Richard Dawkins - Science and the New Atheism

December 7, 2007

Richard Dawkins, considered one of the world’s most influential scientists, is the first holder of the Charles Simonyi professorship of the public understanding of science at Oxford University and the recipient of a number of awards for his writings and for his science, including the International Cosmos Prize, the Kistler Prize, and the Shakespeare Prize. He is the author of a number of critically acclaimed books, such as The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, Unweaving the Rainbow, The Devil’s Chaplain, and The Ancestor’s Tale. His most recent title is the best selling The God Delusion which is now out in paperback.
 
In this candid discussion with D.J. Grothe recorded in front of a live audience at the recent Secular Society and Its Enemies conference, Richard Dawkins discusses the impact of his book The God Delusion, whether or not his uncompromising attack on religion undermines science education, and how people can find meaning in a godless universe. He also explores strategies for advancing atheism in society and highlights what secularists may learn from the gay rights and feminist movements. Additionally, during the audience Q&A, Dawkins fields a question from the eminent ethicist Peter Singer.

Books Mentioned in This Episode:


The God Delusion Richard Dawkins

Links Mentioned in This Episode:

Jeffrey Harrison YouTube Video

Related Episodes

Lawrence Krauss - Seducing for Science
December 28, 2007

Comments from the CFI Forums

If you would like to leave a comment about this episode of Point of Inquiry please visit the related thread on the CFI discussion forums

Ok… I just have to get this off my chest…

I was there when they interviewed him… Well, so were a lot of other people…

But less than one hour later I was also eating dinner with him in an Irish pub. Ha.

Anyway, yeah…

Posted on Dec 07, 2007 at 8:44pm by logicisrefreshing Comment #1

Somebody got their wish, eramusinfinity :grin:

Airing this now is great timing for PoI. This episode is definitely going to be a hit.

I have to listen from the PoI web site, it’s not downloading on my iTunes.

Posted on Dec 07, 2007 at 9:09pm by zarcus Comment #2

If it’s not downloading simply go to the POI site, click on XML FEED in the yellow bar below the episode blurb. On the page it leads you to right click the mp3 file to download (if you just click it it will open and play).

Posted on Dec 07, 2007 at 9:35pm by moreover Comment #3

They have the interview posted on RichardDawkins.net.

I bet we have more presents coming from the AAI conference.  :wow:

Posted on Dec 08, 2007 at 1:28am by zarcus Comment #4

Excellent interview, Richard is eloquent and communicates science probably better then anyone I am aware. Personally I hope Richard returns to putting science front and center now that so many people are really paying attention to him.

What I would like to understand a bit better is his thoughts on vegetarianism. If I am hearing him correctly he is saying that yes there is a certain moral argument to be made to become vegetarian which is based on current understandings of animals. Yet, he appears to then say what it will take for him to become a non-meat eater is a consensus since he already fully understands the moral arguments and agrees with them. It’s a slightly odd position that I find myself in also. But, clearly the choice is mine to eat meat knowing full well the arguments that Richard highlights. These ideas are not new by any means and I find it difficult to fully accept this idea that what would change my behavior is for me to convince others of the moral argument so there becomes a tipping point of people who will accept the argument and change their behavior which will then finally allow me to convince myself.

Posted on Dec 08, 2007 at 9:59am by zarcus Comment #5

Welcome to the century of the moral arguments. ;-) Why not go all the way and stop eating DNA altogether? You can always munch on viruses, dirt, and red blood cells.

Posted on Dec 08, 2007 at 11:52am by George Comment #6

Welcome to the century of the moral arguments. ;-) Why not go all the way and stop eating DNA altogether? You can always munch on viruses, dirt, and red blood cells.

It’s strange in a way because I keep coming back to this “is-ought” problem when talking about morals, ethics. Ever since I heard Sam Harris say that not only is the is-ought problem a myth but we can apply oughts to “happiness” (contentment etc.) I can’t help but think this issue is more spongy then just making the claim as fact. Looking at the moral argument for vegetarianism as an evolutionary understanding we are faced with an “ought”. I ought not eat meat because I recognize the moral dilemma of killing and eating other animals. So, as human animals we ought not eat meat.

Posted on Dec 08, 2007 at 12:36pm by zarcus Comment #7

Ok… I just have to get this off my chest…

I was there when they interviewed him… Well, so were a lot of other people…

But less than one hour later I was also eating dinner with him in an Irish pub. Ha.

Anyway, yeah…

1. What did you have to eat?  :bug:
2. Any comments on the response of other attendees?

Posted on Dec 08, 2007 at 8:37pm by Jackson Comment #8

Excellent interview, Richard is eloquent and communicates science probably better then anyone I am aware. Personally I hope Richard returns to putting science front and center now that so many people are really paying attention to him.

What I would like to understand a bit better is his thoughts on vegetarianism…..

I agree with Zarcus—thanks to D.J. for getting this interview and keeping us up to date on Dawkins.
I will have to play the interview again, but I have these points in mind:
1. D.J. I think the God Delusion was perfectly fine without needing an additional section on what to do with your life once you realize that there isn’t a God—how will you make moral decisions, how will you fill the void, etc.  I think this is baloney and I’m sorry Dawkins didn’t say so. It’s like Dorothy and Ruby Slippers—you always had the power and the responsibility yourself.

