The Instigator
TheSkeptic
Pro (for)
Winning
70 Points
The Contender
Lexicaholic
Con (against)
Losing
51 Points

Animal rights is an unjustified ethical doctrine.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/10/2010 Category: Society
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 10,612 times Debate No: 9668
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (62)
Votes (27)

 

TheSkeptic

Pro

I thank my opponent for accepting this debate - I've been wanting to have this debate with my opponent specifically for awhile, so I hope this turns out well.

To put it simply, it seems that Charlie here is one of the more prominent PETA advocates on this website, with his slew of PETA debates. Since it seems to be quite evident that he is in favor of PETA, one can easily draw the conclusion that he is also an animal right's activist - after all, if he isn't then he'd most likely be a hypocrite. That said, the purpose of this debate is to explore the moral background of animal rights, which I contend to be empty and unfulfilled.

With that in mind, I have specifically made this debate 4 rounds. The latter 3 rounds will serve for the normal 3-Round template, but the first round will be my introduction round and my opponent's argument. By argument, I desire for my opponent to lay out his arguments for animal rights, since I want to address not animal rights activists in general but my opponent in specific.

So here are the definitions:

====================
Definitions
====================

[Animal Rights]
[http://www.peta.org...]

"People who support animal rights believe that animals are not ours to use for food, clothing, entertainment, experimentation, or any other purpose and that animals deserve consideration of their best interests regardless of whether they are cute, useful to humans, or endangered and regardless of whether any human cares about them at all (just as a mentally challenged human has rights even if he or she is not cute or useful and even if everyone dislikes him or her)."

The rest of the resolution should be pretty clear - it seems unanimous for both my opponent and I that semantics are unacceptable.

I await my opponent's response with due interest.
Lexicaholic

Con

Greetings and salutations to my opponent! I look forward to a productive debate. I acknowledge my opponent's desire for this debate to be free from semantics arguments, and will therefore avoid discussion of definitions except where it seems necessary to continue the debate.

To begin, I think it is important to evaluate the resolution my opponent has propounded, namely that "the moral background of animal rights [are] empty and unfulfilled." I disagree. I believe that the moral background of animal rights is full of rational justifications, even self-serving rational justifications, which shall be expounded upon during the course of this debate. To provide just a few:

1. Fulfilling the urge towards universal compassion and understanding:

"A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."

-- Albert Einstein, http://www.wisdomquotes.com...

The animal rights movement represents in part an extension of the process Einstein eloquently described above by which humanity recognizes and comes to value all of existence.

2. Acquiring Symbiotic Benefits

The fewer life forms an organism harms, and the more life forms it benefits, the more important that organism becomes over time to its ecosystem. Similarly, the more organisms a life form harms, the more likely it is to cause the collapse of its ecosystem. In like fashion, granting ‘rights' to animals and protecting animals from the worst depravity of human society makes it more likely that other species would perceive us favorably and form symbiotic bonds with us, which is an important evolutionary process. See Symbiosis, http://en.wikipedia.org.... To some extent, this has already occurred with dolphins (http://www.eurocbc.org... ) and at least one bird (http://en.wikipedia.org... ).

While an animal may not appreciate the ‘rights' being accorded it (as rights are a wholly human conception) they could appreciate the benefits thereof and, in their appreciation, develop symbiotically with mankind.

3. The Meta-Ethical Argument: Allowing the shooting of the box

To the extent that extending rights to animals would in no way harm humanity, such rights could be argued as being justifiably extended under the meta-ethical argument that where extending such rights may do nothing, it at least accomplishes no harm, where as by not extending such rights a harm may be allowed to continue, but in no way would it accomplish any good. To sum it up more simply: let us suppose that there is in front of a person a cardboard box and this person, inclined to shoot things, is handed a gun and told that the box is empty. Should this person shoot the box, we could not say that this person did anything wrong, for there was no meaningful harm in doing so and the shooter derived pleasure from the act, so there might be said to be some small measure of good in it.

However, imagine that we said that there may be a child in the box (say a 50% chance); what then would be the moral ramifications of shooting the box? Even if the box appeared to be empty after the firing, surely only a depraved mind would risk the life within. If the child was within the box, then clearly the shooter would have taken the child's life for his own pleasure, a result I doubt many would consider a good outcome. As a corollary of this line of thought, it could be said to be moral to prevent others from shooting the box, but at best amoral to take no action against the shooter. Likewise, let us presume that by extending animals ‘rights', we reduce a cause of their suffering (human depravity). There is nothing to say that by doing this we have done anything absolutely good, or right, or moral; yet there is the possibility that, in preventing animals from suffering the worst of what schemes humans may devise against them, we are, in diminishing the needless suffering of sentient beings, doing some amount of good. In comparison, by doing nothing, we are at best amorally standing by while actions are being taken with no regard for the potential ethical concerns raised thereby. By extending rights to animals, even unnecessarily, we force humans to consider their actions and to develop a finer, as opposed to a more callous, regard towards fellow living creatures (including other humans). By not so doing, we invite humans to consider to think of other living creatures as mere machines disposable at one's leisure, a line of thought prevalent amongst psychopaths. (http://en.wikipedia.org... )This concern, of raising moral awareness and enhancing empathy, has been addressed by past philosophers and ethicists as noted here: http://en.wikipedia.org... .

