Dolphins - The 'Other Humans'
The most common theory of human evolution suggests that humans evolved from an ape-like ancestor. But what if we evolved from something that was a little wet – like a dolphin? The Aquatic Ape theory says just that. One researcher says, “They (dolphins) are, in many ways, the "other humans" who choose to live in the sea.”
Dolphins have joined a small and elite group of species—including elephants, and great apes—that demonstrate self awareness and self distinction, among other qualities that philosophers agree on for “persons”: they are alive, aware of their environment, and have emotions. They also elicit personalities and exhibit self-controlled behavior.
Multiple movements today advocate personhood, an array of legal rights, be awarded to these animals. Sadly, these are often the same groups that agree with the Supreme Court that the unborn human baby is not a person.
A collaborative study by multiple researchers from Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University and the Wildlife Conservation Society, WCS, included Diana Reiss, PhD. Says Reiss, “Humans, great apes, dolphins and elephants, well known for their superior intelligence and complex social systems, are thought to possess the highest forms of empathy and altruism in the animal kingdom.” Another researcher made the argument that dolphins aren't merely like people—they may actually be people, or at least, "nonhuman persons”.
Not surprising, the media has “weighed in” on the subject. In a recent episode of Harry’s Law, Harry (the lead character playing an attorney), makes a case for the ‘personhood’ of a guerilla that has escaped from the local zoo. “Your honor”, she argues, “I have looked into this creatures eyes. Apes are a lot more human than we would like to think. Our DNA and theirs is a 98% match.”
“Is this a joke?” the judge responds. “Your honor”, Harry says, “there is a qualitative shift happening in the way we view the animal world.”
Indeed, there is.
The GAP, is an international organization of primatologists, anthropologists, ethicists, and other experts. Founded in 1994, the group promotes a United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Great Apes to confer basic legal rights - the right to life, the protection of individual liberty, and the prohibition of torture – on great apes. Ultimately, GAP would demand the release of great apes from captivity.
As early as 1992, Switzerland amended its constitution to recognize animals as beings and not things. New Zealand granted basic rights to five great ape species in 1999. In 2002, Germany guaranteed rights to animals, becoming the first European Union member to do so. In 2007, Spain passed unique legislation effectively granting legal personhood rights to all great apes.
In the United States, the Great Ape Protection Act (GAPA) was introduced into Congress on April 17, 2008. With continued and growing bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, the bill was reintroduced again in 2011 and renamed the Great Ape and Cost Saving Protection Act, (H.R.1513/S.810). The ultimate goal is to prohibit use of chimpanzees in invasive biomedical research and retire all federally-owned chimpanzees to permanent sanctuary.
In the Bible, Genesis speaks to intelligence, meaning and purpose behind all creation. Genesis 1:26 reminds us that only humans are created in the image of God and that humans are to rule “over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Humans are the only living creatures that have a relationship with God, their creator.
The whole of creation, the Bible tells us, was designed to contribute to the happiness of man and animal. Perhaps we are to assume that in many cases the Lord created animals that would be a blessing or delight to man and created man to be a blessing to the animals.
An animal lover since childhood, I have never had a problem making the distinction between animal and human. I have never seen a gorilla that I would confuse with a human, or vice versa.
Nor have I ever been confused with the fact that the baby in the womb is a human being created in the image of God: a human being due all the legal rights and protection that each of us enjoy—and no matter how cute—a baby elephant, gorilla or dolphin IS not.
Evidence continues to accumulate regarding behaviors of the preborn human baby. Babies in the womb exhibit all of the qualities attributed to the dolphin, the elephant, and the ape: self awareness and self distinction, personalities and emotion (ask any pregnant mother), and they are most certainly alive.
It follows, then, that personhood should be awarded to the most vulnerable among us, the preborn baby. Personhood is, indeed, the paramount right to life.
Suzanne L. Ward, RDMS