Friday, June 19, 2009
Episode 43 Stewards of this Earth
As citizens of earth we all have a responsibility to protect the planet. But even today many maintain the belief that God granted human beings dominion over the whole of creation—that the earth exists for our benefit. For philosophical naturalists, evolution compels us to confront the fact that we are not fundamentally different from non-human animals. As fully natural beings must consider how our attitudes and actions impact other species and the environment as a whole. An increasing number of Christian evangelicals are also reevaluating their attitudes towards the environment and are rejecting dominion for a new concept—stewardship. For this episode we examine the new “green” evangelicalism, and challenge our fellow skeptics to consider the moral implications of our kinship with all life.
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Don't make me hurt you.
China crashed it's ecology several times during its history. A big one was due to deforestation due to charcoal usage and ship building. The one I recall off the top of my head was pre-1492. Religion doesn't play a role in that.
I don't have time to look up the exact details as I'm making breakfast for the kids, but the effects I recall include: starvation, crop failures, productivity drops, de-urbanization, economic activity reduction, desertification etc.
I enjoyed this week's show up to a point, and that was the point at which you uncritically took up Peter Singer's position; I respect his work, but I'm not alone in thinking that his understanding of biology is content to let some important nuances slip. I'm a microbiologist by trade and a full-blown atheistic naturalist/materialist, if you were wondering whether I had a bitch with his supposedly eugenicist ideas--I actually agree with those quite strongly.
The idea that there is a moral imperative to restrict ourselves from behavior that can cause [i]any[/i] suffering in other "sentient" organisms befuddles me, especially from the utilitarianism from which Singer begins his argument. While we can strive to have some finer code when dealing out suffering ourselves, we are obliged to implement a cost-benefit analysis if we are to be consistent utilitarians. In doing so, we'll quickly realize that our domesticated animals, especially the ones we use for meat, are incredibly wasteful of natural resources and space. Other than humans, no species contributes so much to the Greenhouse Effect as domesticated cattle, but Singer is no advocate for mass cattle genocide. This is strange, given that when one takes up a vegan position (as Singer does in his personal life) modern domesticated beef or dairy cattle are absolutely useless. The same is true of chickens, goats, pigs and the rest; if you aren't prepared to subject them to some degree of suffering, they're a net drain on energy supplies and land we could be using to grow plants to feed and clothe the world. The only serious justification to maintain these species is to keep us from raiding the seas for protein and thereby ruining the most essential ecosystem on the planet. Otherwise you have to kill every last one you aren't willing to keep up in the same way that you keep up your dog or cat or goldfish.
For the sake of disclosure, I believe that veganism is a moral crutch for guilty white people (and an irrational religious dogma for a few million Jains). But it's completely fair for omnivores like me to demand consistency on this matter and Singer doesn't offer much, as far as I'm concerned.
Love the show,
(prior comment deleted for typos--I can't guarantee there won't be any in this version, but it will be better.)
I was a vegetarian for years, because I realized that I could not kill an animal myself-- so it seemed "wrong" to eat meat that others had killed. However, I also realized that my cats could not eat if I did not provide "killed animals" for them in the form of cat food. It would be morally wrong for me not to do so since they cannot survive on a vegetarian diet. Moreover, I also could not euthanize a suffering animal myself, but I have taken such animals to be euthanized, so my unwillingness to do something myself is not an argument against others doing it at my request.
I started to wonder if I was really saving any animal from suffering by being a vegetarian. Most food animals exist BECAUSE they are food. It's true, that more vegetarians would mean that much fewer of these animals would be born, but once these animals DO exist, it's wasteful not to eat them upon their death. Did my vegetarianism result in the lesser suffering of a single animal? Did it prevent the birth of one sentient being? If so, is that a good thing since all sentient life involves suffering, doesn't it? If humans don't eat these animals, then scavengers and decomposers will as part of the circle of life--or non-sentient life (plants, etc.) will fill their niche. I agree that it's important to make sure that all sentient animals suffer as little as possible during their lives. But all sentient life experiences some suffering regardless of how I feel about it. Feeling pain and suffering is an evolution adaptation that enhances the survival of species that feel such things.
The real question is, "is being born and living life on a farm worse than not being born or living life in "the wild"? Feral cats have hard lives, and I have long volunteered with the humane society to fix them and domesticate their kittens. I think it's better for them never to have been born, but while they are alive, I want them to experience as little suffering as possible. On the other hand, I also support the use of euthanized cats as anatomy subjects for students studying anatomy. Death is useful to other life--essential even.