Having shown that there are at least three legitimate reasons for extending rights to animals, I believe that my opponent's resolution has been disproven. I would note that the animal rights movement does not necessitate rights equal to human beings being extended, nor does it require the extension of such rights to all animals, as noted in the Wikipedia article. Of course, my opponent appears to be using the PETA definition of animal rights, which extends the scope of animal rights efforts considerably. Regardless, I believe the afore-mentioned justifications still apply even to PETA's version of animal rights, in so far as that by indoctrinating others to be needlessly deferential towards other life forms you necessarily cause them to be at least appropriately concerned for the welfare of others.

I therefore turn this debate over to my opponent and await the argument in support of his resolution.
Debate Round No. 1
TheSkeptic

Pro

I thank my opponent for accepting this debate - it was unaccepted for a while. I'm glad to see his lengthy argument, and it'll be fun tearing it down. I'm also glad to see that he has acknowledged that playing with semantics is a thing to be avoided in this debate, unless the call for such technicalities is deemed appropriate.

Now I will admit that upon further observation it does seem that my resolution is slightly unfair in that it gives my opponent perhaps more of a burden. By phrasing it with the word unjustified, I merely have to refute any argument my opponent gives in defiance of this resolution. However, do be assured that I will put in as much work and depth in my counterarguments as well, so see that if I can successfully all my opponent's arguments then I will have upheld the resolution.

If my opponent's arguments are exhausted, then it stands that animal rights would be an unjustified ethical doctrine.

====================
Fulfilling the urge towards universal compassion and understanding
====================

I don't only find it suspect, but rather flat out uncredited, for you to support such a statement from a quote from Albert Einstein. Not only is he an irrelevant authority on this matter, but nowhere in his quote or in your exposition do I find a justification for an universal moral obligation to help "all living creatures and the whole of nature in it's beauty."

Further, it's folly to believe that EVERYONE has an urge towards universal compassion an understanding - I'll be the first to say that I do not have a compassion for every living creature I know. So I ask of you...where's the justification?

====================
Acquiring Symbiotic Benefits
====================

While this is only a slightly better point than your previous one, it doesn't fare much better. You profess the truth of the claim that helping more organisms, and avoiding the inverse of that, will lead to an increase in our own survival because it will "prevent the collapse of it's ecosystem". Not only this, but you also propose that being altruisitic to other species will gather amiable sentiments from other species as well, resulting in a happy, happy world.

Several problems at the onset:

1. Given human intelligence and thus our technology, our survivability is much less dependent on other animal species than non-human animals (where I would suppose food supply would be a major issue). Most of the laws of surviving nature's harshness has been circumvented by our technology - the only thing we really need to fear from nature are natural disasters and environmental damage, all which are irrelevant to this debate.

2. Your examples of animal species that help humans is a red herring - whatever causes these animals to help humans, I highly doubt it has anything to do with them realizing "hey, humans are alright let's help them." I'd be utterly absurd to vocalize such a claim given the fact that there is unification between non-human animals (dolphins can't tell every other dolphin to help humans), nor is it likely that they are deliberately deciding to help humans out of compassion.

Symbiosis doesn't arise out of compassion, an emotion I would believe to be either nonexistent or very primal in most animals, but rather out of natural instincts geared for the purpose of survival. Symbiosis occurs for either a necessary conditions of survival for at least one of the parties, or is more useful for both parties - the concern isn't compassion but rather survivability.

3. Further, if your examples of symbiotic benefits manifests in only examples such as a rare cases of a drowning victim being saved or humans finding honey combs then I hardly see the symbiotic benefit for us. How would animals help humans in any considerable manner?

====================
Meta-ethical argument: Allowing the shooting of the box
====================

Haha, I've been noticing a pattern - your arguments seem to progressively get better. Whether this is a good thing or not, I'll leave it up to you decide. Anyway, your meta-ethical argument and thought experiment is interesting, but ultimately it fails by blurring a few important aspects:

1. You make a critical error by claiming that extending rights to animals will do no harm anyway. This is obviously false - extending rights to animals would mean that at the very least, our attitude towards animals will force change upon our daily habits. You profess to not be aligned with PETA, so my points about not eating meat, wearing animal skins, etc. may not be effective. However, at the very least it will force some sort of change upon humans that will likely be UNWANTED. This is detrimental enough itself.

2. Just because something does no harm does not make it ethically justified. The box example is a disanalogy because most would agree that shooting a child is ethically wrong for it is likely a PERSON, and thus morally and legally relevant. However, the issue here is whether or not animals are persons, which you have yet to satisfy.

"There is nothing to say that by doing this we have done anything absolutely good, or right, or moral; yet there is the possibility that, in preventing animals from suffering the worst of what schemes humans may devise against them, we are, in diminishing the needless suffering of sentient beings, doing some amount of good."
----> Prove how diminishing suffering of sentient beings amount to some good. After all, isn't this the ENTIRE PURPOSE of this debate?

"By extending rights to animals, even unnecessarily, we force humans to consider their actions and to develop a finer, as opposed to a more callous, regard towards fellow living creatures (including other humans)."
----> So any human who eats steaks and wears leather jackets is more cruel and callous to others in comparison to vegetarians and the like? Preposterous.

"By not so doing, we invite humans to consider to think of other living creatures as mere machines disposable at one's leisure, a line of thought prevalent amongst psychopaths."
----> Except we have a justified element in our line of though, if you hadn't forgotten.

"This concern, of raising moral awareness and enhancing empathy, has been addressed by past philosophers and ethicists as noted here"
----> This is relevant, how? To cite philosophers who believe in X does nothing for the validity of X.