2. I think ending with this vegetarian stuff is NOT the way to close out the interview. It leaves people thinking about that and not whatever Dawkins was really saying through most of the interview.  I thought his response was confusing (I basically agree with Zarcus) and I think the thought experiment that “imagine if all the missing links that ever exist were here—would we behave differently” is a false analogy. Completely false. For me though I started thinking “wow! I wonder why the missing links ARE missing—why is that? why does that always happen?” and this sort of distracted me.
    I wrote more and then erased it because I think just discussing vegetarianism is a digression.
 

Lawrence Krauss had a nice op-ed in the Wall St. Journal on Thursday
http://genesis1.phys.cwru.edu/~krauss/dec6opedwsj.html
and noted that a 2006 NSF survey found 25% of Americans didn’t know that the Earth went around the Sun :ohoh: .  Let’s get some of this easy stuff taken care of first.

Posted on Dec 08, 2007 at 9:05pm by Jackson Comment #9

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)

Posted on Dec 09, 2007 at 7:27am by zarcus Comment #10

we already don’t eat each other, well not in the bad way)

hehehe… You’re a cunning linguist!

Posted on Dec 09, 2007 at 5:05pm by moreover Comment #11

Welcome to the century of the moral arguments. ;-) Why not go all the way and stop eating DNA altogether? You can always munch on viruses, dirt, and red blood cells.

Ah, but do DNA, Viruses, dirt, and red blood cells suffer?

All due respect for freedom of choice with regards to the various ways that individuals choose to deal with their animal nature.  I do not claim to be any less animal.  But, let’s at least allow ourselves to distinguish between foods that are needed in order to nourish our health and foods that we eat entirely for the purpose of indulging our sensual temptations.  As humans we do need to eat, but we don’t need to eat meat.

Posted on Dec 10, 2007 at 7:20am by erasmusinfinity Comment #12

Somebody got their wish, eramusinfinity :grin:

I suppose that I should thank the lord.  :lol:

Actually, I was more impressed with DJs choice of questions than I was particularly with Richard’s answers.  DJ did a great job of confronting Richard, in a constructive third party manner, with some of the criticisms that have been directed toward Richard about the direction that he is steering the humanist movement.  While I am a strong supporter of Dawkins arguments in a broad sense, I will confess that I don’t feel that he answered all of the criticisms that DJ posed very well head on.

You are right zarcus, that there are certain issues of tactic that have humanists divided, and I think that we all need to work toward resolving them via discussion and constructive argument.  If we truly stand for reason, then this ought to be at the forefront of our activities.  I would like to see more dialog between Richard Dawkins and his non-religious detractors over issues of disagreement.  “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Posted on Dec 10, 2007 at 7:39am by erasmusinfinity Comment #13

but we don’t need to eat meat.

Of course, I agree, eramusinfinity. One thing that comes to mind is there would need to be a concerted effort needed by everyone to change their behavior in ways they may not realize at first. In the case of fish I think lessening intake quickly would not cause a disruption and they would be able to live in their natural environment with less disruption. With animals for which we already control their populations we would have the immediate problem of having an unprofitable market so retaining certain animals, such as cows, would quickly decline. Cows for the most part in North America would find it very difficult to survive in a more ‘natural’ environment. In essence cows would become either pet like or placed in zoos.  Then their is the more wild variety of animal, such as dear, where human activity also puts controls on their population. Since they are wild, population control becomes an issue, such as seen with ‘suburban sprawl’, where the natural environment for dear is eroded. Killing other animals to control their populations is common and we would be left with killing but not eating, unless a radically altered approach was taken by humans.

Edit: change “dear” to deer, dear folks.  :red:

Posted on Dec 10, 2007 at 7:43am by zarcus Comment #14

One thing that comes to mind is there would need to be a concerted effort needed by everyone to change their behavior in ways they may not realize at first.

Kind of like trying to convince people to abandon their religious faith, huh?

We need a good strategy.  :lol:

Posted on Dec 10, 2007 at 4:07pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #15

I think that I’m gonna right a book and call it The Meat Eaters Delusion.  :lol:  :lol:

Posted on Dec 10, 2007 at 4:09pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #16

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…

Posted on Dec 10, 2007 at 6:12pm by logicisrefreshing Comment #17

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.

Posted on Dec 11, 2007 at 10:45pm by dmoreau Comment #18

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.

Posted on Dec 12, 2007 at 6:04am by zarcus Comment #19

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.

Posted on Dec 12, 2007 at 7:16am by erasmusinfinity Comment #20

I think that I’m gonna right a book and call it The Meat Eaters Delusion.  :lol:  :lol:

I think you’re going to need an editor. :)

Posted on Dec 12, 2007 at 7:30am by morgantj Comment #21

Ooh Morgan.  Snap yo!  :bug:

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

Posted on Dec 12, 2007 at 7:33am by erasmusinfinity Comment #22

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.

Posted on Dec 12, 2007 at 1:30pm by mckenzievmd Comment #23

Why is my comment shallow, Brennen? I simply extended Dawkins’s thought experiment with the missing links by additional 3 billion years.

Posted on Dec 12, 2007 at 2:06pm by George Comment #24

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.

Posted on Dec 12, 2007 at 2:29pm by mckenzievmd Comment #25

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…

Posted on Dec 12, 2007 at 2:49pm by George Comment #26

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

Posted on Dec 12, 2007 at 2:56pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #27

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! ;-)

Posted on Dec 12, 2007 at 3:07pm by mckenzievmd Comment #28

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.

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 ;-) ) being a scientist, Brennen.

Posted on Dec 12, 2007 at 3:29pm by George Comment #29

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.

