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A Musing About Intelligence and Rights

Jacques_Blackfeather
Posts: 5
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7/13/2015 9:40:12 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
So, before I delve into the question itself, I'll set forth a few definitions so that we're all on the same page (all definitions taken from the Oxford U.S. English dictionary):

Intelligence:
noun
1 The ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills

Speech:
noun
1 The expression of or the ability to express thoughts and feelings by articulate sounds

Now, with those taken care of, I'll launch into a bit of background; I was actually talking with one of my classmates in my A.P.E.S class (Advanced Placement Environmental Science, for those of you not familiar with the AP program) while we were reading up on human rights and needs when a hypothetical scenario manifested in my mind:

Say, in a laboratory somewhere, two scientists have managed to genetically engineer an intelligent creature, which for the sake of consistency is a gryphon, capable of human speech. For the first year or two of its existence, the gryphon is taught to read, speak and understand human speech, up to a sixth grade level.

Up until this point, the two scientists have been simply teaching and observing the gryphon. After two years, the scientists come to a conflict of interest: Scientist A wishes to treat the gryphon as a human being, entitled to the same human rights laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, based on it's intelligence and capacity for expression of thought (i.e. speech), while Scientist B views the gryphon as property and thus subject to whatever tests the scientists wish to perform, regardless of it's intelligence.

Now, my question to you all is: Which scientist would you support in this argument? Is Scientist A right for citing intelligence and capability of speech as an argument for human rights, or is Scientist B correct for saying that the gryphon is property, and thus subject to whatever its owners require?
Mhykiel
Posts: 5,987
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7/13/2015 11:45:19 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 7/13/2015 9:40:12 PM, Jacques_Blackfeather wrote:
So, before I delve into the question itself, I'll set forth a few definitions so that we're all on the same page (all definitions taken from the Oxford U.S. English dictionary):

Intelligence:
noun
1 The ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills

Speech:
noun
1 The expression of or the ability to express thoughts and feelings by articulate sounds

Now, with those taken care of, I'll launch into a bit of background; I was actually talking with one of my classmates in my A.P.E.S class (Advanced Placement Environmental Science, for those of you not familiar with the AP program) while we were reading up on human rights and needs when a hypothetical scenario manifested in my mind:

Say, in a laboratory somewhere, two scientists have managed to genetically engineer an intelligent creature, which for the sake of consistency is a gryphon, capable of human speech. For the first year or two of its existence, the gryphon is taught to read, speak and understand human speech, up to a sixth grade level.

Up until this point, the two scientists have been simply teaching and observing the gryphon. After two years, the scientists come to a conflict of interest: Scientist A wishes to treat the gryphon as a human being, entitled to the same human rights laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, based on it's intelligence and capacity for expression of thought (i.e. speech), while Scientist B views the gryphon as property and thus subject to whatever tests the scientists wish to perform, regardless of it's intelligence.

Now, my question to you all is: Which scientist would you support in this argument? Is Scientist A right for citing intelligence and capability of speech as an argument for human rights, or is Scientist B correct for saying that the gryphon is property, and thus subject to whatever its owners require?

It's not human so it doesn't get human rights.

Law is 9/10th possession so human Law governing what rights are given out will err on the side of property.

I would wish the gryphon never created if the ethical and respectable treatment of such life wasn't already debated.
kp98
Posts: 729
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7/14/2015 3:47:10 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
and thus subject to whatever tests the scientists wish to perform, regardless of it's intelligence.
I would argue that scientists don't have the right to perform "whatever test they wish"ike on a living creature of even very limited intelligence.

The principle was stated by Jeremy Bentham thus:
"the question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer? Why should the law refuse its protection to any sensitive being?... The time will come when humanity will extend its mantle over everything which breathes..." Quite modern thinking for someone who died in 1832!

But I think the OP is not about animal rights but what counts as a person (or entity) for the purpose of 'human rights'. My instinct is to give rights rather than to withhold them so I do not side with the scientist who considers the griffon simply as property. But 'human rights' is not a well-defined notion so what specific rights are we talking about? In the UK "human rights" are enumerated in the Human Rights bill of 1998 thus:

2) The right to life
3) The right not to be tortured or treated in an inhuman way
4) The right to be free from slavery or forced labour
5) The right to liberty
6) The right to a fair trial
7) The right not to be punished for something not against the law
8) The right to respect for private and and family life, home and correspondence
9) The right to free thought, conscience and religion
10)The right to freedom of expression
11)The right to freedom of assembly and association
12)The right to marry and found a family

However there will be people who would not allow human rights to the griffon. How can that not be, when there are people - leave alone griffons - who are denied even these minimal rights.

Certainly give the griffon human rights... I mean, why not?
Jacques_Blackfeather
Posts: 5
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7/14/2015 2:22:38 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 7/14/2015 3:47:10 AM, kp98 wrote:
But 'human rights' is not a well-defined notion so what specific rights are we talking about? In the UK "human rights" are enumerated in the Human Rights bill of 1998


Please note that in the OP, I did say the human rights laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the full text of which can be found here http://www.un.org...

But, for the purposes of this discussion, we shall be taking into consideration only articles 1-9, 12, 15, 18 and 19. I apologize for not including this in my original post to begin with.
kp98
Posts: 729
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7/14/2015 3:18:29 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
There is no purely rational or fact-based system of deciding what is right or wrong. Morality is an entirely personal and subjective matter, at least as things stand today.

I have no idea which scientist you agree with. I side with the second one, but that is a purely subjective choice that I can't justify with anything except appeals to non-rational things like compassion.

So my gut feeling is that griffon deserves human or near human rights. If you think so too, there is nothing to discuss.

If you disagree there is no logical or rational argument either of us can use to change the other's mind, because how we feel is not based on logic or reason.

Were I to argue for my view, I could - possibly - come up with all sorts of good reasons why the griffon deserves human rights, but not one of those reason would be the one what I think it is so. I think the griffon deserves human rights because I am wired-up to think that way. Any rational sounding argument I could give would be a rationalisation of my moral insticts; an after-the-fact justification of my moral sense
over which I have little or no conscious control.

Even if i couldn't come up with any reasonable arguments for my position and someone could for the contrary view, I still would think the same way!

Sad, isn't it?