====================
Conclusion
====================

My opponent has yet to even come near to a justification of the animal rights movement. His arguments consist of an appeal to compassion/sympathy, an awkward reference to symbiosis, and a flawed meta-ethical arguments that assumes some moral elements that he should be defending in the first place.

Furthermore, I want the audience to be aware that his links aren't much of a sources vote. They are all common knowledge that can be found easily on Google, don't contribute much by being there, and thus shouldn't necessitate a vote.
Lexicaholic

Con

I thank my opponent for his response. To begin, I think it is important to understand that I have a small, though fundamental, disagreement with my opponent regarding the burden of proof in this debate. My opponent has claimed that if he "can successfully [refute] all [his] opponent's arguments then" he "will have upheld the resolution." I disagree. While the rules of this debate clearly require me to posit an argument for granting animals rights, I believe that my opponent's position as Pro requires him to provide an equal and opposite argument as to why the "moral background of animal rights [are] empty and unfulfilled." While it is true that, if I am unable to make an argument justifying animal rights, I would not have provided a successful *counter*argument, this does not prove my opponent's resolution true unless he can provide a meaningful argument in support thereof. With that being said, I will address my opponent's attacks in turn:

1. Fulfilling the urge towards universal compassion and understanding
My opponent makes two arguments against this justification: (1) Einstein is irrelevant and (2) not everyone is universally compassionate.

As to point (1), I would argue that (a) a discussion of rights necessarily implicates a discussion of ethics, (b) ethics is of concern to any moral agent, (c) humans are moral agents, (d) Einstein was a human, (e) Einstein was a very bright human, and (f) in so far as anyone may be cited as a relevant authority on the matter of ethics, Einstein, a very bright moral agent, certainly may be. If I can't cite Einstein for the proposition that the pursuit of morality concerns as its ends harmony of a part of creation with the greater whole, then I really can't cite anyone in support.

As to point (2), I would say that one doesn't need to be universally compassionate for universal compassion to be the end of morality – indeed, Einstein's quote suggests that it is a process being developed, not one that has been perfected. Falling short of one's goals for a time, however, is no excuse for not continuing to pursue them.

2. Acquiring Symbiotic Benefits
Technology is not a panacea, nor will it ever fully insulate us from the rest of nature; nor would many people prefer a dead and sterile landscape, devoid of all life save our own. Unless we intend to eliminate all other species on earth, we'll have to deal with them in some context, and the preferable relationship is one without conflict.

I am not arguing that animals would aid us out of compassion; rather, I am arguing that animals could come to aid us or at least be convinced to not be aggressive towards us with repeated non-violent beneficial contact. With some animals direct communication could be established. http://acp.eugraph.com... Over time, the benefits of interacting positively with humans would outweigh the benefits of being aggressive towards them, and animals would adapt to live in harmony therewith. Of course, this argument is limited – for example, insects couldn't even comprehend that they were being treated well. Some animals, clearly, could never enter into a symbiotic state with human society.

As for whether or not such benefits are considerable, I would argue that, for so small a price as non-aggression, saving a single drowning victim is probably already significant. Of course, there are more direct benefits possible. For example, the Navy deploys marine mammals on various missions. http://www.spawar.navy.mil... While it might be argued that such a ‘use' would constitute an animal rights violation under the PETA definition, the methodology used in training is similar to what a continuous rights-based form of interaction could be expected to reproduce. After all, there's nothing saying you can't ‘play' with the animals, and play itself can be a form of conditioning.

3. Meta-ethical argument: Allowing the shooting of the box
Let me see if I can answer my opponent's concerns with this argument point by point:

1. "At the very least it will force some sort of change upon humans that will likely be UNWANTED. This is detrimental enough itself."

Actually, it's not. If merely enduring an obligation in and of itself was a reason not to enforce a right, then no one would have *any* rights. After all, one person's rights are another person's obligations. You could hardly argue that a world where people who would like to murder can't without consequences is worse than a world where people who would like to murder can without consequences. Certainly, the murderers are burdened, but the burden is the cost paid for safeguarding others' rights. If animals deserve to have rights, you can not argue that the inconvenience of enforcing those rights would be cause enough not to grant them.

2. "The issue here is whether or not animals are persons, which you have yet to satisfy."

Actually, the argument here is whether or not the animals possess elements of personhood which should be safeguarded by concomitant rights. Note that the analogy does not ever contemplate directly shooting a child; I explicitly presented the *possibility* that a child was within the box. The analogy notes that an animal (the box) could have elements of personhood (the child) such that rights would attach. The animal may not have any such elements; the box could be empty. It is possibility, not actuality, which makes preserving the box against gunfire the preferred moral stance, as opposed to allowing it to be shot.

"Prove how diminishing suffering of sentient beings amount to some good. After all, isn't this the ENTIRE PURPOSE of this debate?"

As per the first part of the argument, if we accept that morality is a movement towards universal compassion, and that compassion contemplates alleviating suffering as one of its aims, and that a sentient being is a component of the universe that can contemplate suffering, then clearly diminishing suffering in sentient beings is some good. Likewise, if we assume that humans have some intrinsic worth due to the composition of their elements such that rights would attach thereto, then at least to the extent such elements are reflected in non-human entities some rights should attach thereto.

"So any human who eats steaks and wears leather jackets is more cruel and callous to others in comparison to vegetarians and the like? Preposterous."

