A story about a 4-year-old boy who managed to elude his parents and work his way into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo has been all over the internet and social media. As a grandmother of three very active little boys, 1, 3 and 5, I can almost imagine this happening, though I still think his parents bear some responsibility (as does the zoo, even if this is the first time such a thing has happened in 38 years.) It’s this type of occurrence that makes me think those cute little
leashes harnesses might not be such a bad idea, after all.
As unsettling as an event such as this is, even more disturbing is the fact that no small number of people have seemed disproportionately outraged that the gorilla was shot and killed in order to save the little boy. One very plainspoken blogger/tweeter stated that the lives of every ape in the world do not equal that of even one human being, and he was viciously attacked by an international array of outraged animal lovers. The mindset of this group appears to be that humans are parasites of which there are already too many, and that the choice to kill the animal, even to save the boy, is an offense of the highest order.
The fact that we have to explain that the intrinsic value of each human is such that this choice was a complete no-brainer is chilling to me. But that is where we are. In a world where nearly a quarter of all pregnancies end in abortion, it is already clear that unborn humans are regarded by many as expendable and inconvenient. There are even some who make the argument that infants who have already been born aren’t necessarily entitled to life, should they be somehow imperfect or disabled. So, I suppose it’s not too much of a stretch to rationalize that troublesome 4 year olds – being found in rather large numbers worldwide – aren’t all that valuable either.
While those of us with Catholic or other Christian sensibilities understand that the intrinsic value of each and every human lies in our being made “in the image and likeness of God”, that particular argument doesn’t hold water for the increasing number of people who profess no faith. But there are other, secular arguments for the unique value of humans. Humans, unlike animals, are “rational agents”, capable of making decisions. Wesley J. Smith eloquently makes a case for “human exceptionalism”, totally apart from the “image of God” argument:
“After all, what other species in known history has had the wondrous capacities of human beings? What other species has been able to (at least partially) control nature instead of being controlled by it? What other species builds civilizations, records history, creates art, makes music, thinks abstractly, communicates in language, envisions and fabricates machinery, improves life through science and engineering, or explores the deeper truths found in philosophy and religion? What other species has true freedom? Not one….”
This makes perfect sense to me; that a growing number of very vocal people find it unconvincing is cause for real concern.
Something tells me that the cats and dogs belonging to the folks so outdone by the “tragic” killing of the gorilla enjoy very comfortable lives. However, were I dependent upon these people and suffering from a serious illness, disability, or plain old age, I’d want to head for the hills.