Three serious questions for young people, since I’m just a caveman and your world frightens and confuses me:
Why is this photo funny? Moreover, why is it funny to write things in broken English in conjunction with this photo? Lastly, how is it possible that people spend a decent chunk of their time on memes like this one?
I am impossibly old and do not understand anything. So thank you for your time.

Three serious questions for young people, since I’m just a caveman and your world frightens and confuses me:

Why is this photo funny? Moreover, why is it funny to write things in broken English in conjunction with this photo? Lastly, how is it possible that people spend a decent chunk of their time on memes like this one?

I am impossibly old and do not understand anything. So thank you for your time.

(Source: Know Your Meme)

# meme # animals # internet

Some insight into my morning.

Some insight into my morning.

(Source: abstractgraphdesigns)

# internet # animals

reblogged from WIL WHEATON dot TUMBLR
Unpopular Opinion Alert:
It doesn’t make you look like the genius you think you are when you make fun of someone who died because he believed something you think is clearly ridiculous.
Lots of people believe things I don’t believe; I can’t get on board with their beliefs. And I believe things that lots of people don’t believe; they can’t get on board with my beliefs.
But maybe let’s not laugh at people because their sincerely held beliefs aren’t ours and thus appear to be ridiculous or terrible. It’s one thing to disagree or even disapprove; it’s quite another to point and laugh.

Unpopular Opinion Alert:

It doesn’t make you look like the genius you think you are when you make fun of someone who died because he believed something you think is clearly ridiculous.

Lots of people believe things I don’t believe; I can’t get on board with their beliefs. And I believe things that lots of people don’t believe; they can’t get on board with my beliefs.

But maybe let’s not laugh at people because their sincerely held beliefs aren’t ours and thus appear to be ridiculous or terrible. It’s one thing to disagree or even disapprove; it’s quite another to point and laugh.

# religion # animals # Facebook # internet

Earlier this week, a zoo in Copenhagen killed a young giraffe named Marius amid a storm of protest and despite the fact that a number of alternatives were offered to save the giraffe. The giraffe was then cut up and fed to lions, as part of an educational demonstration for visitors to the zoo.
Now, it seems, a second Danish zoo may kill a giraffe called Marius.
I have to admit that I don’t understand any of this (including why Marius seems to be the go-to name for giraffes).
Apparently the two stories involve genetics, breeding program rules for giraffes in captivity in Europe, and competition between males:

Copenhagen’s scientific director, Bengt Holst, said Marius’s genes were too similar to those of other animals in the European breeding programme, and he risked introducing rare and harmful genes to the giraffe population if he had been allowed to breed.

This makes some sense.
What doesn’t immediately make sense, though, is why the zoos can’t simply prevent Marius from breeding. Or why the first zoo allowed Marius’ parents to breed two years ago given the serious issues that such breeding can obviously cause. Or why the second zoo didn’t make arrangements to move Marius before joining the breeding program that makes this a potentially immediate problem. Or why more of an effort wasn’t made to simply transfer the giraffes to some other zoo that wouldn’t have the same problems with breeding or competition.
In other words, this situation seems avoidable … so I can’t understand how it might happen twice in the same small country in the space of a year.

Earlier this week, a zoo in Copenhagen killed a young giraffe named Marius amid a storm of protest and despite the fact that a number of alternatives were offered to save the giraffe. The giraffe was then cut up and fed to lions, as part of an educational demonstration for visitors to the zoo.

Now, it seems, a second Danish zoo may kill a giraffe called Marius.

I have to admit that I don’t understand any of this (including why Marius seems to be the go-to name for giraffes).

Apparently the two stories involve genetics, breeding program rules for giraffes in captivity in Europe, and competition between males:

Copenhagen’s scientific director, Bengt Holst, said Marius’s genes were too similar to those of other animals in the European breeding programme, and he risked introducing rare and harmful genes to the giraffe population if he had been allowed to breed.

This makes some sense.

What doesn’t immediately make sense, though, is why the zoos can’t simply prevent Marius from breeding. Or why the first zoo allowed Marius’ parents to breed two years ago given the serious issues that such breeding can obviously cause. Or why the second zoo didn’t make arrangements to move Marius before joining the breeding program that makes this a potentially immediate problem. Or why more of an effort wasn’t made to simply transfer the giraffes to some other zoo that wouldn’t have the same problems with breeding or competition.

In other words, this situation seems avoidable … so I can’t understand how it might happen twice in the same small country in the space of a year.

# animals # Denmark # Europe

Beings who recognize themselves as ‘I’s.’ Those are persons.

