Making Monkeys Out of Us

The next time someone calls you a gorilla, or a big ape, it just might be a compliment, if an animal-rights group gets its way. Apes, gorillas, and chimpanzees, you see, will be declared... well, not human, but human enough to deserve human rights. But the implications for real humans are chilling. Some 38 New Zealand scientists are attempting to get their lawmakers to pass laws that would guarantee "basic human rights" to apes and other primates. Among those rights would be the right not to be deprived of life and the right not to be used in scientific experimentation. But as animal ethicist David Mellor points out, proposed animal welfare legislation already protects New Zealand's great apes. Primates are not even used in research in New Zealand, and according to The New York Times, New Zealand has fewer than 50 chimpanzees and orangutans. So why are all the animal-rights activists trying to pass laws essentially giving human rights to animals. For the answer, we need to look at the hidden agenda and at the group the New Zealanders are affiliated with: the Great Ape Project International. A few years ago, the scientists affiliated with this organization came out with a book entitled The Great Ape Project: Equality beyond Humanity. It's a collection of essays that advance an audacious conclusion: that primates should be recognized as "non-human persons" with the same moral and legal rights as human beings. The argument for primate "personhood" runs along several lines. First, human DNA differs from the DNA of chimpanzees by only 2 percent. Apes also show a certain capacity for language, problem solving, and self-reflection. They even seem to feel emotions, just the way humans do. Well, based on these facts, the notion that people are entitled to any rights denied to apes is dismissed as "human arrogance." The editors of the Great Ape Project write: "We demand the extension of the community of equals to include all great apes: human beings, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans." The argument for primate personhood may sound silly. But some scientists have been so inspired by the Great Ape Project that they're lobbying to get the United Nations to pass a Declaration on Great Apes to guarantee apes the right to life, liberty, and freedom from torture. How would "gorilla rights" translate into law? It would no longer be legal to use "nonconsenting" great apes for medical research (although how we'd know if they consented or not is anyone's guess). Zoos and circuses would be forced to free their great apes. Don't laugh this off! Serious people are serious about this because if naturalism is true, all creatures are the same. Chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall writes, "The line dividing 'man' from 'beast' has become increasingly blurred." Well, what is not blurred is the line between a biblical worldview and naturalism. Scripture teaches that God created humans in His own image, conferring on them a unique moral status. And then He placed them in a garden, in a hierarchical creation, giving them responsibility to tend and care for others. Animal-rights activists like those in New Zealand are not just softhearted people who love animals. No, they're promoting a nonbiblical, naturalistic worldview that threatens to denigrate the unique moral status of human beings. The truth is that the moral chasm that divides man from ape is big enough for King Kong to swing through.


Chuck Colson



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