The Human Arrogance
Is what Dr. Moreau was doing necessarily any different than common animal treatment practices today? Inflicting pain on animals was probably the greatest grievance expressed, but he claimed to do it in the interest of science, to further the development of science. Is this really any different than the medical experiments done on mice and rabbits in order to further the development of drugs and medicine? He cross-breeds species together to create chimeras, but this is only marginally more different than breeding dogs and Equines. In fact, what I would posit is not that the protests are not in the experimentation of animals, but in the humanization of the beasts. Moreau is attempting to create humanity out of beasts, and it is the uncanny behavior of these inhuman creatures that disturbs the psyche.
The movie renditions of Moreau often portray him as a megalomaniac, god-complex character. This vilifies him, but at the same time touches on some fairly intricate issues: Moreau feels like a god because he is bestowing humanity. The idea of treating a beast with the same consideration and morality as a human seems to repulse people. The acknowledgment of beasts as (more or less) peers is the acquiescence that the empire of man has potential challengers. The hold of humanity and its control over the natural becomes shaken.
Humans don’t have super senses of smell or sight; they aren’t particularly strong, either. The advantage humans have is their dexterity and intellect: if animals are able to rationalize and become cognizant in the same way that humans are, do they have the possibility of challenging our civilization?
Is it human arrogance? Or simply a sense of security in our position in the world? And what really divides that fine line between a necessary evil and a complete evil? Is it the introduction of the humanity aspect? Rise of the Planet of the Apes touched on this: the movie deals with the introduction of human intelligence to apes in order to facilitate the development of a cure for Alzheimers. This eventually backfires, as the apes overtake society in order to develop their own. The fear here isn’t that these apes are unnatural or that they may be in pain. It’s not that they are chimeric. It’s that they act like humans. It’s that they pose a threat to the very structure of how we live. This phenomenon is seen in machines, as well – robots are fine and dandy, cute mechanical servants… until they decide to rebel.
Perhaps it’s because of the notion of a soul. Maybe this is why the idea of cloning is also such a squeamish moral gray area. Whether or not animals in their original forms have souls is not necessarily the point – it’s whether they must be acknowledged when they demonstrate human-like intelligence. Would you be willing to admit that a lab mouse has a similar amount of intellect to you? Is the human unwillingness to share their domain of knowledge crippling to the sciences?
Would the knowledge be worth the potential price of finding out?