I'm not sure it's hypocritical to be an evolutionist and eat meat; I think the real imperative is to eliminate suffering of fellow sentient beings while maximizing happiness and sustainability. I agree that moving towards vegetarianism is supportive of these goals as is reduction of human population growth. I'm not sure that envisioning your cat up for slaughter constitutes a valid argument, however, for vegetarianism. Your cat would suffer via starvation if animals were not killed to sustain him/her. Is the suffering of the animals your cat consumes more important than your cat's suffering of starvation? It's true that humans are probably healthier on the whole with vegetarian diets, but I'm not sure that my vegetarianism or yours causes less suffering or is the morally obvious choice.
Personally, once my body is gone, I'd hope that living beings might use it in any way they could benefit--whether organ donation, anatomy lessons, or as fertilizer (food for decomposers and then plants). It's not like I have the capacity to care once I'm dead. It's the beings that can care that matter then. I advocate humane treatment of all sentient beings, and I'm not sure that meat consumption makes me any more of a hypocrite than feeding my cats cat food.
I certainly hope we get a follow-up podcast, even if it is a 10min blip explaining this idea of Atheism + Unitarianism = Vegan/Vegetarianism. I will say this upfront: if eating meat is indeed my only sacred calf, then I'm doing well; but I digress.
Yes, the current system of meat production is unacceptable. However, such flaws are not necessarily grounds for abandoning meat as a diet staple. I will be the first to admit agricultural and livestock farming needs reform. This said, the current state of the meat industry is not going to change by merely altering one's diet. This is sidestepping the issue rather than addressing it. While I can applaud and/or understand the desire to move towards rabbit food the reasons listed during the show appear lacking. Personal choice is just that so I don't have beef (bad pun!) with this though I do hold reservations about this is the apparently logical conclusion that a rationally-minded Unitarian skeptic should come to (or maybe I’m horribly misinterpreting the podcast).
What should happen: everyone demand drastic improvement towards the treatment of livestock. Would this mean a reduction in the quality and quantity? Yes; but well worth it. If I am going to use an animal for food, the least I can do is give it a good life in the meantime and kill it with as little pain as possible. Even if it were a wild animal, I would still demand such. If someone is going to use me for food (i.e. vampires, cannibals, zombies, etc.), besides warning them of the health risks of such an unhealthy meal, all I want is to go out peacefully and in a good mood. Once dead, I'm worm-food anyway.
Shortages from such a radical change would be great and likely economically painful. How then do we feed such a large growing world population? Well, firstly we need to stop that growth and downside our numbers. This aside, a redistribution of overall omnivorous diets worldwide might help to ease the demand of meats, which is Unitarian in principle. Those on the extremes, vegans would not affect the balance of the system. Supplements of nuts and other protein sources would supplement the rationed meats. The more Unitarian approach of meat production would spill over to agricultural, which further increased efficiency to feed the (decreasing) population.
Now, realistically, such efforts are improbable, if not impossible. So where does that leave me? I've watch the slaughterhouse videos and while my (liberal) heart bleeds in compassion it also burns in anger, I still crave my meat and enjoy every immoral unethical hypocritical bite. I can also apply this to most things I stuff into my mouth. As 2 Gryphon said (paraphrased), 'There's nothing more exciting than a psychotic clown selling me cow death for my face!' If we really wanted to be Unitarian about things, humanely (boy, is that a deceptive term) terminating a sizable chuck of itself would be a very good way to assure the most benefit for the most living things, human or otherwise. If we are to do this, I suggest not letting such good stock go to waste.
Speaking of which, at least when one eats meat it is not still alive. True, while leafs off a lettuce are like fingers removed from a body, eating a carrot is a bit more macabre. Though one can argue plants cannot feel pain, I find it morbid that Vegans enjoy eating fresh plants that are still alive at the time. While I partake in this grisly buffet, it is ironic for primary plant eaters who promote non-meat diets as more ethical. For my part, Atheism + Unitarianism = moderation & respect. Even if we were to be lords of our domain, why should we be pricks about it? Just because you're a king doesn't mean you have to be a dictator or authoritarian. Conversely, you can be atheistic and utilitarian without forgoing meat or giving up on a sadistic industry. I'm not sure if this is a rant, rebuke, lampoon, or something more constructive. Feel free (anyone) to pick out the flaws in this diatribe, as it will help me to better articulate my argument and sense of humor.
