The Instigator
Freeman
Pro (for)
Losing
49 Points
The Contender
bluesteel
Con (against)
Winning
54 Points

Speciesism is an unjustifiable form of discrimination.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/16/2011 Category: Politics
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 12,088 times Debate No: 14284
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (78)
Votes (22)

 

Freeman

Pro

Of all the various forms of discrimination in the world, one of the most common can be found in the way in which humans have treated non-human animals, both in history and in the present day. For as long as the historical record goes back, speciesism (i.e., prejudice on the basis of species membership) has lead most humans to treat animals as if they were mere tools for human fulfillment with no significant moral status. What's more, these views have been defended not just by the general public, but even in the Ivory Tower. For instance, Saint Thomas Aquinas has suggested that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with animal cruelty insofar as it doesn't desensitize people to hurt humans.[1] Some philosophers like H. A. Bedau have even been keen to speak about "the intrinsic dignity of the human individual"[2]; others have talked of the "intrinsic worth of all men" as though humans alone had some unique worth that other beings did not have.[3]

Of course, these attitudes have been criticized by dissidents. Mahavira, the Jain patriarch, recognized the value of all animals with the following utterly wise moral pronouncement: "Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture, or kill any creature or living being."[4] In the 19th Century, the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham argued that the capacity to suffer was the only important characteristic a being could hold to establish its moral value.[5] Things have certainly improved a great deal for many animals since Bentham's time. Laws against animal cruelty along with the public's evolving standards have helped make many positive inroads for the well-being of non-human animals.

In particular, a 2008 ballot initiative in California known as Proposition 2 outlawed the confinement of animals in cages that are so small that they prevent the animals from being able to stand up, turn around and lie down.[6] As a matter of policy, many of these improvements to animal treatment would seem to be a step in the right direction. Humans and animals can both suffer and can thus hold preferences, which grants them a certain moral status. The future of animal rights initiatives and animal rights in general rests in large part upon this proposition. Now, let us consider whether it's valid.

The Vindication of the Rights of Animals

C1: Animals can suffer and thus should be given basic moral considerations.

Given the criteria for the justification of equal treatment among humans, people are on shaky grounds to not extend basic notions of fairness to non-human animals. Many factors have certainly contributed to the view that the moral considerations of humans should not extend beyond membership in the human species. In particular, the religious notion that humans are sacrosanct and separate from the rest of the animal kingdom has created an arbitrary firewall in the moral outlook of most humans that has put non-human animals on a precariously low pedestal. This separation, however, is not warranted because it does not represent any sort of intelligent distinction about actual concerns of suffering and happiness.

Like humans, animals are capable of suffering and should thus not be treated in ways that cause them to suffer without good reason. For starters, it is well established that many animals can suffer. We can know this more or less the same way that we know that humans can suffer. Animals exhibit behavioral traits in response to painful stimuli by moaning, writhing and yelping.[7] In his book The Spectrum of Pain Richard Sarjeant writes: "Every particle of factual evidence supports the contention that the higher mammalian vertebrates experience pain sensations at least as acute as our own. To say that they feel less because they are lower animals is an absurdity... Apart from the complexity of the cerebral cortex (which does not directly perceive pain) their nervous systems are almost identical to ours and their reactions to pain remarkably similar..."[8] While it is reasonable to wonder whether or not some animals can suffer, it is not reasonable to wonder this in the case of most of the farm animals that humans rear for consumption. Indeed, to deny that animals are capable of suffering (both physically and emotionally) would require something like a willful ignorance of the facts or an untenable form of philosophical skepticism.

C2: Membership in a species is an arbitrary characteristic with respect to moral considerations.

Membership in a particular species is a biological property, and the notion that biological properties makes discrimination against animals justifiable cannot withstand even mild scrutiny. As the Princeton philosopher Peter Singer has pointed out over 30 years ago in Practical Ethics, biological properties alone do not have any moral significance whatsoever.[9] In the same way race and gender are morally irrelevant biological properties, so to is species membership. Insofar as racism and sexism are both unjustifiable, then it stands to reason that speciesism could be no more justifiable. For these reasons, any attempt to try to justify unequal treatment to animals based purely on biological characteristics is self-defeating as long as this principle is deemed inconsequential for humans.

C3: Different levels of intellectual acuity between animals and humans cannot justify speciesism.

Of course, the proponent of unequal treatment to non-human animals may concede that biological properties are unimportant, but they may wish to argue that animals do not deserve basic considerations because they do not have the same psychological and intellectual capacities as humans. In this context, some people may wish to claim that higher level mental states found among humans grant humans rights over animals. But this objection cannot be valid - for we clearly do not value this standard when we assert that all humans should be treated equally. Furthermore, many animals such as chimpanzees have mental capacities that often exceed those of many humans that have neurological shortcomings (e.g., the mentally handicapped).[10] The basic principle of equality among humans is, therefore, not based on any empirical facts about the intellectual differences between different groups of people.

