Abstract

The reputation of the Christian tradition has fared poorly in the literature on the history of attitudes to nonhuman animals. This is more a consequence of secularist prejudice than objective scholarship. The idea of "dominion" and the understanding of animal souls are almost universally misrepresented. There has been no firmer conclusion than that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution had a profoundly beneficial impact on the recognition of our similarities to, kinship with, and consequent moral obligations to, other species. In reality, Darwinism had no such effect. That there was an essential kinship with, and homologies between, humans and other species had been attested to for centuries. In the first major ethical issue that arose after the publication of Darwin's The Descent of Man -- legislation to restrict vivisection -- Darwin and Huxley stood on the side of more or less unrestricted vivisection while many major explicitly Christian voices -- from Cardinal Manning to Lord Chief Justice Coleridge to the Earl of Shaftesbury -- demanded the most severe restrictions, in many cases abolition. The customary tale of how Christianity hindered the development of sensibilities to animals and how Darwinism occasioned a revolution in animal ethics needs to be rethought and retold.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3222
Print ISSN
0022-5037
Pages
pp. 399-419
Launched on MUSE
2003-10-17
Open Access
No
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