A couple weeks ago, I wrote a piece on a study that showed people have more empathy toward dogs than they do toward other human beings.
Those who bothered to read the article rather than simply express outrage at the headline will know that the question wasn’t whether someone might prefer the company of dogs to the company of most people. The question was not even whether someone might value their beloved family pet over a convicted rapist, or which one they’d rather have living in their home.
The question went more along these lines: you’re walking down the street and come upon two bodies lying on either side of the road. One is a random dog that has been beaten half to death, the other a random human being who has suffered the same fate. In that moment, which would you value more?
According to the study’s findings, most people would say the dog. In fact, the study found that overall, people’s empathy for other human beings rivaled their compassion for dogs only when the human in question was an infant – and even then, it was nearly a draw.
But what stunned me far more than the study’s initial findings was the number of people – mostly conservatives, if I know my audience – who openly accosted me on social media for suggesting that while sympathy for a dying animal is a perfectly natural and healthy emotion in and of itself, it is problematic when society begins to value the lives of animals over the lives of human beings. If most people’s first instinct is to save the wounded Corgi while John Doe bleeds out on the other side of the road, I say we’ve got a problem.
For some reason, this is apparently a highly provocative position – though, as pet owner myself, it baffles me as to why.
Then again, this is the same society in which animal rights activists scream at the top of their lungs whenever a bovine is milked on a dairy farm, and yet dozens of little girls can have their genitals forcibly mutilated by a Muslim doctor and it warrants nary a mention by the so-called “pro-ethics” crowd. Talk about your sacred cows.
But now, we’re not even talking about the intrinsic value of domesticated dogs, with which most non-sociopathic people have at least a basic emotional connection. Now, we’re talking about common lab rats.
According to this, scientists are now injecting human brain tissue into rats, and doing so fairly successfully. From the Sun:
Advances in science have allowed experts to connect tiny human brains with that of a rat. To do this, they created clumps of cells that behave similarly to human brains called organoids. Several labs have inserted those organoids into rat brains, connected them to blood vessels and successfully grown physical links.
But now, people are beginning to worry that injecting human brain cells into rats could imbue them with some form of human consciousness, creating a moral dilemma in which the rats may soon warrant the same respect and equal rights as people. The Sun continues:
Labs are implanting around three or four organoids in rats for now, but what if they added more?
Stanford bioethicist Hank Greely said: "People are talking about connecting three or four.
"But what if you could connect 1,000? That would be getting close to the number of cells in a mouse brain.
"At some future point, it could be that what you've built is entitled to some kind of respect."
Let’s pause here and recall that as a global society, we abort roughly 56 million unborn children every single year. Around 1 million of those abortions occur in the United States, one of only seven developed nations where it is legal in some areas to voluntarily terminate a pre-born child up through the final month of pregnancy.
It’s also worth noting that the neural tube in a human fetus begins developing at four weeks, well before many women even realize they are pregnant. By week 6, distinct electrical brain activity begins to occur. By weeks eight to 10, the cerebrum begins to develop, and reflexes emerge. And that’s just the beginning. Distinct brain development and activity can be measured in human fetuses – pre-born children with their own unique DNA codes, who’ve undeniably been genetic members of the homo sapiens species from the very moment of conception – long before the point at which society deems it illegal to end their lives.
And yet somehow, a rat with a few hundred artificially implanted human brain cells cause more of a moral conundrum for society than the early termination of developing preborn babies who are fully, and without a doubt, human from the start.
So yes, human beings are more intrinsically valuable than dogs.
And human babies are more intrinsically valuable than rats.
This shouldn’t even be a debate.