A human who limits the harm caused by his activities should ordinarily possess a concern for the welfare of other beings that extends to his fellow humans. The reasoning is what's important. If people are taught not to eat meat out of custom, then it is as meaningful in their ethical development as the requirement to attend church out of custom is- i.e., not very. On the other hand, if people do not eat meat because they understand that they have a responsibility to cause as little suffering as possible to all living things, that rationale should result in positive social benefits. I cite the considerations of other ethicists to show a trend of agreement amongst them indicative of some truth to this point. Although their considerations would not *prove* the anti-resolution by themselves, in conjunction with argument such as that which I have provided, I believe that the animal rights movement can at least be safely said to be justified. Of course, a *justified* movement does not mean a *correct* movement.

5. Conclusion
In conclusion, I would like to note that my sources provide those reviewing this debate with external materials upon which to determine the veracity and accuracy of my claims, which thus far is more than my opponent has provided. I fail to see how an argument can be made that disqualifies them from consideration, and I'm somewhat perturbed that my opponent would bother to make this appeal when he could easily just cite his own sources in support of a more substantive argument to win this point.
Debate Round No. 2
TheSkeptic

Pro

I thank my opponent for his well-thought out response; I've never seen such an angle from an animal rights advocate and it is quite interesting to dissect. To begin, I can spy at least one reverberating discrepancy which presents itself to be a serious matter for my opponent's position - multiple times he has stepped outside of what can be labelled "animal rights" and instead likely places himself into the shoes of an animal welfarist. While he may not personally agree with this, my definitions in the first round stipulated as such. I noticed this happening in the previous round, but I gave leniency in hope that his next round would clear it up - it seems not to be the case. As such, I highly recommend the audience and my opponent take heed of this, as I will bring it up later on.

Further, he points out that I have a burden to show why animal rights is empty and unfulfilled. How does he think I could carry out such a task? Should I attempt to refute every possible argument that could be mounted in favor? I think not - rather, I will prove my opponent's argument to be false and to be lenient, I will also tip in on how such counterarguments prove to be effective against the animal rights movement in general as well. In other words, I will tackle the ethical background of animal rights while simultaneously attacking CON's specific arguments, so I can cover both basis - even though I don't agree this to be my appropriate burden.

====================
Argument: Fulfilling the urge towards universal compassion and understanding
====================

Since my opponent has gratefully responded to my criticism in it's original two-fold format, I will reply in the same manner.

1. The flaws in your syllogism are as follows: ethics is not the concern of EVERY moral agent and Einstein's intelligence is irrelevant to the conclusion you desire.

The first claim is easily upheld - not every human being cares about ethics, and even if they do most have a very superficial understanding of it even if they are incredibly smart in some other field. Furthermore, since you are supporting animal rights you must believe animals to be moral agents as well (otherwise, how can they be morally relevant?), but they certainly don't have a concern for ethics given they can't even comprehend it. The second claim is a common mistake as well; Einstein was definitely one of the greatest physicists of all time, but his intelligence is likely corenered to the scientific fields, namely mathematics and physics. Just because he is smart in this field, DOES NOT LEAD to the conclusion that he would be similarly adept in other disciplines, namely philosophy. You can have a genius chemist who is an idiot at sociology, or a brilliant sociologist futility attempting meta-ethics (the former happens quite a lot).

2. Whatever the nature of this process is, whether it is begin developed or fully nurtured, escapes the bigger meta-ethical point I am pointing at, namely WHY SHOULD WE CARE? You profess universal compassion to be the correct goal, implying that it is an objective moral value. If so, then you must demonstrate why we are binded to such a goal.

Indeed, I will take the opportunity here to point out the common flaws of animal rights arguments. Many position themselves by arguing for a utilitarian like framework, in which any sentient being is regarded as a person - what I am asking both of you and the rest of the animal rights activists is why we would value the certain objective moral value you have pronounced. Why whould I care about sentient beings? Why should I care about universal compassion?

====================
Argument: Acquiring Symbiotic Benefits
====================

I would love to see my opponent show me any fundamental scientific principle that states technology can't "fully insulate us from the rest of nature", and to show granting animal's rights would lead to a dead and sterile landscape. Apparently, my opponent doesn't realize that harmony with nature CAN BE ACHIEVED without resorting to animal rights.

And yes, there is some truth to the claim that if we don't act in a completely aggressive manner our relationship with animals will be much more amiable in some certain circumstances. While I see a plethora of flaws with your overall argument, I will assume it's truth for the sake of argument. So let's say that we can not only construct a healthy relationship with animals, but they can also aid us given our symbiotic relationship. The problem herein arises:

All of this can be achieved without adopting animal rights. Animal rights necessitates that we don't eat animals, but we can clearly grow domestic cows for food and clothing while upholding symbiotic relationships with the rest of the animal kingdom that we don't hunt (after all, there isn't some global animal network where cows tell dolphins they are being eaten).

====================
Argument: Meta-ethics - Allowing the shooting of the box
====================

Ah, I apologize. It seems I have misunderstood my opponent's analogy, albeit it was a little confusing I should have read it more carefully. However, given this new revelation a criticism seems easier than before. But before I get there, let's respond in correspondence with my opponent's numbered format:

1. "At the very least it will force some sort of change upon humans that will likely be UNWANTED. This is detrimental enough itself."

You actually misunderstand my argument here, but I won't bother defending it here. I actually will drop this point, since it's useless for my purposes as I have a much stronger criticism following.

