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View Poll Results: Which of these are sentient and deserving of rights?

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  • Great apes (chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans)

    12 54.55%
  • Cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises)

    12 54.55%
  • Elephants

    11 50.00%
  • Cephalopods (especially the octopus)

    9 40.91%
  • Grey Parrots

    10 45.45%
  • Other (please specify)

    11 50.00%
  • None

    5 22.73%
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  1. #1
    Senior Member UniqueMixture's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Non-human persons



    I was reading an article on a group of scientists, philosophers, and lawyers who came up with a declaration saying cetaceans (dolphins and whales) should be declared non-human persons and should be given rights similar to humans such as not being the property of a corporation and a right to a non-disruption of their natural habitat.

    After reading a bit more I discovered this declaration by the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies:

    Owing to advances in several fields, including the neurosciences, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the human species no longer can ignore the rights of non-human persons. A number of non-human animals, including the great apes, cetaceans (i.e. dolphins and whales), elephants, and parrots, exhibit characteristics and tendencies consistent with that of a person's traits like self-awareness, intentionality, creativity, symbolic communication, and many others. It is a moral and legal imperative that we now extend the protection of 'human rights' from our species to all beings with those characteristics. The IEET, as a promoter of non-anthropocentric personhood ethics, defends the rights of non-human persons to live in liberty, free from undue confinement, slavery, torture, experimentation, and the threat of unnatural death. Further, the IEET defends the r of non-human persons to live freely in their natural habitats, when that's not possible, to be given the best quality of life an welfare possible in captivity (such as sanctuaries).

    Apparently the great apes, dolphins, and elephants share certain elements like spindles in parts of their brains, etc which may be related to cognition.

    So, what do you think? Are there such things as non-human persons? What animals/entities should be included in the category? What rights are they entitled to (if any)? What are the legal, social, moral, etc. ramifications?
    For all that we have done, as a civilization, as individuals, the universe is not stable, and nor is any single thing within it. Stars consume themselves, the universe itself rushes apart, and we ourselves are composed of matter in constant flux. Colonies of cells in temporary alliance, replicating and decaying and housed within, an incandescent cloud of electrical impulses. This is reality, this is self knowledge, and the perception of it will, of course, make you dizzy.

  2. #2
    Senor Membrae Eugene Watson VIII's Avatar
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    We've been ignoring this for how long then?

    That's a pretty good question though. I think most people would classify any sort of human as a person, civilized or not. But as a species we treat other species differently, so it's difficult to say we could treat animals as a 'person'. I get the idea but it doesn't seem to work.

  3. #3
    & Badger, Ratty and Toad Mole's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by UniqueMixture View Post
    So, what do you think? Are there such things as non-human persons?
    Corporations are non-human persons. The Law treats all corporations as non-human persons, with the same or similar rights and responsibilities as human persons.

  4. #4
    Senior Member UniqueMixture's Avatar
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    Well, it brings up other philosophical questions as well. What is a person? Are clones persons? Are genetically engineered humans persons? Are humans augmented with technology persons? Is it possible to have inorganic persons (robots or software that evolves sentience)? Do these entities have souls? What is a soul? If inorganic persons can exist, is it possible that they exist already? What is sentience?

    -------------------------------------------------------------

    Quote Originally Posted by Victor View Post
    Corporations are non-human persons. The Law treats all corporations as non-human persons, with the same or similar rights and responsibilities as human persons.
    I guess I meant, not just legally, but morally/emotionally. I understand people can love their job, but they do not normally think of their grocery chain as a sentient entity. Do you?
    For all that we have done, as a civilization, as individuals, the universe is not stable, and nor is any single thing within it. Stars consume themselves, the universe itself rushes apart, and we ourselves are composed of matter in constant flux. Colonies of cells in temporary alliance, replicating and decaying and housed within, an incandescent cloud of electrical impulses. This is reality, this is self knowledge, and the perception of it will, of course, make you dizzy.

