Whether humanzees are animals or not

Not a parody thread, just one that’s a little more philosophically interesting (with all due respect to Velocity).

For purposes of this here thread:
Humans are humans, not animals, because of the very high degree of environmental manipulation with which they address stress. In other words, rather than adapt to the environment, humans radically change their environment to suit their needs. Animals, on the other hand, race evolution or die.

Humanzee is a crossbreed of a human & a chimpanzee. However we get there, humanzees are consistently fertile, male or female, and will reproduce with each other to produce similarly fertile & viable humanzee offspring. Since this crossbreed is possible in the hypothetical, let’s go all the way and say humanzees can consistently make fertile offspring with humans or chimpanzees.

Humanzees can participate in human speech up to about the level of a 7 year old human on average. They are somewhat unreliable in motivation but they can learn to do repetitive physical tasks requiring a fair bit of innovation & free thinking–they can hold a job, take their money to the store and buy stuff they want, although they never really gain the discipline to differentiate between what they need & what they want. Basically, if there are any questions about their capacity, jut think about a very strong, 5 feet tall, 180#, 7 year old human with a noticeable speech impediment and poor frustration tolerance.

So whaddaya say? Do they get rights?

I’ll play along for the moment. If humans are not animals and chimps are then the cross would need a category all its own IMHO.


or Humanimal?

I don’t want to threadshit, but this definition doesn’t seem completely workable. Seems to me that beavers would be human by this definition. And then your description of humanzee characteristics doesn’t say anything about their manipulation of their environment.

So, we’re talking about something equivalent to a developmentally disabled human?

I voted for “Humanzees can still get scholarships to play SEC football, but tend to do poorly on Wonderlic tests.”

Equate it to whatever you’re comfortable with, but this would open up the question to things like really smart dogs (Brian Griffin) and hut-dwelling mountain gorillas that don’t have a human contribution to their DNA. Which is a fascinating game as well–how would humans do with sharing intellectual dominance of the world with, like, sentient octopodes?

Since the hypothetical defines anything other than a current human as an animal, the human-animal hybrid must also be an animal. It would be a new species with the odd ability to interbreed with two other species.

If we were to grant them any rights, those rights should only be valid on the Island of Doctor Moreau.

Thing is that most any interesting discussion related to the hypothetical would involve fighting the hypothetical. What does being “human” mean?

Maybe the question is what level and sort of sentience is “entitled” to what degree and sort of rights? And how does that vary based on the species the individual is a member of, even if their sentience is lower?

Even today that first bit clearly is not a binary “all human rights” or “none”. And clearly we allow more rights for a member of our species who has little sentience (born severely disabled or becomes severely brain injured) than we do or would for another species that we feel has that same level of sentience (sure use chimpanzees).

First of all, whether or not a creature adapts their environment has no bearing on whether or not they are an animal. To compare, it is like saying “Bats aren’t really mammals because they fly.” While it’s definitely true that bats are distinguished from all other mammals because they can fly, there is nothing about flight that is fundamental to the criteria of being a mammal. So this is what confused people in the previous thread – they think we are completely without definitions or even crtieria, that we are approaching everything like late neolithic man creating our first taxons on whatever whims we have at the time. But we do have definitional criteria, and whether or not a creature has special legal status within its own culture or can mow the lawn is not remotely on the table as a deal-breaker for the existing taxonomies. Perhaps in the way of fighting ignorance people shouldn’t just research what animals are, but what the definitial criteria are. In short, what kind of question is it? It is not a legal or philisophical question, it is a biological one. And as I said in the previous thread, supposing that you want the question to be “legal” or “philosophical”, what kind of debate are you hoping to have? Nobody’s going to argue that other animals DO (or even SHOULD) have equal legal status to humans. There’s not really another “side” to that question. What insight are we gaining? Is there really an adult among us noticing for the first time that humans open restaurants and pay taxes and cats don’t, and wondering at this realization?

Anyway, that’s all just in response to this arbitary “modify the environment” thing, which has nothing to do with whether or not we’re animals (did we stop being animals the moment we domesticated the dog? When we sharpened stones into axes? How did we fundamentally change biologically in that moment to become a completely different thing?)

