CONUNDRUM OF THE HOBBITS
Eton or the zoo?
The discovery of a new species of human poses exciting questions about who we are. How would we treat this close relative if one were found alive today?
...What is more, these hunters existed as recently as 12,000 years ago and, who knows, living groups of them may still be lingering on in odd corners even today.
This is shattering news and will create fascinating problems for both political and religious leaders.
Suppose for a moment that a living tribe of these beings is discovered, how should they be treated?
Are they merely advanced apes, or are they miniature humans?
If an explorer brought back one of their infants to study, would you put him down for Eton or the Zoo?
If he died, would he be buried in consecrated ground or a pet cemetery?
His very existence among us would make us question all over again, what it is to be human....
A great deal will depend on what happens when we first meet living examples of this new species.
If, when we greet them, they go OOARGH, OOARGH, like chimps, they will doubtless be classified as rather advanced apes.
In theory, the existence of Mini-Man should destroy religion, but I can already hear the fanatics claiming that he has been put on earth by the Devil
And the poor things may even end up in experimental cages. They would have no more rights than the chimpanzees do to this day.
If on the other hand we discover that they have some kind of spoken language and we can learn that language, or alternatively they can learn ours, there we are into a whole new ball-game.
When it comes down to it, being able to talk is really what defines humanity.
If Mini-Man talks, then, let's face it, there are two species of human beings on this planet and not one, as we always thought.
If you shot a Mini-Man it would be murder. If you cooked one and ate it, it would be cannibalism. If you experimented on one it would be torture....
And why should being able to talk define humanity, any more than tool use did before other beings were found to use tools as well? These chimpanzees cannot speak aloud, but can communicate through sign language.