The Instigator
Skeptical1
Con (against)
Tied
0 Points
The Contender
Bremners
Pro (for)
Tied
0 Points

That a human life is intrinsically worth more than the life of an animal

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/12/2016 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 6 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 665 times Debate No: 94651
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (9)
Votes (0)

 

Skeptical1

Con

The topic pretty much sums it up. If you accept this debate, you are saying that you can justify making the claim that as a general principle, a human life is worth more than an animal (to avoid getting into ridiculous discussions, we'll say any mammal, then we won't be arguing about amoebas). My job is to show that such a claim can't be justified.

I will open with the example of the killing of a gorilla named Harambe when a three year old child climbed into the gorilla enclosure at Cincinatti zoo. By far the majority of people claim Harambe's killing was justified, as a human life was in danger. Yet, when asked to say why, I have never heard anyone provide a logical reason why this should be the case. Thus, I conclude the assertion is false.
Bremners

Pro

I accept the debate. Now, I am an animal lover but I believe that a human life is worth more than the life of an animal.

Though sad as it is and that the parents of the child are at fault, the three-year old child's life is worth more than Harambe's life. First, Harambe was a 17 year old gorilla (1) and gorillas, on average, live up to 40-45 years of age though they start showing signs of old aging at 35 years of age (2). The American male child could live up to 76 years of age, according to a 2013-2014 measurement (3). This shows that the child could live 30 years longer than Harambe and with an average of 73 years left, the child can accomplish a lot of stuff! Harambe was 17 and he had an average of 23-28 years left to live. You might say that gorillas are endangered so shooting it was not the best solution. Either way, Harambe was going to die childless since male gorillas are sexually dominant before the age of fifteen to twenty years old (4). As for the child, he can be fertile at his early teens and still remain fertile until he dies.

Humans accomplish more than animals and have the brains needed to keep the world stable. If you say the lives of animals are equal to humans, then why can't any wild animal that are mostly left alone by humans perform anything to save the world? Wild animals have their own space and often, humans do not bother them but have they done anything to benefit the world?

In fact, I want to ask you. How will it benefit the world if the three-year old child was left to die at the hands of Harambe?

SOURCES:

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org...
(2) http://www.berggorilla.org...
(3) http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com...
(4) https://seaworld.org...
Debate Round No. 1
Skeptical1

Con

Thanks to Pro for accepting the debate, and for providing his opening arguments.

Statistically speaking, it might be reasonable to expect that the human child *could* have lived longer than Harambe. But I have to ask "so what?" Is the length of a life an indication of its worth, as Pro seems to be implying? John Keats, an extraordinary man of letters, theorist, and writer of sublime poetry died at age 25 [1]. Gerhard Sommer, a Nazi war criminal who murdered 560 innocent people in a single day, including 119 children, is still alive at age 95 [2]. Which life was worth more? Galapogas tortoises and koi fish live for around 200 years [3] - does that make them more valuable than Americans?

If the argument is solely that due to living longer than a gorilla (or most other mammals), a human could "accomplish a lot of stuff", it must be pointed out that this could include growing up to be the next Genghis Khan, Adolf Hitler or Jeffrey Dahmer. There is no reason to believe that any given child will grow up to be any particular mix of good or evil, thus this doesn't seem to be a valid argument.

I don't accept the argument that the ability to breed makes a life more valuable. Is a sterile man's life worth less than the life of one who is not? And in any case, the only reason Harambe hadn't bred is that he hadn't yet reached sexual maturity, not, as Pro claims, he was past it [4].

To quote Pro:

"Humans accomplish more than animals and have the brains needed to keep the world stable. If you say the lives of animals are equal to humans, then why can't any wild animal that are mostly left alone by humans perform anything to save the world? Wild animals have their own space and often, humans do not bother them but have they done anything to benefit the world?"

The world was stable for billions of years before humans got here. Before humans arrived, the world didn't *need* saving. The planet was doing fine, animal species were coming and going in accordance with natural events. It is only the arrival of humans (which the movie "The Matrix" refers to as "a virus") that the Earth has been in danger. It is humans, not gorillas, nor any of the other millions of species, that threaten the very existence of the planet and all life on it. Humans aren't saving the world - they're destroying it. You say that "animals have their own space", yet in 2005 it was reported that the world's forests were being destroyed at the rate of 13.5 million hectares per year *by humans*, resulting in 2,000 species of mammals alone being threatened with extinction [5]. Thanks directly to our actions their "space" is diminishing at an appalling rate.

If I wanted to be callous, based on the above I could respond to your question "How will it benefit the world if the three-year old child was left to die at the hands of Harambe?" with the simple answer that one less human equals one less force for destruction, based on the evidence. But instead, I'll just say that the death of Harambe was tragic. The death of the child would have been tragic. But while we can pretty much guarantee that left to his own devices, Harambe would have done nothing to harm the world, we can't say that with as much certainty for the human child.

