Dogs, Strangers And Your Hu­man­ity

MidWeek (Hawaii) - - Front Page - Den­nis Prager

Awhile ago, a hu­man- in­ter­est story from South Africa was re­ported in­ter­na­tion­ally. As de­scribed in The Wall Street Jour­nal:

“On Aug. 4, Gra­ham and Sh­eryl An­ley, while yacht­ing off the coast of South Africa, hit a reef, cap­siz­ing their boat. As the boat threat­ened to sink and they scram­bled to get off, Sh­eryl’s safety line snagged on some­thing, trap­ping her there. In­stead of free­ing his wife and get­ting her to shore, Gra­ham grabbed Rosie, their Jack Rus­sell ter­rier. (One me­dia ac­count re­ported that Sh­eryl had in­sisted that the and sound, Gra­ham re­turned

Since the 1970s, I have asked stu­dents if they would - ing dog or a drown­ing stranger. And for 40 years I have re­ceived the same re­sults: One-third vote for their dog, one-third for the stranger, and one-third don’t know what they would do.

In The Wall Street Jour­nal col­umn, Robert M. Sapol­sky, a pro­fes­sor of bi­ol­ogy and neu­rol­ogy at Stan­ford Univer­sity, re­ported about an­other such ex­per­i­ment:

“A re­cent paper by Richard Topol­ski at Ge­orge Re­gents Univer­sity and col­leagues, pub­lished in the jour­nal An­thro­zoos, demon­strates this hu­man i nvolve­ment with pets to a star­tling ex­tent. Par­tic­i­pants in the study were told a hy­po­thet­i­cal sce­nario in which a bus is hurtling out of con­trol, bear­ing down on from more than 500 peo­ple, the an­swer was that it de­pend what kind of dog?

“Every­one would save a sib­ling, grand­par­ent or close friend rather than a strange dog. But when peo­ple con­sid­ered their own dog ver­sus peo­ple less con­nected with them — a dis­tant cousin or a home­town stranger — votes in fa­vor of sav­ing the dog came rolling in. And an as­ton­ish­ing 40 per­cent of re­spon­dents, in­clud­ing 46 per­cent of women, voted to save their dog over a

To his credit, Pro­fes­sor Sapol­sky is not pleased with these re­sults. He con­cludes:

to an­other or­gan­ism and feel its pain like no other species. But let’s not be too proud of our­selves. As this study and too much of our his­tory show, we’re pretty se­lec­tive about how we ex­tend our hu­mane

The most im­por­tant ques­tion for hu­man be­ings to ask is how we teach our­selves to “ex­tend our hu­mane­ness to

Or, to pose the ques­tion within the frame­work of the dog-stranger ques­tion: How do we con­vince peo­ple to save a hu­man be­ing they do not know rather than the dog they do know and love? There is only one way. did through­out Amer­i­can his­tory un­til the 1960s — that hu­man be­ings are cre­ated in God’s im­age and an­i­mals are not. That is the only com­pelling rea­son to save a hu­man be­ing you don’t love be­fore the dog you do love.

clas­sic ten­sion be­tween feel­ings and val­ues — be­tween feel­ings and rev­e­la­tion (i.e.,

All of us feel more for a be­ing we love than for a be­ing we don’t know, let alone love. There­fore some­thing must su­per­sede our feel­ings. That some­thing must be val­ues. But these val­ues must be per­ceived as em­a­nat­ing from some­thing higher than us, higher than our opin­ions, higher than our fac­ulty of rea­son, and even higher than our con­science. That higher source is God. Once again, let us be clear: There is no com­pelling rea­son -

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