2. "The issue here is whether or not animals are persons, which you have yet to satisfy."

Your analogy uses the point of the box either being empty or full in comparison to the situation with animal rights; animals could either have rights or not. You present a pragmatic course of action that we shouldn't deny animals rights to begin with, because there isn't much to lose in comparison to the possibility we misjudged and animals do have rights while we end up abusing them. While this is could be a salient point, it crumbles under the following reason:

The possibility of animals having rights, unless shown otherwise, is much less than 50% which you proposed in your analogy. Unless you use other arguments to show that animals have a high probability of being persons, then this argument can't stand on it's feet by itself. Indeed, this type of argument if applied throughout every situation would create many absurd conclusions, unless we realize that just because there is a possibility does NOT MEAN we should have a reasonable concern for it.

3. "Prove how diminishing suffering of sentient beings amount to some good. After all, isn't this the ENTIRE PURPOSE of this debate?"

As I've shown before, your argument here fails on the meta-ethical grounds that you have never justified why universal compassion should be an objective moral value.

4. "So any human who eats steaks and wears leather jackets is more cruel and callous to others in comparison to vegetarians and the like? Preposterous."

Humans eat meat because they like it, and they usually justify it by believing animals don't have rights. You could find this to be callous reasoning...if they are to be wrong - which this debate obviously is surmised upon. And even if some people do it out of brash reasons, I'd hardly see this to be a serious problem.

====================
Conclusion
====================

Your sources are practically useless, given you are citing almost indisputable facts that I have never contended. They neither develop/defend a claim with their presence, but seemingly serve to be an intellectual side dish if I wanted to learn about something new. I'm not trying to be rude, but frankly I don't find much of an edge your sources give.

As for the rest, my conclusion should be straightforward.
Lexicaholic

Con

I thank my opponent for his response. To begin, I would note that I am not in real life an animal rights advocate, but closer to an, as my opponent put it, ‘animal welfarist'. None-the-less, I believe I am fully capable of expounding upon justifications for animal rights without the need to believe that animals deserve those rights – many people justify any number of beliefs, and, in this debate, the question is not whether or not such beliefs or correct but whether or not people would be justified in holding them. I continue to believe that the answer is yes.

My opponent, on the other hand, seems to be under the impression that it would be an impossible task to show that the animal rights movement is unjustified. I find this difficult to accept given that my sources provided some criticisms, but I will leave this issue to the voters to consider.

1. Argument: Fulfilling the urge towards universal compassion and understanding

1. Flawed syllogism: ethics is not the concern of EVERY moral agent and Einstein's intelligence is irrelevant.

Not every person bound by laws proscribed by ethics need concern themselves with ethics. A criminal may commit a crime not because he understands it is wrong and does it anyway but because he doesn't comprehend how it could be wrong. Intelligence may not apply equally to all things, but it seems to be necessary to qualify an understanding of appropriate ethics models; after all, the models need to work. Like any law, one that provided animals with rights would necessarily not stop behavior infringing on those rights; yet like any lawful proscription, it would be enforced even against those who did not comprehend the rationale therefore.

Also, Einstein was a philosopher as well as a physicist. http://plato.stanford.edu... … and he had a lot to say about ethics. http://atheism.about.com...

2. Why should we care?

We are merely elements of the universe, interacting with our nearest fellow components. To not care (at all), to serve the self at the expense of all else, is to start a survivalist chain reaction of sorts that would lead to a self destructive environment. The universe exists and works towards continuing to exist, and so we care and those who do not care are informed that they should. That's ridiculously esoteric, but it is as close as I can get to explaining why there should be a tendency towards compassion in the most objective sense.

2. Argument: Acquiring Symbiotic Benefits

We can not be fully insulated from the natural world because to achieve such a state would require the ability to fully extricate ourselves from it, which would be such a massive undertaking, excepting oneself from every other system, that Murphy's law would have to come into play. See http://en.wikipedia.org.... Moreover, how could any technology ever exist to remove us entirely from the natural world without being unnatural, a state that in the objective sense does not exist?

As for resorting to what I suppose might be called a limited form of animal rights, the raising of cows will be needless as soon as cloning technology is more fully developed. They're already growing meat in Petri dishes. http://www.treehugger.com...
Why would you raise a sentient animal to slaughter when you can just grow a mass of appropriate cells? It serves no purpose other than to cause suffering. Please show me the moral excuse for that.

3. Argument: Meta-ethics - Allowing the shooting of the box

1. As my opponent conceded the first part of his argument here, I will ignore it.

2. "The possibility of animals having rights, unless shown otherwise, is much less than 50% … just because there is a possibility does NOT MEAN we should have a reasonable concern for it."

Let's play with this scenario again. Let's say that there is still a chance of a child being in the box, but now that chance is only one in twenty four million. Do you still shoot the box *for fun*? I hope the answer is ‘no.' Whenever there is a possibility that harm could arise needlessly from one's actions, one should restrain oneself. It is only where the probability of a harm in not acting outweighs a probability of a harm in acting that one should take the risk. If someone told me I needed to shoot the box or else they would shoot the child they were holding in their hands, I would shoot the box even if the odds were 99% that there was a child inside … because the 99% odds are better than 100%. Likewise, if humans needed to harm animals to survive, I wouldn't have any qualms. But they don't, so they shouldn't. Of course, this obviates any argument about aggressive animals; if there is a chance of harm to yourself if you don't act banefully towards another organism, it is still rational for you to do so … and, indeed, not even human rights contemplate refusing to kill in a life or death struggle with a fellow human assailant.