Consider, for example, that an average toddler certainly does not have the same mental capacities as someone like an Albert Einstein. What does it mean, then, when people assert that both of these individuals should be treated equally? If we are sensibly referring to anything in ethical terms on this matter, we are referring to the fact that the toddler, like an intellectual prodigy, has interests and preferences that should not be violated without justification. These preferences merely require sentience (i.e., the ability to suffer and feel pain), which animals do have. As such, the foundation for equal rights among humans and non-humans rests entirely on the same grounds as the notion that all humans should be treated equally despite their gender, intellect and physical characteristics.

| Conclusion |

If humans are to be consistent in ethical matters and simultaneously affirm the validity of the egalitarian society which most of us desire, then there is no more reason to deny basic moral considerations to non-human animals than there is to deny this principle to humans with brain damage. As was demonstrated earlier, animals are capable of suffering much in the same way that humans are. Further, the commonly held justifications for speciesism have been shown to be fallacious. Where human societies go from here in terms of public policy is anyone's guess. But the foundation has been set. Animals deserve basic moral considerations and to assert otherwise is to endorse an unjustifiable form of prejudice.

Sources: http://tinyurl.com...
bluesteel

Con

Thanks for the topic Freeman.

Definitions

Justifiable means "capable of being justified."� [1]
Justify means "to show a satisfactory reason . . . for something."� [2]
Discrimination is "the cognitive process whereby two or more stimuli are distinguished."� [3]

Un is a pre-fix meaning "not"

Burden of proof

My opponent, as instigator/pro, has the burden to show that there exists no reasonable explanation for the cognitive process of differentiating animals from humans. Showing that the distinction does not comport with certain conventions of morality is irrelevant; my opponent must show that the explanation for why we draw the human/animal distinction is not a satisfactory explanation for the behavior.

==My case==

Contention 1: We are carnivores

Although technically, we are omnivores, the human body is clearly optimized to eat meat (based on bowel length and canine shape, for example). [4] For the aboriginal Bushmen, whose lifestyle mimics that of ancient humans, meat is an integral part of their diet.

Predators who empathize with their prey would tend to die out because this empathy would either prevent them from killing and eating or, in the less extreme case, it would interfere with the split-second decision-making necessary while hunting, but would not completely overwhelm the survival instinct. Either way, evolution naturally selects against empathy for prey animals. This is a sufficient explanation for why humans draw a human/animal distinction, and thus Pro fails the BOP.

Our evolutionary default - to not empathize with prey animals - can however be overcome, by pets for example. Serpell (1996) explains that the meme for humanizing dogs has led to the belief in the West that pig meat is tasty but dog meat is disgusting. [5] This demonstrates the effect of Pro's advocacy of humanizing all animals: that we would no longer be able to bring ourselves to eat meat. Whether this outcome is desirable or not is irrelevant, however, since the topic only asks whether there is a sufficient explanation for the human behavior of drawing a distinction between ourselves and animals. The explanation is clear: the evolutionary advantages of being able to eat meat.

Contention 2: A two-tiered morality

My opponent seems to argue that either we give animals the exact same moral status as humans or we give them no moral consideration whatsoever, allowing them to be tortured and killed indiscriminately. However, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains that non-humans can be considered "morally considerable" - meaning worthy of moral considerations - but, at the same time, not "morally equivalent"� in status to humans. "That non-human animals can make moral claims on us does not in itself indicate how such claims are to be assessed and conflicting claims adjudicated. Being morally considerable is like showing up on a moral radar screen - how strong the signal is or where it is located on the screen are separate questions." [6] It is possible to create a system of morality that offers some moral consideration to animals but does not view them as morally equivalent in status to human beings. I will offer some such systems of morality as examples, but I advocate a two-tiered system of morality in general, not one particular moral system.

Let's take a second, first, to evaluate the absurdity of treating humans and animals as morally equivalent beings. Imagine, for a second, that you are on a hiking trip with your spouse and your dog. You get lost in the woods for days, and when you finally get your bearings, you only have enough food left for two beings to survive the trek back to civilization. If you consider all three beings of equal moral status - having an equal claim on the "right to life" - then you would need to draw straws to decide who lives and who dies because random selection is the only fair method of adjudicating these competing rights claims. However, most people would consider feeding your dog and letting your wife or husband starve to death to be morally bankrupt.

So let's consider how a two-tiered system of morality might protect animal rights without elevating animals to absolutely equal moral status with human beings.

System 1: deontology

A two-tiered deontological position might say that animals have an inviolable right to life, unless a human life is at stake. Under this two-tiered system, animals could be slaughtered if there are no other food options, and experimental drugs can be tested on animals if the only alternative is to test the drugs on humans, potentially endangering those human lives. Note that this deontological approach is a pretty extreme moral position, requiring that most humans become vegetarians and that most animal testing cease.