All that being said there might be a good discussion with the legal rights for these humanzees, but whether or not we or they are “really animals” just obscures the question.

Don’t you already share the world with numerous intelligent species? Elephants seem to run on intellect as much as instinct, and adapt their environments around them. Octopodes and squid can be pretty smart. Cetaceans have big brains, and use complex sounds to communicate. I think beavers were mentioned upthread. Apes, monkeys, and even raccoons act a lot like little humans, with their grasping hands. Your species is not uniquely unique.

So long as mentally handicapped humans at the same level as humanzees count as humans for whatever purpose, your humanzees largely do as well. Other than straight genetic categorization. Probably. I didn’t vote at first, but I changed it to say, yes, they’re human. At least in part. But maybe I don’t understand the question.

So. Let’s have it.

As I referenced in previous post, we grant various rights to humans who by any reasonable metric have less sentience and control to adapt their environment to them, than do to various individual animals (as others have enumerated). So clearly we grant certain rights to our species as a class (with certain exceptions to be sure) mostly independent of individual sentience barring at the extremes.

Yet we are pretty stingy with rights for non-human sentients. Oh pets get protections. The cuter and more anthropomorphicable ones more of course. But that’s based on our feelings for them, not any measure or proxy of sentience or intelligence.

It seems that we are speciesists more than sentientists.

I would guess that any move to consider “humanzees” a protected class with internationally agreed rights and protections from abuse and from being taken advantage of would be more driven in the public sphere by their physical and genetic similarity to us than by their behavioral (next though) or intellectual (last) commonalities.

That seems wrong. Sentience that is within a different physical form and of a different sort than ours should be granted rights as well. But that is not how human psychology works. We have enough problems granting full rights and protections to other full fledged humans who look or behave differently than our own individual groups.

Humanzees would get some protections but not too many.

I think people would be so horrified at the Dr. Moreau aspects of it they would consider them an abombination and want them exterminated. IOW they’d have no rights at all. It’s kind of hard to imagine people just debating their rights and getting past their instinctive disgust at “humanimals.”

Thanks guys for figuring out where I was heading, despite not putting the words together clearly. I sometimes wonder whether I’m sentient or merely think I am. But yeah, where I was trying to be difficult was by presenting a critter that is at least half human genetically, behaviorally, and potentially. Something not fully capable of functioning independently in a human (or chimp) society, but human enough to be able to say, “I’d rather have dinner with you than be your dinner”. It occurs to me a gotcha for such a creature would be the offspring of a humanzee pairing has a chance of being 100% chimp, or 100% human, or anywhere else along that continuum (I have no idea if the real world chromosome mechanics would actually allow for that, and the odds against it would be astronomical); and that multiple generation pairings with humans or chimps would dilute one of the species’ characteristics, nudging the new offspring closer to one end of the human/not human spectrum.

Ultimately I think this question comes from my inner eugenicist (whom I hold in low regard and keep confined to the more remote and unpleasant parts of my psyche) who would apply the findings to humans of differing abilities. As foolsguinea observed before even I did, my darker side wonders whether a just society could allow rights & protections according to ability. Having a rather slow-witted 18 year-old young man in my charge at the moment, it would be to the detriment of all were I to encourage him to go live on his own. He simply doesn’t have the brain power to function at even a basic level of autonomy. And yet, he can vote, buy a firearm, drive, and get up to all sorts of things which are not problematic for neurotypicals with foresight, personal restraint, and self-awareness. Seems like it would be fairer to him and to society to lock him into indefinite legal minor status. No adult rights, but no adult obligations either; and in any event protected as children are.



If he doesn’t have the brain power to live by himself how can he be allowed to buy a firearm? Is there someone who’s suppose to prevent him from doing that?

Clearly not human, because they’re only half human. What you want to know is whether humanzees are people. I’d have to say no - while your description seems to imply sapience, which deserves a level of consideration and protection greater than that of most animals, you explicitly state that they can’t function at the level of an adult human. They can’t participate in the moral and social life of humans, and I would not want the creature you describe to vote, serve on a jury, or drive on public roads.

I would also support legislation prohibiting the creation of such a hybrid, and vigorously prosecute anyone who did it. It’s cruel and pointless, and repulsive. I’m also not answering the poll, as none of the choices fit.