I applaud this. It's time we stop drawing the line of where rights begin and end at the species barrier and start taking a characteristics based approach. What are the characteristics of a human that lead us to say one should have rights? If other species share those characteristics, they too should be granted those rights.
> As a species, humans agree to basic rules of conduct that form an implied Social Contract. Can any non-human species do that?
A great question, and the answer is yes. Here's a clear example:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAFQ5kUHPkY Monkeys cooperate to solve a problem, and one of them clearly shows a sense of social contract when he gives a reward to his partner, even though he could easily keep it for himself.
Certainly a potential example from the past could perhaps be found in the social relations humans had with our close relatives. The relationships between Neanderthal and Cro-Magon is contested and ultimately largely unknown, however it seems likely there was some recognition of each other involved as something other than mere beasts.
Sorry, my question was rhetorical in reference to existing species, not a search for prior art.
If Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon did recognize each other with special status, that would be more of an example of the level of equality that would need to functionally exist between two species in order for there to be a real "understanding".
That level of relative equality in no way exists between humans and cetaceans, so proposals to pretend that they deserve equal status seems illogical to me. What's next, chickens have eyes like humans so we can't eat them? Green beans react to stimulii, humans do too, no eating green beans?
Which admittedly does not necessarily suggest any form of mutual recognition. Instances of cultural exchange I think are more suggestive.
Perhaps the better question is, if Neanderthals were to somehow come back and enter the modern world, would we accept extending some sort of ethical consideration to them? I think we undoubtedly would.
The current deficient of other species that we all accept as special in some way in no way suggests that inter-species relationships of that sort are impossible.
> the project published their results in the May 2010 journal Science detailing an initial draft of the Neanderthal genome based on the analysis of four billion base pairs of Neanderthal DNA. The study determined that some mixture of genes occurred between Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans and presented evidence that elements of their genome remain in that of non-African modern humans.
But some people think this genetic overlap is the result of a common ancestor, and not from interbreeding.
We give special consideration to primates - not just because they're rare but because they're close relatives to humans. Vivisection is limited pretty strictly if you're using non-human primates.
Would there be much difference between a chimp and a neanderthal? Neanderthals had the FOXp2 gene, and a hyoid bone, so they might have had language. Hunting is a complex activity, and so there's strong possibility that they needed language.
I guess having a language would be enough to guarantee extra protections?
(Having said all this, modern humans happily butcher each other every day, so who knows what'll happen for dolphins or hypothetical Neanderthals.)
Carve out a new nation of only Neanderthal, and I suspect we will go at it like we were making up for old time. Pop a few Neanderthal down in the middle of London, raising the first few to be familiar with human civilization (to the extent that this may be possible), and I would be a bit more optimistic about the outcome.
How we treat others seems to have a lot more to do with context than merit.
We don't know if they can do that. You might say we can observe their behaviour, but would an entity as intelligent as us, but who cannot communicate with us, draw this conclusions by observing us? I doubt it. If you don't know our "reasons" to have wars, or why some humans are starving while other humans are throwing food away and so on, would you think that we have any "Social Contract" at all?
I also can't really say I'm convinced that we do...