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Why We Call Them Human Rights

Wesley J. Smith

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Ecuador just gave every virus, bacterium, insect, tree & weed constitutional rights.

Rights, properly understood, are moral entitlements embodied in law to protect all people. They are not earned: Rights come as part of the package of being a member of the human race. This principle was most eloquently enunciated in the Declaration of Independence's assertion that we are all created equal and endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

This doctrine of human exceptionalism has been under assault in recent decades from many quarters. For example, many bioethicists assert that being human alone does not convey moral value, rather an individual must exhibit "relevant" cognitive capacities to claim the rights to life and bodily integrity. Animal rights ideology similarly denies the intrinsic value of being human, claiming that we and animals are moral equals based on our common capacity to feel pain, a concept known as "painience."

These radical agendas have now been overtaken by an extreme environmentalism that seeks to—and this is not a parody—grant equal rights to nature. Yes, nature; literally and explicitly. "Nature rights" have just been embodied as the highest law of the land in Ecuador's newly ratified constitution pushed by the country's hard-leftist president, Rafael Correa, an acolyte of Hugo Chávez.

The new Ecuadorian constitution reads:

Persons and people have the fundamental rights guaranteed in this Constitution and in the international human rights instruments. Nature is subject to those rights given by this Constitution and Law.

What does this co-equal legal status between humans and nature mean? Article 1 states:

Nature or Pachamama [the Goddess Earth], where life is reproduced and exists, has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution.

This goes way beyond establishing strict environmental protections as a human duty. It is a self-demotion of humankind to merely one among the billions of life forms on earth—no more worthy of protection than any other aspect of the natural world.

[...]

Read the entire article on the Weekly Standard website (new window will open). Read more by Wesley J. Smith on his blog Secondhand Smoke: Your 24/7 Seminar on Bioethics and the Importance of Being Human.

Posted: 21-Nov-2008



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