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Richard Dawkins - Science and the New Atheism
Posted: 10 December 2007 04:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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I think that I’m gonna right a book and call it The Meat Eaters DelusionLOL  LOL

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Posted: 10 December 2007 06:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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In response to Jackson’s question, and the question of Dawkins’ views of becoming vegetarian…

I had a bacon & cheese hamburger with french fries (that didn’t taste all that good) and while we were helping him pick what to eat (yes, I was sitting across from him and we were helping him pick his dinner) he mentioned something about maybe trying to become a vegetarian and ended up ordering fish served with rice, peas, and carrots…

Haven’t mustered the ability to turn away from meat entirely myself yet…

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Posted: 11 December 2007 10:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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zarcus - 09 December 2007 07:27 AM

Well said, Jackson.

I agree with you almost completely, but I may add (though I am sure this is pretty well understood) that Peter Singer has been working on creating a discussion on “animal liberation” for almost 30 years. For the most part these discussions break down quickly in the freethought community, but keeping the conversation alive has been one of his primary goals. Often I do notice a kind of waffling amongst many of my meaty brethren which at times creates fruitful dialogue. Here I am thinking about the debates over animal rights. Recently Peter has argued, in Free Inquiry, that a starting point for ethical treatment of non-human animals (consciousness raising terminology) is to go for organic meats and stay away from buying meats that are gotten from “farm factories” which treat their animals sometimes very poorly. (Is saying non-human animals a form of political correctness? I mean why not just say animals, we already don’t eat each other, well not in the bad way)

I don’t get the relevance of ‘organic’, as ‘organic’ benefits the eater, not the animal. ‘Organic’ meats are free of certain chemicals. Are the living conditions of the animals included under the ‘organic’ label? From veterinarians I have spoken to, the sick ‘organic’ animals they treat suffer more since treating them with antibiotics would re-classify them as less valuable non-organic meat.

The question by Singer was a great question considering Singer’s talk earlier that same day (I was also an attendee).

The point I got from the Singer presentation and Dawkins’ answer to the question is that our consumption of certain foods is causing suffering. The idea that the cows would die in the wild is irrelevant, since we breed the animals beyond what their natural populations would be anyway. The point would be why breed them to suffer. Let them go extinct if that is what would happen. What would be the problem? A cow that never existed can’t suffer.

Singer seemed to be OK will the actual killing of animals. He seemed focused on the evidence that we have that seems to indicate that the animals are feeling pain as we would and questioned our double standard that allows us to feel fine with causing animal suffering. From my perspective, if we can breed cows and provide them happy lives, as I’m sure many farmers do, than what is the problem so long as they have a quick and relatively painless death? Apart from that, I guess we could should also consider the feelings of their kin who might miss them, if they are a species that feels such emotions.

On the anti-Singer side, it seemed like his slide show was outdated. I talked to a veterinarian and she told me the farms she visits are nothing like what Singer showed for the mammals, though the horrible conditions of chickens and turkeys were spot on.

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Posted: 12 December 2007 06:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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dmoreau - 11 December 2007 10:45 PM
zarcus - 09 December 2007 07:27 AM

Well said, Jackson.

I agree with you almost completely, but I may add (though I am sure this is pretty well understood) that Peter Singer has been working on creating a discussion on “animal liberation” for almost 30 years. For the most part these discussions break down quickly in the freethought community, but keeping the conversation alive has been one of his primary goals. Often I do notice a kind of waffling amongst many of my meaty brethren which at times creates fruitful dialogue. Here I am thinking about the debates over animal rights. Recently Peter has argued, in Free Inquiry, that a starting point for ethical treatment of non-human animals (consciousness raising terminology) is to go for organic meats and stay away from buying meats that are gotten from “farm factories” which treat their animals sometimes very poorly. (Is saying non-human animals a form of political correctness? I mean why not just say animals, we already don’t eat each other, well not in the bad way)

I don’t get the relevance of ‘organic’, as ‘organic’ benefits the eater, not the animal. ‘Organic’ meats are free of certain chemicals. Are the living conditions of the animals included under the ‘organic’ label? From veterinarians I have spoken to, the sick ‘organic’ animals they treat suffer more since treating them with antibiotics would re-classify them as less valuable non-organic meat.

