Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Swiss are Cool but a bit Weird

The proof of weirdness comes later. First, let's have a brief look at why Switzerland is cool. It's got a good deal of mountains named after them. Pretty cool. It named it's army after an incredibly useful utility knife. Pretty cool. They've got guards running around the Vatican and protecting the Pope. Pretty cool. They managed to conflate the words watch and Swiss and sell plenty of time pieces to fad happy young Americans back in the eighties. Pretty cool. They've got the most lax gun laws in western Europe. Much cool. They've got a plethora of inventions and discoveries under their belt, too many to list here. Very cool.

And then this bit of weirdness (Courtesy of Snoop) which I'll snip directly from this article:

At the request of the Swiss government, an ethics panel has weighed in on the "dignity" of plants and opined that the arbitrary killing of flora is morally wrong...

A few years ago the Swiss added to their national constitution a provision requiring "account to be taken of the dignity of creation when handling animals, plants and other organisms." No one knew exactly what it meant, so they asked the Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology to figure it out. The resulting report, "The Dignity of Living Beings with Regard to Plants," is enough to short circuit the brain.

A "clear majority" of the panel adopted what it called a "biocentric" moral view, meaning that "living organisms should be considered morally for their own sake because they are alive." Thus, the panel determined that we cannot claim "absolute ownership" over plants and, moreover, that "individual plants have an inherent worth." This means that "we may not use them just as we please, even if the plant community is not in danger, or if our actions do not endanger the species, or if we are not acting arbitrarily."

The committee offered this illustration: A farmer mows his field (apparently an acceptable action, perhaps because the hay is intended to feed the farmer's herd--the report doesn't say). But then, while walking home, he casually "decapitates" some wildflowers with his scythe. The panel

decries this act as immoral, though its members can't agree why. The report states, opaquely:

At this point it remains unclear whether this action is condemned because it expresses a particular moral stance of the farmer toward other organisms or because something bad is being done to the flowers themselves...


(Mountain photo via


Adrian said...

"It named it's army after an incredibly useful utility knife."


When I was seven, a Swiss Army officer taught me how to ski on the Alps. I skied forward while he skied in front of me, backwards, occasionally looking over his shoulder to see where he was going. The only people who thought this remarkable were my parents and I. Swiss people are nuts on skis.

G said...

You forgot Toblerone chocolate! The only pyramid chocolate on the planet that you can place a razor blade in and it remains sharp. Behold the power of the ancient Swiss!

The story reminds me of when I was a kid and had a pet venus fly trap. Alas, I did not name it. If I had a sentient fly trap now I'd call him Snappy.

Ottavio (Otto) Marasco said...

What about swiss cheese, bit like the memory of an ageing rock star.
Wonder if the ethics panel have a position on insects and bugs?

Purpleslog said...

What struck me when I visited Switzerland was that there were dogs everywhere. The Swiss are owning dogs instead of having children.

Also few people own their residences. Most just rent.

Adrian said...

The Swiss I know have both dogs AND children....