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Peter Singer - Vegetarianism and the Scientific Outlook
Posted: 20 November 2008 08:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 121 ]
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C. Augusto Valdés - 19 November 2008 09:04 PM

Recently there have been advances on harvesting meat artificially in a laboratory (Link), Let’s say that animal-free meat is suddenly available and affordable (and does not taste like cardboard), would you switch back from veggies?

I’m reminded of that classic movie [  Soylent Green ]

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Posted: 20 November 2008 08:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 122 ]
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George - 20 November 2008 07:32 AM

I have thought about this before. I probably wouldn’t. The reason I stopped eating meat wasn’t ethical but aesthetical; when I see a steak I see a dead cow, not food. But because I feel sorry for the animals I don’t buy leather products anymore. So if they can grow me leather, I would go for it: I like leather seats in my car.

Steven Novella (i might be wrong, quoting from memory) said; “What can I ever say to make you change your mind?”. if the answer is “Nothing”, then there’s no point discussing. However, the sensible thing to do is open yourself to the margin of error:
I put the question and I must answer it for myself; What can you say to make me give up my beloved meat?. I must tell you that I quit smoking not because of health risks or gruesome x-rays or biopsies, but it was the second that smoking kinda repulsed me. You say that you are actually repulsed by meat; so, here’s my answer;
If your argument and/or demonstration made me look meat in a different way (you see dead cows) I would definitively consider changing my ways. I would not eat cat or apes (living in Mexico I must have by now eaten dog, albeit unwillingly), so there might be hope for me, I am open to reading from you all.

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Posted: 20 November 2008 08:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 123 ]
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mckenzievmd - 19 November 2008 07:15 PM

VYAZMA,

So choosing not to eat meat somehow interferes with nuclear disarmament? We can’t choose our food in a way that makes sense to us and still work on other issues? You still make the arrogant assumption that because you don’t care about the ethical problem of eating meat that no one else should either. You act as if somebody is trying to stuff the idea down your throat, yet you voluntarily participate in this thread. If the whole issue is such a waste of time, couldn’t you be doing something else more important? Think of all the evil you could combat with your sarcasm if you weren’t wasting time arguing with vegetarians!

Ultimately, nobody here is forcing anything on anybody, so the repeated protests from VYAZMA and C.A. Valdes that we shouldn’t do this is misdirected. How about if I personally apologize for every militant, obnoxious vegetarian who’s ever annoyed you? Then can we talk about the issues instead of your right to eat whatever you want and how the whole topic is a waste of time?

Again McKenz,As is borne out in this post of yours,You continue to insinuate that I am anti-veggie.“obnoxious vegetarian that has ever annoyed you”???What??!!?
As of yet,McKenz,No one has proven that there is an ethical problem of eating meat.So I don’t care about the “problem”(as you stated) either way.Of course if we are going to settle this ethical “problem” by looking at the number of animals that eat meat,including humans,than anybody could clearly see that there is no “problem”.
Your only response to this so far has been to say:“Just because billions and billions of animals,including humans have done it for millenia,doesn’t make it right!!”
Then of course you say that Humans have a higher capacity for ethical decisions,we can find a “better"way.Of course in my opinion this flys right in the face of the concepts of Dominionism and Speciesism(sp?).

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Posted: 20 November 2008 08:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 124 ]
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I agree with Dr Singer that we have an obligation to protect and prevent the suffering of the species with whom we share the planet but I do not agree with his, Dr Dawkin’s and D.J.‘s assessment that there is somehow an inconsistency with being both an evolutionist and a meat eater.

Natural selection acting on our species over the eons has resulted in:
-Teeth that are capable of processing both meat and vegetable food sources.
-Adult lactose tolerance in many races indicating an evolutionary co-relationship with bovines
-Certain B-vitamin requirements that are most easily acquired from meat
-Appendages equally good at hurling projectiles at prey as they are at shaking fruit out of trees.
-Forward facing, binocular eyes, well suited for the depth perception required in hunting
-An efficient cooling system, sweat, which makes it possible to track prey over long distances
-Relative hairlessness meaning that historically we have had to protect ourselves from environmental conditions by covering ourselves with animal skins. (We certainly no longer need to do this)

Furthermore, though the animals we eat die in the process, by artificially selecting their genes we are making them quite successful as individual species. If humanity converted to pure herbivory, they would go extinct.

I also feel it is important to point out some features that Dr Singer’s views have in common with religion:
-Given that humans are omnivorous primates, vegetarianism, like celibacy, a decidedly religious concept, is a form of self denial as to what we are as biological organisms
-Stating that Charles Darwin would likely be a vegetarian today, Dr. Singer sounds strangely reminiscent of a Christian declaring that he knows what Jesus would do or “drive’. This comes close to being an attempt at turning the purely descriptive science of evolution into an ideology.

Many thanks to DJ for an outstanding podcast!

[ Edited: 28 November 2008 11:03 AM by Michael Bukowski-Thall ]
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Posted: 20 November 2008 08:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 125 ]
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Next time you are eating meat, Augusto, imagine you’re eating a rat. That might help. Now, in return, you have to help me to hate cigarettes… wink

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Posted: 20 November 2008 09:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 126 ]
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VYAZMA - 20 November 2008 08:30 PM

Then of course you say that Humans have a higher capacity for ethical decisions,we can find a “better"way.Of course in my opinion this flys right in the face of the concepts of Dominionism and Speciesism(sp?).

VYAZMA.

Humans DO have a higher capacity for ethical decision making. That makes us DIFFERENT not BETTER. The same way a bird’s ability to fly makes it different, not better.

Speciesism is discriminating based on species which organisms deserve moral consideration and which don’t. People in this thread are saying let’s COMPLETELY ignore species when deciding what to eat and what not to eat.