I was thinking of organic farming. With that I had in mind such things as free range. As far as the antibiotics, its more of the over indulgent use, same goes for growth hormones.

The point I got from the Singer presentation and Dawkins’ answer to the question is that our consumption of certain foods is causing suffering. The idea that the cows would die in the wild is irrelevant, since we breed the animals beyond what their natural populations would be anyway. The point would be why breed them to suffer. Let them go extinct if that is what would happen. What would be the problem? A cow that never existed can’t suffer.

I understand what you’re saying here and there would also be a market for dairy. It’s not completely irrelevant that cows would die in the wild. My idea here was that cows would not be able to exist in the wild here in North America for the most part. It would need to be considered. There could be a replacement (relocation) of the animal and this may also include other farm animals as well if the market bottomed out. A slow trimming down of the herds would happened of course, but after that the population would plummet. It’s quite likely you just wouldn’t see cows in North America, or many other regions of the U.S. anymore. If there were populations that found themselves trying to survive on their own, you would indeed see suffering unless there was a plan in place. Which is mainly my point, behaviors would need to change more then most people realize.

[ Edited: 12 December 2007 06:33 AM by zarcus ]
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Posted: 12 December 2007 07:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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I would love to see people stop needlessly hurting animals for luxury goods such as food, fur, leather, etc. just as I would love to see people stop hurting each other.  I also agree with you, zarcus, that free range eggs are far less cruel than conventionally produced ones.  The overuse of growth hormones with animals is just gratuitously cruel.

Of course, ethical considerations with regards to dairy are far more complex and less straight forward than they are with meat.  There would be, theoretically, no ethical problem with dairy products provided that cows were treated well before, during, and after their lives spent producing milk for human consumption.  However, in order for a “dairy cow” to begin lactating they must become pregnant and this requires the involvement of male cows who are typically processed after their helpful deeds for meat.  Similarly, new born calves are then sent away for meat or future dairy production.  And then there is the issue of animal rennet in cheese.  And there is gelatin.  And eisenglass and oxblood in some wine…

For everyone to adopt a non-animal diet would most certainly be ethically best, but the next best thing would be for slaughtered animals to be treated as well as possible leading up to and through the course of their slaughter.

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Posted: 12 December 2007 07:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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erasmusinfinity - 10 December 2007 04:09 PM

I think that I’m gonna right a book and call it The Meat Eaters DelusionLOL  LOL

I think you’re going to need an editor. smile

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Posted: 12 December 2007 07:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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Ooh Morgan.  Snap yo!  big surprise

I isn’t gonna need none of that editorializationing or nothing.  I think it was just “write” exactly how it was.  LOL

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Posted: 12 December 2007 01:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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I find it interesting that attempts at rational discussions of the ethical issues involved in vegetarianism seem to stimulate a lot of hostility among skeptics.  Perhaps it’s the guilt by association phenomenon, as vegetarians not infrequently hold a lot of woo woo ideas about health in addition to their concerns about meat. Or perhaps it’s the implication that by arguing it might be unethical to eat meat, vegetarians are telling people what to do, and we freethinkers hate that. Anyway, despite George’s flip and shallow comment on the subject, I’m encouraged that rigorously rational people like Dawkins and others on this site are willing to take the question seriously and not fear being tainted by association with wackos.

FWIW (which isn’t much), I tend to agree with the position that killing for food isn’t necessarily wrong, but that the infliction of unecesary pain and suffering or environmental damage for convenience or economic efficiency is. I am a pretty lax vegetarian myself [free-range eggs, dairy, though I haven’t found a particularly “ethical” source for that yet, and am not passionate enough about it to give it up in the meantime] and fish from sources the fisheries folks say are stable/well-managed populations). As a veterinarian, I still find the industrial system for producing meat/poultry/eggs in the U.S. egregiously, unecessarily cruel despite some improvements over the last few decades. And good arguments can be made about the lesser environmental damage of plant food production and the health benefits of little to no animal products in the diet, though these are not simple, slam dunk issues by any means. I’m certainly not militant (I’ve made no effort to change my wife or daughter’s eating habits), but I think the ethical questions are real and can be approached rationally. And I don’t think it’s a shame that irt came up during Dawkins’ interview, since there’s no reason for the subject of rational ethics informed by science to be off limits. It’s refreshing to hear him talk about something other than religion, especially since, as others have pointed out, he’s an eloquent spokesperson for science.