Thus, this two-tiered morality avoids the cultural chauvinism of the absolutist animal rights groups, who would deny animal meat to people in arctic regions or living nomadic lifestyles, whose choice is: eat animal meat, perish, or give up their traditional lifestyle. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy chalks this up as a benefit to two-tiered systems of morality: "In many parts of the world where economic, cultural, or climate conditions make it virtually impossible for people to sustain themselves on plant based diets, killing and eating animals that previously led relatively unconstrained lives and are painlessly killed, would not be morally objectionable." [7]

System 2: multi-factor utilitarianism

Peter Singer (who my opponent cites) was one of the original proponents of a multi-factor utilitarianism as a solution to the animal rights question. [8] Under multi-factor utilitarianism, when there are competing rights claims, we are instructed to take into account the content, context, and relative weight of the interests of all morally considerable beings. [9] Since human interests are given more weight than animal interests, if saving human lives requires harming an animal, then this harm would be morally acceptable. However, "if there are two courses of action, one which causes extreme amounts of suffering and ultimate death, and one which causes much less suffering and painless death, then the latter would be morally preferable to the former" under multi-factor utilitarianism. [10] Multi-factor utilitarianism thus allows humans to eat meat in many situations, but requires that animals used for meat be treated well and humanely slaughtered.

Contention 3: More absurdities

I evaluated one absurdity of treating animals as morally equivalent to humans in contention 2, but continuing from there:

Another absurdity is that animals do not adopt our systems of morality or consider us to be worthy of moral consideration. A hungry grizzly bear does not consider a human's right to life before attacking - it just attacks. Moral equality requires reciprocity, which cannot exist in animals.

In addition, animals cannot be considered perfect moral equivalents to humans because they lack certain abilities, such as the ability to own property. Many systems of morality, such as libertarianism and communism, focus on property ownership as their core organizing principle for rights. However, animals clearly cannot hold property, so my opponent's approach to morality would invalidate both moral systems, as well as many others.

I will refute my opponent's case in depth the next round, but briefly: C1 has been answered already and C2 leads to the absurd conclusion that plants also have equal moral rights to humans. In answering C3, I'll show how cognitive development is a necessary moral consideration.


Citations:
[1] http://tinyurl.com...
[2] http://tinyurl.com...
[3] http://tinyurl.com...
[4] http://tinyurl.com...
[5] http://tinyurl.com...
[6] http://tinyurl.com...
[7] Ibid, supra note 6
[8] Ibid
[9] Ibid
[10] Ibid
Debate Round No. 1
Freeman

Pro

Thank you, bluesteel, for agreeing to debate with me. For those that may still be somewhat unclear about what I am arguing, let me briefly restate the central thesis of my opening round. Animals can suffer, and there is no logically compelling reason for humans not to take their suffering into consideration simply because they are members of a different species. I am not defending animal rights in a broad context; rather, I am only saying that discrimination on the basis of species membership is unjustified because non-human animals can suffer much like humans. Having restated my own case, let's now examine if my opponent has given sufficient reasons to demonstrate that speciesism is justified.

C1: Animals can suffer and thus should be given basic moral considerations.

Apart from the straw man arguments my challenger has raised in his second contention, he doesn't appear to have directly addressed my first argument.

C2: Membership in a species is an arbitrary characteristic with respect to moral considerations.

My opponent hasn't really addressed this contention either. If you will remember, I argued in my first round that membership in a particular species is a morally irrelevant biological property like gender and race. As the philosopher Michael Tooley has argued, the fact that a being is a member of a certain species does not necessarily mean that it has moral value by being a member of that species.[1] For example, a member of the species Homo sapiens that has suffered complete upper brain death would have no significant moral status. Therefore, membership in a certain species is clearly not relevant to ethics. It would appear that my challenger thinks that this view leads to absurd conclusions, but he hasn't made any valid argument to show this.

C3: Different levels of intellectual acuity between animals and humans cannot justify speciesism.

In his third contention titled "More absurdities," my opponent has raised very good points regarding moral reciprocity and property rights. My summary of those points and my response to them will appear there.

Contention 1: We are carnivores

I must humbly decline to fulfill the contrived burden of proof that bluesteel says I have to uphold. In this section, my opponent claims that evolution and natural selection sufficiently explain why humans differentiate between humans and non-human animals. And in response to this point, I feel obliged to say the following: So what? What does this have to do with showing why speciesism is justified? It is not my responsibility to "show that the explanation for why we draw the human/animal distinction is not a satisfactory explanation for the behavior." As should be obvious, this task has nothing whatsoever to do with arguing for the resolution, which is "Speciesism is an unjustifiable form of discrimination."

Contention 2: A two-tiered morality

While attempting to clarify my position, my opponent claims that "[Freeman] seems to argue that either we give animals the exact same moral status as humans or we give them no moral consideration whatsoever, allowing them to be tortured and killed indiscriminately." I'm fairly sure that my opponent put this straw man into a coma with all of those right hooks and body shots that he delivers in the first round. And I must admit that it was truly spectacular to watch this beatdown. Nevertheless, let me begin by saying that I reject both the straw man position my opponent presents and the false dichotomy he creates for himself. It is simply not my position nor is it the position of Peter Singer that we give animals the exact same moral status as humans. In my opening round, I merely argued that animals should receive "basic moral considerations" because they can suffer and experience happiness. Thus, humans do an injustice to animals by not taking their suffering into account merely because the animals are members of a different species.