3. This is justified above.

4. "We like it, so we do it."

Sometimes I wish I could think this way. Life would be simpler. But clearly, doing things strictly because you like to is preposterous. Thieves like to steal. Should we let them? Murderers like to murder? Is that okay? If you destroy someone's car because you took it for a joy ride, should we exonerate you? No. Liking something is a reason you *want* to do it, but never a good reason *to* do it.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I would add only that I believe the animal rights movement remains justified.
Debate Round No. 3
TheSkeptic

Pro

I thank my opponent for his response, and I realize that he probably isn't an animal rights advocate. He also interestingly takes a different perspective of arguing that animals need not deserve such rights but rather the animal rights movement itself can be justified by having humans hold them anyway (a sort of pseud-animal rights movement). I'll expose this belief to be preposterous and pointless.

====================
Argument: Fulfilling the urge towards universal compassion and understanding
====================

In this section, my opponent's responses commit the same error that many of my opponent's have done in the past; he has forgotten his own use of a certain claim, and in defending it from my criticisms misplaces it's purpose and thus fulfills nothing on his part. This is something I often come across and though I would love to prevent it by explaining everything in excruciating detail, character limits demand otherwise.

1. Flawed syllogism: ethics is not the concern of EVERY moral agent and Einstein's intelligence is irrelevant.

It seems that you forgot what you meant when you said ethics is the concern of every moral agent - what you are implying is that everyone has, at the bare minimum, adequate knowledge about ethics, which is demonstrably false. There are multitudes of people who have barely any adequate understanding of it.

The further flaw in your syllogism is to apply Einstein's intelligence to his knowledge pertaining ethics - you have not demonstrated in any way a particular knack he has for ethics. Yes, he has provided material for philosophy of science but that is distinct from ethics; all your source cites is quotes from Einstein, no material to work with. I mean seriously, why would you resort to an argument from authority? While we're at it, should I just go cite Immanuel Kant as one who doesn't support animal rights? Whether or not you agree with him, he is undoubtedly one of the greatest moral philosophers that ever lived.

I can reference people like Kurt Godel[1], who were immensely influential and brilliant in certain fields of philosophy (logic) but hold other philosophical views that we both would look down upon - namely his religious views.

2. Why should we care?

Again, your response misses the entire point of my claim. By asking "why should we care", I am asking of you to supply me any meta-ethical background you can for the objective moral value of universal compassion. I agree that humans should more or less lean towards compassion, but it would foolish to then make the claim that we would have a value of being universally compassionate - to deny such a value does not lead one to "serve the self at the expense of all else". Humans, as you should know, can very well work between the extremes.

The reason why I am claiming animal rights is an unjustified ethical doctrine is betrayed by your responses - you claim that there is an ethical obligation to be universally compassionate and yet show me nothing.

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Argument: Acquiring Symbiotic Benefits
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My point about technology protecting us from nature is that we can very well survive and prosper even with every animal species put into extinction - with adequate technology (that obviously has yet to be created) we can grow our own synthetic food and sustain the environment if we wanted to (safari trips :D?). Again, you forgot what my claim was responding to - you claimed that our environment would not survive without animals existing, and to which I claimed that even in the most extreme circumstances humans could still survive provided we have ample technology. And please, PLEASE, don't tell me you are actually referring to Murphy's law.

Further, your reference to growing meat in laboratory (a great development for my claim that eventually we have technology to sustain us in a situation in which animals are all extinct) misses the point - even if there is an alternative to eating animal meat this in no way reflects the ethical question of whether or not eating animal meat is right or wrong.

"It serves no purpose other than to cause suffering. Please show me the moral excuse for that."
----> If you would first show me the meta-ethical obligation to preventing the suffering of sentient beings in virtue of their sentience. Again, you have yet to defend such a claim.

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Argument: Meta-ethics - Allowing the shooting of the box
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1. Since I don't need this argument, I have dropped it.

2. "The possibility of animals having rights, unless shown otherwise, is much less than 50% … just because there is a possibility does NOT MEAN we should have a reasonable concern for it."

As I read your argument, I am more surprised at how you are conflating possibility and probability - even by embracing the difference you still muddle the importance of such a distinction. You claim that even if the chance of a child being in the box is ONE IN TWENTY FOUR MILLION, you wouldn't do it. You justify by making the following ludicrous claim: "Whenever there is a possibility that harm could arise needlessly from one's actions, one should restrain oneself."

This would entail an absurd amount of situations such as that. If we simply look at POSSIBILITIES, then even simply day-to-day actions would deem us to be morally vicious. By driving to the drugstore to get my prescriptions, I may accidentally hit a stray rock that coincidentally hits a dog that yelps and runs into a car, making that driver swerve and hit traffic killing several. So by trying to buy Tyenol, I could be deemed a killer. A definite possibility? Absolutely. A reason to take into consideration? Hell no. Point is that possibility is a poor reason to take into consideration in virtue of itself - a mistake common among those who conflate the importance of probability and possibility. Everything imaginable is possible, but this doesn't mean we grant them all the same degree of consideration.

3. Prove how diminishing suffering of sentient beings amount to some good. After all, isn't this the ENTIRE PURPOSE of this debate?"

