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  • Clif Grant

Don't judge a fish by their ability to climb a tree...

Updated: Jan 20

Almost everyone will remember Harambe, the 17-year-old gorilla who was murdered at a zoo in Cincinnati after a four-year-old boy fell into his enclosure. (Check out our recent post about zoos.)


I remember reading a news article promoting the belief that human life is intrinsically more valuable than the life of another animal…and that viewing the life of a gorilla as equally important as the life of the human child as a terrible one, a wrong one, an insult.



So how do we weigh the moral value of human life against an animal's life ?


We have decided that intelligence--our particular type of intelligence, that is--is the evolutionary adaptation that makes us superior yet fail to see our bias because it’s the adaptation we excel at the most. I could equally well argue that flight is the more important.


Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

--author unknown, popularly attributed to Albert Einstein


Is intelligence more important than flight?

Important how?


It’s a bit like the darts player Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor announcing that he is the best athlete in the world. By what standard should we measure these attributes?

Perhaps we should frame the comparison in relative terms. There are almost 8 billion human beings on this planet. Western lowland gorillas are a CRITICALLY ENDANGERED species.

As humans drive Earth ever closer to the brink of the sixth mass extinction, perhaps we need to consider just exactly what a human life is really worth and adopt a moral standard that represents our ethical responsibilities to the planet and the other earthlings we share it with.


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