A trip to the zoo can be an adventure of expecting the unexpected. Whether it’s the chimps, the giraffes, or the elephants, somewhere at some time, one of these animals will do something unusual to the delight of the visitors. No one, however, could have expected the series of events that occurred on Saturday and resulted in the death of, Harambe, a gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo.
When a 4-year-old boy climbed under a fence and fell into the gorilla’s enclosure, Harambe, grabbed him and dragged him around his pen. Even though the western lowland silverback gorilla is an endangered species, the zoo’s emergency response team shot him to save the child.
Some posts on social media have been angry outbursts directed towards zoo officials and the parents of the 4-year old boy. Some think the gorilla should have been spared at the risk of the child.
While it’s sad that zoo officials had to shoot the gorilla, I think they took the right course of action. The question for you is: How do you make decisions. Do you have a decision tree that you follow or some hierarchy that directs you?
Dr. Norm Geisler has developed some principles to help guide him, and he refers to them as the Seven Principles of Ethical Hierarchy:
- Persons are more valuable than things
- Infinite persons are more valuable than finite persons
- Complete persons are more valuable than incomplete persons
- Actual persons are more valuable than potential persons
- *Potential persons are more valuable than actual things
- Many persons are more valuable than a few persons
- Personal acts which promote personhood are better than those which do not
Geisler’s Seven Principles, support the actions of the zoo’s officials: Humans have more value than things or non-humans. As much as I like my non-human dog, I recognize that humans are moral beings and animals are amoral; moral beings have rights, but non-human, amoral creatures do not.
I spend more time with my dog that I do most human beings; watch his diet closer than I watch mine; and, I’ve been known to cry when one of these, magnificent creatures dies; however, when choosing between the life of a 4-year old child and a non-human, I’ll spare the child every time.
*Some people draw the conclusion that Geisler’s view seems to imply that a developing child is of no value and that abortion on demand is justified. This is not the case; Geisler has said: “An unborn baby is a work of God that He is building into His own likeness,” and he cites Psalm 139:13-15, which speaks of God’s providential care for the unborn.