Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Why No Species Solidarity?

When visiting the grocery store this weekend, I found myself parked next to a mid-size SUV with a back end nearly covered with bumperstickers. This is usually a bad sign in regards to the moderation of the driver's opinions, and indeed this person had chosen to display on their back-end (sometimes repeated several times) thoughts such as "Bush is a Chump-Ass Punk", "I [heart] my [dog]", "I'm Pro-Choice and I Vote" and "Keep Austin Planned".

Why is it that advocating that fewer humans be born so often seems to come with a great devotion to the care of other species, whether endangered ones or domestic? Where's the species loyalty?

I wonder if in part this trends stems from a tendency to think of the person as a free floating individual defined by mind and memory rather than a member of a family, state, species, etc. which constitutes a revolving population in which our place is to grow up, care for others, reproduce, rear the next generation, and eventually die. This "circle of life thing" seems to have been clearly (though perhaps not consciously) understood and accepted in pre-industrial societies, but as it has become easier to think of ourselves as little eternal being in the abstract, primarily an individual rather than part of a great chain on beings, I think people lose track of it.

Thus, animals assume greater importance to the extent to which they form cherished parts of memory and everyday experience. And having offspring is often seen as an obstacle to fulfillment rather than one of the primary purposes of one's life.

7 comments:

Amber said...

Good post - I've noticed the phenomenon as well, but I had never postulated a theory to try and explain it.

It reminds me of a story I read about a few years ago, which you might be familiar with as well. There was a mother of two who was out running somewhere in the greater LA area and she was attacked and killed by a mountain lion. Game wardens ended up killing the mountain lion, and later it was found that the lion had recently had babies. Various groups set up donation funds for the mountain lion babies and for the woman's children, but the fund for the lions raised many times more money than the one for the children. I can't remember the numbers, but the difference was enormous.

PB said...

I have often wondered this for a while too and can really only narrow it down to laziness. Sure being a dog owner is hard work, but compared to being a parent it is not so tough. Those that care more about animals get that personal “feel good” feeling of caring and then don’t have the hard work to accompany it.

Jennifer F. said...

Very, very interesting point.

Fidei Defensor said...

Oh gosh don't even get me started, on a recent trip to Madison (think San Francisco or Greenich Village in the mid-west) I met some enviormentalist guy who said that "every argument people use to kill animals is the same as they used to justify the holocaust... we are better than them, it is God's will, etc" needless to say the guy's logic was flawed to the extreme and somone with decent schooling in Catholic philosphy could have tore his "mind blowing insights" to shreds. The best I could come up with though was saying that such ideas are a slipperly slope, and the desire to have animals treated like people is cut from the same cloth as the desire to treat people like Animals. That reminds me, the Enfield still hasn't brought down a deer, I have to get on that...

SteveK said...

Amber,
That accident happened about 1 mile from my house. I don't recall the donation fund for the mountain lion babies, but I can believe it happened.

Jay said...

Could it at all be possible and having come to understand the intricate web that an ecosystem is, where not only the animals but every living organism plays an important role, and the fragility of these systems, we value all parts of it.

And not so much for ourselves, because we are still "blessed" with ample and diverse ecosystems in which we can marvel at all the wondrous ways living things weave their lives around one another, but for our childrens childrens children.

Do you wish upon then a world less rich in diversity and beauty?

Banshee said...

There is no creature on earth except humans that can understand the beauty and diversity of the ecosystem. There is no other creature that can help rare animals and plants to survive.

So it makes sense to save the humans first, even from the most disinterested point of view; and and our natural loyalties also belong more to humans than animals.

G.K. Chesterton pointed out that the only time we can really share an animal's point of view is when we're out hunting animals. He also pointed out that turkeys' lives are hugely more alien and mysterious to us than those of angels.