[1] http://www.biography.com...
[2] https://sussle.org...
[3] http://10mosttoday.com...
[4] http://www.sciencealert.com...
[5] http://www.wwf.org.au...
Bremners

Pro

Thank you for the response. This is a very philosophical topic.

I have to admit that my human and mammal age comparisons and previous arguments were not great. If all animals (including humans) are equal, can killing the child benefit the worms, horses, giraffes, etc.? No, it could only benefit Harambe. You mentioned that if the child were killed, it would be "one less force for destruction". You just proved a point why humans are superior. Since we are all contributing to destruction of the world, animals cannot do anything about it. In other word, they are helpless. We can keep polluting the water and can fish do anything about it? No, they can't. We can keep cutting down trees and start a massive wildfire. Can animals like snakes, bears, gorillas, etc. do anything about it? No, they can't. Can humans stop water pollution? Not totally but we have the power and intelligence to reduce it. Can humans stop deforestation and wildfire? Not totally but like stopping water pollution, we have the power and intelligence to reduce it. We start the destruction and we are the ones to finish it, not the animals.

I can't describe all of this in one word but humans are able to experience anything. We have more emotions and capable of adapting in almost anything (like speaking languages, understanding each other) as well as create civilizations. Humans can define for themselves what is "good" and what is "bad".

Again, I would describe this topic as philosophical. Very thought-provoking.
Debate Round No. 2
Skeptical1

Con

Pro has taken a pretty novel approach here, for which I have to give him credit. If I understand it correctly, it's because humans have done such a wonderfully thorough job of screwing up the world that they are so valuable - because only they have the power to fix it? But very few seem to actually believe this line. Look at all of the futuristic novels, movies and TV series. What sort of future do Mad Max (The Road Warrior), The Living Dead, The Dark Hour, On the Beach, Damnation Alley, The Road and The Dark Hour represent? It's not one of butterflies and rainbows where humankind have solved the problems of the world and created a glorious utopia. How many authors/screenwriters can Pro think of that have proposed such a future? The destruction and mayhem that humans have already caused is not an argument for their continued existence; if anything it points to how much better off the planet would be if we all just disappeared while there is still a chance for it to heal itself.

Pro raises the question "can killing the child benefit the worms, horses, giraffes, etc.?". Well, not directly, although the nitrogen and other trace elements in his body could benefit the soil, resulting in increased vegetation, which would benefit them indirectly. Obviously killing Harambe didn't benefit any other animals either. The point is, from the time that the child climbed/fell into the gorilla enclosure, there was only one possible way in which the situation could have ended without a tragic and needless loss of life, that is if the humans who were screaming at the top of their lungs had shut up, and the zoo officials had let the situation play out. Jane Goodall, who knows a thing or two about primates, suggested she thought Harambe was acting protectively towards the child, and a number of experts agreed with her. Instead, because of the stupidity of a great number of human beings, an innocent gorilla lost its life. Pro has not demonstrated to this point why that life is any less worth preserving than a human life.

Finally, I wish to address Pro's next to last paragraph, in which he suggests a number of things:

"We have more emotions"

For a long time, scientists assumed animals lacked emotions. There is less and less belief in this as our knowledge grows. Almost no one now doubts that all the higher mammals experience the full range of emotions that we humans do -including fear, sorrow, anger, despair, joy, love and hate. What I find puzzling in the extreme is how anyone who has ever had anything to do with any form of higher mammal could ever have doubted this.

"speaking languages, understanding each other"

It's the ultimate in human arrogance that because we cannot understand their languages, we assume other animals don't have them, and can't understand each other. Have you ever seen a flock of hundreds of birds in flight simultaneously change direction? Try getting a mob of hundreds of humans to do that. Dolphins and whales have been shown to employ complex strategies, involving high levels of cooperation, in order to trap and catch prey. Lions and tigers on the hunt work in perfect unison as a group, without making a sound. The fact that they communicate in ways we can't even properly understand doesn't make them inferior to us. Dolphins have been reported to have learned a vocabulary of up to fifty human words. How many words of dolphin does the world's greatest marine biologist understand?

"as well as create civilizations"

A great many animals create civilizations, including some we think of a quite lowly. Bees, ants and termites have quite complex civilizations. The thing that distinguishes most animal civilizations from human civilizations is that, whereas they might sometimes have tribal "wars" in a similar manner to humans, in most cases their civilizations seem to be internally harmonious, and work together for the common good - which is most *unlike* human civilization.

And finally, "Humans can define for themselves what is "good" and what is "bad"."