Atheism + Unitarianism. WTF?
Regarding the comment about sentience and pain:
I learned in college that Economics can be defined as the management of scarcity.
Perhaps secularists should define Ethics as management of suffering (both our own and others').
Neither scarcity nor suffering is unavoidable, but it's wise to find ways minimize them both.
I think Osyris Diamond brings up a good point about plant life. Just because plants aren't sentient doesn't mean they aren't alive, so is it wrong to eat plants? If saying humans are different from animals is like saying whites are different from blacks, how is it different to say that plants are different from animals just because plants aren't sentient? If there's no difference between eating a burger and eating your cat, then what's the difference between eating an apple and cutting down the tree of an endanger species in a rain forest?
The topic comes up about midway through the podcast, as you might recall, under the topic of animal rights, evolution, and vegetarianism. The term "Utilitarian" is used several times. Why I wrote "Unitarian" I chock up to the time of evening. So for anyone reading my above rant, please substitute "Utilitarian" for "Unitarian". >_<
...and now to edit my journal. Sorry guys, I meant "Utilitarian" as you said, not "Unitarian".
I just finished listening to your latest show and may I say that there were some things that you stated that I had a problem with. I would even touch the "animal liberation" and vegetarianism. I will only say that I am a happy meat eater even with the knowledge of how the meat is produced. Though I will reserve the reasons why for the second point.
The first point that I have a problem with your callow environmentalist attitudes toward people whom value free markets as a means to battle climate change or have doubts about much of the trendy environmentalist cant. Now there are groups and individuals, like the Cornwall organization, who are most likely rebranding their denilism. When you mocked the UN IPCC report stating that it will be rich nations that will be less impacted by climate change, that includes you and me, and I am not living in a "Penthouse". That is mainly pointing out that wealthier nations will have the ability to adjust to climate change by means such as moving crops to higher latitudes, or being able to thrive in warmer conditions with air conditioning. There are a good number of such environmental skeptics such as Patrick Moore (a former founding member of Greenpeace) and Bjorn Lomborg (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dtbn9zBfJSs). The best thing would be to help make the poorer countries wealthier so they could make their own environmental policy and adaptations.
The second problem I had was your stereotypical labeling of Eastern and animist religions has being more "in communion with nature". When you classified industrialization as a "colonial imposition" on these cultures, I could not help but think of you identification of these cultures as a "colonial imposition". Micheal Shermer, publisher of Skeptic Magazine, notes in his book "The Science of Good and Evil" a University of Michigan study that looked at present and past pre-industrialized cultures and their impact on the environment. The study showed that pre-industrialized cultures had a greater per capita negative impact on the environment then industrialized cultures. Pre-industrial cultures have a habit of over logging, over hunting, over fishing, and due to their lack of knowledge of agriculture have lead to environmental devastation.
My third and final point is not really a criticism but my attempt for a justification of an omnivorous lifestyle. In my opinion there should be no reason to be concerned about eating meat for its environmental impact or the means in which the animals are treated. When you buy meat, you increase the demand for the meat. Which increases the demand for grazing land. And with more wealthy people and wealthy nations there is an even greater demand for meat. That will make the price of grazing land skyrocket. Thus motivating the Meat industry to look for alternative means to satisfy the demand for meat. This will lead to a serge in the research and development of laboratory grown meat. With advances in genetic engineering technology this meat will be cheaper and probably healthier the current meat products (basically the Julian Simon approach to meat). I hate PETA, mainly because they are hypocritical attention w----- who fund terrorists (search: Rodney Coronodo, or just watch the P&T B.S. episode). Though recently they did something I approve of by sponsoring a prize to collectivize the creation of better Lab grown meat.
Thanks guys and keep up the good work.
I haven't had a chance to listen to the episode yet. But I gathered from the posts your intention. I just found the juxtaposition a humorous one.
Hmm, I'm still thinking on this one - which is the whole point.
Completely off-topic - can anyone here recommend (or perhaps it could be addressed on the show) any books on biblical criticism?
Any that actually get "down and dirty" on a book-by-book basis would be good, but any others that are good, please mention!
Great episode once again, though once some of you started defending preference utilitarianism on the basis of the intrinsic value of suffering-capable moral agents, you lost me.
What is intrinsic value? What experiment would show that something has intrinsic value, and another thing not? Intrinsic value, as far as I can tell, is the atheist's own fairy tale - something they believe in even though it is as un-evidenced and mysterious as gods are.
