Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

I received a nice book review in the National Catholic Register, that focused on my primary purpose in writing—the defense and importance of human exceptionalism.  From “When Dog Becomes God,” by John M. Grondelski (must register to open):

But, for me, the most valuable part of the book is Smith’s exposure of the anti-“human exceptionalism” philosophy that underlies “animal rights.” For Judaism, Christianity and Islam - the key forces that shaped the West - man is not a pig or a dog or any other beast. Yet the paradox is that “animal rights” devolves not into a “respect for all life,” but actually lays the foundation for “quality of life” judgments: It’s still safer to be a seal fetus than an unborn baby.

Not that Smith denigrates animals. He is clear to distinguish between “animal welfare” - something that he supports - and “animal rights,” something he rightly regards as intellectual chicanery. While admitting that sometimes “animal rights” activists have advanced animal welfare, he also notes they have sometimes drainedresources away in favor of their agenda. “For ... us who love animals ... but also recognize that our obligation to humanity matters even more - let us strive continually to improve our treatment of animals as we also promote human prosperity and health. First and foremost, this means rejecting out of hand all moral equivalences between human beings and animals.”

Noting correctly that I don’t deeply explore the religious aspects of the question, Grondelski concludes:
One could quibble with some parts of the book, e.g., does Smith really consider the comprehensive “sanctity of life” ethic in some Eastern religions (like ahimsa in Jainism)? Of course, those traditions did not form the Western view of man’s dignity. That said, the thrust of Smith’s analysis is right on target and is particularly relevant given the tendency in some parts of the “green movement” to anthropomorphize and even apotheosize nature at human expense. Besides, he writes well. Recommended.

Thanks, John.

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles