Portal Site for Russellian in Japan
I met recently a mountain climber of considerable skill and first-rate intellect, in fact a man of international eminence in the world of learning, who somewhat surprised me by a theory to which, he said, his observations had led him. Mountains, he said, are made to be climbable: on rocks, foot-holds and hand-holds are found just at such distances as are necessary for a full-grown man. He contended that, if men were twice the size they are, existing climbs would become too easy to be interesting, but few new ones would be possible, so that mountain climbing would no longer be interesting. Apparently he believed that, in the remote geological ages when rocks were formed, they were fashioned with a view to the pleasure of those few eccentrics who like to risk their lives by walking up precipices as if they were flies. It seemed to me that the mountain goat, the ibex and the chamois might have other views on this subject. If they had a parliament, they would congratulate each other on the clumsiness of this horrid creature Man, and would render thanks that his cunning is impeded by such a clumsy body.Where they skip, he crawls; where they bound freely, he clings to a rope. Their evidence of beneficence in nature would be the opposite of the mountain climber's and yet every bit as convincing.
There was an eighteen-century divine who gravely maintained that rabbits have white tails for the convenience of those who wish to shoot them. What would rabbits have said to him if they could speak? Imagine the punishment that would have been inflicted on him if, in the course of some Gulliver's travels, he had come across a country where the rabbits held the government. Imagine the district attorney, a rabbit selected for his powers of eloquent invective, addressing the jury of rabbits. 'This degraded creature', he would thunder, 'who, incredible as it may appear, has been regarded with respect by his own abominable species, solemnly maintains that there is no wickedness in the wanton destruction of our noblest citizens to satisfy the gross appetites of so-called human beings. Nay, worse, he is so perverted as to suppose that our white tails, which, as every right-thinking rabbits knows, serve the purpose of aesthetic delight, were given us in order that it might be the easier to assassinate us.' I cannot doubt that the eminence divine would suffer the utmost rigour of the law.
I have often wondered what turkeys would think of Christmas if they were capable of thought. I am afraid they would hardly regard it as a season of peace and goodwill.
An eminent biologist of my acquaintance looks forward to the day when rats will hold the primacy among animals and human beings will have been depend.
There is no impersonal reason for regarding the interests of human beings as more important than those of animals. We can destroy animals more easily than they can destroy us; that is the only solid basis of our claim to superiority. We value art and science and literature, because these are things in which we excel. But whales might value spouting, and donkeys might maintain that a good bray is more exquisite than the music of Bach. We cannot prove them except by the exercise of arbitrary power. All ethical systems, in the last analysis, depend upon weapons of war.