And you don't need to believe in the fairy tale of intrinsic value to believe in objective moral facts, either. See: Alonzo Fyfe.
It pains me to listen to people talk about environmental issues without a basic understanding of economics.
If you want a brief introduction to the way economics influences environmental issues, read Eco-nomics by Richard L. Stroup. The book is only 90 pages long, so please, give it a shot.
Ill have to listen to the track again, but I don't ever remember mentioning "intrinsic value" except to say it was bullshit (Dominion Christians saying Humans have a greater worth than non-human animals).
We said once you can suffer, you can have an interest in not suffering.
I enjoyed the show. I'm an atheist and a vegan. For me it is not only a matter of animal rights, but sustainability and the environment as well. Just a quick response to some of the comments.
Clint referenced the idea of killing all the animals should veganism become the norm. It is a problem perhaps as a thought experiment, but not in reality. The world will not go vegan in one day, one week, or even one year. Just like all things there is an issue with supply and demand. Assuming there is some world in the future where everyone is vegan, there would be a gradual change towards this. Less animals would be bred as demand waned, eventually leading to a time when very few livestock still exist. Most livestock has been bred to the point where they cannot reproduce on their own, so if we stop breeding them, then they will, for the most part, cease to be. And that is fine with me.
Osyris: I get what you are saying, but animal welfare is not the only issue with animal agriculture. All animal agriculture causes vast environmental damage, whether it be from factory farms or small family farms. Cattle produce more greenhouse gasses than ALL forms of transportation combined (cars, planes, trains, ships, etc.). Animal agriculture also causes deforestation (more than any plant farming does) and water pollution. All these are of course compounded in the scenario of factory farms, but with our current demand for meat, small family farms are not sustainable. We simply do not have the land to raise all livestock that way. And again, the environmental impact is the same even in these small farms. The issue with how to feed people is an easy one. The amount of land required to house animals as well as to grow their feed is astronomical. Animal agriculture takes up 2/3 of agricultural land and in the US they consume 60% of the grain raised here. It is actually easier to feed more people if animal agriculture is done away with.
Brooks: You said "If saying humans are different from animals is like saying whites are different from blacks, how is it different to say that plants are different from animals just because plants aren't sentient?"
I'm not sure where you are going with that. All humans are of the same species regardless of race. Humans and all other animals are different species from each other. Plants and animals are entirely different kingdoms. So I'm not following the argument you are making with that. The difference between plants and animals is basic zoology. Humans and all other animals are part of Kingdom Anamalia and plants are part of Kingdom Plantae, and of course there are 3 other kingdoms as well. It isn't just a arbitrary classification. There are countless differences between the two (plantae and animalia), one of which is indeed sentience. I do not believe in consuming things that have, as a species, sentience. Some people question whether some species in Kingdom Animalia have sentience. I err on the side of caution. I don't consume any animal or animal product. There is, however, no debate as to the fact that plants do not have sentience.
Perhaps the weirdest part I find with the many varieties of the "but what if plants have feelings" argument isn't that it is absurd, but that it doesn't logically follow to the conclusion that the person often wants it to. Livestock consume 60% of the grain raised in this country. And that doesn't count those livestock that graze. If one is truly concerned with the feelings of plants, then the worst thing someone could do is support the demand for animal agriculture.
Anyhow, I enjoyed the podcast. I will have to listen to it again as I was distracted at work. But it truly is a fascinating topic. Thanks again.
Admittedly this might be a silly point for me to bring up, but isn't people's different tastes in food a problem for everyone becoming vegetarian? I have to admit that one of the reasons I'm not a vegatarian is because I just my taste buds don't care for most salads as I'm a very picky eater. Unless we can create better alternatives that actually taste good than turkey dogs or soy bean burgers or whatever, isn't it a bit unrealistic to expect everyone to switch their tastes over to vegetarianism? I mean, parents have enough trouble getting their kids to like eating broccoli as it is. Imagine trying to get everyone on the planet to like salads.
I am so glad you did this topic, I was going to write and ask you guys about it after listening to an interview with Peter Singer on an old Point of Inquiry episode.
I aggree with the reducing of suffering of animals as far as our treatment of them, but I really dont find any morality issues with eating domesticated animals because we are not the only animals that 'herd' other animals. Look at ants and their aphids. If i keep a small flock of free-rangin chickens in my yard, i know that they are happy and healthy and I eat them.