Posted on Dec 12, 2007 at 3:49pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #30

I especially enjoyed Singer’s contributions to The Great Ape Project, a collection of essays investigating (albeit from a pre-convinced point of view) the definitions of personhood and how these might be applied beyond the strict species level (i.e. humans and nothing else) that is traditional.


As for envy, every time I am moved by a musician, an actor, or an artist of some other kind I think how amazing it would be to have the ability to evoke feelings and to crystallize elements of the human experience so succinctly and beautifully as artists can. So back at ya! ;-)

Posted on Dec 12, 2007 at 4:00pm by mckenzievmd Comment #31

The classic Singer starter is Animal Liberation.

I’ll have a look at it. Thanks.

Posted on Dec 12, 2007 at 4:01pm by George Comment #32

I especially enjoyed Singer’s contributions to The Great Ape Project

Okay. Thanks, Brennen.

Posted on Dec 12, 2007 at 4:04pm by George Comment #33

I highly recommend the book Created From Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism by the late philosopher James Rachels. Rachels makes explicit, through careful and clearly constructed philosophical argument, what Singer and Dawkins were trying to get at the end of the podcast.

Posted on Dec 12, 2007 at 4:21pm by rcjones Comment #34

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. 

The discussion of these ethical issues is probably a good thing, although I still think it sort of pulls the focus off of ‘atheism’. 
I don’t see why one can’t be a theist of some flavor and a also vegan, right…

Posted on Dec 12, 2007 at 5:41pm by Jackson Comment #35

Sure.  Seventh Day Adventists.  Rastafarians.  Hindus.  Buddhists.  Etc.  I’m OK with pulling the focus a bit away from atheism though.

Posted on Dec 12, 2007 at 5:45pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #36

Sorry for more peanut gallery, but I can’t resist this one.  The real question…

Should Animals Be Doing More For The Animal Rights Movement?

... a la The Onion.

Posted on Dec 12, 2007 at 5:51pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #37

Sorry for more peanut gallery, but I can’t resist this one.  The real question…

Should Animals Be Doing More For The Animal Rights Movement?

... a la The Onion.

Thanks for this link to ONN headline news…

Posted on Dec 12, 2007 at 6:18pm by Jackson Comment #38

For me, I have no problem with people eating whatever they can afford when they don’t have the income to do otherwise.

For those of us with the sufficient income, I feel we shouldn’t subsidized the institutionalized mistreatment of animals with a sufficient nervous system to feel pain. Grouping animals won’t be trivial in certain areas, but the most common farm animals clearly do react to pain much like how we do, which seems to indicate that it is just as unpleasant to them as it is to us.

Another issue is the feelings related mammals have for their kin. How long does a pig lament when her mother or her child is taken away or slain in her sight? That would help us evaluate the ethics, but I don’t know what data we have on that. I suspect evidence points to this factor being a complete non-issue with fish and birds.

Considering I am usually too lazy too cook regularly, I am pretty much too lazy to put my money where my mouth is on this issue for more than a week at a time. Nevertheless, I am not willing to ignore the problems with the traditional way we eat.

I also find it interesting how we allow hunting of various species to control population growth, but almost all find it unethical to euthanize homo sapiens to control overpopulation.

Posted on Dec 12, 2007 at 9:41pm by dmoreau Comment #39

Hello!

I’m new here (I’ll try to get a post up introducing myself soon).

I just listened to the podcast (I’ve been listening for some time now, and I’m a big fan of the both the show and Dawkins) and I’m was a bit amazed that I was really disturbed my some of the points Dawkins made.

When the discussion came up on how The God Delusion offer very little “sugar” on the meaning of our lives, Dawkins (after a while) says something about how we should be grateful to be alive and that being bored is an insult to everyone not born.

I was a bit offended by that statement since it shares so many common lines with the pro-life movement.

I feel that anything not being “born” (i.e. not existing) can’t have rights and hence, there is no one to actually offend or respect. In the same way you argue where to draw the line of existence (1 cell? 2? 4? a million?). What offended me really is that I think it is the wrong question to ask really. Being atheist I find that there is so much else to be grateful for that this kind of statements makes us no better than theists since we are supposed to be grateful / respectful / thankful to something that is non-existent.

This is my first post, so if this was the wrong part of the forum I sincerely apologize and I’d hate to flame in some way.

And to the makers of the show: thank you for something fantastic!

Regards,

J

Posted on Dec 13, 2007 at 3:47am by J Comment #40

When the discussion came up on how The God Delusion offer very little “sugar” on the meaning of our lives, Dawkins (after a while) says something about how we should be grateful to be alive and that being bored is an insult to everyone not born.

I was a bit offended by that statement since it shares so many common lines with the pro-life movement.

I feel that anything not being “born” (i.e. not existing) can’t have rights and hence, there is no one to actually offend or respect. In the same way you argue where to draw the line of existence (1 cell? 2? 4? a million?). What offended me really is that I think it is the wrong question to ask really. Being atheist I find that there is so much else to be grateful for that this kind of statements makes us no better than theists since we are supposed to be grateful / respectful / thankful to something that is non-existent.

Welcome to the forum, J!

FWIW, I was at the conference and heard his talk. You highlight a point Dawkins has made in other places; I see it as basically a rhetorical move on his part without real content. And you’ve nailed the reason why what he’s saying makes no real sense when you think about it. You can’t insult something nonexistent. It’s not like there are these souls-without-bodies floating around in some liminal space, waiting to be born.