Interestingly enough, your defense of animal rights rely on the POSSIBILITY THAT ANIMALS COULD HAVE RIGHTS. Not only do I demonstrate that this ridiculous in the previous criticism, but I want to add on more here: would we be confronted with the same possibility in relation to plants and inanimate objects? By your same argument, there could be a possibility that plants, rocks, and tin cans are persons -- so what do we now? Nothing apparently, we would starve from the possibility that veggies are persons and dehydrate from the possibility that water is a person...by your reasoning of course.

4. "We like it, so we do it."

I'm claimed this would be alright given that animals have no rights - obviously your examples of thievery and murder is a dis-analogy given that they do clash with those who rights (namely the victims of thievery and murder). You said that shooting the box, like eating meat, generates no good in face of the possibilities - which I claimed is wrong even if your reasoning about possibilities were to be correct.

====================
Conclusion
====================

While my opponent introduces novel ideas, they are heavily underdeveloped. To add on to this, his responses often misconstrue my criticisms that would seemingly expose a lack of understanding on his part. Along this entire debate he has yet to provide any ample meta-ethical considerations to supply rights to sentient beings, and it would be inexcusable to provide him a vote in face of such a failure.

---References---
1. http://en.wikipedia.org...
Lexicaholic

Con

I thank my opponent for his well developed final round and for a very fun and challenging debate. I would note in this final round that my opponent, who has proposed the resolution that "animal rights is an unjustified ethical doctrine" has never provided any argument in support of his resolution. I believe that in and of itself calls for a Con vote. However, in the interests of providing a fair and full debate, I will answer my opponent once more:

1. Argument: Fulfilling the urge towards universal compassion and understanding

1. "What you are implying is that everyone has, at the bare minimum, adequate knowledge about ethics, which is demonstrably false …" and "why would you resort to an argument from authority?"

Actually, I was arguing that ethics is the province of every moral agent, which means that everyone is an ethicist in some manner. I made this point to disprove my opponent's assertion that Einstein's musings were not relevant because Einstein was not an ethicist. As for an argument from authority, I was merely citing Einstein originally for the proposition that universal compassion was the objective of morality; the argument became a discussion of Einstein's authority only because my opponent questioned it, not because I relied upon it. Rather, I explained my reasoning for why universal compassion should be the objective of morality in the second part of this argument. If I explained it imperfectly, that is of little relevance. As my opponent has conceded "humans should more or less lean towards compassion." If compassion is the end towards which we should "lean" then certainly there is no good cause for us not to be wholly compassionate where we are able. Furthermore, an explanation of why someone should value compassion is well outside the scope of this debate, and a rather impossible burden given character limits. I think it is enough for me to show that there is an objective that even my opponent concedes is likely justified and which the animal rights movement seeks to promote. This I have done. If I am unable to explain the whole of ethics in the process, that is of no concern in this debate.

2. Why should we care?

As I mentioned above, this is not really my place to say – yet, I think I have provided an answer already, as to what would happen without compassion. I might also add that choosing not to pursue compassion in some degree, which is the only logical alternative to choosing to pursue universal compassion, must necessarily be the worse choice if being compassionate is a valid moral objective, as one would have to assume that meeting the objective in the fullest possible way (universal compassion) is better than meeting it only partially.

3. "We can very well survive and prosper even with every animal species put into extinction" and "don't tell me you are actually referring to Murphy's law" and why we shouldn't create sentient beings just to kill them.

We may very well survive, but to what end? If we are the only living thing in existence, what a dull and miserable place have we made for ourselves? Biodiversity is an end in itself; additionally, the myriad ways life solves the problems of survival have inspired inventors and engineers through the centuries. To eliminate all such sources of inspiration would be a terrible loss to us.

As for Murphy's law, yes I went there, as I've found that it does tend to apply to increasingly complex projects with some frequency … however, I see my opponent's point and will concede that perhaps we could survive someday without other animal species. That being said, the reason why we should not induce suffering in other sentient beings needlessly is that it is not the compassionate thing to do. Compassion being a virtue, and one which many would find justifies an action or inaction, it is clearly better not harm sentient beings needlessly.

3. Argument: Meta-ethics - Allowing the shooting of the box

1. Not an issue.

2. "Whenever there is a possibility that harm could arise needlessly from one's actions, one should restrain oneself."

The key to this sentence is the word "needlessly." Needlessly is not the same as "at all." Rather, I am saying that where there is no good cause to act, one shouldn't if it could cause harm.

"By driving to the drugstore to get my prescriptions, I may accidentally hit a stray rock that coincidentally hits a dog that yelps and runs into a car, making that driver swerve and hit traffic killing several. So by trying to buy Tylenol, I could be deemed a killer … Everything imaginable is possible, but this doesn't mean we grant them all the same degree of consideration" … which is why you should weigh the probabilities. If you do not get your prescriptions, you will likely remain or become ill, and suffering will result. There is nothing wrong about being ethically considerate of your self. The accident scenario is significantly less likely than the likelihood that you will suffer. So much so that, even given the greater levels of suffering possible, it is better to act than not to. Additionally, this argument is somewhat absurd in that such an "accident" could never be foreseeable. It is much more likely that a sentient being deserves rights than it is that you would take several lives through a series of unfortunate events. If it will help, I will alter my claim to "Whenever there is a foreseeable possibility that harm could arise needlessly …" which is somewhat redundant in that you wouldn't be making an ethical choice if you couldn't foresee the potential consequences of that choice.