  5. #5
    & Badger, Ratty and Toad Mole's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by UniqueMixture View Post
    I guess I meant, not just legally, but morally/emotionally. I understand people can love their job, but they do not normally think of their grocery chain as a sentient entity. Do you?
    My grocery chain is called Aldi, a German grocery chain, non-human but legally a person. So just the other day I said to them, you have German efficiency but no sense of humour. And they said, we don't need a sense of humour to sell groceries.

  6. #6
    Let me count the ways Betty Blue's Avatar
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    Well i'm inclined to agree. But i'm not sure how much of what is suggested is not already in play...

    "given rights similar to humans such as not being the property of a corporation and a right to a non-disruption of their natural habitat."

    If the above quote is not already enforced then yes it should be. Oh but define non-disruption?
    Because if it means the whole of all seas and oceans then that might be a tall order. Idk... i don't think we are far off from being able to synthetically communicate with cetaceans. We do already a little but i meant more as a wholly formed language. That will be interesting.
    "We knew he was someone who had a tragic flaw, that's where his greatness came from"

  7. #7
    Senior Member UniqueMixture's Avatar
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    Here is the text of the declaration @HelenOfTroy. I believe it was just meant to be a preliminary conceptual sort of thing so the intricacies of legality could be sorted out later.

    Based on the principle of the equal treatment of all persons; Recognizing that scientific research gives us deeper insights into the complexities of cetacean minds, societies and cultures; Noting that the progressive development of international law manifests an entitlement to life by cetaceans; We affirm that all cetaceans as persons have the right to life, liberty and wellbeing. We conclude that:

    1. Every individual cetacean has the right to life.

    2. No cetacean should be held in captivity or servitude; be subject to cruel treatment; or be removed from their natural environment.

    3. All cetaceans have the right to freedom of movement and residence within their natural environment.

    4. No cetacean is the property of any State, corporation, human group or individual.

    5. Cetaceans have the right to the protection of their natural environment.

    6. Cetaceans have the right not to be subject to the disruption of their cultures.

    7. The rights, freedoms and norms set forth in this Declaration should be protected under international and domestic law.

    8. Cetaceans are entitled to an international order in which these rights, freedoms and norms can be fully realized.

    9. No State, corporation, human group or individual should engage in any activity that undermines these rights, freedoms and norms.

    10. Nothing in this Declaration shall prevent a State from enacting stricter provisions for the protection of cetacean rights.


    Cetaceans are currently thought by scientists to have a higher sentience quotient than even chimpanzees (our closest genetic relative).
    For all that we have done, as a civilization, as individuals, the universe is not stable, and nor is any single thing within it. Stars consume themselves, the universe itself rushes apart, and we ourselves are composed of matter in constant flux. Colonies of cells in temporary alliance, replicating and decaying and housed within, an incandescent cloud of electrical impulses. This is reality, this is self knowledge, and the perception of it will, of course, make you dizzy.

  8. #8
    Emperor/Dictator kyuuei's Avatar
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    I certainly don't get a right to non-distruption of my natural habitat.. so why should whales?
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  9. #9
    Let me count the ways Betty Blue's Avatar
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    Yeah it's great, first bill of equal rights for animals-woot! (*that i know of)
    Now to just get them talking to us on topics of importance
    "We knew he was someone who had a tragic flaw, that's where his greatness came from"

  10. #10
    Senior Member UniqueMixture's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kyuuei View Post
    I certainly don't get a right to non-distruption of my natural habitat.. so why should whales?
    Perhaps by giving rights like this to cetaceans it will illuminate the inconsistencies in human culture and lead to increased rights for others as well.

    Or as Martin Luther King put it:

    Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
    For all that we have done, as a civilization, as individuals, the universe is not stable, and nor is any single thing within it. Stars consume themselves, the universe itself rushes apart, and we ourselves are composed of matter in constant flux. Colonies of cells in temporary alliance, replicating and decaying and housed within, an incandescent cloud of electrical impulses. This is reality, this is self knowledge, and the perception of it will, of course, make you dizzy.

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