Moreover, treating animals with the basic principle of equality of interests does not logically entail that we treat animals as if they were identical to humans. In his highly influential essay All Animals Are Equal, Peter Singer writes the following: "The extension of the basic principle of equality from one group to another does not imply that we must treat both groups in exactly the same way, or grant exactly the same rights to both groups. Whether we should do so will depend on the nature of the members of the two groups. The basic principle of equality, I shall argue, is equality of consideration; and equal consideration for different beings may lead to different treatment and different rights."[2] Saying that speciesism is unjustified and that animals should receive an equal consideration of interests is not the same as saying that animals are morally on par with humans.

In order to resolve the false dilemma my opponent has created for himself, he proposes two different solutions. The problem, however, is that neither of these proposed systems represents a positive argument aimed to demonstrate why speciesism is justified. They only represent an attack on the radical straw man argument that I am alleged to be defending. If anything, both of these systems wholeheartedly affirm that speciesism is unjustified.

Contention 3: More absurdities

At this point in the debate, bluesteel raises two excellent points about moral reciprocity and property rights. He claims that unless a being can engage in moral reciprocity or own property, it cannot be given equal moral consideration. Both of these assertions can be completely taken down by an incredibly powerful rejoinder. A baby and a severely mentally retarded human are incapable of engaging in moral reciprocity or understanding anything relating to property rights.[3] Thus, by my opponent's own logic, it is ok to discriminate against them and not take their interests into consideration. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the reductio ad absurdum to any notion that equal treatment among humans is based on the ability to own property or to engage in moral reciprocity. Given these examples, it should be clear that the crucial attribute all humans have is not rationality; it is the capacity to suffer.

If one is willing to admit that babies and the severely mentally retarded should be given equal consideration of interests, how on Earth could that person reasonably argue that this principle shouldn't be extended to animals that also lack rationality? It would seem to be a completely arbitrary separation. So, instead of attacking straw men, I'll save any further critiques that I have until my challenger makes his own views clear on this point.

| Conclusion |

After carefully examining my opponent's opening round, it seems clear that his first contention is irrelevant to the debate and his second contention uses a blatant straw man of my own position. The only relevant arguments he raises can be found in his third contention. Although both of the arguments contained therein may seem plausible, neither one is capable of surviving the rejoinder I set out. Indeed, both of these arguments lead to the morally repugnant conclusion that we should treat babies and the severely mentally retarded in a discriminatory manner because they can't engage in moral reciprocity or comprehend property rights. For these reasons, it is still the case that speciesism is an unjustified form of discrimination.

Sources:
1. Tooley, Michael. "Philosophy 1100: Introduction to Ethics." Spot.colorado.edu. Web. 21 Jan. 2011. http://spot.colorado.edu...

2. Singer, Peter. "All Animals Are Equal." The Animal Rights Library. Web. 21 Jan. 2011. http://www.animal-rights-library.com...

3. Regan, Tom, and Peter Singer. Animal Rights and Human Obligations. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1976. p. 83.
bluesteel

Con

Definitions/BOP

Extend my 3 definitions – my opponent doesn’t contest these, so he has no basis upon which to contest my interpretation of the topic. Replacing the words in the topic with my definitions from round 1 leaves us with: “there exists no satisfactory explanation for the cognitive process of differentiating ourselves from other species.”

I’ll address his second round first because this round goes to heart of what we are even debating about.

Contention 1: We are carnivores

Justify means to “show a satisfactory reason for something.” I show here that: we are not hard-wired to care about animal suffering because as predators, we often needed to kill animals to eat and worrying about their suffering would be counter-productive to that task, so evolution selected against this trait. This goes unrefuted – my opponent merely restates the (undefined) resolution and appeals to the reader to define the resolution favorably for him.

In addition, how can eating meat be immoral, if it is our natural state?

Contention 2: Two-tiered morality

I’m thoroughly impressed by my opponent’s rhetoric about straw men; unfortunately, the argument I ascribed to him is a demon of his own design. My opponent seems to believe that a two-tiered morality is consistent with a Pro position. I ask the reader to consider a two-tiered morality, where white males are in the top tier, and women and blacks are in the second tier, which deems them less deserving of moral considerations. My opponent would argue that such a system is not a “form of discrimination.” My opponent’s Peter Singer quote is merely an absurd appeal to authority; clearly, a two-tiered morality system that deems animals’ lives as less intrinsically valuable than human lives is still deemed a “form of discrimination,” making it a Con position. I will continue to argue that animals be deemed “morally considerable,” but less so than human beings.

Also, it’s made very unclear in his response to my case what my opponent even means by specieism or whether his definition is consistent with Peter Singer’s definition of the term. According to the University of Michigan, specieism includes: eating non-humans and experimenting on non-humans. [1] My opponent never answers my argument that telling certain cultures, which rely on animal meat for survival, that they cannot eat animal meat (because it’s specieism) just introduces a new type of discrimination, namely cultural chauvinism (cultural discrimination) into our new system of morality.

C3: I will return to this, after addressing my opponent’s first round.