Yes we do. And invariably, what is "good" is anything that promotes our own happiness, comfort and safety at the expense of the fellow inhabitants of the planet. As a species, we think nothing of using their flesh for food, their skins for clothing, furniture and vanity items, and we put them through appalling suffering for our own "entertainment". And this is what makes us "superior"?

The chief mistake we make as humans, and the trap into which Pro has fallen, is that we define important characteristics according to what benefits us. We think we are great because we can build skyscrapers and rockets (and atomic bombs), because we can perform differential calculus and create symphonies. But our fellow inhabitants of the planet have evolved with no need for any of these things. How many lions, giraffes or bison commit suicide each year because they can't cope with the demands of their modern societies? How many are suffering stress and anguish because they are working 60 hours per week and still can't pay their bills? We say we are so superior that we are far more worthy to live than any of them, and yet the facts demonstrate otherwise.
Bremners

Pro

Hello again and thanks for the response.

The point is not about whether or not the world will end up as a dystopian place at the hands of humans. I agree that humans are responsible for the anthropogenic activities and poor decisions that affect this world. We are the problem and we are also the solution.

You said, "...it's because humans have done such a wonderfully thorough job of screwing up the world that they are so valuable - because only they have the power to fix it? But very few seem to actually believe this line. ", and then you provided post-apocalyptic novels. Well, what about the Book of Apocalypse of the Bible? It ends by painting a utopian ending for everyone who are morally good. The Giver, The Hunger Games, etc. provide a hopeful conclusion to humanity.

However, we are kinda getting off topic. This topic isn't about the failures of humanity. It's about the dominant control that humanity imposes on animals (in this case, mammals). My argument was that humans are more superior and intrinsically worth more than animals because we can make animals drop on their knees, feeling helpless and vulnerable to the problems that we have caused.

Killing Harambe also benefited other animals too indirectly. Since the zoo is one animal short, they can help protect an endangered animal by keeping them in the zoo instead of being hunted, i.e. a giant panda. If not, the budget for Harambe could be used to take care of the other caged animals. Jane Goodall could have been right that the gorilla was being protective of the child but how do we retrieve the child from the gorilla without provoking it? Harambe could have thought of the child as his own so he would become naturally aggressive, leaving the zookeepers with no choice but to shoot it.

You mentioned about humans knowing what is "good" and what is "bad". You said, "...what is "good" is anything that promotes our own happiness, comfort and safety at the expense of the fellow inhabitants of the planet." I don't see what you are trying to convey here because animals do the same also. Dogs hunt birds and squirrels for fun as well as hyenas steal food from other predators.

Now, my definition of "good" and "bad" is more about knowing the rules. Animals do not have their own rules. They can commit incest and for them, it is nothing wrong but for us, we view it as depraved. This makes us superior because we have a deeper knowledge of the world around us. Furthermore, human emotions are taken to a whole new and deeper level as compared to animals. For example, humans show their sad emotions by shedding tears while animals do not. We also feel betrayed and hurt when our partners cheat on us. Animals do not.

You mentioned speaking languages in humans. I acknowledge your facts but I was trying to point out how all humans have the ability to learn a new language among ourselves. Can a lion and cheetah understand each other even if belonging to the same family? No. Can they learn new "languages" of each other's ? No, they cannot.

You said, "The chief mistake we make as humans, and the trap into which Pro has fallen, is that we define important characteristics according to what benefits us. We think we are great because we can build skyscrapers and rockets (and atomic bombs), because we can perform differential calculus and create symphonies. But our fellow inhabitants of the planet have evolved with no need for any of these things."

You claimed that animals were living in harmony until humans arrived. Weren't fish in peace until bears arrived? Weren't gazelles in peace until big cats arrived? I can't stress enough how humans have the ultimate knowledge known to nature (exception of the Higher Power). Humans evolved from a cell much like any other animal yet we had the deepest knowledge, adapted faster, etc. but why did we change the world so much? The bottom line is humans are superior because we just have the knowledge, feelings and the ability to put any animal down on its knees.
Debate Round No. 3
Skeptical1

Con

Sadly, it would appear my opponent has either lost interest or otherwise been prevented from posting his round three argument. I'll just wrap up by summarising Pro's arguments and my responses. Pro has presented the following arguments for a human life being worth more than an animal life:

1) Humans live longer
2) Humans have the potential to achieve good things
3) Humans possess emotions and language (communication skills)
4) Humans form societies
5) Humans know the difference between good and bad

To which my responses were:

1) The are quite a number of animals that live longer, on average, than humans. Does this mean that these animals are worth more than humans? Also, the worth of a life cannot be judged by its length, as I showed by example.
2) And humans have the ability to achieve appallingly evil things. There is no reason to adopt this as an argument for a human life being more valuable than any other mammal.
3) Non-human animals have also been demonstrated to experience all of the emotions typical of humans. Also, all species can communicate with each other, some far better than humans can, and in ways we don't fully understand. On any account, why should this be the determining factor with regards to how much a life is worth?
4) So do ants, bees and termites. So do all animals, but most other societies function more harmoniously than humans.
5) Some do, and a great many choose bad. Some assume that non-human species have no concept of right and wrong. I don't consider this proven, but even if it were, does that make their life worth less?

