C.S. Lewis’ Anti-Vivisection Argument

I had to schlep to the library my alma mater, UC Davis, to find C.S. Lewis’ essay, “Vivisection.”640px-UCDavis_PeterJShieldsLibrary
Above: The UC Davis Shields Library, photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons

In other words, it took some effort to track it down, which is why I am posting the essay online. I found the essay included in C.S. Lewis: Essay Collection and Other Short Pieces (pp. 693-697).

I first became aware of the essay through its mention in an excellent recent biography of Lewis authored by Alister McGrath, called, C.S. Lewis A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet.
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Above: C.S. Lewis enters The Wardrobe: Statue in Belfast, Ireland (his birthplace), photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons

The entire essay called “Vivisection” was difficult to come by. I could find the piece locally neither in a library nor bookstore, and not only, it was difficult for me (and therefore would be for others, I assume) to find, I am posting the essay online without permission, in order that it can be read for the widest number of people as possible. I do not endorse the reproduction of this material for the use of financial gain, and do not intend to maliciously violate any copyright laws.

Those who may be tempted to call C.S. Lewis an animal rights activist are, to my mind, getting to wrong. In fact, the essay highlights not the argument against any experimentation or testing on animals, but that the testing on what may be considered “lower” creatures actually creates a pathway to experimenting on humans who are not in a position to protect themselves.
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Above: An unidentified prisoner is experimented on during World War II, in Japan, photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons

Written in 1946, he points out the chilling truth that humans have been experimented on already, especially in the German concentration camps of World War II. Lewis implies that the moral justification for incarcerating and torturing these imprisoned peoples was that they were considered lower than humans: they were thought of as animals.

[106] Vivisection

This first appeared as a pamphlet from the New England Anti-Vivisection Society (Boston, 1947), and was reprinted in England by the National Anti-Vivisection Society in 1948. It was then reprinted in Undeceptions (1971) and First and Second Things (1985), and is now in Compelling Reasons (1998).

It is the rarest thing in the world to hear a rational discussion of vivisection. Those who disapprove of it are commonly accused of ‘sentimentality’, and very often their arguments justify the accusation. They paint pictures of pretty little dogs on dissecting tables. But the other side lie open to exactly the same charge. They also often defend the practice by drawing pictures of suffering women and children whose pain can be relieved (we are assured) only by the fruits of vivisection. The one appeal, quite as clearly as the other, is addressed to emotion, to the particular emotion we call pity. And neither appeal proves anything. If the thing is right – and if right at all, it is a duty – then pity for the animal is one of the temptations we must resist in order to perform that duty. If the thing is wrong, then pity for human suffering is precisely the temptation which will most probably lure us into doing that wrong thing. But the real question – whether it is right or wrong – remains meanwhile just where it was.

A rational discussion of this subject begins by inquiring whether pain is, or is not, an evil. If it is not, then the case against vivisection falls. But then so does the case for vivisection. If it is not defended on the ground that it reduces human suffering, on what ground can it be defended? And if pain is not an evil, why should human suffering be reduced? We must therefore assume as a basis for the whole discussion that pain is an evil, otherwise there is nothing to be discussed.

Now if pain is an evil then the infliction of pain, considered in itself, must clearly be an evil act. But there are such things as necessary evils. Some acts which would be bad, simply in themselves, may be excusable and even laudable when they are necessary means to a greater good. In saying that the infliction of pain, simply in itself, is bad, we are not saying that pain ought never to be inflicted. Most of us think that it can rightly be inflicted for a good purpose – as in dentistry or just and reformatory punishment. The point is that it always requires justification. On the man whom we find inflicting pain rests the burden of showing why an act which in itself would be simply bad is, in those particular circumstances, good. If we find a man giving pleasure it is for us to prove (if we criticise him) that his action is wrong. But if we find a man inflicting pain it is for him to prove that his action is right. If he cannot, he is a wicked man.

Now vivisection can only be defended by showing it to be right that one species should suffer in order that another species should be happier. And here we come to the parting of the ways. The Christian defender and the ordinary ‘scientific’ (i.e. naturalistic) defender of vivisection, have to take quite different lines.

The Christian defender, especially in the Latin countries, is very apt to say that we are entitled to do anything we please to animals because they ‘have no souls.’ But what does this mean? If it means that animals have no consciousness, then how is this known? They certainly behave as if they had, or at least the higher animals do. I myself am inclined to think that far fewer animals than is supposed have what we should recognise as consciousness. But that is only an opinion. Unless we know on other grounds that vivisection is right we must not take the moral risk of tormenting them on a mere opinion. On the other hand, the statement that they ‘have no souls’ may mean that they have no moral responsibilities and are not immortal. But the absence of ‘soul’ in that sense makes the infliction of pain upon them not easier but harder to justify. For it means that animals cannot deserve pain, nor profit morally by the discipline of pain, nor be recompensed by happiness in another life for suffering in this. Thus all the factors which render pain more tolerable or make it less totally evil in the case of human beings will be lacking in the beasts. ‘Soullessness’, in so far as it is relevant to the question at all, is an argument against vivisection.