R1: Animals deserve basic moral consideration

My opponent and I are in agreement here, but there’s a big different between “basic moral consideration” – the position my opponent takes in round 1 – and “equal moral consideration” – the position my opponent tries to seamlessly transition to in Round 2. “Basic moral consideration” means that animals show up on our moral radar screen. “Equal moral consideration” would mean that all the “blips” on the radar are of equal size – meaning an animal life would be weighted equally to a human life. Con agrees that animals should receive basic moral consideration, but disagrees that they should receive equal moral consideration.

R2: “Biological properties have no moral significance” (Singer)

If biological properties have NO moral significance, this leads to the absurd conclusion that we must also give equal moral consideration to plants and bacteria. The central nervous system is a biological property; it is also what allows an organism to experience “suffering.” If we cannot consider biological properties when assigning moral significance, then we cannot employ my opponent/Singer’s definition of moral considerability being located in the ability of a species to suffer.

In addition, my opponent himself engages in specieism by defining moral considerability through the ability to suffer (the presence of a central nervous system). Insects are an animal species, but they cannot feel pain because they lack nociceptors (pain receptors). [2] My opponent’s suffering-based conception of moral considerability is itself a form of specieism, in refusing to extend moral consideration to insects and other non-pain-experiencing animals.

R3: Intellectual acuity ought be irrelevant to morality

The intellectual acuity of an animal directly correlates to how morally considerable that animal appears to the average person. Watching a person kill an infant chimpanzee and seeing its mother cradle the infant’s dead body in sorrow is more morally upsetting than watching a person kill a young mouse and seeing its family immediately cannibalize it for food. (note: both animal behaviors are commonplace in the wild) Pro’s morality gives us no method to differentiate between the two killings, even though our emotional reactions to each differ, and thus Pro’s morality fails under a Habermasian ethical discussion because it does not sync up with our emotional responses.

While all animals can experience suffering, the degree of suffering they experience is directly correlated to the complexity of their central nervous system (CNS). Biologists use certain species of sea cucumbers that only have 32 neurons to study neurology and while these sea cucumbers do react to “painful” stimuli by moving away from them, it is unclear that they experience anything close to the human or chimpanzee experience of pain. Moral considerations must be able to take the degree of suffering that an animal can experience into account, which relates directly to CNS complexity which correlates to intellectual acuity.

My opponent brings up the problematic of babies and the mentally handicapped

Babies and (nearly all of) the mentally handicapped would qualify for Tier 1 of Con’s morality because they are rational agents capable of moral judgments. Studies at the Infant Cognition Center at Yale show that even babies know right from wrong. [3] In addition, babies have a future potential to become completely rational agents, so they must be respected for their personhood. The mentally handicapped still know right from wrong (like that killing is wrong); if they are unable to differentiate right from wrong in this regard, they need to be institutionalized as a danger to others, and thus forfeit their right of freedom/self-ownership.

In addition, my opponent’s conception of morality is too black and white. Children are treated differently in terms of morality than adults precisely because of their lack of cognitive development. Children are deemed less culpable for crimes, due to their lack of cognitive development, than adults, which is why we have a juvenile justice system. We view a child punching another child at school as less morally reprehensible than an adult man punching another adult man in the face at work. The same applies to the mentally handicapped, which is why we have the insanity defense in criminal law in the United States.

C3: Absurdities

I'll fully extend reciprocity in the next round, but I explained above how babies and the mentally handicapped can morally reciprocate regarding negative rights (right to life, self-ownership).

Lastly, Judith Butler in When Is Life Grievable writes that socially contingent lives, that depend on us for their survival, are treated differently in regards to morality. Domesticated animals (like cows), that could not survive in the wild, would gain their freedom under my opponent’s approach to specieism, but would quickly perish, and must thus be treated differently.

Citations

[1] http://tinyurl.com...

[2] http://tinyurl.com...

[3] http://tinyurl.com...

Debate Round No. 2
Freeman

Pro

In this final round, I hope to tie together some loose threads that have been brought up throughout the debate. As I've already said in my first round, speciesism is prejudice on the basis of species membership, in the exact same way racism is prejudice on the basis of race. Moreover, it seems clear to me that the vast majority of my opponent's case is directed at straw men. Nonetheless, he does raise a few good points about moral reciprocity and the 'intrinsic' value of humans. I will respond accordingly.

Contention 1: We are carnivores

Once again, I decline to play word games with my opponent, and I flat out reject his cynical and biased definitions. For the purposes of this debate, the word 'justify' means the following: "To demonstrate or prove to be just, right, or valid." And the word discriminate means to 'treat differently.' These are perfectly reasonable definitions and should thus be accepted. So, the resolution could be loosely understood as follows: It's wrong to treat animals differently/worse than humans simply because they are a different species.

Later on, my challenger clearly implies that eating meat cannot be wrong because doing so is natural. Firstly, I've never claimed that eating meat was immoral. Secondly, this argument commits the naturalistic fallacy in any case.[1] Proving that phenomenon (x) is natural does not prove that phenomenon (x) is moral. This would be like saying that rape must be moral because it is natural.

Contention 2: A two-tiered morality

The argument that my opponent ascribes to me is not a "demon of my own design;" it's a straw man of his own choosing. It is not my position that we treat all humans and animals exactly the same or that all animals have the same moral value as all humans. Rather, it is my position that we give all animals "basic moral considerations" by giving equal consideration to their interests regardless of what species they are. Different animals will have different capacities to hold interests, in the same way children have different interests/rights than adults. The ability to have interests and preferences increases with cognitive abilities, psychological development and higher levels of consciousness; however, these qualities have nothing in principle to do with species membership.

