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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Animal Rights - is it murder to kill a dolphin? (Page 2)

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Author Topic: Animal Rights - is it murder to kill a dolphin?
BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
When dolphins are able to present their own defense, I'll consider giving them the same protective rights that I give people.

Doesn't that place an undue burden upon communication? If aliens landed tomorrow, clearly we'd have to agree that they have a technological know how at least equal to our own, but what if they spoke a language that was entirely not understandable or repeatable? We've learned just recently that a lot of patients in hospitals that we believed to be in comas were in fact just unable to communicate with the outside world. We consider it legally, if not morally, okay to pull the plug on a human when they're no longer able to communicate with us, but do they actually surrender sapience/sentience just by being non-communicative, and do they get it back just by waking up?

This Chinese thing is really killing me. I don't mean to say dolphins have to learn English. I need to read up on sapience so I can describe what sorts of things I would accept from dolphins as a means of changing my perception.

As for comatose patients, there are other things at play when we decide to pull the plug. I don't think it's a question of sapience being surrendered. We have to look at costs, the likelihood they will wake up, and the quality of life we can expect they'll enjoy if they do.

這個先寫英文後寫中文要殺我。  我的意思不是 023;豚必須學人語。 我可能要多多學學sapien ce, 這樣我覺得描敘海豚為了示範sapieA 358;ce怎麽示範。

那些昏迷人的話, 我覺得別的事有意。 我不想 741;他們昏迷的時候他們也投向sapience。   我們必看價格, 機會又起來, 生命有怎麽樣 909;壞。

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Strider
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quote:
Originally posted by mr_porteiro_head:
quote:
Originally posted by Strider:
I agree with whoever above stated that what we should be considering is the ability of an organism to feel and experience pain. Since this seems to be a much more realizable gauge than consciousness.

That doesn't work for me. The mammals that I am fine with killing for food are quite able to feel and experience pain.

Realizable it may be, but it does not reflect my morality.

Is there a criteria you use to distinguish between which animals you're okay with killing for food and which you aren't? If so, what is it? I have a hard time coming up with that distinction, though I wouldn't discount a useful distinction that someone else can come up with.

If pressed, I'll fully admit that I'd be more upset over the killing of a gorilla or a dolphin or a dog vs a chicken or a fish or a mouse. A lot of that has to do with what their perceived behavior indicates about their awareness. I mentioned "experiencing" pain. I'd like put the emphasis on experiencing. I don't think consciousness/awareness is an all or nothing thing, it's most likely a sliding scale of which we seem to be at the top of right now. Not only is there the experience of feeling pain for us, but there is the awareness and knowledge of what is going on. I touched on this above, but we just don't know enough about what brings about consciousness to make any definitive determinations as to whether other animals experience "qualia", and using behavior is a poor but currently necessary substitute. Neuroscience can hopefully answer some of these questions for us.

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scholarette
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quote:
Originally posted by Strider:
Is there a criteria you use to distinguish between which animals you're okay with killing for food and which you aren't? If so, what is it? I have a hard time coming up with that distinction, though I wouldn't discount a useful distinction that someone else can come up with.

If I view an animal as cute, it shouldn't be eaten. Clearly, God made those species cuter for a reason. [Evil]
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Darth_Mauve
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This explains the lack of babies on your dinner menu. (there was actually a study seeing if large eyes=cuteness was an evolutionary trait to limit young of some species from being eaten.)
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Mucus
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So I can eat Hello Kitty, but not Garfield.
Got it.

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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
Originally posted by scholarette:
quote:
Originally posted by Strider:
Is there a criteria you use to distinguish between which animals you're okay with killing for food and which you aren't? If so, what is it? I have a hard time coming up with that distinction, though I wouldn't discount a useful distinction that someone else can come up with.

If I view an animal as cute, it shouldn't be eaten. Clearly, God made those species cuter for a reason. [Evil]
No. That's not it. Some of the animals I eat are adorable.
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scifibum
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quote:

Originally posted by JonHecht
I do not mean to be harsh, but this is the same line of reasoning that justifies racism. It appears to me--if I am understanding you correctly--that you are claiming that a the relationship (which may, and in your case does, include the relationship of sharing the property of being of the same species) between the acting agent and the agent that is acted upon affects the moral duty of the first agent.

