Extract from Chapter 3. Speaking in tongues.
One of the things that protects humanity from all of the philosophers and academics who insist that we are nothing special is the power of speech. Not speech deployed to argue against them; for the most part we are intimidated by their pedigrees and their supercilious posturing. But the power of speech itself defends us, because each one of us can easily see that this is a power that human beings alone possess. Lab-coated academics never stop trying to convince us that chimpanzees or dolphins share the power of speech with us, but regardless of what we say – or don’t dare say – in rebuttal, most of us recognize that these claims are absurd.
That’s just more of the Dancing Bear Fallacy, of course, but it is worth listening to the people who make these arguments – and to the people who chortle their support for them. A laboratory dolphin possessed of rationally-conceptual volitionality would immediately file a lawsuit seeking manumission from the clipboard-wielding sadists holding it captive. Ten thousand chimpanzees sitting at computer keyboards cannot produce the works of Shakespeare, nor even one line of intelligible verse. Not ten thousand, not ten million, not ten billion. The purpose of making these nonsensical claims about the specious verbal abilities of trained animals is not to confer an unearned status on those animals, but to rob you of the status you earned by mastering your mind. Animals cannot make informed choices by reasoning about concepts – nor do they need to. They are perfect the way they are – and so are you.
The goal of modern philosophy – in all probability unknown to you and to the scientific researchers who make these breathless claims about the imaginary conceptual abilities of animals – is to undermine the mind. Slavishly following those knowing philosophers of mindlessness, there are vast cadres of very well paid professional butterfly collectors whose job it is to make tautologically obvious observations about animal behavior in the most exaggerated ways they can. And slavishly following them are hordes of popularizers – journalists and artists and so-called “thought leaders” – whose passion is to blow those exaggerated claims even further out of proportion. And, sad to say, at the tag end of that long slavish train, there are a great many ordinary people who hate the human mind enough to seek any bogus evidence of its impotence, its incompetence, its fundamental ugly corruption. I told you the world is at war with your mind. This is how that war is fought.