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In early July, an Indian court issued a ruling that accorded the status of “legal person or entity” to animals in the state, saying “they have a distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person.” With this measure, designed to prevent cruelty to animals, justices of the Uttarakhand High Court in northern India declared that “the entire animal kingdom, including avian and aquatic ones, are declared as legal entities having a distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person.”

The cover story in this Summer 2018 issue of Religion & Liberty reports that “the drive to grant rights to the entirety of the natural world has already achieved stunning victories.” Writer Wesley J. Smith cites cases in places like Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina and more than 30 U.S. cities. The New Zealand Parliament declared the Whanganui River (pictured on our cover) to be an “integrated, living whole” possessing “rights and interests.” Smith warns that unless “we act to ensure that only human beings and our associations and enterprises are the proper subjects of rights and legal standing in courts of law – we face a darker and less prosperous human future.”

Robert J. Joustra in “The Politics of the Apocalypse” observes that “just as humans are busy now creating their own moral universes of meaning, so we are also busy making and remaking the material universe, the very stuff of the planet and maybe, eventually, beyond. We have become like gods, though the jury on the quality of our divinity is very much out.” A dark vision, but he concludes with a note of “hope, in the midst of troubled times.”

The issue features more thought provoking pieces. Micah Watson weighs in on HBO’s mind-bending, technophilosophical series “Westworld” and asks important questions about what it means to be human. Jordan J. Ballor digs into the latest Marvel blockbuster, “Avengers: Infinity War,” which reminds us that the pursuit of a neo-Malthusian vision eventually turns into worship of Molech.

In the Liberal Tradition offers a profile of Sister Mary Kenneth Keller (1913-1985), the computer science pioneer who helped develop the BASIC programming language, opening new vistas of science, engineering and wealth creation.

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John Couretas is Editor-at-Large for the Acton Institute. John holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in the Humanities from Michigan State University and a Master of Science Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University.