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Should Dolphins Be Treated As Non-Human Persons?

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the as-long-as-cows-are-still-treated-as-delicious dept.

Science 785

Hugh Pickens writes "Dolphins have long been recognized as among the most intelligent of animals, but now the Times reports that a series of behavioral studies suggest that dolphins, especially species such as the bottlenose, have distinct personalities, a strong sense of self, can think about the future and are so bright that they should be treated as 'non-human persons.' 'Many dolphin brains are larger than our own and second in mass only to the human brain when corrected for body size,' says Lori Marino, a zoologist at Emory University. 'The neuroanatomy suggests psychological continuity between humans and dolphins and has profound implications for the ethics of human-dolphin interactions.' For example, one study found that dolphins can recognize their image in a mirror as a reflection of themselves — a finding that indicates self-awareness similar to that seen in higher primates and elephants. Other studies have found that dolphins are capable of advanced cognitive abilities such as problem-solving, artificial language comprehension, and complex social behavior, indicating that dolphins are far more intellectually and emotionally sophisticated than previously thought. Thomas White, professor of ethics at Loyola Marymount University, has written a series of academic studies suggesting dolphins should have rights, claiming that the current relationship between humans and dolphins is, in effect, equivalent to the relationship between whites and black slaves two centuries ago."

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Non-human intelligences (4, Insightful)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797664)

I think we should have standards for how we treat them, but I think that comparing the situation to slavery is somewhat over-the-top. Though it's really hard to think of some objective way of deciding just what rights they should have.

I think, maybe, we should just ask, if we can figure out how. Of course, then there's the morass of objectively identifying and interpreting communication. :-)

Re:Non-human intelligences (0, Offtopic)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797732)

What do you know, my first 'first post' and I wasn't even trying. :-)

Re:Non-human intelligences (2)

zach_the_lizard (1317619) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797752)

I agree that the comparison to slavery is over the top. We knew blacks were human, for instance. Our knowledge of what dolphins can do is a fairly recent thing.

Re:Non-human intelligences (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34797848)

I have an easy solution! When dolphins (and dolphins alone) can create tools and devices such that they are able to wage war for their freedom, it should be granted. Until then, they're screwed.

Re:Non-human intelligences (5, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797862)

What can they do? All the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. Mankind, on the other hand, has achieved so much – the wheel, New York, wars and so on. Clearly, we are much more intelligent.

Re:Non-human intelligences (4, Insightful)

mcvos (645701) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797794)

If you grant dolphins "personhood" (whatever that means), then you've got to do the same thing with chimps. And probably orang-utans. And then maybe whales and elephants too.

My suggestion is that we grant them this personhood when they ask for it. When they're able to ask for it, then it's obvious they deserve it. Until then, there's a huge gap between what humans are capable of and what various smart animals are capable of.

Re:Non-human intelligences (5, Insightful)

Cruciform (42896) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797908)

Some human "persons" don't understand that they have that right until you explain it to them.
Look at the caste systems.

Re:Non-human intelligences (-1, Offtopic)

Galestar (1473827) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797920)

But if you give them "personhood", will they be forced to buy health insurance?

Re:Non-human intelligences (0)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798020)

Trust me.

Now you've thought of it, they WILL be taxed - to pay debts incurred to private banks.

Re:Non-human intelligences (1)

Vegan Cyclist (1650427) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797930)

I think you're onto something there - when you start to look at it, 'intelligence' becomes rather arbitrary. You could also argue there are humans less intelligent than many animals (especially human youth), and if intelligence becomes the benchmark, then many humans may also be ejected from the class of 'personhood'.

No infant can ask for personhood, nor may others with differing mental or physical capabilities. Should they be denied personhood and the rights and privileges that comes with it?

And what if we can get them to type or sign 'i want personhood'?

Re:Non-human intelligences (5, Insightful)

INeededALogin (771371) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797984)

When they're able to ask for it, then it's obvious they deserve it.

This is awfully absurd. Maybe they are already asking to be let out of Seaworld and all the other cages we keep them in. Perhaps we aren't capable of understanding them? Does one simply ignore all signs of intelligence because we simply enjoy their tricks? Your suggestion in many ways is how slavery was justified by stating that the slaves were somehow an inferior animal.

Re:Non-human intelligences (1)

Steneub (1070216) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798002)

I would mod you up if I had points to spend. Recall Koko, the signing gorilla? If she had asked for some sort of freedom (and she might have), that would be something worth investigating.

It depends (5, Funny)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797678)

How do they taste?

Re:It depends (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34797868)

According to the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," dolphins should be referred to as aliens/smarter than humans. At least they can leave the planet whilst all of these other animals are dying!

Re:It depends (1)

EventHorizon_pc (1306663) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797900)

Full of mercury goodness... just ask the Japanese at Taiji.

Re:It depends (1)

mswhippingboy (754599) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797910)

Like chicken.

Re:It depends (1)

Suki I (1546431) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797914)

I hear something close to pork rather than chicken. Check into it at The Hump in Santa Monica [blogspot.com] and see if they have any. Guessin' they are out of whale now.

No. (0, Troll)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797682)

Get back to me when they develop opposable thumbs or become smart enough to stay out of tuna nets.

Re:No. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34797742)

Get back to me when humans develop echolocation senses or become smart enough to stay out of traffic accidents.

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34797960)

Get back to me when Dolphins are capable of capturing humans and enslaving them (that is, Opposable thumb > Echolocation)

Re:No. (1)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798062)

OK, OK, maybe when humans can blow bubble rings, and dolphins can blow smoke rings, we'll call it even
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMCf7SNUb-Q [youtube.com] /wants to see a dolphin light a fire

Re:No. (1)

countSudoku() (1047544) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798026)

Smells like Team PETA. People for Edible, Tasty Animals! Chicken of the sea, smells like dolphin to me. When's dinner?

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34798092)

Get back to me when humans develop echolocation senses or become smart enough to stay out of traffic accidents.

Basement dwellers don't get into traffic accidents as they don't leave their cellars, so back at you. Not to mention hundreds of millions that don't have access to cars.

Re:No. (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797778)

Someone is bound to raise the old claim that they have sex way more often than is necessary for reproduction. Surely that offsets the lack of thumbs.

All indications are they are about as smart as dogs, and try to hump your leg just as often.

Re:No. (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797874)

Also:

behavioral studies suggest that dolphins, especially species such as the bottlenose, have distinct personalities, a strong sense of self, can think about the future

Ever watch a dog when it expects its master home in a short while? The dog becomes restless, pacing at the door, sometimes doing a fast excited pant and alternating that with whining. I'd suggest that the dog is thinking about the future when he can get under the feet of his master and dance around and be a huge annoyance for a few minutes.

Re:No. (1)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797978)

Having seen this behavior a thousand times, I was rushing to agree, but then it occurred to me that you're overcomplicating it.

Just because they're Pavlonially excited doesn't mean they know all the nuances of why they're excited.

Re:No. (1)

Khashishi (775369) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798058)

Just because they're Pavlonially excited doesn't mean they know all the nuances of why they're excited.

I feel the same way about humans.

Re:No. (3, Funny)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797980)

No, it's usually just an indication that they need to go pee.

Re:No. (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798082)

Would that be more sex or less sex than Bonobo chimps? I don't hear any demands from scientists that we give those randy little Bonobos human-like legal status!

Re:No. (1)

Suki I (1546431) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797942)

Get back to me when they develop opposable thumbs or become smart enough to stay out of tuna nets.

They probably taste great with tuna. We really should not fight with nature so much with our arbitrary laws.

I agree (5, Interesting)

mswhippingboy (754599) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797692)

they should be treated as 'non-human persons.'

Corporations are, so why not dolphins...

Re:I agree (3, Insightful)

plopez (54068) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797754)

Wish I had mod points. Dolphins are at least as smart as corporations and not as evil.

Re:I agree (3, Interesting)

TheL0ser (1955440) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797832)

That's right, nothing evil [telegraph.co.uk] about them at all.

Re:I agree (5, Insightful)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797934)

So, they go around beating the shit out of something and killing other animals for fun, *because they can*.

Sounds awfully like humans to me...

Re:I agree (1)

haruchai (17472) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797940)

Still not as evil.as corporations and many, many, many humans

Re:I agree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34797894)

If given the same powers, I'm sure dolphins could be just as evil.

Re:I agree (1)

mswhippingboy (754599) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797950)

I doubt it. Haven't you seen Flipper?

Re:I agree (4, Insightful)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798006)

Also clearly dogs are human. So are chimps.

What the hell, what's NOT a human? A rabbit? A cockroach?

You can come up with whatever justifications to 'give rights' to whatever you want, but in reality 'rights' are an abstract idea defined by humans.

Do dolphins have the same 'rights' as humans? Well, it's up to humans to define. I, on my part, will always discriminate against dolphins, I promise that much.

What about pigs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34797696)

Pigs are extremely intelligent and are very similar to humans in many key ways.

Yet globally we kill over 1,000,000,000 of them each year for food.

Re:What about pigs? (4, Insightful)

Spy Handler (822350) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797812)

Believe me, the people who dream up stuff like this would LOVE to outlaw the eating of pork (and all other animal meats).

South Park was wrong... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34797698)

It should now be amended to "darn you Dolphin, and fuck you Whale!!"

I have a better idea (5, Insightful)

operagost (62405) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797700)

Why don't we just leave them to their business, and keep to our own? Otherwise, we'll have community organizers signing up dolphins to vote in elections and lobbying for tax dollars to fund flipper-accessible housing.

Re:I have a better idea (2)

teslafreak (684543) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797746)

Otherwise, we'll have community organizers signing up dolphins to vote in elections and lobbying for tax dollars to fund flipper-accessible housing.

It's depressing how accurate this is.

Yes, but that will go against most of humanity. (0, Flamebait)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797702)

My opinion is yes. I have studied dolphin behavior for some time, and there hhave been cases where one can distinctly recognize personhood.

The problem is: most of humankind is religious, and some of it quite fanatic. These guys will never accept that there is any other living being, except for humans, that has all the characters of a person.

Re:Yes, but that will go against most of humanity. (0)

mswhippingboy (754599) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797728)

These guys will never accept that there is any other living being, except for humans, that has all the characters of a person.

I reiterate... unless they are a corporation.

Re:Yes, but that will go against most of humanity. (5, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797768)

My experiences is that most people studying dolphins are quick to rely on confirmation bias.

MOD UP PARENT (1)

Alaska Jack (679307) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797890)

Nuff said

Re:Yes, but that will go against most of humanity. (1)

plopez (54068) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797864)

The question of what it means to be human is age old and very difficult to define. But I am starting to extend more aspects of being human to animals. Slowly. Since I am a carnivore it is beginning to make me uneasy.

What, BTW, would be a good word for the aspects of being human? I tried to find one but "humanness" seems awkward and "humanity" seems just the wrong word.

Re:Yes, but that will go against most of humanity. (3, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797928)

Well, I have no problem recognizing the sentience of dolphins. I could even accept them as "non-human persons", though I'm not sure exactly what that means.

But as far as the upshot of what rights should we give dolphins, that's where I don't like the tack this is taking.

Talking about "equal rights" among people -- human people -- makes sense, as we are all human and equal and have the same essential needs when living together in our societies.

Dolphins don't live in our society. They live in dolphin societies. The only right they need is the right to live in that society without us bothering them. So, I'm against fishing them, and even keeping them in captivity outside of injured or rescued dolphins. anything else is unnecessary.

Re:Yes, but that will go against most of humanity. (1)

BBTaeKwonDo (1540945) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798072)

I'm not so sure about that. I've seen articles in respected publications [theonion.com] that dolphins intelligence has been consistently overestimated.

So... (1)

ak_hepcat (468765) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797712)

the Uplift begins...

Not that I mind it much. As long as they remain conscientious objectors to war.

Re:So... (1)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797954)

Just so long as we don't let the rest of the galaxy know about the chimps, gorillas, and our other near-sentient blunders. (Love the reference!)

Why just dolphins? (5, Insightful)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797714)

Lots of creatures exhibit some form of intelligence. Should they have rights too? And why is intelligence the only factor? Should a stupid person have less rights than a dolphin? What about faster? or stronger? Should animals which have those traits be given rights too?

Why do we have the right to give other creatures rights?

And do you think tuna fishermen are going to stop using nets because they might catch something which has rights?

Re:Why just dolphins? (5, Funny)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797840)

Should a stupid person have less rights than a dolphin?

FUCK YES.

And in response to the obvious question, I'll happily eat Long Pig.

Re:Why just dolphins? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34797932)

Lots of creatures exhibit some form of intelligence. Should they have rights too? And why is intelligence the only factor? Should a stupid person have less rights than a dolphin? What about faster? or stronger? Should animals which have those traits be given rights too?

Why do we have the right to give other creatures rights?

You can grant "rights" to any species you like... Dolphins have the same intrinsic rights as humans. i.e. none.

False equivalence (4, Insightful)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797716)

...the current relationship between humans and dolphins is, in effect, equivalent to the relationship between whites and black slaves two centuries ago.

Right, because everybody knows that humans and dolphins can interbreed.

Re:False equivalence (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797744)

Not to mention the many dolphins slaving away on the cotton fields.

Re:False equivalence (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797836)

Gives a new meaning to the word "Tuna Farm" doesn't it?

Re:False equivalence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34797876)

Where can I get in on this dolphin slave trade?

Re:False equivalence (1)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797796)

I'm a half dolphin, you insensitive clod.

So they are smart ... (4, Insightful)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797726)

... but they don't appear to develop* at all? I haven't seen any dolphin civilizations or "dolphin science" or "dolphin inventions" lately...

* Develop not referring evolutionary development or something like that, but developing things to help them survive better, live better, enjoy life better.

Re:So they are smart ... (5, Informative)

mswhippingboy (754599) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797884)

I might remind you that humans didn't develop these capabilities until the last 10,000 years or so after around 2 billion years of evolution. Dolphins are/were quite content with their lives in the ocean being at the top of the food chain. What need did they have to develop civilization (although they are social animals), science or inventions? Humans were forced to come up with these to survive. That doesn't make humans better, just different.

Re:So they are smart ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34797886)

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/06/0607_050607_dolphin_tools.html

http://www.neatorama.com/2006/05/05/dolphins-blow-air-rings-as-toys/

Re:So they are smart ... (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797888)

Maybe they don't need to? Necessity is the mother of invention. Maybe they don't want to invent land-scuba kits or whatever.

Also the lack of opposable thumbs kinda hinders things.

Re:So they are smart ... (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798004)

Many things are invented not out of necessity, though... but simply because it improves the quality of someone's life. An electric light bulb was not necessary; civilization lasted on torches and gas for quite a while. Electric light bulbs sure improved the quality of people's lives, though, one might argue. It was not necessary. It's a "luxury." You can argue it's necessary now - but only necessary to keep our current living standards and only necessary because we have built upon it and made it necessary. It was not necessary when invented.

Re:So they are smart ... (1)

plopez (54068) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798030)

Develop not referring evolutionary development or something like that, but developing things to help them survive better, live better, enjoy life better.

Hmmmm... let's seem Dolphins have been on this planet longer than Homo Sapiens have, like to play, and don't seem to have a problem feeding themselves.

A huge number of humans are starving to death or live in abject poverty.
We seem determined to drive ourselves into extinction, and many other species in the process.
We make ourselves miserable wanting more cheap made in China crap.
We flat out kill each other. Which species seems to be happier, more successful, and more civilized?
Just because they don't build skyscrapers or breakfast cereal doesn't mean they cannot be considered more successful
or civilized, in some sense of the word, than humans.

Interesting (2, Informative)

wzinc (612701) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797730)

My cat can tell it's his own reflection in a mirror; he uses it to see his face while grooming. If he sees carpet fuzz or something, he'll wipe it off. I didn't know animals, other than apes, could reason this well.

Why not? ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34797756)

We treat corporations as non-human persons.

Damn... (1)

fph il quozientatore (971015) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797780)

well, there goes my evil project of using trained dolphins to solve captchas. Oh well, I can still use chimps. Outside of Spain at least.

But they're so delicious! (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797786)

But they're so delicious! Why would we risk the world's most epic source of food?

Turing Test (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34797800)

If they can pass a Turing Test, then they should be treated as persons.

Re:Turing Test (1)

haruchai (17472) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797990)

Will we disenfranchise all humans who fail the test?

Re:Turing Test (1)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798088)

If they can pass a Turing Test, then they should be treated as persons.

Could someone mention this to the anti-abortionists?

More Protection (2, Interesting)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797822)

Dolphins do deserve a more vigorous protection even though they will never be any good at playing the piano.

We can't do this! (3, Insightful)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797826)

If dolphins have rights, we won't be able to use them in genetic experiments to make them smarter.

And if we can't make them smarter, then who is going to pilot our starships?

That is as such. (4, Interesting)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797850)

dolphins have the capability to differentiate in between a human struggling due to drowning in the sea, and someone flapping, blabbing, attempting to swim in the sea for fun, and from a long distance. not even humans have that capability. and this is only one of the capabilities they can field.

the difference in between humans and dolphins is that, humans are loaded on the iq side, and dolphins, are on the eq side. practically, human and dolphin populations are basically opposite twins of each others, when it comes to social interaction. of course humans are able to field some eq, as well as dolphins are able to field considerable iq. (the mind blobbing 'creating rings and blobs underwater play' pastime of dolphins, what they can do in research centers etc).

i think it is time we have dropped the late 19th century standards and concepts for sentience (most of which depend on iq, not even basic cognition), and adapt something that is more appropriate with the level of science our civilization has.

War Dolphins (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34797852)

In the Navy, I can get a lot of fish.
In the Navy, I sweep mines for liberty.
In the Navy! In the Navy [navy.mil] !

Dolphins say: typical for brutish mad apes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34797866)

To think we would want to be treated like you treat people.

an animal is not a human (1, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797892)

it just isn't

you can talk about cruelty and you can talk about standards for how animals are to be interacted with, but when you start talking about animals having comparable rights as our treatment of our fellow human beings, you completely lose any logical coherence

go ahead and make vociferous passionate arguments about how animals should be treated. i welcome those arguments and support a lot of them. but don't completely ruin your argument by saying animals and humans are equivalent in any way. no, they simply aren't. i'm sorry, this is a matter of simple logical coherence. the rights we afford those of our fellow species due to our shared cognition is something above and beyond the rights we afford animals out of conscience, a HUMAN conscience

By the way, sentience is not only 'intelligence' (2, Insightful)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797896)

cognitive abilities are just a part of the concept of sentience. yet, we even tend to categorize humans according to their cognitive process. sentience is not only comprised of particular aspects of cognitive perception and processing. emotion concept is always left out of the definition of sentience, maybe unconsciously. it is wrong. sentience comes in a package.

If Dolphins Are So Smart ... (0)

guanxi (216397) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797898)

... then why do they live in igloos???

Maybe we should give humans rights first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34797904)

Maybe we should give humans right first, i.e. non-american citizens can be hunted, killed, maimed, collateral damage, whatever as long as it fits interests of US Government and the corporations that run it. Im not against given non-human persons rights, as long as we give all human persons rights. I'm also not talking about going invading other countries and enforce these rights, I would be satisfied if we declared in our laws, and actually tried to follow those.

Non- Non-person human (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34797922)

WTF is a non-person human? Wouldn't dolphins be a non- non-person human making them a person? Gotta love slashdot ..

If dolphins are so smart... (1)

Alaska Jack (679307) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797926)

Where are dolphin hospitals?

    - AH

Re:If dolphins are so smart... (1)

Alaska Jack (679307) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797948)

Of course, dolphins rarely mistype their own initials, so what do I know?

    - AJ

No, they're not really that close (5, Interesting)

SlideRuleGuy (987445) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797944)

Because they live in a colder environment, their brains contain a higher percentage of glial cells, to generate warmth. We have fewer, as a percentage, but more of the neurons that actually process information. So bald comparisons of their brain size with ours are meaningless.

Intelligence (2)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797968)

I really don't see why something as petty as intelligence should affect this decision. Everything dies, and in the end, ones intelligence means nothing. Elevating yourself above another entity simply for that reason is incredibly arrogant.