The only rational line for the Christian vivisectionist to take is to say that the superiority of man over beast is a real objective fact, guaranteed by Revelation, and that the propriety of sacrificing beast to man is a logical consequence. We are ‘worth more than many sparrows’ (Matthew 10:31), and in sayiing this we are not merely expressing a natural preference for our own species simply because it is our own but conforming to a hierarchical order created by God and really present in the universe whether anyone acknowledges it or not. The position may not be satisfactory. We may fail to see how a benevolent Deity could wish us to draw such conclusions from the hierarchical order He has created. We may find it difficult to formulate a human right of tormenting beasts in terms which would not equally imply an angelic right of tormenting men. And we may feel that though objective superiority is rightly claimed for men, yet that very superiority ought partly to consist in not behaving like a vivisector: that we ought to prove ourselves better than the beasts precisely by the fact of acknowledging duties to them which they do not acknowledge to us. But on all these questions different opinions can be honestly held. If on grounds of our real, divinely ordained, superiority a Christian pathologist thinks it is right to vivisect, and does so with scrupulous care to avoid the least dram or scruple of unnecessary pain, in a trembling awe at the responsibility which he assumes, and with a vivid sense of the high mode in which human life must be lived if it is to justify the sacrifices made for it, then (whether we agree with him or not) we can respect his point of view.

But of course the vast majority of vivisectors have no such theological background. They are most of them naturalistic and Darwinian. Now here, surely, we come up against a very alarming fact. The very same people who will most contemptuously brush aside any consideration of animal suffering if it stands in the way of ‘research’ will also, on another context, most vehemently deny that there is any radical difference between man and the other animals. On the naturalistic view the beasts are at bottom just the same sort of thing as ourselves. Man is simply the cleverest of the anthropoids. All the grounds on which a Christian must defend vivisection are thus cut from under our feet. We sacrifice other species to our own not because our own has any objective metaphysical privilege over others, but simply because it is ours. It may be very natural to have this loyalty to our own species, but let us hear no more from the naturalists about the ‘sentimentality’ of anti-vivisectionists. If loyalty to our own species, preference for man simply because we are men, is not a sentiment, then what is? It may be a good sentiment or a bad one. But a sentiment it certainly is. Try to base it on logic and see what happens!

But the most sinister thing about modern vivisection is this. If a mere sentiment justifies cruelty, why stop at a sentiment for the whole human race? There is also a sentiment for the white man against the black, for a Herrenvolk [“Master Race”] against the non-Aryans, for ‘civilised’ or ‘progressive’ peoples against ‘savages’ or ‘backward’ peoples. Finally, for our own country, party or class against others. Once the old Christian idea of a total difference in kind between man and beast has been abandoned, then no argument for experiments on animals can be found which is not also an argument for experiments on inferior men. If we cut up beasts simply because they cannot prevent us and because we are backing up our own side in the struggle for existence, it is only logical to cut up imbeciles, criminals, enemies or capitalists for the same reasons. Indeed, experiments on men have already begun. We all hear that Nazi scientists have done them. We all suspect that our own scientists may begin to do so, in secret, at any moment.

The alarming thing is that the vivisectors have won the first round. In the nineteenth and eighteenth centuries a man was not stamped as a ‘crank’ for protesting against vivisection. Lewis Carroll [1832-1898] protested, if I remember his famous letter correctly, on the very same ground which I have just used. (‘Vivisection as a Sign of the Times’, The Works of Lewis Carroll, ed. by Roger Lancelyn Green (London, 1965), pp. 1089-92. See also ‘Some Popular Fallacies about Vivisection’, ibid, pp. 1092-1100.) Dr. [Samuel] Johnson [1709-1784] – a man whose mind had as much iron in it as any man’s – protested in a note on Cymbeline which is worth quoting in full. In Act I, scene v, the Queen explains to the Doctor that she wants poisons to experiment on ‘such creatures as We count not worth the hanging – but none human’. (Shakespeare, Cymbeline, I, v, 19-20.) The Doctor replies:

Your Highness
Shall from this practice but make hard your heart.

(Shakespeare, Cymbeline, I, v, 23.)

Johnson comments: ‘The thought would probably have been more amplified, had our author lived to be shocked with such experiments as have been published in later times, by a race of men that have practised tortures without pity, and related them without shame, and are yet suffered to erect their heads among human beings.’ (Johnson on Shakespeare: Essays and Notes Selected and Set Forth with an Introduction by Sir Walter Raleigh (London 1908), p. 181.)

The words are his, not mine, and in truth we hardly dare in these days to use such calmly stern language. The reason why we do not dare is that the other side has in fact won. And though cruelty even to beasts is an important matter, their victory is symptomatic of matters more important still. The victory of vivisection marks a great advance in the triumph of ruthless, non-moral utilitarianism over the old world of ethical law; a triumph in which we, as well as animals, are already the victims, and of which Dachau and Hiroshima mark the more recent achievements. In justifying cruelty to animals we put ourselves also on the animal level. We choose the jungle and must abide by our choice.

