Human exceptionalism is not only about human rights, but also human duties, including never using human beings as mere objects and the need to treat animals properly and humanely. The new Gallup Poll about what Americans consider morally acceptable behavior is interesting in both regards, and thus worth our pondering. (Part of the poll measured matters beyond our scope here at SHS, and these issues will not be addressed. The poll was also promoted by Gallup as showing Republicans growing increasingly "conservative." We don't do partisan politics here, and moreover, what some call conservative, I think of as liberal--such as opposing assisted suicide. So, let's ignore those matters, too.)
Buying and wearing clothing made of animal fur: 61% to 35% think it is morally acceptable--with the "acceptable" figure up from 54% last year
Fur is the most publicly controversial use of animals, what with the seal clubbing and the scent of luxury it implies. I think that animal rights and welfare activists should actually be quite proud that 35% of the people believe that what was once seemed unremarkable is now considered morally unacceptable. But the increase in the "acceptable" category might reflect animal rights exhaustion, that is, people are tired of the preaching:
Medical testing on animals--57% think it is right and 36%
wrong. This figure is basically unchanged from last year.
Medical testing is probably the use of animals that provides humans the greatest benefit. That 36% of the people think it is wrong, is an alarming indication that the research community has not done a good job of educating the public of the importance of their work and the lengths to which researchers go to treat the animals in their care humanely.
I also think it is notable that the numbers who consider fur and animal research to be morally improper are nearly identical. If this is an increased sensitivity based on animal welfare thinking, I am cool with that, with the understanding that one can have great concern for animals and support research and fur. But if it reflects an acceptance of the ideology, values, and beliefs of "animal rights," it is cause for great concern:
Cloning animals: Morally wrong 63%, to 34%.
I have no problem with animal cloning because it doesn't impact human exceptionalism and potential great good could come from it for us. But I think the 34% figure is another example of a significant minority of the people having great concern for either the proper and humane care of animals, or animal rights. Again, if it is the former, good. If the latter, not good.
Now, we turn to bioethical and biotechnological issues.
Suicide: Only 15% think that suicide is morally proper, unchanged from last year.
This result illustrates why assisted suicide advocates have worked so hard to engineer the language. Gooey euphemisms such as "aid in dying" are intended to mask the real subject at hand.
Cloning human beings, 88% think it is improper and only 9% proper, down from 11% last year.
The massive popular opposition to human cloning is also why research cloning advocates--with the willing complicity by a biased media--pretend that cloning isn't cloning and redefine and basic biological terms to give themselves political cover. While I have no doubt that if the poll had asked whether it is morally proper to create human cloned embryos for use in research, the numbers would have moved, I still believe that a majority would oppose--as they have in previous polls. This seems especially true when 64% oppose animal cloning. I think people are just very wary of science moving into areas that have such an explosive potential to dramatically alter the natural world.
Medical research on stem cells taken from human embryos: 57% believe it is proper, down five points from 62% last year, with 36% believing it is
While this question could technically apply to therapeutic cloning, it probably reflects the "leftover embryo" scenario that proved so politically successful in garnering public support for ESCR. The significant reduction in support--five points in one year--probably reflects the success of IPSC research as well as the growing understanding that adult stem cells are performing much better than expected when the great stem cell debate began.
Abortion: Only 36% believe that abortion is morally proper, down from 40% last year, while 56% think it is morally inappropriate.
This is the third major recent poll (Pew and a different Gallup) showing people moving in a generally "pro-life" direction on abortion. The reduced number of abortions each year may actually reflect the ongoing change in people's attitudes.
All in all, it seems to me that people are increasingly concerned with the equality/sanctity of human life. Hopefully, someday that will be better reflected in our country's public policies. The increasing divide the poll shows between Republicans and Democrats also reflects, I think, a worrying trend in that it is hard to have a true society when its members view some of life's most important moral issues in such diametrically different ways.