Amazon Book Description
- Created from Animals is an account of the relevance of Darwinism to ethics. It explains the development of Darwin's ideas and the essential evidence and arguments for the theory of evolution1 by natural selection, and how this can paradoxically foster altruistic, rather than egotistic, tendencies.
- The implications of this for conventional religion and ethics are fully set out, with Rachels arguing for a revised morality which does not centre on the idea that human beings are special.
- He proposes an outlook which includes concern for animals, but which acknowledges that in special circumstances the evidence of evolution2 justifies giving priority to one form of life over another.
Amazon Customer Review
- This is a very enjoyable, clear and thorough discussion of the effect Darwinian evolution3 ought to have on our theories of ethics; which, in short, is that evolution4 changes everything.
- According to James Rachels, traditional morality is based on the Biblical idea of man's distinction from the animals. Man was endowed by God with unique abilities, such as rationality, language and the capacity for morality. This comfortable and self-serving theory must be rejected if Darwin is correct to say that man was 'created from animals'. If man is different from other animals only by degree, not in kind, then to treat people preferably or to mistreat animals has neither natural nor Divine justification.
- To replace the biologically inaccurate traditional morality, Rachels proposes a theory of what he calls 'moral individualism', which says that every individual, whether man or animal, it is to be treated as a unique case, measured by his capacity to suffer pain or by the consequences of how he is treated. We measure the value of a life by its value to the living thing itself: a biological life is valuable only in terms of a biographical life. Thus the last few pain-filled days of a cancer-ridden man who has had a full life are not as valuable to him as his pain-free youth; and it is far less heinous to swat a fly, which has almost no biographical life, than to inflict pain on a monkey, even for the sake of scientific knowledge.
- There are many clever and interesting theories like this and lots of good facts in Created from Animals, which will reward an attentive reader who can overlook5 politically correct language (as in the term 'non-human animals', instead of 'animals'), the prejudicial assumption that ethics must be altruistic (hence the redundant word 'moral' in the term 'moral individualism') and the idea that the Christian reading imposed on Genesis reflects a Judaeo-Christian tradition, rather than a Christian novelty.
In-Page Footnotes ("Rachels (James) - Created From Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism")
Footnote 5: I don’t personally agree that any of these reservations are cogent or material.
"Rachels (James) - Created From Animals: Introduction"
Source: Rachels - Created From Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism
"Rachels (James) - Darwin's Discovery"
Source: Rachels - Created From Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism, Chapter 1
"Rachels (James) - How Evolution and Ethics Might be Related"
Source: Rachels - Created From Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism, Chapter 2
"Rachels (James) - Must a Darwinian be Sceptical About Religion?"
Source: Rachels - Created From Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism, Chapter 3
"Rachels (James) - How Different are Humans from Other Animals"
Source: Rachels - Created From Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism, Chapter 4
"Rachels (James) - Morality without the Idea that Humans are Special"
Source: Rachels - Created From Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism, Chapter 5
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)