To put it simply, insofar as any animal (human or not) can hold certain interests, those interests should be respected. Moreover, it is not my position that it is wrong to eat meat. Most animals have such rudimentary and basic interests that it wouldn't really be all that objectionable to give them a good life and then painlessly euthanize them. This is also Peter Singer's position, who is the ultimate champion against speciesism. Of course, some animals can suffer more than others, and we should take this into consideration.

Con has clarified his two proposed moral systems by saying that both of them maintain "animals' lives [are] less intrinsically valuable than human lives." And I will admit that his clarification here does make both systems guilty of speciesism. In response to my opponent's two proposed systems, I feel obliged to ask my opponent by what form of logic does he postulate that a brain dead human being on life support is "intrinsically" more valuable than an adult gorilla? By what form of logic does my opponent conclude that a human being that has even less mental prowess than a dog is "intrinsically" more valuable than a dog? By what form of logic does my opponent conclude that a human is "intrinsically" more valuable than a non-human animal (e.g., an extra terrestrial) with an even higher level of cognitive development than most humans? If he is right, we should conclude the human in all of these settings has more intrinsic worth than all of the animals in question just because they are members of the human species. This conclusion seems to be completely untenable, and thus both of his systems should be rejected.

Contention 3: More absurdities

My opponent, yet again, creates another straw man. I didn't refer to the "mentally handicapped" in my second round. I referred to the "severely mentally retarded." Whether my opponent likes it or not, some humans have cognitive abilities lower than most animals. Given this example, he has no basis to say that moral reciprocity or understanding property rights are essential to ethics. Whether or not these humans have a right to self ownership is irrelevant. Their basic preferences and interests are still respected. I won't bother to quibble about babies, since this example is enough. Moreover, these humans also lack even the potential to become persons. Either way, the argument swings in my favor.

C1: Animals can suffer and thus should be given basic moral considerations.

Despite what my opponent may believe, I've only used the words "equal moral consideration" once in my second round, and that was to paraphrase him. At any rate, what I've argued for is that animals should revive 'equal moral consideration' of interests. 'Basic moral considerations' are referring to essentially the same thing. An animal's moral value should scale with its ability to have interests. Like I've explained before by quoting Singer, this doesn't mean that all animals have the same moral value.

C2: Membership in a species is an arbitrary characteristic with respect to moral considerations.

My opponent fabricated the quote of Peter Singer he presented in his last round. Peter Singer never said the following: "Biological properties have no moral significance." My opponent invented this quote in order to distort Singer's views so that he could tear down a straw man. The actual argument Peter Singer presents is that biological properties alone don't have any moral significance, as I've pointed out before. Things like species membership, race and gender simply aren't directly related to the capacity to hold interests and suffer.[2] Obviously, if the biological property in question, along with other factors, allowed an entity to suffer, it would be morally significant.

Later on, my opponent says that I engage in speciesism by saying that the capacity to suffer is morally important. This is nonsense. It's literally impossible for things like bacteria to have any moral considerations exactly because they can't suffer. He also says that under my position I would free domesticated cows that couldn't survive in the wild. Why he feels the need to create so many straw men is beyond me.

C3: Different levels of intellectual acuity between animals and humans cannot justify speciesism.

Along with my opponent's question begging assertion that 'Habermasian ethics' are valid, his claims about intellectual acuity are completely irrelevant. The capacity to suffer or have emotions isn't directly related to one's intelligence; it's related to other neurological and psychological factors. For example, Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton were probably two of the most intelligent humans to ever live. It does not follow from this fact that Einstein and Newton could suffer and hold more interests than all other humans. Clearly, my opponent is deeply mistaken. Correlation doesn't prove causation.

| Conclusion |

After my opponent's failed attempt at semantics, fallacious assertions and blatant straw men are put aside, his case is paper thin. He asserts that humans are intrinsically more valuable than animals, but this is nonsense. How is a brain dead human on life support "intrinsically" more valuable than a fully conscious gorilla? There is just no way of rationally getting around this issue. It's not intellectually defensible to discriminate against animals at the same time we give equal consideration of interests to humans that, due to mental defects, are even less rational and intelligent than most animals.

Sources:
1. http://tinyurl.com...
2. http://tinyurl.com...
bluesteel

Con


Thanks for a great debate Freeman.

Definitions/BOP

My opponent in this debate had the burden of proof to explain his system of morality, show that it is internally consistent, and prove that all specieisim is unjustified. He fails to do so in a number of ways:

1) What is specieism???

My opponent seems consistently unwilling to define or explain what he means by this term, or defend any of its implications. He complains multiple times that I “straw man” his arguments, but I am forced to make a number of assumptions because he doesn’t explain his arguments properly himself.

Freeman claimed earlier that specieism is discrimination based on species membership, yet he refuses to defend any of the implications of stopping specieism. For example: “I've never claimed that eating meat was immoral”.