3. Prove how diminishing suffering of sentient beings amount to some good. After all, isn't this the ENTIRE PURPOSE of this debate?"

"[P]lants and inanimate objects" do not possess nervous systems nor the clearly demonstrated ability to suffer pain nor the ability to think or any of the other qualities that humans share with animals and for which reasons and by which facilities humans argue for the protection of rights. There may be an argument that plants deserve some protections, as living beings, but otherwise I must disagree. In the analogy, you are told (given warning) that there is a box with a probability of there being a child inside. With animals, the warning of the probability clearly is the similarity of the animal to a human being, with greater similarities leading to greater consideration of the extension of rights. Likewise, I have already explained that rights don't contemplate being self-destructive; humans need at least plant matter to survive, and until the time comes when humans can live off of rocks, humans can not extend rights to all forms of sustenance because the chance that harm will be done to something that ought not be harmed (plants/rocks) is outweighed by the reality that harm *certainly* will be done to beings that ought not be harmed (humans).

4. "We like it, so we do it."

This is not a dis-analogy. Humans have rights in property and their lives, and so actions against those things are wrong. Likewise, if animals have rights to their lives, then actions against them are wrong and claiming that you enjoy it is no excuse.

5. Conclusion

In conclusion my opponent has made no argument to support his resolution. Conversely, I have shown how the animal rights movement is justified, as a means of extending the reach of our compassion and as a pragmatic approach to handling a murky ethical issue. My opponent sought to turn this debate into one justifying compassion; that was never a requirement of the debate, nor should it matter. Therefore, I strongly urge a Con vote, for the resolution has been negated.
Debate Round No. 4
62 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by LiquidLiquid 6 years ago
LiquidLiquid
I'm simply saying, I don't think PETA necessarily means animal rights, so I am mostly undecided.
Posted by LiquidLiquid 6 years ago
LiquidLiquid
@Illumination

When in doubt, trust people (the free market) and not the regulators (the government).
I have yet to read this, but I am very interested. I have always hated PETA's guts, but I have sympathies for vegetarians. I am also an environmentalist (Just not the regular type, example see Al Gore).
I can't wait!
Posted by banker 7 years ago
banker
great debate thank you guys
Posted by Lexicaholic 7 years ago
Lexicaholic
Agreed then, city people should not raise horses ... I'm a country guy, so it's fine by me. XD
Posted by Illumination 7 years ago
Illumination
"Did you just argue that because horses weren't dying fast enough they suffer more? Maybe fewer people should be breeding horses ..."
I am not saying that because they do not die fast enough that they suffer more. It is exactly people who think like that that have led to this devastation. City people do not seem to understand that the majority of slaughter horses were horses that were already on the verge of death, were deathly sick, were so old they could hardly walk, and were unable to sustain life by themselves anyway.
And I agree that less people should be breeding horses.
It seems anymore city people get the big idea of buying a 'galliant' stallion and breeding him to some random mare so they can have a cute little baby. Well, guess what, baby grows up and city people usually have no idea about horse training, so little baby grows into a big problem, gets sold cheap at a sale barn to some horse trader, and continues it's life being sold from trader to trader, usually being abused multiple times along the way.
Posted by Puck 7 years ago
Puck
I think the solution is the breed flying horses so they have more uses. *nodsnods*
Posted by Lexicaholic 7 years ago
Lexicaholic
Did you just argue that because horses weren't dying fast enough they suffer more? Maybe fewer people should be breeding horses ...
Posted by Illumination 7 years ago
Illumination
Animal Rights activists are also those whom made horse slaughter illegal in the United States, believing it would save millions of horses lives.
However it did quite the contrary.
The horse market has plummeted and horse abuse rates how almost doubled because people have horses they don't want/can't do anything with, and they take it out on the animal.
Pro win.
Posted by Lexicaholic 7 years ago
Lexicaholic
Actually Roy, I argued for predation ... but I also argued for the 'right' of every organism to strive for its own survival. Hence the whole 'your rights don't stop another human you assault from fighting you off' bit. The 'right' of an animal to prey upon another animal gives rise to an instant 'right' of that animal to defend itself under this paradigm. You know, as someone who believes that rights are just imaginary proscriptions we use to maintain social order and elicit support of our collective objectives, this whole 'rights' notion just seems more ridiculous all the time. Still, if it works for humans in relation to humans I could see it being applied with humans to animals; there would just need to be an understanding that, as animals are different from humans, so too are their rights. PETA's definition is nearly indefensible though ... because PETA argues that animals are not ours to exploit or experiment upon, which I think is an absurd outcome if such exploitation or experimentation would be shown to improve our lot.

I'm a vegetarian, but not because I feel animals have any 'rights.' I just think that, where I need not cause suffering, I should not ... after all, if God is not good for creating man to suffer without any rationale, as many atheists have argued here before, then what would man be in relation to animals in doing the same to them? Of course, if the question of good and evil is irrelevant, then the simpler question is: what defect of character or sadistic quality would lead you to breed a complex biological system, aware of its own misery and dependent upon a great number of resources, merely to snuff it out when the use of a simpler system, completely devoid of thought, is both a more effective and seemingly less needlessly cruel manner in which to accomplish the same end? I tried to extend this rationale to PETA's rights arguments, but, alas, there is a gap I fear in that PETA would sacrifice humanity on the altar of animal rights.
Posted by TheSkeptic 7 years ago
TheSkeptic
Congratulations, you are an animal welfarist :)
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