Jason B. Ladd

Ask the Questions. Embrace the Answers. Make the Leap.

Project-X: Tommy The Chimpanzee’s Fight to Take Flight

tommy the chimpanzee

Tommy the chimpanzee might be taking flight soon, but not by plane and abetted by Matthew Broderick (reference Project-X, 1987).  Tommy’s advocates are fighting for his right to flee captivity.

“Lawsuit Filed Today on Behalf of Chimpanzee Seeking Legal Personhood.”

That is the title of a recent story put out by the Nonhuman Rights Project.  This is an interesting story which can be discussed from a variety of angles.

  • What does it mean to be a person?
  • What is legal personhood?
  • Are humans different from animals?
  • What accounts for the similarities?
  • Where else does this discussion lead?

(Educated?) Guesses

A documentary titled Blackfish excoriates animal trainers who breed captive orcas.  Vintage ’80s interviews show trainers confidently claiming that the animals were better off in the Marine parks.  They assumed the animals could be safely tamed.  They assumed they understood the nature of the beasts.

They assumed wrong.

At least, according the Blackfish documentary.

After reading Jay Richards book Infiltrated: How to Stop the Insiders and Activists Who Are Exploiting the Financial Crisis to Control Our Lives and Our Fortunes about the financial crisis of 2008, it’s evident that many actions are driven by agendas and ignorance rather than concrete information and altruism.

Regardless, while I may not agree that 26-year-old Tommy the chimpanzee rates the same rights as my 26-year-old neighbor Tommy the human, the controversy raises important questions.

Baby Chimps and Babies

Interestingly, many of Tommy’s described traits which the group’s experts include in the personhood litmus test–self-determination, self-knowing, referential and intentional communication, and tool-use–do not exist in human babies.

This already shifts the argument to one of potential personhood, an argument which fails horribly when used by pro-abortion apologists.

The premise of the lawsuit filed by the Nonhuman rights project is based on a petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus.  They argue that Tommy the chimpanzee should be considered a legal person instead of property; therefore, he is a captive with a right to be released–not a possession.

So, are humans just advanced animals, or are we different from animals?

It depends on your worldview.

The naturalist says similarities between chimpanzees and humans is due to a

  • Common ancestor

The Christian says the similarities are due to a

  • Common Creator

Both answers have explanatory power–perhaps one more than the other.

How Far Back?

Have you ever considered the implications of the common ancestor theory?  You must actually go much further back than the first common-primate-ish-animal-thing-from-which-both-humans-and-apes-evolved (which, by the way, we know nothing about).

That common “thing” supposedly evolved (time+matter+chance) from some other “thing.”  You must go back to

  • First life

No, you must go back further.  First live supposedly evolved from non-life.  You must go back to the

  • First piece of matter

Every theory of macro-evolution which excludes supernatural elements takes you back to the beginning of the universe.  More and more evidence shows that the universe had a beginning, and that before the beginning was essentially. . . nothing.

Even if you believe in alien life-seeding theories, that does nothing to solve the dilemma; it only adds another step.

So you see, it’s not as simple as we evolved from a “common ancestor.”  The theory actually implies that we evolved from the first thing.

Keeping Focus

Time plus matter plus chance can explain some things, but not the most important things.

(Click here to Tweet that!)

As for Tommy the chimpanzee, I wish him the best.

I hope the world will have as much compassion for babies before 20 weeks as they do for chimpanzees at 20 years.

Related Briefs

Photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar / Foter.com / CC BY-ND

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About Jason B. Ladd

Jason is an author, speaker, Marine, and father of seven. He has flown the F/A-18 Hornet as a Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1) Instructor Pilot and the F-16 as an Instructor Pilot. His award-winning book One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview has been optioned for film adaptation. He is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency.

7 Replies

  1. Susan Irene Fox

    Jason, I believe your closing sentence summed it all up. As a believer, I care for all of God’s creation. However, I see a distinct difference in the way everything was created. Biblically, God spoke everything into creation except humans. He breathed life into us. That’s a big distinction, at least from my worldview.

    1. I find it interesting that the Hebrew text uses two separate phrases which are both translated into the “breath of life” in the book of Genesis. In Gen 1:30, when describing the animals and creatures, the word used is nephesh, which means the essence of life, and perhaps a soul. However, in Gen 2:7, the world used to describe the life breathed into the first humans was nashama, which includes the concept of Spirit. This is what helps us understand that while some animals exhibit similar qualities to humans–especially the higher animals–they are still fundamentally different than human begins.

  2. Elaine Serra

    Jason, thank you for this post. I find it very interesting. I agree with Susan that your closing sentence does sum it all up. I wish everyone could understand it. And your response to her is great as well! I look forward to reading more of your posts. Have a blessed day.

    1. Elaine, Thanks for your comment. I always like articles that can make us re-evaluate our priorities.

      1. Elaine Serra

        You’re welcome Jason. I’m beginning to enjoy articles like that too as I have come more in contact with them on the blogs, since my walk with the Lord has been really growing over the past year especially.

        1. Please continue to share your wisdom. We need it!

  3. Sam Hall

    Well stated, Jason!