Anthropocentrism, biocentrism, and rubber ducks

Maybe it is just an arbitrary decision to limit room on the raft to one’s closest neighbors, however unfair and unprincipled?
~Justin Leiber, “Can Animals and Machines Be Persons?: A Dialogue”

I was born and raised an American. I consider an individual’s right to live as they choose to be almost sacrosanct. But on the other hand, I also agree with the notion that we should not do just whatever in the hell we want. I fully understand the biocentric view that we, as a species, should restrain ourselves. We are not the only rubber duck in the tub.

Of course, the best option is neither purely anthropocentric or biocentric. It lies, with everything else, in the middle somewhere.

One could argue that since murder is illegal and thus we cannot do quite everything we want, that we could use the same logic to criminalize actions that are obviously harmful to the environment and our fellow rubber ducks. It’s not that black and white, though. Murder is easy, most of the time. Assisted suicide or maybe abortion is more of what we’re looking at here. Something in that odd sort of gray area. Some people say yes, others say no, some people depend on the situation, others are permanently on the fence.

On the flip side, one could argue that humans are animals and that everything we do is, in fact, “natural.” We are only following our instincts and biological drives just like any other species. Hell, just about any other species put into our place would probably do the same things we are. There are people who believe, sincerely, that a world ruled by Yellow-rumped Warblers would be more noble and respectful than ours. I say that’s veering dangerously close to the noble savage stereotype. Birds can be assholes, and I doubt the Yellow-rumped Warblers are an exception.

But how does one go about balancing two conflicting moralities? It would be one thing, maybe, if people were willing to give up their “god-given” right to drive a pickup truck when they don’t need one or take too many napkins at a restaurant. But that’s not the case. Even cases that seem clear-cut aren’t. I’m pretty sure that we’re to the point where everyone can agree that Smoking Is Bad For You. Obviously, an outsider would say that banning the use of tobacco is a safe decision that no one would disagree with. In reality, it’s not that easy.

Maybe the question is really “Where do my rights end and your rights begin?”

Or maybe, since we’re animals and pre-programmed to survive first, everything else later. If you feel you’re just trying to hang in there, be it the threat of job loss or starvation, you’re not going to worry much if your solution is environmentally friendly. This is part of the reason why affluent people tend to be the “green” ones…they have the ability to think of someone else. You can’t take care of others if you can’t even care for yourself. So maybe we can’t be truly biocentric, or even leaning toward biocentrism, until we first take care of ourselves as a species. But does that really answer the rights question?

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2 Responses to “Anthropocentrism, biocentrism, and rubber ducks”

  1. “that a world ruled by Yellow-rumped Warblers would be more noble and respectful than ours. I say that’s veering dangerously close to the noble savage stereotype. Birds can be assholes, and I doubt the Yellow-rumped Warblers are an exception.”

    Fisrt, That’d be AWESOME! World ruled by birds. ^^
    Second, That’d be terrifying. Any bird owner would tell you a world ruled by parrots would be absolute CHAOS, or ruled by raptors (birds of prey) would be practical, bloody, and singleminded.

    A world ruled by any one species would be equally bad and good as a world ruled by the human species only in different ways.

    Fortunately humans don’t rule the world. We only are arrogant and childish enough to think and act like we do.

  2. A world ruled by a species with no butthole muscles? I think I’ll pass on that.

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