2009 IS DARWIN YEAR!
Feb 12 will be the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth.
November 24 will be the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species–a book that changed the world forever.
Throughout the year there are going to be all kinds of special events, celebrations, lectures, books and movies that celebrate the work of this extraordinary man.
I’ll be writing more about Darwin as the year progresses, but today, I wanted to share a quote, a video and a question for your consideration.
The quote is an oft-repeated one and comes from the end of chapter 2 in Darwin’s treatise, The Descent of Man.
…the difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind …. the senses and intuitions, the various emotions and faculties, such as love, memory, attention, curiosity, imitation, reason, etc., of which man boasts, may be found in an incipient, or ever sometimes in a well-developed condition, in the lower animals.
The video below is a fascinating example of what Darwin was talking about. It comes from the TED Talks series and features Susan Savage-Rumbaugh and her work with bonobo apes. In this talk, she demonstrates that bonobos can understand spoken language and learn tasks by watching. Her work forces us to rethink how much of what a species can do is determined by biology — and how much by cultural exposure.
So, here’s my question: “If the difference between other animals and humans is one of degree, not kind, on what basis do we say that all humans have the right not to be treated as the property of others, but other animals do not?
I’d be curious to see what you think.