I decided to expand my thoughts, first expressed here, about the NYT column by Professor Michael Marder claiming that it is unethical to eat peas because pea plants can communicate chemically. I took to the Daily Caller, first describing the article in question, and then noting that others have pushed similar idiocy . From, “Good Grief: Now It’s Pea Personhood:”
If Marder’s piece was just a bizarre outlier, his column might be dismissed with a chuckle and an eye roll. Alas, the plants-are-persons-too meme has been gaining traction in recent years. For example, back in 2009, Natalie Angier, a science columnist for The Times (yes, again) marveled like Marder about the sophistication of plant biology, and then jumped her own shark by claiming that plants are the most ethical life forms on the planet!
I give a few quotes from that article, and then point out that this isn’t just talk or op/ed fodder. Switzerland has the “dignity” of plants in its Federal Constitution:
No one knew exactly what “plant dignity” meant, so the government asked the Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology to figure it out. The resulting report, “The Dignity of Living Beings with Regard to Plants,” is enough to short circuit the brain:
A “clear majority” of the panel adopted what it called a “biocentric” moral view, meaning that “living organisms should be considered morally for their own sake because they are alive.” Thus, the panel determined that we cannot claim “absolute ownership” over plants and, moreover, that “individual plants have an inherent worth.” This means that “we may not use them just as we please, even if the plant community is not in danger, or if our actions do not endanger the species, or if we are not acting arbitrarily.”
The committee offered this illustration: A farmer mows his field apparently an acceptable action, the report doesn’t say why. But then, while walking home, he casually “decapitates” some wildflowers with his scythe; a callous act the bioethicists “condemned” as “immoral.” What should happen to the heinous plant decapitator, the report does not say
Plant “community!” Unbelievable. I conclude:
The Times’ columns (and other advocacy pieces I could quote), along with Switzerland’s actually enshrining “plant dignity” into law, and other similar radical proposals such as “nature rights,” are symptoms of a societally enervating relativism that is causing us to lose the ability to think critically and distinguish serious from frivolous ethical concerns. They also reflect the advance of a radical misanthropy that elevates elements of the natural world to the moral status of humans, or perhaps better stated, devalues us to the level of flora and fauna.
Here’s the bottom line: When you eschew human exceptionalism, you go flat out nuts. (Oops. I just insulted a whole family of plants. But it’s okay. Peanut bushes and almond trees are perennials, so they probably have good senses of humor.)
Yes, sometimes I can be snarky.