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Posted: 12 December 2007 02:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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Why is my comment shallow, Brennen? I simply extended Dawkins’s thought experiment with the missing links by additional 3 billion years.

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Posted: 12 December 2007 02:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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George,
I may owe you an apology, since I believed the comment was your own rather than an extension of what Dawkins said. I haven’t actually gotten to that part of the podcast, so I was just responding to the discussion here. It sounded like your comment was a version of the old sarcastic response to vegetarianism that extends any argument against eating animals to the illogical extreme of not eating anything living at all, and ignores the salient moral issues (capacity for and infliction of suffering) in favor of the irrelevant faux issue of ingestion the substance of another living thing. The difference between eating a chicken that has been cruelly treated and eating a plant or even, possibly, a chicken that has not been forced to suffer to make production of its tissue cheaper, is obvious, and you seem to be deliberately missing it in order to make a snide point about vegetarianism. But again, if I misunderstood since I haven’t heard what Dawkins actually said, then I’m sorry.

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Posted: 12 December 2007 02:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Dawkins wonders if all the extinct species between us and the chimps were alive, which ones would be okay to eat. An interesting idea. And I don’t know the answer to it. I see a problem with not eating the suffering animals, though. How do we decide which animals suffer and which ones don’t? Based on what? Our idea of suffering? Nobody wants to die — not even the fish from the stable/well-managed populations. I don’t eat meat. Not because I feel sorry for the animals (which I do), but because meat simply disgusts me. I also feel sorry for kids dying in Africa every day, and I still buy overpriced German cars and hundred dollar shirts, instead of sending all that money to the ones in need. I feel sorry for many. I am just not sure I am ready to act upon it…

[ Edited: 12 December 2007 02:53 PM by George ]
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Posted: 12 December 2007 02:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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Well George, do you think that it is ethically acceptable to eat chimpanzees?  What about eating Curious George?  cheese

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Posted: 12 December 2007 03:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Well, I think Singer does a good job of talking intelligently about suffering and how to identify it. I think it’s less arbitrary and whimsical to define than you suggest, but certainly it’s not simple. Defining “species” or “alive” isn’t all that simple either (are viruses alive?), but we need some working definitions to be able to function, so we try to reason out the best ones we can. I don’t expect to solve the injustices of the universe, which is part of why I’m not a very strict vegetarian and I don’t prosyletize, but I don’t think it’s in the spirit of science, reason, inquiry and all that stuff I care about to avoid asking and trying to answer the questions as well as I can. Personally, I love bacon, corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day, and so on, but I just find that ultimately my admittedly powerful capacity to rationalize no longer suffices to let me keep eating them. Not rigorous ethical decision making, I admit, but the best I can do.

$100 shirts, eh? Wow, I’m in the wrong line of work! wink

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Posted: 12 December 2007 03:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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erasmusinfinity - 12 December 2007 02:56 PM

Well George, do you think that it is ethically acceptable to eat chimpanzees?  What about eating Curious George?  cheese

I would eat my neighbour if I had to.

mckenzievmd - 12 December 2007 03:07 PM

Well, I think Singer does a good job of talking intelligently about suffering and how to identify it.

I’ve never read anything by Singer. Can you recommned something?

And even though I can afford to buy expensive shirts, I will never be able to buy an IQ chip for my brain that would allow me to study medicine and become a doctor: a job that would make me happy beyond my wildest imagination. I envy you (in a nice way wink ) being a scientist, Brennen.

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Posted: 12 December 2007 03:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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George - 12 December 2007 03:29 PM
erasmusinfinity - 12 December 2007 02:56 PM

Well George, do you think that it is ethically acceptable to eat chimpanzees?  What about eating Curious George?  cheese

I would eat my neighbour if I had to.

I suppose that I probably would too.  I’m glad that I haven’t had to make such a choice.

I recently finished Singer’s One World.  He’s great.  The classic Singer starter is Animal Liberation.  That book is probably even more well known amongst vegetarian granola types than Peter Singer is amongst philosophers.  Animal liberation is just one topic that he deals with though.

I envy both of you George and mckenzie, in a good way.

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