You will notice I have spent no time in discussing what actually goes on in the laboratories. We shall be told, of course, that there is surprisingly little cruelty. That is a question with which, at present, I have nothing to do. We must first decide what should be allowed: after that is is for the police to discover what is already being done.

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(Less) Fun with Feminine Hygiene

The following might read like a joke, but believe me, it’s not funny: how long do you need to try to inserting a Diva Cup before realizing it’s time to give up?

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The short answer, unfortunately, is: FOREVER. At least, that is, if you heed the instructional insert which tells a girl something it would be helpful (though deadly from a selling standpoint) to print on the box: this device is non-returnable.

Luckily, your ability to get your money back is not necessarily up to DivaCup: it’s up to the store where you might need to return the thing. And so if you think you can work up your nerve to bring in a used (albeit, cleaned up) menstrual cup back into the store, check in advance with the store in question in advance.

And of course, being a completely kick-ass kind of place, Good Earth Foods in Fairfax, California did that for me!  (Sorry guys: I really did plan to keep it.)

And believe me, you’re going to want to return it, unless you’re Oprah Winfrey, whose menstruating days are probably a thing of the past anyway. The DivaCup, in all of it’s non-disposable goodness, costs around $35-$40. It might be a bit cheaper to buy online, but with postage and handling, I don’t know that you’ll make out any better.Paying $40 for a single toiletry item is a big commitment.

That is why I was DETERMINED to make the DivaCup thing work: dammit!

But ladies? Remember what a pain in the you-know-where it was to get your first tampon up in thar?

Picture having to shove a much larger, rubber/plastic-type device up your vagina, all the while thinking, “If I don’t make this work, I’ll have just wasted 40 bucks!”

Now this brings up an interesting point, re: celibacy.  I began to wonder: if I was sexually active, or had given birth, would it be easier to insert something like the DivaCup? I don’t know: it’s not worth doing either to find out! But I do know I bought the smallest size, and it still wasn’t small enough.

Bear in mind, too, that a tampon seems to be shaped specially with insertion in mind. But the menstrual cup almost seems like they had someone design the thing, and only later mentioned to her that it would actually need to be put inside a vagina. “Oh,” the inventor of the DivaCup would respond, hesitantly. “I suppose if the woman kind of folded it up first? 
The DivaCup revealed:

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Maybe she could get it up there?”

Maybe. If the darn thing stayed folded up. But. Good luck with that.

And I am so sorry to say that!  Gotta love the convenience and minimum-spot-on-white-pants risk that a tampon gives me, but the prospect of all of that non-biodegradable flushable stuff is really depressing. I doubt the DivaCup itself is biodegradable. But since the thing is meant for long-term reuse, that helps ease one’s guilt.

Thus, I have yet to find a “sustainable” tampon.
Which reminds me, I should probably test-drive more than one option before giving up entirely.

Really? You mean right here in the store?!

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Maybe I would take them up on the offer, if I had decided I didn’t care if I was ever welcome back at Good Earth Natural Foods, in Fairfax, California. As seen November 17, 2013.

Ryan Gosling: Sexiest Man Alive

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Even Barbie Has Bad Dates

Even Barbie Has Bad Dates

I saw this Barbie recently at the store, and it just cracked me up: with it’s drawing (!) of Ken in the background, and Barbie sitting there alone, as if she’s fantasizing she’s on a real date. Too real-life-to-be-funny (sort of).

At Home, Changing the Kitty Litter

…Instead of browsing City Lights delights, I am sitting in my pajamas, enjoying fudge cake  and he (Quintessential Single Guy Safeway Shopper) is home masturbating, and not about me. Guaranteed.

I am 36, and am At That Age where men on the street are done gawking and have taken to ignoring… except for a 7-foot homeless Black guy I passed earlier on the way home from Mara’s Italian Pastry, clutching my 3-layer dark chocolate fudge cake as if it was my first-born: in fact, I was hugging it tighter than I would a child — how hard is it to get knocked up compared with finding orgasm-inducing  chocolate cake?

“Hello, Gorgeous,” said Homeless Guy… which were the same words I had uttered to the cake, when I eyed it behind the glass of the bakery. I shook my head no, and murmured, “Farewell, my Love… Endeavour to think well of me, as I will of you… Always” to the Black Forest Cake, with its dark chocolate shavings, the  crispy chocolate custard eclairs, and airy – nay! – buxom cream puffs. Having departed with them on good terms, I could not begrudge them the company of others. Or could I? They had better be there tomorrow, waiting for me, I thought jealously. Or better yet, not: for pastry, unlike men, is best when fresh, is it not?

Single Women, Unite!!

I’m not ultra-conservative. I’m a Christian, and a Democrat, and I’m pro-Choice. But I hate how sex has become this “assumed” part of dating.  Why is waiting for marriage such an outdated thing?

I don’t think you need to be a Christian to wait until marriage to have sex.  More on that later, but I think it’s the healthy thing to do: not only physically, but emotionally.