If this extrapolation is not correct, then please correct me.

This appears claim appears to be ethically unjustified. The reason is that the relationship between the two agents is an arbitrary feature of the moral agent. If we are to be able to universalize moral actions, pace Kant and most most contemporary ethical theorists (I am not denying that there are some exceptions, notably care ethicists), then the only feature that sould be taken into account when deciding whether killing a dolphin qualifies as murder is whether dolphins are moral agent. Once dolphins are moral agents, any other considerations of the relationship between man and dolphin are irrelevant when considering what is the morally right action. And so the question is: are dolphins moral agents?

Let me respond a little more thoroughly.

First, let me say that I do not think dolphins are capable of abstract moral reasoning (which I assume is necessary to be a 'moral agent'). They may be intelligent enough to use language and tools (as Lyrhawn mentioned). They may empathize with other mammals (pushing drowning humans close to shore). Perhaps they bond with each other or with other mammals in meaningful ways (this I don't know, I'm just speculating). Nonetheless we haven't even come close to demonstrating that they are capable of moral reasoning. Empathy and bonding are group surival mechanisms, IMO, and don't necessarily imply an awareness of the concepts of right or wrong, or the ability to include abstract concepts and a wide range of data in any decision process motivated by those mechanisms.

So my answer to your final question would be "no." If my duty toward dolphins or their duty toward me depends on their moral agency, unless I've misunderstood what that means, then there's no duty.

However, I don't think that's the whole story. While I think dolphins are probably incapable of moral agency, I do feel a duty toward them. I tend toward the point of view that suffering is bad, pain counts as suffering, and it should be weighed against other factors when making decisions. Killing a dolphin most likely causes it pain and might cause pain to other dolphins who might depend on it or have bonds with it. I also believe that we should be careful with the ecology of the Earth and killing animals indiscriminately is likely to have harmful repercussions for humanity.

But since you called me out on a specific point, I'll acknowledge it and try to (now) provide the reasoning behind it. I do think that regardless of whether we recognize an equal intelligence - or moral agency - in another species, we should place more value on our own lives than we do on theirs. In the case of dolphins, I think human life has a MUCH higher value. If we were to encounter Pearson's Puppeteers, I'd value the difference to be smaller, but still there.

I think I can lean on OSC's ramen/varelse designations here. One of the reasons humans are justified in killing varelse if necessary is that human life is more valuable to humans than other life. (The categorization is nicely enhanced by the fact that key features that tend to make for ramen are likely to be things we would recognize as valuable qualities.)

But at root my justification is that without a will to survive - at the expense of others, if necessary - we will eventually not survive. To the extent that coexistence with other sentience is possible, it is good. It is good to recognize value in the other, if it does not pose too great a threat. It is also good to expand the definition of our tribe to the extent that makes sense - species (or interbreedable species, at least) is a good place to draw that line when/if it must be drawn. (Because there is a real shared genetic heritage. We can recognize the survival of members of humanity as in some ways our own surivival.)

"Race", now, is a bad place to draw the line. Because it's misleadingly arbitrary and because we can demonstrably transcend it. (However, if it came down to my close family or someone else, I would still value my own family's life more, although I recognize - as a matter of self interest as well as in a moral sense - that society must grant all of us the same human rights.)

Maybe someday we'll find an "other" that transcends the interbreedability line that I'm drawing here*, with whom we can share enough social identity so that future survival is as meaningful either way even if our own genetic heritage ends, but dolphins aren't even close, for me. It would have to be a kind who'd derive the same joy from reading a book, or raising a child. I doubt we'll ever find such identity with anything/one other than humans.

*Note that I'm taking for granted that the next generation has as much sapience as the current generation.

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Belle
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For some reason, this discussion brings H. Beam Piper's novel Little Fuzzy to mind, as the plot revolved around developing a definition for sapience. A man was being tried for murder of an alien being, and the defense wanted to develop a definition that included all known sapient beings but exluded this alien, and the prosecution wanted to develop a definition that included the alien that was killed.

While this is long, I'll quote it because it's interesting. (Thank you Project Gutenberg!) I'll snip out sections that are overly repetitive or that deal with plot elements not directly related to the definition of sapience.

quote:
"It is our opinion," he said, "that sapience may be defined as differing
from nonsapience in that it is characterized by conscious thought, by
ability to think in logical sequence and by ability to think in terms
other than mere sense data. We--meaning every member of every sapient
race--think consciously, and we know what we are thinking.

<snip>

while the nonsapient mind deals,
consciously, with nothing but present sense data, there is a considerable
absorption and re-emission of subconscious memories. Also, there are
occasional flashes of what must be conscious mental activity, in dealing
with some novel situation. Dr. van Riebeek, who is especially interested
in the evolutionary aspect of the question, suggests that the introduction
of novelty because of drastic environmental changes may have forced
nonsapient beings into more or less sustained conscious thinking and so
initiated mental habits which, in time, gave rise to true sapience.

<snip>

The sapient mind not only thinks consciously by habit, but it thinks in
connected sequence. It associates one thing with another. It reasons
logically, and forms conclusions, and uses those conclusions as premises
from which to arrive at further conclusions. It groups associations
together, and generalizes. Here we pass completely beyond any comparison
with nonsapience. This is not merely more consciousness, or more thinking;
it is thinking of a radically different kind. The nonsapient mind deals
exclusively with crude sensory material. The sapient mind translates sense
impressions into ideas, and then forms ideas of ideas, in ascending orders
of abstraction, almost without limit.

"This, finally, brings us to one of the recognized overt manifestations of
sapience. The sapient being is a symbol user. The nonsapient being cannot
symbolize, because the nonsapient mind is incapable of concepts beyond
mere sense images."

<snip>

"The sapient being," he continued, "can do one other thing. It is a
combination of the three abilities already enumerated, but combining them
creates something much greater than the mere sum of the parts. The sapient
being can imagine. He can conceive of something which has no existence
whatever in the sense-available world of reality, and then he can work and
plan toward making it a part of reality. He can not only imagine, but he
can also create."

He paused for a moment. "This is our definition of sapience. When we
encounter any being whose mentation includes these characteristics, we may
know him for a sapient brother. It is the considered opinion of all of us
that the beings called Fuzzies are such beings."

Found at http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/18137
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malanthrop
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My response to the original post:

It depends on how you define "murder". Current legal definitions of murder include the killing of human beings. I am a serious dog lover and realize that my dogs are quite intelligent and do in fact, have feelings. If I were to abuse or kill my dogs out of malice I should be prosecuted and thrown in jail. On the other hand, if my family were starving, I would roast my dog on a spit. In our relativistic society of acceptance of diversity, you should accept that a dolphin is food for someone else. A dolphin shouldn't be more protected than a human fetus. There is no right and wrong, only individual choice. Right?

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Raymond Arnold
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quote:
That doesn't work for me. The mammals that I am fine with killing for food are quite able to feel and experience pain.
I was the one originally posting that, and I noted when doing so that I am a vegetarian.

My official position when people ask is that I am okay with killing animals for food that were raised humanely, and that I am okay with hunting. I tell people this partly because it is sort of true, but mostly because it provides a position that a lot of non-vegetarians who like to think "humans are just higher on the food chain and that's that" can understand. Yes, animals do kill each other in the natural world, but factory farming is bad because it is cruel in ways beyond natural "survival of the fittest" is.

But the other thing is that, yeah, in the natural world, creatures are pretty cruel to each other on a regular basis. Asking a wolf if it is moral to kill a few more rabbits than it actually is going to eat is moot point. Neither the wolf nor the rabbit can understand. But once you start building a civilization based on a morality, I think you are obligated to start thinking morally in ways you previously were not.

Sure, you can justify slaughter of non-human species because hey, we're human and they're not and in the natural world things just kill each other, but you're not living in the natural world anymore and if you were you'd already be dead and wouldn't have the luxury of talking about this academically on the internet.

