A prominent and influential government lawyer in Buenos Aires has come to the remarkable conclusion that “Darwin is dead” because of the court case in the Argentina city for rights for the orangutan Sandra.
Attorney General of the city of Buenos Aires Julio Conte-Grand wrote an article on the topic for the August 25 issue of the Argentina newspaper La Nacion.
Conte-Grand argues that the real nail in the coffin of Darwin’s theory of natural selection is the idea that an orangutan like Sandra should have the basic legal rights of a “non-human person.”
|Attorney General Conte-Grand signing papers|
I am playing a role in this case after forming a committee with orangutan experts Leif Cocks, president of The Orangutan Project, and Gary Shapiro, president of the Orang Utan Republik, to write a report for the court on conditions for the ethical treatment of Sandra. The report was submitted to the court by the association of lawyers for animal rights called AFADA. Sandra is currently a resident of the zoo of Buenos Aires until the judge in the case makes a decision.
The court case for Sandra led to the response in the newspaper by Attorney General Conte-Grand.
It would be interesting to speculate what the motives are for the attorney general to comment like this on a case in progress and whose interests his article serve. Certainly, it seems fair to conclude that the attorney general represents some popular sentiment in Argentina that the case of Sandra is dangerous in some way. The article would be a way of being seen to exert some public pressure on the liberal-thinking judge in the case, Elena Amanda Liberatori, although the article does not say explicitly that the judge may end up killing Darwin by her decision.
Conte-Grand recognizes the “popular” and “crude” version of natural selection of “man descended from monkey.” Of course, that is a false version of the science of the theory, and Conte-Grand is careful to hint that this version is not trustworthy. And yet, at the same time, he is subtly or not so subtly invoking an error to support his article. That is why we enjoy the skill of lawyers. They are clever Homo sapiens.
Conte-Grand says the court case of Sandra goes far beyond the need to protect Sandra from cruelty.
Giving legal status to an orangutan would destroy the logic and science of natural selection, says Conte-Grand. I have to confess that I lose the thread of his argument a bit at this point, but his argument is that an orangutan as a legal “non-human person” would have basic rights that a human embryo does not. A human at an early stage of development would thus be “less” than an orangutan in “Darwinism in reverse,” Conte-Grand says. And we can’t have that, can we? Imagine the chaos of a more ethical society. It is the old argument that if you free women and slaves, then everybody who is not a woman or a slave will lose. That was once a “crude” and “popular” argument that carried weight.
Conte-Grand ends by saying that Darwin and Newton are buried in Westminster Abbey not far from each other and that they must be asking each other “what they did wrong” if an orangutan is being considered for legal status as a “non-human person.”
My reflection is that it is interesting as always how Homo sapiens feel threatened by the idea that an intelligent fellow species of primate might deserve a few legal rights, such as the right to life and liberty and freedom from harm by human beings.
The case of Sandra in Buenos Aires seems to have touched a nerve, based on this outburst by the attorney general in La Nacion. All I would say to Sandra is, “Don’t worry about what you read in La Nacion. Don’t give up hope yet that the legal system is stronger in the end than human self-interest.” That is why we created the legal system, to protect us from ourselves.
Here is the link to the story in La Nacion: