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Created from Animals

James Rachels (Oxford University Press: Aug 1, 1990), 256 pages.

A remarkably clear, straightforward, and brief (211-page) discussion, from a Univ. of Alabama philosophy professor, of the implications of Darwinism for animal rights. Most of Rachels’ book is a review of
Darwin’s work and of the responses and relevant ideas of biologists, philosophers, and others – both Darwin’s contemporaries who rejected his theories for their assault on religion and human dignity, and other thinkers who have argued that humanity’s creation in the image of God or, later, human speech, intellect, and/or moral sense make human specialness compatible with evolution. Rachels then puts forth his own argument for "moral individualism," based on his belief that evolution precludes the concept of human specialness and forces a reconsideration of our treatment of animals. In the end, he restores a sort of relativist respect for human claims in his distinction between "biological" and "biographical" life, but this same distinction supports his assertion that a rhesus monkey might have a higher claim to consideration than a severely brain-damaged human. But such a summary ignores the specific topics of debate, as well as the arguments of philosophers from Kant to sociobiologists and animal-rights advocates, that Rachels characterizes so neatly and accessibly – and that, along with his own provocative argument, should earn the book serious attention. ~ Kirkus Reviews