To be fair to Dawkins, I think he would agree with what we’re saying. He’s just trying to make the point that there are many genetically possible human beings (= possible shufflings of DNA) that will never in fact be born. But really it’s sort of a banal point.

Posted on Dec 13, 2007 at 5:48am by dougsmith Comment #41

I dont see the point as banal at all, unless you misunderstand it—I take Dawkins to (merely?) be saying how rare it is that we are alive, and to be calling for gratitude at our existence. Obviously, he isnt talking about the “rights” of the nonexistent not to be insulted. Instead, he is saying what Sagan and others have said—it is amazingly improbable that we should exist at all and so we should be grateful and live life fully, etc. I found the text he paraphrases from Unweaving the Rainbow to be very moving and inspiring, and see it as something of a guiding principle in my life.

Of course, Marcus Aurelius and others have made the similar point in the history of the western intellectual tradition, and I find it as inspiring when they do as well. Dawkins just says it more beautifully.

Posted on Dec 13, 2007 at 8:35am by DJ Grothe Comment #42

... it is amazingly improbable that we should exist at all ...

But in what sense is that true? Are you identifying yourself with your DNA? Yes, it’s a low probability that precisely that genetic pattern turned up. (That is what I take Dawkins to mean; he’s said as much). But you aren’t identical to your DNA anyway, so the analogy doesn’t go through. And the low probability of a particular genetic pattern is banal.

In what other sense is this true—the sense that doesn’t make it banal?

I understand that one might say: “I am more than just my DNA, I’m a person with that DNA and this history.” And the probability of someone being born with just your DNA and your history is even lower. OK. So what?

The thought experiment as I see it is to say, basically, (and as I recall Dawkins has done), “Think of all those poor people who never get born, and how unlucky they are compared to you!”

But that’s just nonsense talk. Something nonexistent can’t be lucky or unlucky.

Posted on Dec 13, 2007 at 9:18am by dougsmith Comment #43

I thought it was a very good interview. Reference the ‘animal rights’ side of things. Looking back, i became vegetarian at a similar age to when i identified myself as an atheist. I do not know if they were related in a functional way, but i do find it difficult to make a distinction between humans and (non-human) animals in a moral sense.

This does lead me to some strange moral positions. As an example, i was thinking of joining the british army (medical issues have so-far stopped me). I was trying to decide if i could bring myself to kill in the right circumstanses. I found that i would have more of a problem with the prospect of killing an animal for food, than I would for killing an enemy! The distiction being, that the enemy has CHOSEN to put himself in the situation he is in, where the animal simply is, and is not threat to me. I do not know what that says about me, although I would like to think i am a very moral person.

I am not special,
I am not a beautiful and unique snowflake…..

Ski.

Posted on Dec 13, 2007 at 9:20am by SkiCarver Comment #44

... it is amazingly improbable that we should exist at all ...

But in what sense is that true? Are you identifying yourself with your DNA? Yes, it’s a low probability that precisely that genetic pattern turned up. (That is what I take Dawkins to mean; he’s said as much). But you aren’t identical to your DNA anyway, so the analogy doesn’t go through. And the low probability of a particular genetic pattern is banal.

In what other sense is this true—the sense that doesn’t make it banal?

I understand that one might say: “I am more than just my DNA, I’m a person with that DNA and this history.” And the probability of someone being born with just your DNA and your history is even lower. OK. So what?

The thought experiment as I see it is to say, basically, (and as I recall Dawkins has done), “Think of all those poor people who never get born, and how unlucky they are compared to you!”

But that’s just nonsense talk. Something nonexistent can’t be lucky or unlucky.

Doug, of course he isnt saying literally that nonexistent entities are unlucky, any more than a nihilist saying it is luckier to never have been born in the first place would mean the never-existing would be literally lucky (a line supposedly from Asclepius if I remember).

Dawkins’ is obviously a more poetical point, and I take it as having great meaning. To be a literalist with Dawkins in the way you seem to be seems especially ungenerous and contrarian.

Look, we are exceedingly rare (on many counts) as far as we know. Dawkins is saying what Paul Kurtz, Sagan and others have said movingly: that in our rarity there is preciousness, and building on that, we should suck life dry for all its worth, be grateful, and not be bored with this fleeting life.

This is PK’s “exuberance” and Sagan’s “preciousness” of life. Thoreau, Marcus Aurelius and so many others also make this anti-nihilist point, and I find Dawkins’s flourish the best of the bunch.

To dismiss this kind of appreciation of the brute facticity of our existence as being “banal” because you are asking in what literal sense we’re “lucky” to be alive when those who have never been born are “unlucky” is to miss the point impressively—to imagine Dawkins saying things he clearly didnt say (that we are just our DNA, that nonexistent being have rights not to be insulted by our ingratitude at our actually living etc) misses the opportunity at the wonder and awe at our life that he, Sagan and others advocate.

Posted on Dec 13, 2007 at 9:36am by DJ Grothe Comment #45

:lol:

I certainly agree that life is precious, both in the sense that our own life does not last long, and that the lives of those we love does not last long. We should enjoy life, accept it exuberantly as Kurtz says so eloquently, etc.

And I have time and again been an enthusiastic supporter of Sagan, Druyan and Tyson’s overtly “spiritualist” view of the universe, looking at it with wonder and awe!

So I think we’re probably talking past one another here, DJ. What can I say? Maybe I have a tin ear for the poetry when it comes to this point of Dawkins, but I think honestly it’s the philosopher in me. The point that he’s making is incoherent in that instance, as J noted.