Also for the eating fish but not land animals thing -
I think it is a HUGE hippocracy to say that it's cruel to eat land animals but ok to eat fish/seafood.
Fish suffering - have you seen how overcrowded fish hatcheries are? How environmentally damaging many harvesting techniques are to the environmen and ecosystem?
Then there is the idea that fish are not intelligent or cannot feel pain like land animals. This is total bullshit. The fish in my aquarium anticipate their food by going to the top of the tank whenever someone approaches. They are active and play and investigate things.
Many fish species have been proven to count, recognize symbols and colors, and be trained to do simple tricks for their food. Some shrimp and fish species have complex aliances with other species like doing the same mouth cleaning job for larger fish in the ocean as the famous birds and the crocodile partnership on land. I have seen an Octopus figure out how to open a twist top jar in seconds.
Check out these sites:
The fish school thing is REAL. So plese, don't use the "fish don't suffer like other animals" argument because they do have real inteligence.
After re-reading my post I want to point out that I'm not upset or any more against eating fish than I am against eating chickins, cows, or almost any animal actually. My criteria for eating an animal are mainly based on how healthy it was (intcluding mental health) before it died, how it was killed and processd, and how related to me it is (because many diseases are species specific). My reason for this is that most other species would have no qualms about eating ME if I were served to them.
My only point on the fish is that you must admit hypocracy in the idea of fish/seafood non-intelligece or non-sufferng being an excuse to eat them but not other animals. If it has a brain, it has intelligence, period. The fish school thing sounds like a silly joke, but it's not. I found a better youtube video on it here:
On the implications of evolution for animal rights and vegetarianism
I thought this was one of the weaker arguments presented by the doubtcasters. What seems obvious to me is that the argument for animal rights and vegetarianism proceeds not from any necessary implications of evolution, but rather from the implications of utilitarianism. It is not evolution that calls us consider the interests of our fellow animals but the “moral calculus” of utilitarianism.
Indeed, sentience as a basis for extending our moral considerations is not novel, and predates Darwin’s theory of evolution by a century. Rousseau in 1754 in his Discourse on Inequality wrote:
“It appears, in fact, that if I am bound to do no injury to my fellow-creatures, this is less because they are rational than because they are sentient beings: and this quality, being common both to men and beasts, ought to entitle the latter at least to the privilege of not being wantonly ill-treated by the former.” - http://www.constitution.org/jjr/ineq_02.htm
And interestingly, Jeremy Beahan – sorry - Jeremy Bentham, considered one of the founders of modern utilitarianism, on the subject of animal rights wrote in 1789:
“Is it the faculty of reason or perhaps the faculty of discourse? But a full-grown horse or dog, is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day or a week or even a month, old. But suppose the case were otherwise, what would it avail? the question is not, Can they reason?, nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?” – http://books.google.ca/books?id=qeVFNvlsVH0C&pg=PA283&dq=The+French+have+already+discovered+that+the+blackness+of+the+skin&sig=mjg_foeKlNG6pVfODlloxngWcgg
The reason I find Bentham’s contribution interesting is owing to his opposition to such ideas as natural law and natural rights, which he called "nonsense upon stilts." To look to nature to support moral arguments is fraught, and such arguments seem to fall prey to the “is-ought” problem. Evolution may tell us that humanity ‘is’ part of the animal kingdom, but this information has no implications for how we ‘ought’ to behave. Nature is frustratingly, consistently, and unambiguously amoral.
On Singer’s moral challenge
I don’t get this one.
“If I am going to eat meat I have a responsibility to know where it comes from.”
Seems to me this is not much of an 'argument' and much more akin to someone from PETA yelling fur is murder.
If I know where the meat comes from, have no strong feelings either way, and continue to eat meat, am I behaving morally or immorally?
If there's no difference between eating a burger and eating your cat, then what's the difference between eating an apple and cutting down the tree of an endanger species in a rain forest?
One major difference: plants "expect" their fruit to be eaten. Fruit evolved to entice animals to eat that part of the plant in order to get them to disperse the seeds.
A more meaningful comparison would be carrots: a carrot plant cannot live without its root, so eating the carrot kills the whole plan, while eating an apple does no harm to the apple tree.