Pro hasn't provided a single valid reason why a human life is worth more than that of a non-human animal, so I request that voters cast their vote with Con.

Thanks to Pro for participating, and for his good conduct during the debate.
Bremners

Pro

You have guessed right that I lost interest in this debate.

My opponent did not post a single, distinct argument how animals are equal to humans in Round 1. All he did was refute my arguments starting from Round 2.

1) He missed out the critical fact about the long life of an average human. With long life and age of an average human, there comes the experiences and with the experience, there comes knowledge. Now why is he going to compare a human to a koi fish and a Galapagos tortoise? Humans experience a lot of things on the long run before they die. The koi fish or the Galapagos tortoise do not.

2) He missed out the fact about the appalling things humans do. Yes, I acknowledge humans are vicious creatures too. However, the point is that a human can eliminate as many animals if they could.

3) Intrinsically worth means just naturally worth and naturally superior. Humans have superior emotions since they can shed tear, feel betrayal, etc. My opponent said that we may not fully understand animal emotions. Then how is he and the experts sure that Harambe was trying to protect the three year old child?

4) I don't see how a harmonious society makes an animal equal to humans. Humans created civilizations that expanded and shaped the world like Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, etc. which created a very organized system (for example, modern democracy).

5) Humans know what is good or bad. If we are the only animals that know what is good or bad, doesn't that make us superior because we have our own knowledge?

Con did not provide a single argument how animals are equal to humans. All he did was try to refute my points. Please vote for Pro.

Thanks Con for letting me debate and for good conduct also.
Debate Round No. 4
9 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 9 records.
Posted by liam2505 6 months ago
liam2505
In my opinion the reason a human life is worth a lot more then a mammals life is because we as humans have a power to change the world, to cure a disease or to discover the amazing. Although animals can help these changes they can not simply create these changes on their own.
Posted by Skeptical1 6 months ago
Skeptical1
Well, since I have no right of reply, I'll just answer your concluding (for round three) here for what it's worth, which is not much:

"The bottom line is humans are superior because we just have the knowledge, feelings and the ability to put any animal down on its knees."

So your argument boils down to this: the possession of raw might and the ability to subjugate makes a life worth more than another. I guess then what you are saying is every violent, merciless regime has been justified, and the lives of perpetrators of holocausts and genocides are worth more than peaceful citizens of the countries they invade and conquer. If that assumption is correct, then you win.
Posted by Bremners 6 months ago
Bremners
Sorry, I had a party going on yesterday so I had no time to spend. Literally, I posted my response 30 seconds before my argument was due.
Posted by Skeptical1 6 months ago
Skeptical1
Well, that is unfortunate. According to the site, Pro's time expired without him responding in round three, at which time I posted my last round summary. Somehow, it seems it was possible to post his last argument while I was typing my response. Too bad I can't reply.
Posted by canis 6 months ago
canis
Had they not killed the gorilla, and the 3- year old had been killed. They would have gotten into "real" problems. Think it is not about "worth". But "political correctness" and law.
Posted by Skeptical1 6 months ago
Skeptical1
I'll be happy to give a less cryptic answer then, but I think you may have anticipated it anyway.
Posted by BackCommander 6 months ago
BackCommander
I understand your desire to not allow conversations in the comments to influence the debate itself. The only problem with your answer of another question is that it relies on my answer, and your answer, being the same answer. If my answer, for instance were "I would choose that my son survive, given that a male can reproduce on a greater scale than a female can. Giving my genetic code a greater chance of becoming widespread, the most basic purpose of all life on Earth" then it would be implied that your answer would be to save the human over the animal. It can be assumed that given your stance on human/animal equality your answer would neither be that simple, nor that biased. I'm not saying at all that the answer up there is my answer, I was just using it as an example of our back and forth not working while the debate is ongoing. I suppose I shall return once the debate has come to an end.
Posted by Skeptical1 6 months ago
Skeptical1
That's a good question. I would like to answer it, but I don't want to influence the way the debate might go. Perhaps I can sort of answer it without really doing so? Let's say you were the parent of twin children - a boy and a girl, aged 5, and someone put you in the same situation. Would you flip a coin, or pick one?
Posted by BackCommander 6 months ago
BackCommander
Though I'm not a part of this debate, Pro isn't making a very good argument so I feel the need to pose a question. Con, if someone made you choose between an acquaintance of yours and a gorilla you once saw at a zoo, to be put to a firing squad until dead, would you simply flip a coin without putting any thought behind it?
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