torsdag 15. september 2011


Menneskeapene har vært hot topic i senere år. Forskere fra mange fag har fattet interesse for disse artene. Antropologer og språkforskere studerer dem for bedre å forstå vår egen evolusjonære fortid. Også filosofer, særlig moralfilosofer som arbeider med dyrs rettigheter, vektlegger de overveldende likhetene mellom oss og våre nærmeste slektninger i dyreriket. Mennesket må pent stige ned fra sin selvhøytidelige pidestall. 

Jeg er ambivalent til dette. Å understreke alle likhetene er avgjort berettiget, tatt i betraktning tidligere tiders tendens til å postulere en kløft mellom mennesker og alle andre vesener. "For de fleste mennesker," skriver Peter Singer et sted, "samler begrepet 'dyr' sammen vesener så forskjellige som sjimpanser og østers, mens det skaper en kløft mellom sjimpanser og mennesker," og biologisk sett er jo dette opplagt nonsens, ettersom "vårt slektskap med disse apene er mye nærere enn slektskapet mellom aper og østers." (Dyrenes frigjøring s. xv) Etikk basert på dette grunnlaget, kaller Singer artssjåvinisme. Svaret består i å påpeke alle likhetene artene imellom. Som sagt, dette grepet er i og for seg i orden, men (avhengig av hvordan det blir gjort, naturligvis) helt uproblematisk er det ikke. Lynne Sharpe
har påpekt at Singer slett ikke avviser prinsippet om mennesket som alle tings mål på denne måten, men at han fremdeles står på artssjåvinistisk grunn når han argumenterer for at dyrenes moralske status avhenger av hvor like de er oss. Videre er det også en fare for at man i gledesrusen over å finne så mange likheter overdriver muligheten for gjenkjennelse i disse apene. Det finnes ingen evolusjonær kløft mellom oss og de andre primatene -- de er våre nærmeste slektninger i dyreriket og ligner oss i mange henseender, og når vi innser dette, er det opplagt at vi kan gjøre forsøk på og til en viss grad lykkes i å forstå og kommunisere med dem -- men fullstendig gjenkjennelse er og blir en illusjon.

"The audience in Basel [zoo] is of all ages," skriver John Berger i essayet "Ape Theatre":

