AR-FAQ - #16

#16 Doesn't the Bible give Humanity dominion over the animals?

It is true that the Bible contains a passage that confers on humanity dominion over the animals. The import of this fact derives from the assumption that the Bible is the word of God, and that God is the ultimate moral authority. Leaving aside for the moment consideration of the meaning of dominion, we can take issue with the idea of seeking moral authority from the Bible. First, there are serious problems with the interpretation of Biblical passages, with many verses contradicting one another, and with many scholars differing dramatically over the meaning of given verses. Second, there are many claims to God-hood among the diverse cultures of this world; some of these Gods implore us to respect all life and to not kill unnecessarily. Whose God are we to take as the ultimate moral authority? Finally, as Tom Regan observes, many people do not believe in a God and so appeals to His moral authority are empty for such people. For such people, the validity of judgments of the supposed God must be cross-checked with other methods of determining reasonableness. What are the cross-checks for the Biblical assertions? These remarks apply equally to other assertions of Biblical approval of human practices (such as the consumption of animals). Even if we accept that the God of the Bible is a moral authority, we can point out that "dominion" is a vague term, meaning "stewardship" or "control over". It is quite easy to argue that appropriate stewardship or control consists of respecting the life of animals and their right to live according to their own nature. The jump from dominion to approval of our brutal exploitation of animals is not contained in the cited Biblical passage, either explicitly or implicitly. DG