Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tentative Proposal for Species-Specific Normative Homicide Rates

Robert Dujarric speaks out in the comments section here on behalf of mosquitos, the greater killer of humans according to Bill Gates, whose per capita human-kill rate should be much, much lower than that of humans themselves. In fact, the dengue fever-carrying mosquitos in Yoyogi Park and elsewhere in the greenery of metropolitan Tokyo have yet to claim any lives. Still, suggesting that we should exterminate humans instead of mosquitos does not quite make sense to me. What would be an appropriate measure for an animal’s right to kill humans? What would Peter Singer say?

I nominate a species’ biological footprint for that role. The key assumption here is that each species is evolved at any moment to maximize evolutionary efficiency (assuming that there is such a term) with regard to killing humans. Any more or less homicide on the part of a species and that species is taking more or fewer human lives than is optimal for life in it its entirety from a dynamic perspective.

One way to measure that would be to divide the sum of the products of the weight and metabolic rate of each animal in a given species and divide that by the sum of the products of the weight and metabolic rate of every animal. The resultant quotient expressed as a percentage is that species’ normative homicide rate. Any deviation from that rate, and it means that the species is hitting above or below its weight, so to speak. Of course, only an omniscient God can count and measure each single animal, so we’ll have to make do largely with samples, approximations and averages. Still, this appears to be conceptually sound.

Now, this may lead to what some may consider to be inequities at more granular levels. For instance, Americans would be rewarded for their obesity with a higher normative kill rate. Indeed, I can see the NRA taking up my argument and running with it. They didn’t say obesity is deadly for no reason. Perhaps that is good reason to keep things at the species level.

Peter Singer would probably put forward a different objection, namely that my method does not take into consideration the relative lack of “rationality, autonomy, and self-consciousness” on the part of mosquitos compared to humans. True, but neither do lions. By that measure, we would be justified in killing off all lions in order to eliminate what is now a very high death toll on the more rational, autonomous and self-conscious humans.

Peter Singer, the ball is in your court. 

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