The New York Times has a piece today — “Considering the Humanity of Nonhumans" — that’s a very interesting read, especially for people with an interest in human rights:

The Nonhuman Rights Project, an advocacy group led by Steven M. Wise, filed writs of habeas corpus in New York last week on behalf of four captive chimpanzees: Tommy, owned by a Gloversville couple; two at Stony Brook University; and one at the Primate Sanctuary in Niagara Falls. The lawsuits were dismissed, but Mr. Wise said he planned to appeal.

He believes that the historical use of habeas corpus lawsuits as a tool against human slavery offers a model for how to fight for legal rights for nonhumans.

His case relies heavily on science. Nine affidavits from scientists that were part of the court filings offer opinions of what research says about the lives, thinking ability and self-awareness of chimpanzees.

Mr. Wise argues that chimps are enough like humans that they should have some legal rights; not the right to vote or freedom of religion — he is not aiming for a full-blown planet of the apes — but a limited right to bodily liberty. The suits asked that the chimps be freed to go to sanctuaries where they would have more freedom.

It’s an interesting question; I wrote about this in a very tentative way in my human rights book, in a chapter on human dignity and evolutionary biology. I’ve also written about it here on the blog on a number of occasions.

Ultimately, I think my conclusion fits with what some of the people in the NYT piece are doing, insofar as I argue that personhood (and, in particular, a sense of self over time) grounds our dignity which grounds our rights.

Talking about dolphin rights or chimpanzee rights makes some sense to me; they might not have the precise language to claim their rights, but they could nonetheless conceive of themselves as individuals with a distinct sense of self and we could, on that basis, make a rights claim on their behalf.

# human rights # animals # dolphins # chimpanzees # politics # philosophy # science

Has anyone ever said to you re: the frustrations of parenthood, " oh I know what you mean, I've got two dogs!"
andrewsaavedra

Oh yes.

I actually hear this pretty regularly and I smile every single time.

My family always had a dog when I was growing up, sometimes two. We loved them and they loved us. Of course, we had to take care of them, take them for walks around the neighborhood, make sure they had food and water, let them out in the morning, clean up after them, and the like. I suspect this is why people compare owning them to having children.

But here’s the thing, dog owners who compare caring for your dogs to caring for children: You can just leave your dog at home all day when you go to work and your dog will be just fine when you return. If you have a fence, you can put your dog out in the yard to go to the bathroom or just to play and you don’t have to do anything further. When you go on vacation, you can board your dog at a kennel and no harm done. You cannot do these things with children. If you attempt to do so, the state will take your children away from you or put you in prison … and rightly so.

Having a dog is a lot of responsibility and hard work. But it’s nothing like having a child. When people think they are related in some meaningful way, I want to roll my eyes completely out of my head.

And now, I presume, people will commence to scream at me.

# questions # daddy blogging # animals

This week on the Hero Report podcast, we discuss the many stories of so-called animal heroism. Can animals actually act heroically if we don’t know what they’re thinking? What if they’re not actually making a choice to act heroically but are simply acting instinctually? And, finally, is a horse more or less likely to be labeled heroic than a dolphin?

Tell us what you think about this episode, discuss these issues with us on Twitter (Matt Langdon / Ari Kohen), and join us every week on Google+ for our live broadcast (where you can chat with us while we’re on the air and contribute to the conversation).

Want to make the podcast portable? Subscribe via iTunes (audio-only).

# animals # heroism # podcast # internet # dolphins

Comment of the Day

I see… you chatter about the definition of a hero, while some of us, should we be in such a position, rescue cats from trees. Do you have the balls to climb the tree? I bet you do not. Heroes are not born; they are made. You either get it, dude, or you don’t.

Dude, I admit I don’t get it.

This comment was written by a Steve Hutchins in response to my blog post from about two weeks ago, “Heroism as an Emergent Property?,” in which I argued against the claim (made by Rick Hutchins, who just might be Steve’s brother) that rescuing a cat from a tree is an example of heroism just like pulling someone from a burning building is an example of heroism.

By the way, there’s a great online resource for owners of cats stuck in trees called “Cat in a Tree Rescue.” The Info page contains this important information:

So your cat is stuck in a tree. What can you do?

Don’t panic, cats are excellent climbers and will rarely fall out of a tree. Most cats might come down on their own, if given some time to calm down. In my experience cats are very tough and hardy animals. If yours has to spend the night in a tree it should be fine. Some cats may come down during the night after things have calmed down and when it begins to feel confident again.