Posted on Dec 13, 2007 at 9:42am by dougsmith Comment #46

Looking back, i became vegetarian at a similar age to when i identified myself as an atheist. I do not know if they were related in a functional way, but i do find it difficult to make a distinction between humans and (non-human) animals in a moral sense.

I agree with your point about being related to animals in a “moral sense.”  I very much appreciate your point about getting into vegetarianism as simultaneously to your identification as an atheist.  I have been non-religious much longer than I have been a vegetarian, but I do find there to be remarkable parallels between the thinking that led me to stop eating animals and the thinking that led me into the world of humanist thought (which happened much later than my abandonment of “god” ideas).  Clearly, the removal of a single arbiter of moral authority, or god, also means unraveling much of the stratification of moral value that stems down through clerics to common folk to the rest of the animal kingdom, which is placed at bottom.  It is in the exploration of myself as being responsible for my own moral choices, and the weighing of my actions in relation to others and to nature, that I made the decision that I didn’t want to hurt others.  It was a rather simple next step to include other species in the “as others” category.

I am not special,
I am not a beautiful and unique snowflake…..

I think that you are special, beautiful and unique.  Indeed.

Posted on Dec 13, 2007 at 9:50am by erasmusinfinity Comment #47

Nod. But I took J’s post to be an understandable misunderstanding (conflating) of “those who have never lived” with “the unborn”—one means all the class of people or almost-people who were conceived but aborted and the other means those who havent even been conceived. What got J’s hackles up was how similar he took Dawkins point to be wit the right-to-lifers. So in that sense we may be talking past one another.

But your back and forth with me wasnt about abortion rights but about the poetical use of the term “lucky to be alive.” And based on what you just said, we agree there—we are “lucky” to be alive and should live life fully etc.. You seem to mostly just object to Dawkins’ rhetorical point about luck, and when it comes to poetry as in most other forms of art, de gustubus non disputandem est..

I still find that introductory passage one of the most moving summations of life’s rarity and preciousness and found it moving when I read it in the 90s and still do today. Unweaving the Rainbow is my favorite book that came at a great time for me personally, so I am biased.

Posted on Dec 13, 2007 at 9:50am by DJ Grothe Comment #48

For me, I have no problem with people eating whatever they can afford when they don’t have the income to do otherwise.

I don’t either dmoreau.  Which people in the “third world” are you referring to?  Or do you think that there are Americans who can not afford to be vegetarians?

Posted on Dec 13, 2007 at 9:56am by erasmusinfinity Comment #49

Right, DJ, only I wouldn’t call J’s point a misunderstanding. I mean, s/he is aware that Dawkins is not a pro-lifer. What s/he is saying is that Dawkins is playing the same sort of nonsensical metaphysical game that some pro-lifers do; he’s serving the ball up in their court, as it were.

Just to be clear, I am a big fan of Dawkins’s style generally, and also loved his book Unweaving the Rainbow. But I do recall when reading that book before that the same issue came up for me in the back of my mind. It just rang false for me. He says:

Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born.

To be a philosophical pedant for a moment, this is either trivial (banal) or false. Trivially, however you count possibility, there are many possible persons who will not be actual. But we have no moral obligation towards nonexistent entities.

And of course it’s false to think of these nonexistent “people” as existing somewhere, longing to be born. But it seems to me that one has to be thinking as if there were such unhappy folks out there somewhere in order to make Dawkins’s point gripping.

De gustibus non disputandem est, yes, or chacon a son gôut.

;-)

Posted on Dec 13, 2007 at 10:03am by dougsmith Comment #50

I am not special,
I am not a beautiful and unique snowflake…..

I think that you are special, beautiful and unique.  Indeed.

EI,

It is a quote from the film “fight club”. It was intended to juxtapose with my comments about looking for understanding on a personal level.

Hey, I’m dyslexic, I do try and “rite goood” but it is not easy!

Ski.

edited to fix formatting

Posted on Dec 13, 2007 at 10:07am by SkiCarver Comment #51

For me, I have no problem with people eating whatever they can afford when they don’t have the income to do otherwise.

I don’t either dmoreau.  Which people in the “third world” are you referring to?  Or do you think that there are Americans who can not afford to be vegetarians?

As a vege, i too have little problem with people eating meat if the need to. It is interesting that we (as a society) may need to dramatically cut down on our consumption of meat, both from the perspective of land use and greenhouse gas emissions.

Ski.

Posted on Dec 13, 2007 at 10:12am by SkiCarver Comment #52

For me, I have no problem with people eating whatever they can afford when they don’t have the income to do otherwise.

I don’t either dmoreau.  Which people in the “third world” are you referring to?  Or do you think that there are Americans who can not afford to be vegetarians?

As a vege, i too have little problem with people eating meat if the need to. It is interesting that we (as a society) may need to dramatically cut down on our consumption of meat, both from the perspective of land use and greenhouse gas emissions.

Ski.

As a vegan/skeptic/atheist of many years, I have little problem with people eating meat—including other Homo sapiensif need be. I’m not speciesist when it comes to meat eating. However, the fact is that very few people in Western industrialized nations need to eat meat for anything other than the satiation of their palates. There are many compelling and rational arguments for moving towards a plant- rather than meat-based diet, not the least of which is the enormous contribution of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (a.k.a, factory farms) to the production of greenhouse gases. See, for example, this article from the October 2007 Los Angeles Times, or this article from the February BBC online, or have a look at Peter Singer/James Mason’s recent book The Way We Eat.

