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David Barash’s Shocking Suggestion

Richard Weikart

David Barash

Wesley Smith has already noted emeritus psychology professor David Barash’s outrageous proposal in a new article for Nautilus, “It’s Time to Make Human-Chimp Hybrids,” based on a forthcoming book by Barash from Oxford University Press. As shocking as this proposal may be to many readers, I was not shocked, because unfortunately Barash is not the first person to have made this suggestion. In my book The Death of Humanity: And the Case for Life, I explain that the idea of hybridizing humans and simians goes back more than a century, and as Wesley mentions, the famous atheist biologist Richard Dawkins has more recently advocated it. However, I am still dismayed by Barash’s article.

Why am I dismayed? Because the reason Barash thinks that producing a human-chimp hybrid is such a wonderful and ethically defensible idea is because he thinks that doing this will demolish the allegedly outmoded notion that humans are special and unique. It will show us that we are just a part of the evolutionary continuum. We’re just another animal.

Barash thinks that if we recognize that we as humans are not specially created, but continuous with other animals, this will result in our treating animals with greater respect. However, it never seems to occur to him that one consequence of demoting humans might be that we treat our fellow humans with less respect. If human life has no more value than that of other animals, why not start treating humans like animals, rather than treating animals like humans?

Indeed, if we examine the history of evolutionary theory, we will discover very quickly that this actually happened. Darwinism was used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to promote scientific racism and eugenics, both of which emphasized the inequality of humans (because evolution requires variation in order to produce new species). Some races were alleged to be superior and others inferior. Some individuals, such as those with congenital illnesses, were considered inferior. Some eugenics proponents, including the august Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., even suggested killing inferior people to help out the evolutionary process. I provide myriads of examples of the dehumanizing influence of Darwinism in The Death of Humanity, so this isn’t just a hypothetical point.

Indeed, if showing our continuity with other creatures is supposed to cause us to treat them more kindly and gently, then why does Barash bash the pro-life position in his article? What could be more continuous with humans than a baby in the womb? If Barash thinks we should be able to destroy pre-born humans without compunction, then why does he think we would treat animals with greater respect?

Apparently, continuity with our species does not provide any protection at all. This is because the evolutionary process cannot confer any value on humans — or any other species. Barash, a peace advocate, surely does value (most) humans, but at the same time he is stripping away the foundation for that view.

Richard Weikart is professor of history at California State University, Stanislaus, Senior Fellow with Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, and author most recently of The Death of Humanity: And the Case for Life and Hitler’s Religion: The Twisted Beliefs That Drove the Third Reich.

Photo credit: joelfotos, via Pixabay.