I would not judge a farmer who kills a pig (however inhumanely) the way I would judge a murderer though, because as far as "judgement" goes, I worry about how a person is acting compared to how it is reasonable to expect them to act. Two thousand years ago it was difficult even to accept other tribes as human, let alone other species. Right now we're at a point where I think it is reasonably to expect people in developed nations to start thinking about how much they eat and where it comes from and making an effort (whether or not wholly successful) to consume in a way that is as humane as possible.

As for dolphins, I did just solidify my position a little more thanks to a few other good posts. If what separates us from animals is our ability to make moral choices, then the ability to make moral choices is the criteria by which we should determine whether dolphin-killing is murder.

Scibum points out we don't know for sure dolphins CAN make moral choices, only that they're "smart." My answer is that dolphins have proven themselves in enough ways that we are obligated (given that we are the ones with an upper hand in the relationship) to try to figure out whether they can be moral. And judging them based on modern moral reasoning is silly. When humans first started forming societies, we likely did not do much more empathic bonding or abstract reasoning or rule enforcing than wolves do today.

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Lisa
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Does Ralph Von Wau Wau in the Callahan books count as a person? Would putting him down be murder?
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malanthrop
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Just because we understand our position in the food chain doesn't eliminate us from the food chain.

My wife has a terrible internal struggle. She hates veggies but feels bad eating meat. She loves meat but feels bad eating it. She will not eat meat with a bone in it as it reminds her of the reality of what she is consuming. I have to carve, trim etc, everything for her. On the otherhand, I'll gnaw the sinew off a bone and I love veggies. To her, I'm a barbarian. The only reason I don't hunt is she won't prepare the flesh for me. I've tried to tell her the dear I killed had a better life than the cow in her burger, but it doesn't really matter.

What I wonder is, would she have these issues had she not grown up with PETA commercials. I grew up in the country on a farm and I don't have these issues. Maybe the consumer of Soylent Green is the ultimate vegan, with the smallest carbon footprint. [Smile]

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Raymond Arnold
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Well, she should probably learn to like veggies just because they're good for her. [Razz]

I do agree with you that killing deer is more humane than the typical beef you buy from the store.

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Geraine
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A news article I read a few years ago stated Dolphins chose one mate for life, and is one of the only animals besides humans that engage in sexual activity for pleasure.
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Strider
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I'm pretty sure dolphins DO NOT mate for life, though my understanding is they DO have sex for pleasure.
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Darth_Mauve
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Personal experience? Just had to ask.
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Strider
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That smooth slippery skin just gets me every time.
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malanthrop
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Mating for life definitely isn't a characteristic of sentience. Some birds and insects mate for life and only a minority of humans (at least in this country) mate for life. [Smile]
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sndrake
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Just popping in for a second on this thread. I found an article related to research I read about years ago that suggests that radically complicates any evaluation of their intelligence using traditional assumptions about neurology in land mammals.

It turns out the brains of dolphins are "primitive" in some ways, but obviously well-developed in others.

From the NY Times article:

quote:
In terms of the organization of its circuitry, the dolphin brain is simple, more like a hedgehog's than a human's. Hedgehogs are among the most ''primitive'' living land mammals, and are thought to share many traits, including brain structure, with ancient mammals. Instead of being divided into many different specialized areas, as in higher land mammals, the cortex of the brain in dolphins, as in hedgehogs, is relatively uniform throughout, the researchers have established.

Despite their ''primitive'' qualities, though, the brains of dolphins and whales evolved in a rare manner. In sharp contrast with a hedgehog, the dolphin brain has a large cortex comparable in size to that in higher primates, an ''advanced'' trait normally associated with higher intelligence.

This unusual combination of simplicity and size give dolphins their own special kind of intelligence. The scientists draw an analogy with a large, simple computer that has the same internal units repeated over and over. Sheer size allows the processing of more information than would be the case with a smaller computer, but for less flexibility than a machine with more varied internal components.