And as I mentioned in an earlier post, I highly recommend having a look at James Rachels’ Created From Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism for an extended, sustained, and powerful argument of the form that Singer and Dawkins were getting at in the last few minutes of the podcast.

Posted on Dec 13, 2007 at 10:51am by rcjones Comment #53

For me, I have no problem with people eating whatever they can afford when they don’t have the income to do otherwise.

I don’t either dmoreau.  Which people in the “third world” are you referring to?  Or do you think that there are Americans who can not afford to be vegetarians?

As a vege, i too have little problem with people eating meat if the need to. It is interesting that we (as a society) may need to dramatically cut down on our consumption of meat, both from the perspective of land use and greenhouse gas emissions.

Ski.

As a vegan/skeptic/atheist of many years, I have little problem with people eating meat—including other Homo sapiensif need be. I’m not speciesist when it comes to meat eating. The fact is that very few people in Western industrialized nations need to eat meat for anything other than the satiation of their palates. There are many compelling and rational arguments for moving towards a plant- rather than meat-based diet, not the least of which is the enormous contribution of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (a.k.a, factory farms) to the production of greenhouse gases.

I would suggest that eating humans should only be considered if you are going to die otherwise. There are HUGE desiese risks associated with any animal eating members of its own species. examples include, BSE (cows being fed cows), kuru (or however it is spelt) wiped out an indonesian tribe who practiced canibalism, Aids (from eating a related species)....

Ski.

Posted on Dec 13, 2007 at 11:05am by SkiCarver Comment #54

For me, I have no problem with people eating whatever they can afford when they don’t have the income to do otherwise.

I don’t either dmoreau.  Which people in the “third world” are you referring to?  Or do you think that there are Americans who can not afford to be vegetarians?

As a vege, i too have little problem with people eating meat if the need to. It is interesting that we (as a society) may need to dramatically cut down on our consumption of meat, both from the perspective of land use and greenhouse gas emissions.

Ski.

As a vegan/skeptic/atheist of many years, I have little problem with people eating meat—including other Homo sapiensif need be. I’m not speciesist when it comes to meat eating. The fact is that very few people in Western industrialized nations need to eat meat for anything other than the satiation of their palates. There are many compelling and rational arguments for moving towards a plant- rather than meat-based diet, not the least of which is the enormous contribution of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (a.k.a, factory farms) to the production of greenhouse gases.

I would suggest that eating humans should only be considered if you are going to die otherwise. There are HUGE desiese risks associated with any animal eating members of its own species. examples include, BSE (cows being fed cows), kuru (or however it is spelt) wiped out an indonesian tribe who practiced canibalism, Aids (from eating a related species)....

Ski.

Agreed, Ski, but on pragmatic not ethical grounds.

Posted on Dec 13, 2007 at 11:13am by rcjones Comment #55

I dont see the point as banal at all, unless you misunderstand it—I take Dawkins to (merely?) be saying how rare it is that we are alive, and to be calling for gratitude at our existence. Obviously, he isnt talking about the “rights” of the nonexistent not to be insulted. Instead, he is saying what Sagan and others have said—it is amazingly improbable that we should exist at all and so we should be grateful and live life fully, etc. I found the text he paraphrases from Unweaving the Rainbow to be very moving and inspiring, and see it as something of a guiding principle in my life.

Of course, Marcus Aurelius and others have made the similar point in the history of the western intellectual tradition, and I find it as inspiring when they do as well. Dawkins just says it more beautifully.

I agree with D.J. and I think Doug is making an ad hominem argument with a circular flavor (calling things banal is itself banal?)
I also think Dawkin’s point was clearly that we don’t need a God to appreciate life.

Posted on Dec 13, 2007 at 6:17pm by Jackson Comment #56

I agree with D.J. and I think Doug is making an ad hominem argument with a circular flavor (calling things banal is itself banal?)
I also think Dawkin’s point was clearly that we don’t need a God to appreciate life.

Ad hominem? Do you know what that means? Neither I nor J was talking at all about Dawkins the person ... (And in fact I respect him very much!)

And I certainly agree with the point that we don’t need a God to appreciate life. I’m happy to argue on the merits, but I’m not convinced you’ve read what we had to say.

Posted on Dec 13, 2007 at 8:10pm by dougsmith Comment #57

I would suggest that eating humans should only be considered if you are going to die otherwise. There are HUGE desiese risks associated with any animal eating members of its own species. examples include, BSE (cows being fed cows), kuru (or however it is spelt) wiped out an indonesian tribe who practiced canibalism, Aids (from eating a related species)....

Yes, there are also enormous health risks involved in people eating other species of animals, particularly mammals.  Diseases, coronary, liver, kidney, stomach and intestinal issues, etc.  And as with humans, of course, its not very nice to be killed, chopped up, cooked and eaten (and in many cases tortured gruelingly for the whole of one’s life).  So I think that it would be tough to rationally argue that it could be ethical in some way.

Say, since we’re on the topic, have any of you all seen the film Earthlings?  If you are a meat eater and can stomach watching it, you’ll never eat meat again.

Posted on Dec 13, 2007 at 8:34pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #58

I agree with D.J. and I think Doug is making an ad hominem argument with a circular flavor (calling things banal is itself banal?)
I also think Dawkin’s point was clearly that we don’t need a God to appreciate life.

Ad hominem? Do you know what that means?

