A thoughtful abstract, entitled The Ethical Implications of Dolphin Intelligence: Dolphins as Nonhuman Persons, was presented recently at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
It pointed out that as science reveals new information during the conduct of research, this new information not uncommonly requires that we rethink old assumptions. Those old assumptions are often ethical ones.
Our knowledge now about dolphin intelligence requires that we no longer cling to an outdated perception of dolphins as performers for children. The ruse that aquariums use to justify the continued existence of these shows is that it forwards our learning about them.
I have one thing to say about that. Bullfeathers! And will again quote Jacques Cousteau, who knew a thing or two about marine life:
We now know enough to know that we are polluting their environment with chemical and noise pollution (Georgia’s wild dolphins have among the highest PCB levels ever reported in marine mammals), and that we should focus our research on how to reverse that. We do not need to study the dolphins to know what is right. Right now. Leave them alone. Focus your research on something that minimizes the human footprint on this planet, please. Start making life better for them. Not worse. Especially now that we are on the threshold of a breakthrough in humanity that recognizes the inalienable rights of these highly intelligent creatures.
Maybe we need to study the physiology of human ethics – here’s an abstract for ya: The Mechanism Behind Humans’ Avoidance of the Ethical Realization of its Shallowness and Selfishness – until we get that one right.
To read the abstract, The Ethical Implications of Dolphin Intelligence: Dolphins as Nonhuman Persons, by Thomas I. White, Loyola Marymount University, Redondo Beach, California