07, 2007 1:29 am

Ack, I don't own a tv.
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Postby woolleyy » Fri Dec 07, 2007 10:46 am

Very interesting topic. Made me think about the first humans to find (what they believed to be) a non-human life form. They went to Africa, and made them their slaves. They assumed that they were their inferiors. I am in no way condoning this reaction, I am trying to illustrate a point. That it seems like human nature to believe that we are the best and everything is for (or can be put towards) our benefit, with very little regard for other species along the way.
Personally, I feel we should not depend on intelligence or any other feature of a species to decide how to deal with it. In an ideal world we should have the same respect for the life of all organisms, as we would wish for a higher species than us to give to humans. But, it is not an ideal world. It is a world where I freaking love meat, and experimentation on animal models yields such important discoveries, and in many cases animals are given less respect than they deserve.
I guess I sound like a bit of a hypocrite here, but my overall point is that we should respect the lives of animals more than most people do currently, and pointless harm should never occur. I don't think we can come up with a be-all and end-all (like level of intelligence) when it comes to working out the importance of a particular animal. I think each case should be analysed on its own merits. Testing makeup on animals, not important, should not be done. Using mice as a model organism to study cancer, very important, should be done. And apart form that, just generally treat every living thing on this planet with the awe and respect it deserves.
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Postby alextemplet » Fri Dec 07, 2007 9:52 pm

That's a good way to look at it, wolleyy. The problem of course, as you pointed out, is that humans are very likely to try to take advantage of any alien life that we might come across. I just hope we won't end up pissing off the wrong aliens and find our entire planet destroyed. But I'll probably be dead by the time that happens anyway.
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Postby mith » Fri Dec 07, 2007 10:04 pm

Well one way you could evaluate this is based on utilitarian frame work and by gauging pain. So testing on plants and insects seem a lot more "ethical" than on animals. However, we seem to think that the closer an animal is to humans the more uncomfortable we become; but the utility of the model(it mimics human functions more) increases.
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Postby mcar » Tue Dec 11, 2007 1:30 pm

We act as stewards. Only us could be.
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Postby charles brough » Wed Dec 12, 2007 1:56 pm

As you all must know,everything we think and do has to ultimately be shaped and determinded by what we believe. In other words, how we treat any other animal, even ones possibly intelligent like ourselves, is determined by our ideological system.

In our secular ideology, we are to be tolerant and humane.

We have no guide line in any of our ideological systems regarding what to do with alien life forms out in the rest of the universe. That poses no problem because we will never get out there with the miserable ideological systems we now have. They are failing us. As the secular one weakens, the older religious get stronger and we take to wars over the worlds diminishing resources. They lead us to over-populating the world and, hence, the growing shortages.

To ever get out into the universe to colonize it, to exploit this new frontier, we have to develop a better ideological sustem.
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