One quick comment on Japan and Christianity: the industrialization of Japan had nothing to do with Christian theological influence. The Tokugawa shogunate was extremely hostile towards Christianity, especial Catholicism. The first shogun of the Edo period, Tokugawa Ieyasu, saw Catholic missionaries as a threat to his authority. Christianity was banned in 1614 and Westerners were expelled in 1633. There was an underground Christian movement that staged a rebellion in 1637, which ended with the execution of 37,000 Japanese Christians and sympathizers.
Christianity didn't re-enter Japan until the Meiji Restoration in 1867 (the period covered in The Last Samurai), but it never gained much influence. The real inspiration behind Japanese industrialization was the desire for the military technology they saw Westerners wielding. Of course, it was soon after that that they began expanding into Manchuria, and building the military strength that peaked with their participation in WWII.
Perhaps the reason why humans still eat meat (even though we have the cognitive ability to choose not to) is because we have evolved tastebuds that sense the flavour of meat - umami. Could this be why some of us crave steak just like others of us crave double-fudge brownies or kosher dill pickles?
Also, if humans were designed to consume only plant matter, then why are we missing essential amino acids that are found predominantly in meat/animal products? To become a vegetarian, a person must monitor their diet very carefully in order to maintain an adequate supply of these amino acids (or take manufactured supplements - I don't know many trees that grow supplement pills).
I believe moderate, consumer-savvy consumption of meat is okay. I know many local, small town farmers that raise cattle, chickens, etc in very unstressful environments. And yes, we will kill the animals at some point (which is not a pleasant experience for either party), but we are omnivores and there are humane ways of killing without having the animals suffer. I understand that to buy locally or to buy ethically also means to buy at higher prices....but look at the organic produce market - where once it was only found in vegan/healthfood stores, now I find organic produce in all the big name grocery stores.
I think Western society's biggest problem is that we have lost touch of where our food comes from. There are many cultures and communities around the world that raise animals to consume, but are also aware of just how valuable this source of sustainance really is.
Putting fancy terminology aside - it seems that the major argument of the episode could be stated this way: If you acknowledge that humans are part of the continuum of nature, you must accept a moral responsibility to not eat certain creatures, because they have a nervous system, or they have a face, or knees or shoulders or whatever. Furthermore, this responsibility is strictly human, as it is not observed anywhere else in nature. Sorry, I don't see the connection.
I agree that we have a responsibility to at least be aware of the suffering we inflict. I haven't heard anyone mention the suffering of the fish (or shrimp) who are hauled out of the sea, dumped in a bin and suffocated to death. Anyone who did this to a cow would have some splainin to do.
Two of the central, and mutually exclusive, imperatives of contemporary liberalism are that we must (a) preserve biodiversity and (b) extend the standard of living we enjoy in the First World to the Third World. What is missing are the very straight forwards notions of carrying capacity, resource competition to boost inclusive fitness, sustainability and an honest reckoning of human biodiversity. It has all the trappings of, dare I say, a religion.
Some rich scumbag paid off the Sierra Club to take the one issue off the table that could do the most to preserve the North American environment - immigration. Tsk, tsk. Well, I suppose it will be said, "why not nip urban/suburban sprawl in the bud?". My answer: See resource competition to boost inclusive fitness above. (Packism is not uncaninely.)
Clint Page: "I believe that veganism is a moral crutch for guilty white people"
And the angels sang. What was it Tennyson said about red teeth and claws? Although Charles Darwin, the father of ten White children, and inveterate Victorian, was not a social Darwinist, he certainly would not have favored the slide of his people toward the grave of genetic annihilation.
Secularized Christianity: yawn. Wagnerian paganism has so much more zest.
Jeremy: "I don't ever remember mentioning "intrinsic value" except to say it was bullshit (Dominion Christians saying Humans have a greater worth than non-human animals)."
Those organisms that share more of your gene frequencies than others are of more value to you, consistent with your genetic interests. One cannot wield Darwinisms as his definitive paradigm and yet refuse to draw defining values from it without cognitive dissonance. Nope, don't work that way.
I posted a reply to parts of this podcast on my blog, Apple Eaters: http://theappleeaters.wordpress.com/2009/07/15/evolution-does-not-morally-obligate-us-to-be-vegetarians/.
My co-blogger posted a followup to my post that deals with Singer-esque arguments in general: http://theappleeaters.wordpress.com/2009/07/17/more-on-singer-utilitarianism-and-animal-rights/.
The gist of both these posts is that you cannot suggest that there is any moral imperative to be a vegetarian merely because of our genetic kinship to other animals.
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