Hit & Run

A. Barton Hinkle on Nonhuman Rights

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Monkey typing
New York Zoological Society/Public Domain

Why do people have rights in the first place? Suppose future space exploration discovers a planet populated by highly intelligent beings, with an exquisitely rich culture dating back several millennia, who look not at all human. Wouldn't it make sense to recognize them as rights-bearing creatures anyway? And wouldn't that make more sense than attributing human rights to mannequins—which look very much like humans, but have no human capacities? A question like that might seem too fanciful, writes A. Barton Hinkle. But from chimpanzees to artificial intelligence, science is raising important questions about just who, and what, has rights.