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Go out with you? Why not... Do I like to dance? Of course! Take a walk along the beach tonight? I'd love to. But don't try to touch me. Don't try to touch me. Because that will never happen again. "Past, Present and Future"-The Shangri-Las

Friday, May 22, 2009

Ghoulish Gerlach

Edit: In the wake of the latest case of an abortion doctor being killed by a derange-o whose actions may have been fueled by overwrought self-righteous rhetoric, I would like to point out that any apparent wishing of violence upon specific individuals in any of my blogposts is simply an exercise in expressing negative feelings through fantasy, not a sincere wish for violence. Don't hurt people. Thank you.

In a recent (Thursday, May 21, 2009) letter to The Wall Street Journal (to which Laurie subscribes) there are several letters about an article on animal rights activists... not the car burning kind, the sober kind. A math professor at Ohio State University with the regrettable name of Ulrich Gerlach writes in to say:

"Your report makes repeated reference to "animal rights"... The supposition that animals (i.e. nonhumans) have "rights" is a contradiction in terms. A "right" is a moral principle that sanctions one's freedom of action in a social context. The concept of a "right" presupposes the existence of reason and volition, and the capacity to govern one's actions by means of moral principles. These capacities are absent in animals. Any attempt to evade this fact by talking about "animal rights" is to engage in the same fallacy as to talk about fictions such as unicorns or goblins."


1. Why didn't Michael Vick's defence team call Professor Gerlach as an expert witness?

2. Did Ulrich Gerlach craft a definition of "rights" (his quotes, not mine) that leaves the door open for for human infant vivisection because he is

a. A sloppy thinker when it comes to real-world issues, as opposed to abstract mathematics?

b. A callow nihilist in spite of his self-assertion as definer of valid moral positions?

c. A vivisection fetishist?

d. All of the above?

Bonus question: Would any of these make him unique among WSJ subscribers?

3. When Professor Urlich writes "talking about 'animal rights' is to engage in the same fallacy as to talk about fictions such as unicorns or goblins" is he

a. Expressing a literal-minded mathematician's disdain for any discussion of fantasy and legend? Does he believe it is inherently fallacious to talk about unicorns or goblins?

b. Attempting to compare abstract conceptual values to fictional creatures? Is his phrasing comical in its grammatical wobbliness?

4. Should people who frame arguments about animal rights without mentioning such subjects as pain, cruelty, distress or anthrocentricism be gang-raped by grizzly bears until there is nothing left of them but a stain? If not, why not? Defend your position.

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