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Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans: Ethical and Policy Implications of Intelligence

Sunday, February 19, 2012: 3:00 PM-4:30 PM
Room 220 (VCC West Building)
A variety of scientific studies have found that whales and dolphins are capable of advanced cognitive abilities (such as problem-solving, artificial “language” comprehension, and complex social behavior), indicating that these cetaceans are far more intellectually and emotionally sophisticated than previously thought. Moreover, evidence is growing that for at least some cetacean species, culture is both sophisticated and important. For these species, key processes that are rare or absent in the standard genetically evolved species, begin to operate: cultural group selection, conformism, cultural ethnicity with symbolic markers, and so on. Yet while marine scientists have been uncovering greater intellectual and emotional sophistication in cetaceans, some countries have continued to support the killing of dolphins and to press for the resumption of commercial whaling. The contradiction between scientific findings and political policies underscored the pressing need for a conference to consider the significance of the research for commercial policy and practice. The outcome of the conference was a Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans: Whales and Dolphins. This symposium will present the scientific rationale for the declaration and explore its ethical and policy implications, including the practical challenges of conveying broader implications to a general, international public.
Organizer:
Stephanie J. Bird, Science and Engineering Ethics
Co-Organizer:
Thomas I. White, Loyola Marymount University
Moderator:
Stephanie J. Bird, Science and Engineering Ethics
Discussants:
Michael Cooper, Cooper & Company Ltd.
and Kari Koski, The Whale Museum
Speakers:
Lori Marino, Emory University
The Scientific Evidence for Complex Intelligence and Self-Awareness in Cetaceans
Thomas I. White, Loyola Marymount University
The Ethical Implications of Dolphin Intelligence: Dolphins as Nonhuman Persons
Chris Butler-Stroud, Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society
Fostering Moral and Legal Change Toward Cetacean Rights
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