Bugs R Us?

During the filming of the science fiction comedy Men in Black, something really bugged director Barry Sonnenfeld. And no, it wasn’t the hundreds of cockroaches he used while shooting the film. It was the attitude of the American Humane Association (AHA) which monitored the way the roaches were treated on the set. Believe it or not, during filming the AHA forbade the actors or crew to injure or kill a single roach. This is an example of an increasingly popular worldview: one that says there’s no real difference—moral or otherwise—between humans and animals. Or even between animals and cockroaches. During each shot, Sonnenfeld recalls, the crew had to tell the "bug wranglers" how many roaches they were using. "If we had eighty roaches coming out of a dumpster they would actually count [and say] ‘we’re still missing three, guys.’ We’d be shooting at ten thousand dollars an hour, looking for three roaches." Jim Moore, a spokesman for the AHA, defends these extreme measures. "Our job… is to protect all animals," he explains, "from insects to elephants, so cockroaches fall under the guidelines. Other animal-rights groups take this philosophy even further. Ingrid Newkirk, co-founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is famous for her reductionist slogan, "A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy." Or, one could add, a cockroach. What these groups illustrate is a philosophy of reductionism, which treats all life as morally equal. Of course, if reductionists really want to be consistent, they would not even boil water for coffee, because every time they do, they kill millions of innocent microbes. If all life has equal value, then the logical conclusion is to treat all life the same, no matter how lowly. Obviously, nobody can live in the real world on the basis of this philosophy. A realistic and livable philosophy of life on earth comes from Scripture, which teaches that God created humans in His image. He set us up as stewards over the rest of creation, from amoebas to apes. This doesn’t give us the license to treat animals cruelly. But it’s one thing to treat animals kindly, and quite another to accord them equal status with humans. In defending the truth, Christians need to learn to press people to face the logical conclusion of their own beliefs. The idea that animals—even roaches—ought to be treated with the same respect as humans may sound humane at first. But if you press the idea to its rational conclusion, people will begin to see how irrational and illogical it really is. By the way, common sense finally did prevail on the set of Men in Black. At the end of each day’s shooting—just in case any roaches had escaped—the filmmakers were allowed to fumigate the stage. That may have been logically inconsistent—but it shows that sometimes, the truth does scuttle through a fog of cocksure ideology.


Chuck Colson


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