"Studies Suggest Dolphins Should Have Rights" (2)

Theotherguy_1 (1971460) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797970)

Notice the little weasel word there, SHOULD. This makes it not a scientific question, but a philosophical question. If we were to accept dolphins as people, then it would raise many other moral dilemmas with respect to other animals. What exactly would be the dividing line between "person" and "non-person?" How could we make such a line non-arbitrary? It's an interesting question which should be pursued in philosophical circles.

I, personally, would like to take a view of personhood which only looks at the functional aspects of the agent -- what it can do, and particularly what it can think. Unfortunately, this view lends itself to many undesirable situations, such as treating apes as people, but not severely mentally handicapped humans, or young babies, as people.

Of course... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34797974)

The question is raised, where does one draw the line in the sand. As the article points out many dolphins have brains near equal if not exceeding the size of humans and anatomy suggestive of a higher cognitive functions, much like that of some primates and elephants. Of course this also still leaves many dolphins with brains significantly smaller, would those certain species not be afforded the same rights. It's been suggested before the development of the larger brains is for the complex processes needed to make use of their built in "sonar," which may be backed up by some species that have less advanced brain development but cranial morphology that compensates by filtering some of the echo-location in a physical rather than a cognitive manner.

One wonders whether these rights holding dolphins, as well as the certain primates and elephants get certain rights, while others don't. And what about the humans who fall short of the intelligence of the smartest dolphin species but higher than those dolphin species with less evolved cognitive functions. It's a rather wide brush they are seeming to use and one has to wonder what range they would be using and where some of the humans out there today would fall on the list...

Rapists (5, Informative)

MrQuacker (1938262) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797976)

Male dolphins will separate a female from her pod and deny her food or sleep until she lets them mate with her.

They kidnap females so they can rape them.

Yup, they sure act human-like.

Re:Rapists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34798080)

That's hot.

Rights and Responsibility (3, Interesting)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 3 years ago | (#34797996)

I support limited rights for animals, in parallel with the level of legal responsibility that they have. Already many animals are granted a few very limited rights, like the right to not be tortured (even if it is legal to kill them). This goes along with their legal responsibilities as in they are not held accountable for their actions like theft or even murder, which is the responsibility of the owner (if there is one). The courts might order an animal put down, but only as a protection for the community, not as a punishment.

So, what level of rights should dolphins be granted? What level or responsibility? Should we make it illegal to kill them? Should we convict them of murder if they kill another person or dolphin? Should it be illegal to confine them? Should they be held responsible if they steal fish from a net?

I suspect much of the problem is one of communication. Dolphin are simply so alien to humans that we may not think similarly enough to communicate richly enough to make sense of this sort of ethical issue. (It also shatters all those awesome sci-fi fantasies about meeting cool alien species who are similar to us, but different, but we communicate and get along. Likely any alien would be so alien communication would be an even bigger issue than with dolphins.)

We will never communicate with ET (1)

tekrat (242117) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798022)

If we can't communicate with Dolphins.

Think about it: We've been on this planet for thousands of years, and we still can't talk to any other species, no matter how smart they may seem. What chances are we going to have when we meet something from another planet? Let's assume we get there, not that they come here. When we land, are we going to start finding ET delicious?

Cameron didn't really address these issues *enough* in "Avatar". Frankly, if the blue-skinned guys hadn't been humanoid-looking, we'd probably be eating them. There would have been no attempt at making meaningful contact, no matter how smart they were.

So perhaps this guy is right: Dolphins need to be treated as "people with a soul". Or whatever justification you can muster so that we start putting serious effort into making contact. After all, with so many forms of life on this planet, why are we assuming we're the ONLY intelligent species?
   

They call him (1)

srussia (884021) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798024)

slave Suzy, slave Suzy, faster than lightning
No one, you see, is smarter than he...

Ahh sounds like the uplift series of novels (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34798032)

Great sci-fi story, in which dolphins are "uplifted" - ie they are considered intelligent and 'helped' along genetically with things like the ability to produce human-like sounds, for communication.. Good times.

Worth a read for those around here who actually read books.

Maybe avoiding a net . . . (1)

drsmack1 (698392) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798060)

. . . already full of fish should be an intelligence test.

dolphin institute says (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#34798096)

dolphins are about as intelligent as dogs or chimps, much of the brain taken up with senses like sonar imaging

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