I will use a metaphor I’ve already used on here with the final goal of asking a direct question. If we consider the things we could possibly eat on a spectrum, we can go from plants to humans babies. We have no problem eating plants and no one will defend eating babies. Therefore there exists a line between the two where, on one side we can eat the organism in question, and on the other side we can’t. Currently, the majority thinks this line should be drawn after Homo Sapien. We can eat any species that is not Homo Sapien. That is speciesist because moral consideration can only be obtained by membership in our species. Singer says we should ignore species altogether when considering what we eat and what we don’t. We ignore species because a) we know all species are equal in the eyes of evolution and b) humans do not occupy any special place relative to other species. He thinks a good place to draw the line is at organisms that have interests. His concept explicitly ignores species when considering what to eat and what not to and therefore cannot be speciesist.

If you are not speciesist, where do you draw that line and why do you draw there? If you are speciesist then you think humans occupy a special place in the world.

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Posted: 21 November 2008 04:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 127 ]
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George - 20 November 2008 08:37 PM

Next time you are eating meat, Augusto, imagine you’re eating a rat. That might help. Now, in return, you have to help me to hate cigarettes… wink

I would eat rat if it were from a source I can trust. I mean, I wouldn’t eat a rat from the culvert, but I would have any trouble with a rat from a controlled source.

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Posted: 21 November 2008 05:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 128 ]
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It would be nice to have D.J. Grothe and/or Singer visit this forum to respond to some of the objections.

This is where I am more than a little perplexed from the discussion on the second segment of the Singer interview.  Like others, I don’t see how it follows that if you accept Darwinian evolution, have a naturalistic world view and ethics that this neccessarily leads to accepting that eating meat is unethical.

I think there are good moral arguments for vegetarianism, but I don’t understand how it follows from Darwinism.

Others have already pointed out that meat eating is part of our evolutionary heritage.  This would fall into the naturalistic fallacy as a moral argument, but it still seems valid from an evolutionary point of view.

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Posted: 21 November 2008 07:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 129 ]
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Barto - 21 November 2008 04:27 AM
George - 20 November 2008 08:37 PM

Next time you are eating meat, Augusto, imagine you’re eating a rat. That might help. Now, in return, you have to help me to hate cigarettes… wink

I would eat rat if it were from a source I can trust. I mean, I wouldn’t eat a rat from the culvert, but I would have any trouble with a rat from a controlled source.

That’s because you, guys, are always high on maté and don’t know what the heck you’re eating anyway…  grin

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Posted: 21 November 2008 07:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 130 ]
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George - 21 November 2008 07:24 AM

That’s because you, guys, are always high on maté and don’t know what the heck you’re eating anyway…  grin

Yes, the mate induces mystical experiences, dangerous ones.  grin

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Posted: 21 November 2008 08:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 131 ]
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Sheldon,

Yes, I have to say I agree it’s a weak argument. I suppose certain aspects of the ethical issue could be supported by Darwinism. For example, we accept that humans experience pain and other kinds of suffering, so the closer phylogenetically a species is to us, the more resemblance one might see between their feelings and ours, which could bolster cruelty arguments, but I don’t think that’s what Singer’s getting at. I think he’s trying to say that we put humans in a special and unique moral category based on species membership, anbd that given the evolutionary continuity of descent this is irrational. It might make sense if we had souls and were made in the image of God and nothing else was that we would get special consideration, but since Darwinism shows there are no bright lines between species there’s no reason why killing and eating cows should be ok and killing and eating people isn’t. Still, I think it’s a weak argument, apart from dispelling the soul one which none of the meat eaters here hold to anyway.

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Posted: 21 November 2008 08:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 132 ]
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I also wonder if most people are actually disgusted by eating animals without realizing it. Is it why we call a cow “beef” and a pig “pork”? Does that help us to forget? Is it easier to eat pork instead of a pig?

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Posted: 21 November 2008 08:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 133 ]
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McKenzie and Sheldon,

Just to give my two cents here. I kind of feel the opposite way. I’ve never been a committed vegetarian because I felt so many of the arguments were based on subjective arguments. I feel like Singer’s is the most objective argument I’ve ever heard on this issue and it appeals to me rationally and emotionally. It puts a spotlight on the anthropocentric philosophy that defines what can be eaten and what can’t be eaten and how we need better reasons for deciding what we eat and what we don’t. Eliminating speciesism doesn’t necessarily entail not eating meat either. He says that the most important to him (I feel like he leaves room to maneuver here) is to reduce the animals’ suffering which can be done either by not eating meat or choosing meat that has been raised humanely.

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Posted: 21 November 2008 08:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 134 ]
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George - 21 November 2008 08:38 AM

I also wonder if most people are actually disgusted by eating animals without realizing it. Is it why we call a cow “beef” and a pig “pork”? Does that help us to forget? Is it easier to eat pork instead of a pig?

The reason we have different words for these meats goes back to when the Normans conquered the English. French was the language spoken in the markets but farmers retained the English language. Therefore, they would take the meat of the cow to the market where they sold it in French as ‘boeuf’ which became beef. Same with pig which in French is ‘porc’. There are a couple more too: veal = ‘veau’ and mutton = ‘mouton’. In French there is no difference between the word for the meat and the animal. I’ve always wondered why chicken stayed the same.

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Posted: 21 November 2008 09:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 135 ]
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George - 21 November 2008 08:38 AM

I also wonder if most people are actually disgusted by eating animals without realizing it. Is it why we call a cow “beef” and a pig “pork”? Does that help us to forget? Is it easier to eat pork instead of a pig?

Well, we eat ‘chancho’ or ‘cerdo’, two spanish words to name the same animal (pig) and those two words are also used to denote something disgusting.

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