Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Shooting the relatives

The recent killing of a gorilla (Harambe) in a zoo in the USA because a small boy fell into his compound has raised some very interesting ethics issues. Many are asking if the deliberate shooting of this mountain gorilla (through no fault of his own) was fair; questions are being asked about the role and culpability of the parents and also that of the zoo itself whose facilities were clearly inadequate for the purposes of protecting the human visitors and the animals from each other. In my view the zoo needs to be punished in some way for their clear failure in this and the laws around zoos and the mixing of wild animals and people need to be re-visited; ideally I would hope that the death of this magnificent animal would not be in vain.

In the USA many commentators have been chipping into this debate; infamous Conservative Christian blow-hard Rush Limbaugh said the following on his radio show..

"This woman obviously has not read Genesis, and even if she did it wouldn't have any impact on her. But human beings travel all over the world to gawk at animals precisely because they're unusual, they're interesting, some are cute, some are deadly. There's no way human beings are going to not be interested in animals. Gawking at them. Out on safari, hunting them or what -- By the way, you know there's another factor in this, Snerdley? A lot of people think that all of us used to be apes. Don't doubt me on this. A lot of people think that all of us used to be gorillas. And they're looking for the missing link out there. The evolution crowd. They think we were originally apes. I've always -- if we were the original apes, then how come Harambe is still an ape, and how come he didn't become one of us?"

I can't resist pointing out a few logical problems with Mr Limbaugh's commentary. Firstly I would correct his (common) misunderstanding about evolution in that humans share a common ancestor with modern apes but were never "gorillas". Gorillas are a modern day species that evolved as a distinct species to us. To aid understanding, perhaps Mr Limbaugh would like to contemplate that he shares a European ancestor with people who still live there, if there are Americans why are there still Europeans? (is this so hard to grasp?) Another aspect of his ignorance is that individual animals don't "become" other animals, this is not what evolution claims; populations evolve over generations, not individuals, and the changes are imperceptible from one generation to the next, all that's required is a big chunk of time. Mr Limbaugh is also dismissing the idea that humans and apes are related, we need only look at their DNA to establish that we are, however, I wouldn't expect this good ol'boy to appreciate such newfangled scientific mumbo-jumbo; all I suggest he do is look at the two photographs above and tell me honestly that there's no similarity (In case you're wondering, Limbaugh is the ape on the right holding the golf club)


A Heron's View said...

Personally I found it deplorable that the Gorilla was executed on behalf of the zoo. This then is what happens when you allow people with a dysfunctional mentality to have weapons.

The real gorilla at least has the sense not to smoke... which surely puts his mental agility far above the obese Mr Limbaugh ?

Steve Borthwick said...

HV, agreed!, at the end of the day we're all just monkeys with shoes (and guns!)