From toddlers to pensioners. No other spectacle in the world can attract such a wide spectrum of the public. Some sit, like my father and I once did, lost to the passing of time. Others drop in for a few moments. There are habitués who come every day and whom the actors [apene] recognise. But on nobody -- not even the youngest toddler -- is the dramatic evolutionary riddle lost: how is it that they are so like us and yet not us? (Keeping a Rendezvous s. 141)
Å overdrive likhetene er (som en overdrivelse av forskjellene) å late som om denne gåten, denne ambivalente vekslingen mellom gjenkjennelse og total fremmedhet, ikke eksisterte. Et av kapitlene i Last Chance to See handler om da Douglas Adams og Mark Carwardine dro inn i Kongos jungel for å studere gorillaer. Adams skriver overbevisende om den tofrontskrigen det er å være sannferdig i slike møter; det er en balansegang mellom den antropomorfe fristelsen -- lysten til å lese for mye menneske inn i dyrene -- på den ene siden og faren for å se for lite menneske i dem på den andre. 
We followed, encountering one gorilla after another until at last we came across another silverback lying on his side beneath a bush, with his long arm folded up over his head scratching his opposite ear while he watched a couple of leaves doing not very much. It was instantly clear what he was doing. He was contemplating life. He was hanging out. It was quite obvious. Or rather, the temptation to find it quite obvious was abolutely overwhelming. 
They look like humans, they move like humans, they hold things in their fingers like humans, the expressions which play across theri faces and in their intenslely human-looking eyes are expressions that we instinctively feel we recognise as human expressions. We look them in the face and we think, "We know what they're like," but we don't. Or rather, actually block off any possible glimmering of understanding of what they may be like by making easy and tempting assumptions. 
I creapt closer to the silverback, slowly and quietly on my hands and knees, till I was about eighteen inches away from him. He glanced around at me unconcernedly, as if I was just someone who had walked into the room, and contiued his contemplations. I guessed that the animal was probably about the same height as me -- over six feet tall -- but I would think about twice as heavy. Mostly muscle, with soft grey-black skin hanging quite loosely on his front, covered in coarse black hair. 
As I moved again, he shifted himself away from me, just about six inches, as if I had sat slightly too close to him on a sofa and he was grumpily making a bit more room. Then he lay on his front with his chin on his fist, idly scratching his cheek with his other hand. I sat as quiet and still as I could, despite discovering that i was being bitten to death by ants. The silverback looked from one to anoter of us without any great concern, and then his attention dropped to his own hands as he idly scratched some flecks of dirt off one of his fingers with his thumb. I had the impression that we were of as much interest to him as a boring Sunday afternoon in front of the television. He yawned. 
It's so bloody hard not to anthropomorphise. But these impressions keep on crowding in on you because they spark so much instant recognition, however illusory that recognition may be. It's  the only way of conveying what it was like. 
After a quiet interval had passed, I carefully pulled the pink writing paper out of my bag and started to make the notes that I'm writing from at the moment. This seemed to interest him a little more. I suppose he had simply never seen pink writing paper before. His eyes followed as my hand squiggled across the paper, and after a while he reached out and touched first the paper and then on top of my ballpoint pen -- not to take it away from me, or even to interrupt me, just to see what it was and what it felt like. I felt very moved by this, and had a foolish implse to want to show him my camera as well. 
He retreated a little and lay down again about four feet from me, with his fist once more propped under his chin. I loved the extraordinary thoughtfulness of his expression, and the way his lips were bunched together by the upward pressure of his fist. The most disconcerting intelligense seemed to be apparent from the sudden sidelong glances he would give me, prompted not by any particular move I had made but apparently by a thought that had struck him. 
I began to feel how patronising it was of us to presume to judge their intelligence, as if ours was any kind of standard by which to measure. I tried to imagine instead how he saw us, but of cource that's almost impossible to do, because the assumptions you end up making as you try to bridge the imaginative gap are, of course, your own, and the most misleading assumptions are the ones you don't even know you're making. I pictured him lying there easily in his own world, tolerating my presence in it, but, I think, possibly sending me signals to which I did not know how to respond. And then I pictured myself beside him, festooned with the apparatus of my intelligence -- my Goretex windbreaker, my pen and paper, my autofocus matrix-metering Nikon F4, and my inability to comprehend any of the life we had left behind us in the forest. But somewhere in the genetic history that we each carry with us in every cell of our body was a deep connection with this crature, as inaccessible to us now as last year's dreams, but, like last year's dreams, always invisibly and unfathomably present. 
It put me in mind of what I think must be a vague memory of a movie, in which a New Yorker, the son of East European immigrants, goes to find the village that his family originally came from. He is rich and successful and expects to be greeted with excitement, admiration, and wonder. 
Instead, he is not exactly rejected, not exactly dismissed, but is welcomed in ways that he is unable to understand. He is disturbed by their lack of reaction to his presence until he realises that their stillness in the face of him is not rejection, but merely a peace that he is welcome to join but not to disturbe. The gifts he has brought with him form civilisation turn to dust in his hands as he realises that everything he has is merely the shadow cast by what he has lost. 
I watched the gorilla's eyes again, wise and knowing eyes, and wondered about this business of trying to teach apes language. Our language. Why? There are many members of our own species who live in and with the forest and know it and understand it. We don't listen to them. What is there to suggest we would listen to anything an ape could tell us? Or that it would be able to tell us of its life in a language that hasn't been born of that life? I thought, maybe it is not that they have yet to gain a language, it is that we have lost one. 
The silverback seemd at last to tire of my presence. He hauled himself to his feet and lumbered easily off into another part of his home. (ss. 79-82)

Dette er den evolusjonære gåten dramatisert -- gjenkjennelse og følelse av fremmedhet om hverandre. Det som gjør denne beskrivelsen så sterk for meg, er Adams' åpenbare ydmykhet. Den er verken påtatt eller sentimental, men, tror jeg, en ydmykhet som dels vokser ut av Adams' observante, tenksomme og selvkritiske måte å være i situasjonen på, og som dels ligger til grunn for denne holdningen. Ydmykheten gjør at Adams ser noe, et fremmed intellekt, en fremmed livsform, som avtvinger ham respekt. Ikke bare en respekt for det speilbildet han glimtvis får øye på, men kanskje særlig for det ugjennomtrengelige og uavviselig fremmede hos den andre. Jeg vet ikke hva dette viser, utover at Douglas Adams var en observant og sensitiv iakttaker og en mesterlig forfatter, som evnet å sette ord på dette -- men det får meg til å stille spørsmål ved endel moralfilosofi. Kanskje skyldes manglende moralsk fantasi og nysgjerrighet når filosofer antyder at kun det som ligner oss fortjener moralsk omtanke? Jeg tror Cora Diamond har vært inne på slike tanker før meg. Nysgjerrighet og fantasi kan utvide det moralske rommet. Det fjerne og fremmede kan, hvis vi er åpne for det, tre inn i dette rommet og avtvinge oss respekt qua fjernt og fremmed.


Det finnes forøvrig en ny tv-serie og en ny bok. Konsept og tittel er som før, men Douglas Adams er død, så Mark Carwardine har denne gangen fått med seg Adams' gode venn Stephen Fry som reisefølge. Står på min må gjøre-liste.

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