Sunday, January 3, 2010



We learn from earliest childhood that "killing is bad." We have a natural moral sense that ending lives is generally not a good (and certainly not a nice) thing to do. Along the same lines, we learn that "life is valuable." We especially learn this when it comes to human lives. Animal lives are, well, not as valuable.

Some people genuinely take these lessons to heart. Abortion opponents, for instance, say that "all potential life is valuable." That means that not just full-grown adults do not deserve to die, but also tiny cell clusters that might one day develop into fetuses. Some even think that any potential life is valuable. But this reaches into absurdity. After all, every ejaculation and ovulation cycle represents "potential life." Surely it is neither sin nor murder to have a period or to ejaculate without an intention to procreate.

But all "life rhetoric" is vexingly biased. After all, who speaks up for non-human life? All cellular organisms are "alive." They all "die" when their necessary cellular functions cease. Is it somehow distressing, then, when a cow dies? How about a cockroach? Or a tree? These things are all "life." Yet no one marches to stop "tree murder," and no one wails when a raccoon dies in the wilderness. Put simply, when people say they "believe in life," they really mean that they believe in "human life." After all, people have an interest in staying alive. From a biological perspective, no living creature wants to die. A few people, of course, want to kill themselves. In the aggregate, however, most living humans want to stay alive.

Despite all this, even those who feverishly "defend human life" are not absolutists. Even people who fight tooth and nail to defend the unborn--or lament wasted sperm--have exceptions to their rule. After all, many people think that some human life is not worth preserving. When a man "deserves" to die, even the staunchest life defenders do not intervene to save him. I always found it amusing that most abortion defenders support capital punishment. I find it even more amusing that some particularly fiery abortion defenders murder doctors in order to prevent abortions. How's that for a problematic principle? All life is precious; but some people deserve to be killed. It's enough to boggle one's mind--or even laugh, if it weren't so serious.

Perhaps it is not so surprising after all. In fact, I venture that most people actually have little problem killing their fellow man. In fact, I think most people would have an easier time killing a man than a "lesser life form," like a dog or a deer. Despite all the things we learn about killing others, I think most people just need to be pushed far enough in order to kill another human being. And not just kill--gleefully kill.

And that's the difference: Men must be pushed to kill another person. Only human beings have the capacity to taunt, insult, degrade, abuse and denigrate their fellows. They can cause untold misery to one another, both physically and psychologically. The urge to kill builds in proportion to the misery a person endures at another's hands. Sometimes it does not even take that much to push a person over the edge. Think about road rage killings and drunken barroom squabbles. Men exchange words. Their emotions fly off the handle. Next thing you know, someone is dead. In other cases, a person suffers chronic abuse and finally snaps. Consider the beaten wife who just can't take it any more and slits her husband's throat while he sleeps.

In short, people kill each other for comparatively little. Maybe life is not that sacred after all.

But the same people who gladly kill their fellow man might have trouble killing a puppy dog. After all, people who kill over abuse or petty arguments do so because humans have a unique ability to arouse enmity in one another. In the moment before a man stabs a rival who insulted his girlfriend, he thinks: "I'm gonna kill this fucking asshole." In other words, the human capacity for intent leads men to kill each other. It even makes killing easy in the right circumstances.

Not so with a dog. Why would anyone want to kill an innocent little puppy? Everyone knows that a puppy can't cause any harm. It can't lie, deceive, insult, connive, abuse, beat, torture or tyrannize. It can do none of the things that arouse homicidal rage in human beings. If it came between an innocent puppy dog and a hated tormentor who slaps and insults you all day for weeks on end, I don't think I'm stretching to suggest that most people would much rather kill the man than the dog.

In a word, it is facetious to claim that "all human life is sacred." Our own behavior proves us wrong when we do. The truth is that human beings drive us crazy from time to time. They drive us so crazy, in fact, that we become all too willing to kill them if the circumstances impel us. Only humans have the capacity to arouse such furious, homicidal rages. Puppies have no such capacity. That is why-- if given the choice--I think most people would rather kill a detested, tyrannical person than an innocent dog.


Sarah said...

it is funny to think that the more they're against abortion, the more likely they are going to kill another person. how ironic.

Timoteo said...

Animals, which act primarily out of instinct, are innocent--their behavior essentially preprogrammed. Humans, who have the capacity to CHOOSE love and compassion or reject it, are not. Is it any wonder that many would favor the puppy?