Volume 1, Issue 1
1st Quarter, 2006

The Ethics of Enhancing Animals, Specifically the Great Apes

Guido David Núñez-Mujica

This article was adapted from a lecture given by Guido David Núñez-Mujica at the 1st Annual Colloquium on the Law of Transhuman Persons on December 10, 2005, at the Space Coast Office of Terasem Movement, Inc., Melbourne Beach, Florida.

Editor's Note: As a student, Núñez-Mujica explores the Western view that humans are the center of the universe, with a vast gap between man and animal. Through the relatively recent development of the field of Anthropology and the Western world's exposure to other cultures that have revered animals, we have gained an appreciation for complex behaviors and sophisticated consciousness in animals, particularly the Great Apes. The taxonomic status of the Great Apes - which include gorillas, orangutans and chimpanzees – has been changed recently and they are now classified within the same group as humans, hominids.

Núñez-Mujica reveals that the Great Apes share virtually the same genetic framework as humans. They display signs of self-awareness and also use language and tools. Therefore, it can be argued that they deserve the same basic rights as humans. He makes a compelling argument for enhancing the Great Apes so that they may reach their full potential and ensure their survival.

Humans have pushed the Great Apes close to extinction, and using concepts of transhumanism to enhance this species just might be our only hope of making up for our trespasses against these animals and save them from extinction.


Enhancing the Great Apes

I would like to explore the ethics of enhancing animals. First, let's examine how we, as Westerners, see animals and how we treat them as a result.

Human-Centric View
The Christian point of view, which holds that God is the center of everything, prevailed during the Middle Ages. Christians believe that God created humans in his image and in Genesis, God commands humans to conquer the earth. The humanist point of view, which has prevailed from the Renaissance forward, maintains that man is the measure of everything.

When we consider how Westerners treat animals, it follows from this background that the Man is the center of everything and animals are on the periphery, whether God or man is the measure of things. Image 1 shows two familiar Western pictures that reflect this view.

Man-Centered View
Image 1

Until the 20th century, we felt that animals were merely autonoma. They were likened to machines. Perhaps they could feel pain, but they were not intelligent. There was a great gap between man and animal. Later, anthropology and other behavioral sciences revealed that animals have complex behaviors that we had previously not noticed.

How Other Cultures View Animals
In contrast, other cultures have given animals great roles, such as gods and hunters. In these cultures, man is not the center of everything, but part of a continuum. Image 2 shows examples of animals as symbols of power.

Animals as Gods
Image 2

In many cultures, man and animals are all contained in one vast realm of being. Cultural concepts that uphold this perspective -- such as Pantheism, karma, and reincarnation -- are alien to Westerners because they hold that man and animals occupy varying degrees of the same consciousness. It is not a great issue whether you are a dog or a man because in the end, if you keep growing your consciousness, you will end up in the same place.

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