Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Monkey See, Monkey Sue

Last month a committee of the Spanish Parliament passed a resolution that would give great apes (chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, and orangutans) the right to life, freedom from arbitrary captivity, and protection from torture, which gives the great apes more rights than any human declared an “enemy combatant” by President Bush.

In Austria the judicial system is poised to declare a chimp a person. The chimp’s lawyer, Eberhart Theuer, a top banana in Austria’s legal system, said that if he wins his client’s case Europe would have to give great apes the same rights as people. If he looses the case he plans to…. wait for it…. a peel!

All monkeyshines aside, I, for one, am thrilled by these developments. If a corporation can be a person, why not an ape?

Apes are people too, that’s my motto. Chimpanzees and bonobos differ from humans by only 1% of DNA. I believe this means that I am closer to my chimp friends imprisoned in the local zoo than I am to some of my neighbors who, while not swinging from trees themselves seem only too eager to see other humans do so.

Sure there are some differences between the apes and us. Here are some of them:

1. All great apes recognize themselves in a mirror, but few if any worry about the size of their butts.

2. Chimpanzees and bonobos can exchange blood and kidneys with humans, and, like humans, most lack health insurance, but unlike humans, they expect their employers (zoos and the like) to pay for it. Apes are socialists by nature, I guess.

3. Great apes have displayed love, fear, anxiety and jealousy, so they, like us can appreciate the drama of daytime television, but, unlike us, few have televisions.

4. Great apes, like humans, can learn and use language through signs and symbols but lack the vocal anatomy to master speech, which means that, unlike us, they can’t host talk shows on cable.

5. Apes, like us, may be persons with rights, but, unlike us, they won’t be able to sue either other apes or humans. This is a terrible mistake which, when we humans destroy our civilization and apes take over the planet, will be the loophole the apes use to enslave our species.

Of course you might think that if I am pro ape-as-person I must be pro fetus-as-person, and I would be if a fetus could recognize itself in a mirror.

Anyway, in researching for this blog I discovered that the United Kingdom banned experiments on great apes in 1997, but allow experimentation on marmosets, which, if I am not mistaken, are chocolate covered marshmallow cookies. Now this I found troubling. Why experiment on cookies? But I am not scientist so I won’t judge.


soldiermom said...

Laughing...too funny.

Studying Kanzi- the famous bonobo, professors stipulated that two of the differences between man and great ape was the ability to ask a question and the capacity to know God.

I always wondered, ok..the question part I get, but how could we possibly know if great apes have the capacity to know God or not? I certainly see God in them and am moved to greater belief...why not the other way around?

Any views on the monkey see, monkey do, monkey know God too theory??

Rabbi Rami said...

If great apes could imagine God they would do so in their own image.

And as a university professor of religion I have to take issue with my colleagues and their study of Kanzi. Most of my students have no capacity to know God, and even fewer have the capacity to ask a question other than, "Do we have to know this for the final?"

soldiermom said...

Ha...good one.