Wednesday, January 12, 2011

On Humankind's Tyrannical Oppression of the Canine Class

My brother was telling me the other day about a place in Siberia where they breed foxes according to their friendliness toward humans, and have thereby domesticated these lovely wild animals (which apparently you can purchase, if you really want). But the interesting thing is that the Siberian researchers were apparently (without knowing it) selecting for a kind of enduring juvenility. The friendlier foxes retained more puppyish behaviors and physical characteristics. So, to grossly oversimplify: domesticated dogs are friendly toward humans because we have bred them to be stuck in a sort of perpetual childhood dependency.

As someone who has thoroughly bought into certain aspects of liberation theology, and as a hyper-rationalist so open-minded I sometimes believe (at least for a brief time) things that others would immediately reject as ridiculous, my initial reaction to this revelation was: Oh my gosh! How horrible! For hundreds of thousands of years, we've been depriving an entire species of its natural right to grow into autonomous adulthood. We've been stunting their emotional and physical growth to keep them beholden to ourselves. How sick and wrong!

But then I got to thinking about an idea from C.S. Lewis (and if I had my copy of The Problem of Pain, I would look it up--I suspect it's in there). I believe Lewis said something like, that domesticated creatures become something more than animals through their relationship with human beings. That animals attain to a higher form of love in relationship with humans than they could have if they had remained in the wild.

The spectre of Peter Singer is still hovering over me, disgusted by such gross "species-ism." But on second thought, I can dismiss that truly ridiculous shade by answering its taunt of "Who says human love is better than canine love?" with a simple, "Everyone but you, Peter."

So anyway, I think this is a helpful lesson for anyone who has struggled with the question of how a truly loving God could want to keep us dependent, as perpetual "children," rather than holding up autonomous adulthood as the ideal. As dogs become more "human" through their childlike dependency on humans, so may we become more "divine" through submission to our Creator.


C.A Orellana said...

i enjoyed it :)

DrewDog said...


Peter said...

I believe Lewis says something like that in "The Great Divorce". Also, let it be known that I am all for re-shaping and controlling the world around us for the benefit of mankind, whether that be growing new types of crops, developing medicines, or breeding pets. The world was created for us, not the other way around.