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Mar 18, 2008
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(SPEE-shee-ziz-uhm, -see-ziz-uhm) Pronunciation Sound Clip RealAudio

noun: The assumption of superiority of humans over other animal species, especially to justify their exploitation.

[Coined by psychologist Richard D. Ryder (born 1940) in 1973. From Latin species (appearance, kind, form), from specere (to look). Ultimately from the Indo-European root spek- (to observe) which is also the ancestor of such words as suspect, spectrum, bishop (literally, overseer), espionage, despise, telescope, spectator, and spectacles.]

"At one point in Darwin's voyage to South America, James Moore told me, the naturalist stopped in Brazil, where his blood ran cold to see slaves in manacles being tortured by Catholic traders. Darwin was enraged as a Christian, but also as a scientist, because he recognized that the slave trade relied on the false notion that slaves were a different, inferior and exploitable species.
"Upon his return to England, Darwin extended the idea to the way people treated animals, an early precursor to Richard Dawkins's argument about speciesism. 'To say man is the pinnacle of creation and all things were created for him ... Darwin says that is the same arrogance we see in the slave master,' said Moore."
Shankar Vedantam; Eden and Evolution; Washington Post; Feb 5, 2006.


Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does. -William James, psychologist (1842-1910)


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