Sorry to ruffle feathers.
I realize you are a fan of Dawkins and are just trying with best intentions to explain your point of view. 

I think these sections of Dawkins books lend themselves to individual interpretations (I think that’s a point you & D.J. made too). When Dawkins said “Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born”, I personally didn’t think he was pointing at obligations to the unborn.  I thought he was trying to emphasize in a slightly different way the appreciation for life and its opportunities, and that somewhat paradoxically the fact that our lives are finite makes them more precious. 

I do appreciate the thoughtful comments on this forum; they’ve been helpful to me.

Posted on Dec 13, 2007 at 9:09pm by Jackson Comment #59

I dont see the point as banal at all, unless you misunderstand it—I take Dawkins to (merely?) be saying how rare it is that we are alive, and to be calling for gratitude at our existence. Obviously, he isnt talking about the “rights” of the nonexistent not to be insulted. Instead, he is saying what Sagan and others have said—it is amazingly improbable that we should exist at all and so we should be grateful and live life fully, etc. I found the text he paraphrases from Unweaving the Rainbow to be very moving and inspiring, and see it as something of a guiding principle in my life.

Of course, Marcus Aurelius and others have made the similar point in the history of the western intellectual tradition, and I find it as inspiring when they do as well. Dawkins just says it more beautifully.

Hi DJ,

I’ve been thinking about the connection I see between what Dawkins said about this and vegetarianism. Most animals we eat are farmed animals and would not exist if we did not eat them.

Assuming Dawkins is right then it seems to follow that to think it is wrong to eat farmed animals, we need to think it would be better if they didn’t exist and that they are not lucky to have the life they have.

If they are kept in bad conditions and suffer a great deal at the end of their life perhaps that’s true but then we would have to concede that many humans are not lucky to exist either.

Stephen

Posted on Dec 14, 2007 at 2:18am by StephenLawrence Comment #60

I would suggest that eating humans should only be considered if you are going to die otherwise. There are HUGE desiese risks associated with any animal eating members of its own species. examples include, BSE (cows being fed cows), kuru (or however it is spelt) wiped out an indonesian tribe who practiced canibalism, Aids (from eating a related species)....

Yes, there are also enormous health risks involved in people eating other species of animals, particularly mammals.  Diseases, coronary, liver, kidney, stomach and intestinal issues, etc.  And as with humans, of course, its not very nice to be killed, chopped up, cooked and eaten (and in many cases tortured gruelingly for the whole of one’s life).  So I think that it would be tough to rationally argue that it could be ethical in some way.

Say, since we’re on the topic, have any of you all seen the film Earthlings?  If you are a meat eater and can stomach watching it, you’ll never eat meat again.


Thanks for the reference to Earthlings, erasmusinfinity. It’s interesting to note that the text used in the opening voice over is taken, word-for-word, from chapter 3 of Singer’s Practical Ethics and also from Tom Regan’s The Case for Animal Rights.

Posted on Dec 14, 2007 at 5:30am by rcjones Comment #61

I dont see the point as banal at all, unless you misunderstand it—I take Dawkins to (merely?) be saying how rare it is that we are alive, and to be calling for gratitude at our existence. Obviously, he isnt talking about the “rights” of the nonexistent not to be insulted. Instead, he is saying what Sagan and others have said—it is amazingly improbable that we should exist at all and so we should be grateful and live life fully, etc. I found the text he paraphrases from Unweaving the Rainbow to be very moving and inspiring, and see it as something of a guiding principle in my life.

Of course, Marcus Aurelius and others have made the similar point in the history of the western intellectual tradition, and I find it as inspiring when they do as well. Dawkins just says it more beautifully.

Hi DJ,

I’ve been thinking about the connection I see between what Dawkins said about this and vegetarianism. Most animals we eat are farmed animals and would not exist if we did not eat them.

Assuming Dawkins is right then it seems to follow that to think it is wrong to eat farmed animals, we need to think it would be better if they didn’t exist and that they are not lucky to have the life they have.

If they are kept in bad conditions and suffer a great deal at the end of their life perhaps that’s true but then we would have to concede that many humans are not lucky to exist either.

Stephen

Hi Stephen,

I think you raise an interesting question here: Does it follow from the the fact a sentient being (including a human being) has come into existence (despite the extremely low probability of its coming into existence) that the being should feel gratitude for being alive? I don’t see how the answer must be Yes. I think DJ gets it right when he writes above that “we should be grateful and live life fully”. However, I can see no reason to be grateful to be alive if one were, say, born into a life of horror and misery as a slave. Or as a factory farmed nonhuman mammal. Singer (as a utilitarian) argues that it would, in fact, be better for many factory farmed nonhuman animals not to exist. And I think he’s right. I don’t think that Dawkins’ sentiment can hold true for all sentient beings (including humans). But I do agree with DJ that if you have the luxury of living life fully, you should feel quite fortunate to have won the cosmic lottery.

-rcj

Posted on Dec 14, 2007 at 5:57am by rcjones Comment #62

Here is Richard from this episode of PoI. I notice a conversation had started concerning what he says here, so I thought I would type it out to gather the full picture.

Unweaving the Rainbow is sort of my testament, on that aspect, on the spiritual quality of life that you get from science. That you get from contemplating your situation in the universe with clear open eyes, the eyes that have been opened by science. Facing up to reality, not so much facing, but rejoicing in the astonishing good fortune that you have in being alive. It’s an astonishing unlikely contingency that you should be here, that any of use should be here.