Aside from the puzzle of trying to interpret the behavior of an animal that has evolved to meet the demands of a different environment, there's this additional kink. Cetacean brain development has gone down a very different path than land mammals - even if they have a high level of intelligence (or sapience and sentience), there's a question of how we can even recognize it.

OTOH, they may be really dumb biologicial sensory processing machines.

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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by Belle:
For some reason, this discussion brings H. Beam Piper's novel Little Fuzzy to mind, as the plot revolved around developing a definition for sapience.

...

Found at http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/18137

Little Fuzzy is public domain? Esteefee! Unca Gus!
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Belle
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I know! I was browsing for e-books and found it and I was thrilled. It had been years since I read it. [Smile]
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Raymond Arnold
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quote:
How would you know that? Or are you just guessing that, based on the fact that you experience pain and react in certain ways, and you see those mammals acting in similar ways in response to things that might induce pain?
If you are making the logical leap that you can assume other humans feel pain/joy based on empathy and seeing them act similarly to how you do and having physiology similar to yours, then it's a rather unintuitive leap in the opposite direction to assume that animals do not, despite sharing those same characteristics.
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sinflower
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quote:
First, let me say that I do not think dolphins are capable of abstract moral reasoning (which I assume is necessary to be a 'moral agent'). They may be intelligent enough to use language and tools (as Lyrhawn mentioned). They may empathize with other mammals (pushing drowning humans close to shore). Perhaps they bond with each other or with other mammals in meaningful ways (this I don't know, I'm just speculating). Nonetheless we haven't even come close to demonstrating that they are capable of moral reasoning. Empathy and bonding are group surival mechanisms, IMO, and don't necessarily imply an awareness of the concepts of right or wrong, or the ability to include abstract concepts and a wide range of data in any decision process motivated by those mechanisms.

So my answer to your final question would be "no." If my duty toward dolphins or their duty toward me depends on their moral agency, unless I've misunderstood what that means, then there's no duty.

Question: what kind of evidence would you consider to demonstrate the capacity for moral reasoning?
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scifibum
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They'd pretty much have to describe it. [Frown]
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scifibum
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quote:
Originally posted by Lisa:
quote:
Originally posted by Belle:
For some reason, this discussion brings H. Beam Piper's novel Little Fuzzy to mind, as the plot revolved around developing a definition for sapience.

...

Found at http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/18137

Little Fuzzy is public domain? Esteefee! Unca Gus!
What a great story. Thanks for linking to it, Belle.
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Lisa
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To answer the question in the title of this topic, it depends on the situation. If a dolphin breaks into your house and you're afraid it might be armed, I can't see why you shouldn't be able to kill it.
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Strider
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Personally I would first attempt to incapacitate it, maybe take out one of its flippers, especially the one cradling the gun.
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Noemon
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quote:
Originally posted by Lisa:
To answer the question in the title of this topic, it depends on the situation. If a dolphin breaks into your house and you're afraid it might be armed, I can't see why you shouldn't be able to kill it.

On the whole, dolphins aren't given to this sort of behavior. If one were to do this, it would be a fluke.
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sndrake
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quote:
On the whole, dolphins aren't given to this sort of behavior. If one were to do this, it would be a fluke.
I agree with Noemon. It would have to be an accident due to messed up sonar or something. I can't imagine a dolphin doing this on porpoise.
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Glenn Arnold
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Now you're all just spouting nonsense.
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Darth_Mauve
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quote:
On the whole, dolphins aren't given to this sort of behavior. If one were to do this, it would be a fluke.
I'll have you know that the "Fluke" is one of natures least violent fish.

unlike some Dolphins

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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by Darth_Mauve:
quote:
On the whole, dolphins aren't given to this sort of behavior. If one were to do this, it would be a fluke.
I'll have you know that the "Fluke" is one of natures least violent fish.

unlike some Dolphins

I think just about anything Dolphins do involves flukes.