According to my University of Michigan evidence, Peter Singer thought specieism to include: eating animals and doing animal testing, since we do not allow humans to eat other humans - whether humanely slaughtered or not - or to perform dangerous experiments on each other.

However, if we do not allow humans to eat animals, people in certain parts of the world, where the only food available for geographic or economic reasons is animal meat, will DIE. This is a terrible morality system since it discriminates against humans based on their wealth, geographic location, and culture.

Specieism would also include freeing animals from captivity, such as in zoos and on farms (like cows kept for milk) because humans cannot be confined without their consent, unless they commit a moral transgression (namely a crime), so neither can animals - else that is discrimination based on species membership. Yet Freeman again claims that releasing milk cows into the wild is a straw man that he refuses to defend, for obvious reasons – because while it is the “right thing to do” under specieism, it would inevitably result in most of their deaths.

Because Freeman fails to define specieism and refuses to defend its implications, he utterly fails the BOP.

2) Freeman engages in specieism

Remember, Freeman’s morality extends moral considerations only to animals that have the capacity to suffer.

If specieism is defined as “discrimination on the basis of species membership” (from Freeman’s round 1) then creating a morality system that says: “you cannot kill dogs, but you may murder as many insects as you like” is obviously a form of “discrimination based on species membership,” when Freeman also defines discrimination as “to treat differently” (from round 3). Dogs are treated differently than insects based on their species membership.

He again fails the BOP because his suffering-based morality system engages in specieism.

Animal rights critics often point out that we engage in anthropocentrism, meaning that we put ourselves at the top of all hierarchies and then place the animals that most resemble us closest to the top. Freeman’s system, by protecting the animals with the most complex brains and CNS’s the most (because they can suffer most), is guilty of anthropocentrism, i.e. discrimination against animals that don’t resemble us enough.

3) “Suffering” is un-provable

Under his second contention, Freeman complains of a straw man again and accuses me of fabricating a quote. However, Freeman said that according to Singer, biological properties alone have no moral significance. Somehow, the word “alone” completely changes the meaning of that sentence, but the reason I was confused by this is because it is impossible to KNOW that an animal can suffer unless we look to biological properties, namely the complexity of that animal’s central nervous system. The only OTHER way to KNOW that an animal can suffer is to engage in animal testing, exposing that animal to gratuitous suffering, which ironically is a form of specieism. So if we can’t look to biological properties and we can’t do animal testing, then we cannot know which animals can suffer (or by how much), and thus Freeman’s morality fails because we cannot know which animals are deserving of moral considerations.


On to my case:

C1:

My opponent claims I engage in the naturalistic fallacy. However, my study from the Infant Cognition Center at Yale proves that morality in humans is innate. Twenty-eight prominent biologists all agree in Evolution, Gender, and Rape that rape is NOT a natural human behavior and was NOT engaged in by our ancestors. [1] Therefore, I reject the proposition that through advances in agricultural technology, we have “grown up” into a new morality, where we do not need to eat animals anymore and can thus reject specieism. If the crops all died in a freak accident, we would need to kill animals once again to survive and would need to engage in specieism once again. Morality cannot be so subject to change.

C2:

Freeman says, “The ability to have interests and preferences increases with cognitive abilities” and “these qualities have nothing . . . to do with species membership.” While he says this to avoid my argument that a baby chimpanzee deserves more moral consideration than a mouse, applying this same argument to humans means that morality is NOT based on species membership (personhood), but on cognitive ability, so smarter humans get more moral consideration than dumber humans and infants. Freeman himself says that Einstein does not deserve more consideration, BUT if we cannot consider species membership, then we cannot JUST scale animal rights based on cognition, we must do so with human rights as well (contradicting his argument under his C1).

(note: he calls my use of the word handicapped another straw man, but his word – mentally “RETARDED” – is no longer considered politically correct; it’s actually extremely offensive. Other than that, the two words are synonyms)

With my two-tiered morality systems, I still maintain that animals deserve SOME moral considerations but not EQUAL moral considerations as humans. If you have a choice between saving your dog or saving your daughter, please choose your daughter! She has more of a right to life.

Speaking of straw men: to refute this point, Freeman says that an alive gorilla deserves more rights than a brain dead human. However, brain death is “the irreversible end of all brain activity (including involuntary activity necessary to sustain life).” [2] Brain death is effectively death. I maintain that comparing any ALIVE human to an alive animal, the human’s rights should supersede the animals, when in conflict, even if the human is severely mentally handicapped. I would like to see my opponent explain to the parents of a child with severe Down Syndrome that her life is worth less than their dog’s. Habermasian ethics, which my opponent complains about but doesn’t refute, tells us to follow our emotions, which tell us that personhood has more intrinsic value than the life of animals. If we found aliens with similar or greater cognition, we would extend the same moral consideration to them as we grant humans.

Two-tiered morality allows us to end gratuitous animal suffering, but still carry on our normal lives regarding meat eating, animal testing, etc. and answers all my objections to Freeman’s morality.

C3: Reciprocity

Freeman says the mentally handicapped can’t become persons. Huh??

