When it comes to the cetaceans, basically a porpoise is really just a smaller version of a dolphin, which is a smaller version of a whale. The point is that these marine mammals have the same capacity for conscious experiences as do apes, such as chimpanzees and orangutans. Moreover, this level of awareness is above that of the corvid birds, like crows. The difference is in how those experiences are formed in different individuals of certain kinds of animals, like porpoises versus people. Obviously living underwater with echolocation is much different from being terrestrial townfolk. That is to say, some cetaceans use their ears to discern the size, shape, distance, and movement of an object, not their eyes. Being raised in different environments inevitably works to shape who one is and what one does in separate ways, but a dolphin and a chimpanzee still have essentially the same depth of subjective content within them. Moreover, this is greater than that of a bird or reptile. Plus, a highly evolved bird like a magpie can recognize itself in a mirror, whereas a chicken can’t. Regardless, I imagine that what it’s like to be a dolphin is something more than being a raven, but less than being a human. So, on the one hand, cetaceans shouldn’t be granted personhood, but they are not far off from having souls that have evolved to that point. On the other hand, dolphins deserve far more than having to live and work in a place like SeaWorld. It’s altogether unthinkable to keep tool-using creatures in captivity, particularly if they are made to perform demeaning and degrading tasks. Dolphins deserve better. In the wild, each and every dolphin has their own individual name along with a unique personality.
As part of this, it’s important to understand that orcas are large dolphins, not small whales. The term “killer whale” is a misnomer. There are no whales at SeaWorld, and the way I see it there shouldn’t be any dolphins there either. Just imagine being an orca in a circus setting. Better yet, simply try to imagine what it must be like to be a dolphin at all. In a famous paper, Thomas Nagel once asked the world what it’s like to be a bat. Now I’m asking you to imagine what it would be like to be a different mammal. What is it like to be a dolphin? Can we even begin to hope to understand their world? For one thing, while swimming an orca can reach burst speeds of nearly 35 miles an hour, while the greatest Olympiad maxed out at around 6. For another thing, their nostrils turned into a blowhole, so they have no sense of smell. Plus, trained dolphins know how to understand two languages, theirs and ours. Granted, the animals in theme park aquariums live very different lives than those in the wild, yet they are both quite similar to people in many regards. Dolphins are even drug-users. They get high on puffer fish poison. Ultimately, cetaceans experience the same level of consciousness as apes and elephants, so it is sort of possible to start to realize what it must be like to be a whale, or dolphin, or porpoise. There are lots of suicidal cetaceans with severe depression that can even lead to whole groups killing themselves in mass strandings. By that logic, I would gather that it is easier to understand the echolocation perceived by a dolphin than a bat, if at all. I believe that whales, dolphins, and porpoises are greater than ravens but less than humans when it comes to states of awareness. I would suspect that a gorilla and a porpoise feel the same degree of love for their young, but a human just a bit more. Cetaceans can be very altruistic and their complex memes are passed on from one generation to the next among different families and communities, just like with humans. Dolphins display metacognition, meaning awareness of their awareness. They can even understand symbols and syntax. The encephalization quotient of dolphins, which is to say the brain size compared to average body size, is second only to humans. One main difference is that people can have faith in God and build great temples in honor of the divine, while dolphins cannot.
Although humans are separated by nearly one hundred million years of evolution from cetaceans, they both have metaphysical souls that can delve into similar philosophical aspects of being. The complex emergence of highly sophisticated neurological wiring in the physical bodies of both whales and humans is equally profound. The blue whale just happens to be the biggest animal on Earth. Nonetheless, both humans and cetaceans have tremendous depth in their inner world that is unmatched by any other animal, save for maybe elephants. For one thing, whales can speak to other whales, as well as dolphins and porpoises too. Whales have rich and vast languages with different dialects. The ballads sung by certain whales contain more than ten minutes of narrative, and more often than not the poems even rhyme. Whales can convey fairly large amounts of information to each other in this artistic way. In fact, for millions of years, they were able to talk to each other all the way around the world. Then, a couple hundred years ago, humans destroyed the long-range communication of whales with noise from motorized boats. Since then whales have only been able to hear each other over much shorter distances. To make matters worse, a number of people across the globe still hunt whales to this day. Plus, countless dolphins are killed in fishing nets. The cetaceans contend with massive amounts of pollution being dumped into the world’s oceans and atmosphere. They are playfully inquisitive warm-blooded milk-drinking creatures just like you and me, only not. Whales are much more than fish, they are fully sentient mammals. That’s why we need to treat these amazing animals with the respect they truly deserve. With the exception of subsistence hunting tribes, humanity must stop killing our kindred spirits out in the wild. Our immortal souls depend on it as much as theirs. We must, as they say:
SAVE THE WHALES!!!