Dan Kraus — the guy who runs the website and who has rescued nearly 1000 cats from trees — says, “I don’t really consider myself a hero hero, you know. I’m not running into a burning building. I’m not getting shot at. I’m just rescuring a cat.”

# cotd # heroism # animals # comedy # Dan Kraus

This week on the Hero Report podcastwe return from summer hiatus to discuss Australian animals, the famous Lost Episode of the Hero Report, and the emergent properties of heroism. How important are the situation and surroundings to acts of heroism? Can we all be heroes in any situation?

Tell us what you think about this episode, discuss these issues with us on Twitter (Matt Langdon / Ari Kohen), and join us every week on Google+ for our live broadcast (where you can chat with us while we’re on the air and contribute to the conversation).

Want to make the podcast portable? Subscribe via iTunes (audio-only).

# heroism # podcast # internet # Australia # animals # philosophy

Yesterday, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling, every young libertarian’s favorite politician and all-around-best-ever freedom-loving Wunderkind, Senator Rand Paul, appeared on Glenn Beck’s “news” program and found himself not only agreeing with Beck about the flood of polygamy we’re likely to soon experience, but going a step farther than Beck:

"I think this is the conundrum and gets back to what you were saying in the opening — whether or not churches should decide this. But it is difficult because if we have no laws on this people take it to one extension further. Does it have to be humans?
"You know, I mean, so there really are, the question is what social mores, can some social mores be part of legislation? Historically we did at the state legislative level, we did allow for some social mores to be part of it. Some of them were said to be for health reasons and otherwise, but I’m kind of with you, I see the thousands-of-year tradition of the nucleus of the family unit. I also see that economically, if you just look without any kind of moral periscope and you say, what is it that is the leading cause of poverty in our country? It’s having kids without marriage. The stability of the marriage unit is enormous and we should not just say oh we’re punting on it, marriage can be anything."

I’d offer a whole bunch of my own thoughts on this statement, but Steve Benen at MSNBC’s Maddow Blog pretty much sums it up as well as anyone’s likely to do:

I realize there’s a “Stand With Rand” crowd that’s convinced the Kentucky Republican is a visionary when it comes to limited government, and I understand that much of the media establishment is eager for us to perceive him as a serious and credible person. But Rand Paul decided to chat with Glenn Beck, and during the interview the senator raised the prospect of marriage-equality proponents asking, “Does it have to be humans?”

It’s hard to imagine why I haven’t gotten super-excited about this guy yet.

Yesterday, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling, every young libertarian’s favorite politician and all-around-best-ever freedom-loving Wunderkind, Senator Rand Paul, appeared on Glenn Beck’s “news” program and found himself not only agreeing with Beck about the flood of polygamy we’re likely to soon experience, but going a step farther than Beck:

"I think this is the conundrum and gets back to what you were saying in the opening — whether or not churches should decide this. But it is difficult because if we have no laws on this people take it to one extension further. Does it have to be humans?

"You know, I mean, so there really are, the question is what social mores, can some social mores be part of legislation? Historically we did at the state legislative level, we did allow for some social mores to be part of it. Some of them were said to be for health reasons and otherwise, but I’m kind of with you, I see the thousands-of-year tradition of the nucleus of the family unit. I also see that economically, if you just look without any kind of moral periscope and you say, what is it that is the leading cause of poverty in our country? It’s having kids without marriage. The stability of the marriage unit is enormous and we should not just say oh we’re punting on it, marriage can be anything."

I’d offer a whole bunch of my own thoughts on this statement, but Steve Benen at MSNBC’s Maddow Blog pretty much sums it up as well as anyone’s likely to do:

I realize there’s a “Stand With Rand” crowd that’s convinced the Kentucky Republican is a visionary when it comes to limited government, and I understand that much of the media establishment is eager for us to perceive him as a serious and credible person. But Rand Paul decided to chat with Glenn Beck, and during the interview the senator raised the prospect of marriage-equality proponents asking, “Does it have to be humans?”

It’s hard to imagine why I haven’t gotten super-excited about this guy yet.

# Paul # politics # news # Beck # lgbtq # libertarians # animals # DOMA

Yes, this is what I have in mind … except heroic rather than shifty.
HT: Casey Kettler.

Over at Twitter, I’m hard at work on a screenplay. Given how much people like movies about heroes and animals, it’s pretty much guaranteed to make a billion dollars.

If you have good ideas, I’m giving out EP credits.

# heroism # Twitter # internet # movies # comedy # animals

Human Personhood and Human Dignity

Several thoughtful commenters have asked me to say more about human personhood and human dignity after yesterday’s post on Rand Paul’s argument against abortion on the grounds that human life begins at conception.