I provided evidence that babies and the mentally handicapped DO respect our negative rights (the right to life, for example). Animals do not recognize our right to life, and thus cannot morally reciprocate. Why should we extend EQUAL moral consideration to beings who cannot reciprocate?

Thank you all for reading. Vote Con!

[1] http://tinyurl.com...
[2] http://tinyurl.com...
Debate Round No. 3
78 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 1 year ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
==================================================================
>Reported vote: Philocat// Mod action: Removed<

3 points to Pro (Arguments). Reasons for voting decision: (none given)

[*Reason for removal*] (1) While the debate doesn't require RFDs, it is a very old debate that was potentially instigated before mandatory RFDs became an option. The vote is recent and so must confirm to current voting standards. This is an exceptional situation and the voter is free to revote but please do so with an actual RFD.
===========================================================================
Posted by bluesteel 6 years ago
bluesteel
Ok, my bad; I believe you. Roy can be really random sometimes.
Posted by Freeman 6 years ago
Freeman
Bluesteel, here is briefly what happened, so you don't think that I'm trying to be tricky with you.

Roy gave you two more points to change the outcome of the debate. He did this last night like a month after he originally voted. Subsequently, I asked him why he is deciding to change his vote out of the blue. (See my comment below.) Then he changed his vote again.
Posted by Freeman 6 years ago
Freeman
@bluesteel

That wasn't me. You can ask Roy. Secondly, my argument about aliens was in this debate.
Posted by bluesteel 6 years ago
bluesteel
Congrats to Freeman on getting Roy to change his vote after the fact through new arguments about alien species.

Somehow I doubt that Roy suddenly decide to re-evaluate this debate for no reason... He also applied a completely different judging framework this time. Whatever you did via PM freeman, well done.
Posted by RoyLatham 6 years ago
RoyLatham
I am flip-flopping on this debate. Here is my latest analysis:

Humans are described by a set of attributes A.

Another specifies has a different set of attributes B. B can be subdivided int three parts B = [ Ba, Bn, Bi]

Ba = attributes shared in common with humans (Whales are mammals like humans)
Bn = non-human attributes justly discriminated against (Tigers re unreliable when hungry)
Bi = non-human attributes not justly discriminated against (The species is furry.)

if [Bn,Bi] is null, the species is not different and is human
if Bn is not null, the species is justly discriminated against. This case exists.

The debate question is whether there can be a species in which Bn is null, in other words the species has no characteristics that merit discrimination. "Discrimination" is for a valid purpose. It is valid not to give airline tickets to whales, because they are too large ... etc.

In all known species, there are valid reasons for discrimination for some purposes. For example, non-humans are justifiably denied voting rights. However, in theory an alien species could exist than has only Bi and not Bn. So arguments to Pro.

It's a dopey debate, I think, that hinges on the ypothetical attributes of space aliens, but that's the case.
Posted by Freeman 6 years ago
Freeman
Roy, could you explain your vote reevaluation, please? :)
Posted by Zabcheckmate 6 years ago
Zabcheckmate
RFD
I took the best definitions provided over the course of the debate. Where a definition was contested, I used the definition that most in the spirit of the case.
Speciesm: "prejudice on the basis of species membership"
Unjustifiable: Impossible to generate a "satisfactory reason" for
The definition of discrimination is irrelevant, as speciesm is inherently discriminatory
Pro's burden is then simple and clear: Pro must demonstrate that *there is no satisfactory reason for morally discriminating between beings based on species membership*.

Let's go through the arguments!

P1: Animals should be given basic moral considerations.

Con concedes this, but I don't think it is sufficient for Pro to win. In fact, as Con accurately points out, "basic moral considerations" are not "equal moral considerations". Pro's response is: "what I've argued for is that animals should revive 'equal moral consideration' of interests... An animal's moral value should scale with its ability to have interests." You know what... That's speciest by Pro's own definition! If different species have different abilities to have interests (as Pro implies), then Pro is discriminating between species and loses the round here.

P2: Membership in a species is an arbitrary characteristic (because it is a biological one) with respect to moral considerations.

Hmm... but the ability to have interests is a biological characteristic... so this point is contradictory with the argumentation in P1. Pro loses.

P3: Different levels of intellectual acuity between animals and humans cannot justify speciesism.

This is purely defensive. Even if Pro wins this (which is unclear) it won't help him win.

C1: We are carnivores.

Naturalistic fallacy. Enough said. Con loses this argument.

C2: A two-tiered system.

This is where most debate occurred. Ultimately, this seemed like a sufficient justification for me, Con won

C3: Absurdities

Speciesm is intuitive... but is it just? Neithe
Posted by Freeman 6 years ago
Freeman
@m93samman

"What does it come down to?"

At least in California, most college freshman take at least one course in philosophy, usually because it's required. I don't care what philosophy course you take, it's likely you'll have to read Peter Singer. I couldn't imagine any professor teaching an ethics course and not mentioning Singer. There is no way anyone familiar with these arguments would think Con was attacking anything other than straw men. That's what it comes down to. In order to disagree with an argument, you first have to understand it.
Posted by m93samman 6 years ago
m93samman
What does it come down to?
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