Tuesday, March 18, 2008

speciesism (SPEE-shee-ziz-uhm, -see-ziz-uhm) noun

The assumption of superiority of humans over other animal species,
especially to justify their exploitation.

[Coined by psychologist Richard D. Ryder (born 1940) in 1973. From Latin
species (appearance, kind, form), from specere (to look). Ultimately from
the Indo-European root spek- (to observe) which is also the ancestor of
such words as suspect, spectrum, bishop (literally, overseer), espionage,
despise, telescope, spectator, and spectacles.]

"At one point in Darwin's voyage to South America, James Moore told me, the
naturalist stopped in Brazil, where his blood ran cold to see slaves in
manacles being tortured by Catholic traders. Darwin was enraged as a
Christian, but also as a scientist, because he recognized that the slave
trade relied on the false notion that slaves were a different, inferior
and exploitable species.
"Upon his return to England, Darwin extended the idea to the way people
treated animals, an early precursor to Richard Dawkins's argument about
speciesism. 'To say man is the pinnacle of creation and all things were
created for him ... Darwin says that is the same arrogance we see in
the slave master,' said Moore."
Shankar Vedantam; Eden and Evolution; Washington Post; Feb 5, 2006.

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