"Non-Human Hominid" Right to Life

Great Britain and New Zealand have banned experimentation on certain groups of great apes. Now the Spanish government is considering granting them not only exemption from experimentation, but the rights to life and freedom, the U.K.’s Guardian reports.1 The phrase “life and freedom” is open to interpretation and promises to provide plenty of legal wrangling for the Spanish courts. If an earlier bloody incident of an escaped gorilla at the Dallas Zoo2 is any example, "freedom" to roam the streets would be difficult to achieve for our "evolutionary comrades," the apes.

Mistreatment of animals is certainly discouraged by the Bible.3 However, those who advocate that human rights be transferred to animals are clearly basing their arguments on an evolutionary worldview. This is stated openly in the Guardian report:

Philosophers Peter Singer and Paola Cavalieri…argued that the ape is the closest genetic relative to humansthat it displays emotions such as love, fear, anxiety and jealousyand should be protected by similar laws….

"This is a historic day in the struggle for animal rights and in defence of our evolutionary comrades which will doubtless go down in the history of humanity," Pedro Pozas, the Spanish director of the Great Apes Project, said.1

Evolutionary theory presumes that man evolved from ape-like ancestors, and that apes share distant common ancestry with man. Now evolutionary thinking is being employed to prop up laws that contradict biblical teaching, as well as reality. Scripture teaches that mankind is a unique creation, being the only recipient of the "image of God."4 Confirming this are the observations that humans have unique mental, physical, volitional, and emotional capacities, and only humans have spiritual characteristics such as faith, hope, love, and knowledge of morality. Ironically, it is this uniquely human knowledge of "wrong done" that motivates Singer and Cavalieri to try to change the laws. However, what is thought of as "right" within an evolutionary worldview does not always line up with God's law.5

Can demands for human rights for other members of the animal kingdom be far behind? Where will it endor will it? If such rights are extended to the great apes, is there any evolutionarily logical reason to deny them to any other living creature?

Evolutionary advocates for animal rights base their arguments on concepts of justice and moral equivalency, but what is the basis for moral law in evolutionary naturalism? The very acknowledgement of a universal moral law (betrayed by the use of words like "ought" or "should") is strong testimony to the fact that there is a moral Lawgiver.6 Of course, He is there and He is not silent. The same God who gave mankind responsibility over the animals7 has also granted us life, His image, and an opportunity for eternal life as described in His Word.8


  1. Glendinning, L. Spanish parliament approves 'human rights' for apes. The Guardian. Posted on guardian.co.uk June 26, 2008, accessed June 30, 2008.
  2. Gorilla’s escape, violent rampage, stun zoo officials. Associated Press, March 19, 2004.
  3. Proverbs 12:10.
  4. Genesis 1:26-27.
  5. Matthew 19:16-19.
  6. For a fuller treatment of this subject, see Budziszewski, J. 2003. What We Can’t Not Know. Dallas, TX: Spence Pub.
  7. Genesis 1:28.
  8. John 3:16.

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer.

Article posted on July 3, 2008.

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