As I argued there, the fact that human life begins at conception doesn’t actually do any heavy lifting with regard to questions about human personhood or rights. Being a person means more than simply being alive. Think, for example, of the patient in the hospital whose cerebrum is fundamentally injured. The continued existence of the patient is not open to question: so long as she is breathing and her heart is pumping — functions that are regulated by the brainstem rather than the cererum — she is living.

At issue, though, is that the person who existed before the traumatic brain injury is now no longer in existence. All the things that made the patient who she was have left the body of the patient. These things are far more integral to our coneption of personhood — and of life itself — than the mere animal functioning of brainstem, heart, and lungs (which can be duplicated by machine). What cannot be duplicated or replaced is the sense of self, the “I” that I argue makes us persons and from which human dignity, the source of our human rights, is derived.

I don’t want to suggest that we achieve dignity through rational thought or action, i.e., that we earn our dignity in the way that Kant suggests; instead, my argument is that dignity arises from our higher brain function. In particular, dignity is a function of our self-consciousness, our ability to talk and think about ourselves.

The Greek δόξα, from which dignity is derived, is defined as “the opinion which others have of one, estimation, repute.”[1] While this ancient concept was thought to rely on the way we were perceived by others, I want to argue that of far greater importance is the opinion we have of ourselves and, in particular, the stories we tell about ourselves. My dignity is bound up with my answer to the most fundamental identity question, “Who am I? [which] will normally address what is most salient in one’s sense of self.”[2] This narrative identity, David DeGrazia notes, “involves our self-conceptions, our sense of what is most important to who we are.”[3] Bound up with my narrative identity is the sense that I can make something of myself; it is the ability to posit a future that I have a hand in shaping (which can be traced back at least as far as Nietzsche and has been updated by contemporary theorists like Ronald Dworkin and Richard Rorty). DeGrazia puts this especially cogently: “Much of what matters (to most of us, anyway) is our continuing existence as persons—beings with the capacity for complex forms of consciousness—with unfolding self-narratives and, if possible, success in self-creation.”[4]

Ultimately, then, I argue that personhood and dignity are bound up together, that one cannot be a human person without the ability — derived from organized cortical brain activity — to feel as though there is a “I” in the center of one’s brain, pulling levers and adjusting dials (even though we know that, in fact, this is simply an evolutionary strategy developed by our genes to make ours brains better, more clever ones). This “I” amounts to a feeling of selfhood that, finally, accounts for our having dignity and being persons. As I conclude in my book, “It is, in my estimation, the feature that separates human persons from human animals and, so far as we know, from all other animals.”

Though the patient with the traumatic brain injury and the person she was before the injury are the same biological animal, the person died when her cerebral cortex, the self-creating part of her brain, stopped functioning. The patient with the traumatic brain injury is no longer a rights-bearing person because the patient does not possess the equipment necessary for personhood and dignity. The same is obviously true of the blastocyst, insofar as it’s simply a ball of cells and has no brain whatsoever.

In the end, I think human life alone is not enough to provide us with rights, that a heartbeat — which can be accomplished entirely by machines — doesn’t require governmental action on my behalf. Indeed, in the cases at issue here, the idea of “my” in “my behalf” doesn’t really have any meaning, as without higher brain function, I cannot conceive of myself at all. That’s why I argue that our rights hinge not simply on our bodily functions but on our dignity. Certain fetuses, on my reading, cannot properly be understood to be bearers of dignity and are thus not the bearers of rights.

While I have no doubt that some people will want to suggest problems with this argument — and I look forward to hearing them! — I think it’s a much stronger position than the one put forward by people like Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, or my thoughtful commenters. First of all, it contains an explanation about why human persons have special rights that require governmental protection while other living animals do not. Secondly, it provides us with the measuring tool of higher brain function — which ensoulment clearly does not provide — for making decisions that would potentially infringe on the rights of women. And, finally, it keeps religious belief away from a heated public policy debate, ensuring that people who believe that blastocysts are the beloved children of God are entitled to that belief but are not entitled to enforce it on anyone else.


[1] Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, revised and augmented by Sir Henry Stuart Jones with the assistance of Roderick McKenzie (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969), 444.

[2] David DeGrazia, “Identity, Killing, and the Boundaries of Our Existence,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 31(4) (Fall 2003), 423.

[3] Ibid., 424.

[4] Ibid.

# abortion # politics # Paul # Ryan # women # human rights # religion # long reads # animals # philosophy # science

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