我覺得任何海豚所做的事都有尾。

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malanthrop
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Violence in the animal kingdom has little do with malice. Either you have eyes on the sides of your head or in the front of your head. I've never had a dolphin break into my house but I have had a dolphin steal my property. I was reeling in a fish and a dolphin took my line. Did he know he was steeling my property? Plants have feelings too, you evil vegan.
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Noemon
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quote:
Originally posted by Glenn Arnold:
Now you're all just spouting nonsense.

And Glenn has won the thread.

fin

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Mucus
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I've never trusted dolphins and I never will. I can never forgive them, for the death of my boy.
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malanthrop
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?
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Strider
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mal, in the "golden days" of hatrack, serious threads could descend into silliness at a moments notice. It's not a bad thing. Half the time it happens when the thread is winding down anyway. The other half the thread picks right back up and continues along its merry way. Now...the third half, that's where we get into trouble.
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malanthrop
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I put a ? out of serious inquiry since sarcasm is difficult to identify in printed words. I must admit that I find it unlikely that dolphins could contribute to anyone's death but if they did, I wouln't want to be the one to mock it. I'm 99.9% sure the statement was a joke but there have been people with their hands and feet eaten off by their pet chimpanzees this year.

Dolphins are wild animals. I am more apt to believe they could kill a child than the tales of them protecting a child from shark attack. We have more experience with native americans than dolphins and I dismiss the the romanticized noble savage portrayal.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Mucus:
I've never trusted dolphins and I never will. I can never forgive them, for the death of my boy.

[ROFL]

-Dolphins are sentient!

-NOOOOO!! NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!1 :glass smash:

-The dolphins invade our space, and we fall back. They assimilate entire worlds, and we fall back. The line must be drawn HERE! This far, NO further.... and IIIIII will make them PAY for what they've done!


quote:
I put a ? out of serious inquiry since sarcasm is difficult to identify in printed words.
Please don't be such an L7. He's quoting a line from Star Trek VI.
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Raymond Arnold
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I was gonna point out that if you hadn't seen that particular movie (and to be fair, you could easily decide to stop watching Star Trek movies after number 5), it wouldn't be nearly as clear whether it was a joke or not.

Now I'm trying to think of a good line from the one about the whales.

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mr_porteiro_head
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They like you very much, but they are not the hell "your" dolphins.

I suppose they told you that?

The hell they did.

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Glenn Arnold
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quote:
Originally posted by malanthrop:
?

Perhaps this is time for a colorful metaphor?
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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by Noemon:
quote:
Originally posted by Glenn Arnold:
Now you're all just spouting nonsense.

And Glenn has won the thread.

fin

<wince>
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by mr_porteiro_head:
They like you very much, but they are not the hell "your" dolphins.

I suppose they told you that?

The hell they did.

Porter, maybe you've had a little too much LDS...
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steven
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
quote:
Originally posted by mr_porteiro_head:
They like you very much, but they are not the hell "your" dolphins.

I suppose they told you that?

The hell they did.

Porter, maybe you've had a little too much LDS...
MORE Star Trek quoting?

It's almost like this board is full of geeks.

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Raymond Arnold
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quote:
Porter, maybe you've had a little too much LDS...
Oh my god (the vague, amorphous easily redefined kind of god an atheist can be forgiven for calling out in shock), I cannot believe I forgot to quote that line.
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flyby
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I don't really think that killing dolphins should be considered murder until the motives for killing them are similar to what constitutes murder of a human.

Like it seems to me most of the reasons for killing a dolphin would be for food or to use it for some resource, which just does not say murder to me.

Now if there were an industry built up around killing humans for resources, I may feel a bit more different about it.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Raymond Arnold:
(and to be fair, you could easily decide to stop watching Star Trek movies after number 5)

That would be a bit like locking the barn doors after the horse had been stolen. And eaten.
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Raymond Arnold
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quote:
Originally posted by flyby:
I don't really think that killing dolphins should be considered murder until the motives for killing them are similar to what constitutes murder of a human.

Like it seems to me most of the reasons for killing a dolphin would be for food or to use it for some resource, which just does not say murder to me.

Now if there were an industry built up around killing humans for resources, I may feel a bit more different about it.

To clarify, if I kill you to eat you, that's not murder?
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