I don’t have a copy of Unweaving the Rainbow on me. But, the opening words are something like; ‘We are going to die and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they’re never going to be born. The number of possible people that could be standing here in my place, but who will never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Sahara. We know this because the set of possible combinations of DNA so massively outnumber the actual people.’

So we are fantastically lucky to be alive and as I said this morning; nobody should ever complain of being bored. It’s a kind of an insult to the gazillions of people who will never be born, to complain of being bored. It’s an insult to them to complain that our time in the sun is limited to some decades, we’re just fantastically lucky to have those decades at all. It is an insult to them to whimper and whine at the prospect of its coming to an end. We owe it to them and to ourselves to make the most of the time that we have on the planet.

...

But, I’d like to think that all my books about expounding evolutionary science contribute to the same feeling of ‘spiritual’, I don’t mind using the word, spiritual welfare.

It appears to me, and I trust this is so, that people understand what Richard is saying. In a way I find it rather frustrating that where there is honest dialogue concerning something like this that people find it necessary to have to frame their criticism with saying how much they appreciate Richard, or the wonderment of it all. I say that only because there is no great mystery here and I trust we can understand each other without feared accusations that ‘you just don’t get it’. But, I understand the need people feel to do such and in fact the reason I am frustrated is because of how easy it is for people to misunderstand a point then to carry that over as a criticism of an entire understanding.

Last year in a forum I was in rather heavy debate with a few people over different aspects of the “New Atheist” etc. It was inevitable that Richard kept coming up and with each issue I would criticize if I felt the need. What I didn’t do was expect that I would be accused of “hating Richard Dawkins.” Which I was, and in more ways then one. When this was said about me in a fairly heavily used forum a few people chimed in adding to what felt to me was an insult, but was believed by them. What didn’t happen was a single person step forward and say; hey, look that’s bullshit, he’s said this and this, and they’re all favorable, he’s talking about specific points.

As to Richard’s quote. It is poetic and scientific, that’s part of the point. These types of ideas sometimes help to ground us and act as a kind of aid in staying in the here and now while offering an insight as to why this time we have is precious. But, I also completely understand what Doug and J are saying and in large measure I agree.

Posted on Dec 14, 2007 at 6:06am by zarcus Comment #63

Right, DJ, only I wouldn’t call J’s point a misunderstanding. I mean, s/he is aware that Dawkins is not a pro-lifer. What s/he is saying is that Dawkins is playing the same sort of nonsensical metaphysical game that some pro-lifers do; he’s serving the ball up in their court, as it were.

Just to be clear, I am a big fan of Dawkins’s style generally, and also loved his book Unweaving the Rainbow. But I do recall when reading that book before that the same issue came up for me in the back of my mind. It just rang false for me. He says:

Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born.

To be a philosophical pedant for a moment, this is either trivial (banal) or false. Trivially, however you count possibility, there are many possible persons who will not be actual. But we have no moral obligation towards nonexistent entities.

And of course it’s false to think of these nonexistent “people” as existing somewhere, longing to be born. But it seems to me that one has to be thinking as if there were such unhappy folks out there somewhere in order to make Dawkins’s point gripping.

De gustibus non disputandem est, yes, or chacon a son gôut.

;-)

Hi Doug,

Okay, now I’m going to put on my philosophical pedant hat for a moment. You state that “we have no moral obligation towards nonexistent entities”. Though this seems obvious in the case of characters like Santa Claus and Oliver Twist, it’s not so cut-and-dry in other cases. The metaphysics of nonexistent entities (and thus our possible obligations to them) is not so tidy when it comes to, for example, future generations. It’s certainly reasonable to argue that one has an obligation to nonexistent future earthlings to not presently poison the environment. I’m not saying that that is, by any means, supposed to be some kind of knock-down argument for obligations to nonexistent entities. I’m simply saying that a quick out-of-hand dismissal of the notion obscures some important and interesting potential problem cases.

-rcj

Posted on Dec 14, 2007 at 6:43am by rcjones Comment #64

Okay, now I’m going to put on my philosophical pedant hat for a moment. You state that “we have no moral obligation towards nonexistent entities”. Though this seems obvious in the case of characters like Santa Claus and Oliver Twist, it’s not so cut-and-dry in other cases. The metaphysics of nonexistent entities (and thus our possible obligations to them) is not so tidy when it comes to, for example, future generations. It’s certainly reasonable to argue that one has an obligation to nonexistent future earthlings to not presently poison the environment. I’m not saying that that is, by any means, supposed to be some kind of knock-down argument for obligations to nonexistent entities. I’m simply saying that a quick out-of-hand dismissal of the notion obscures some important and interesting potential problem cases.

Hi rcjones, and thanks for the comment. You do raise some very interesting metaphysical issues, but I hesitate to get into them too deeply here as they’re kind of OT in the thread ... Let me just say that I agree with you, but would not consider entities that exist at other times than this to be “nonexistent”. By “nonexistent” I mean “nonactual” (= not existing in the actual world). I think this is what Dawkins meant as well. He wasn’t making a claim about people only born in the past or the present. His point was rather about all people who will ever be born.

Agreed that we have obligations to future persons. As to whether we have obligations to past persons, that is an interesting claim, more questionable, but I think OT.

Hi Jackson,

Again, perhaps it’s just a matter of what floats your boat. All I can say is that my metaphysical scruples don’t allow me to enjoy this particular part of Dawkins’s argument. But I fully appreciate where he is going with it, and certainly agree with his aims. As Zarcus intimates, we need not accept every jot of what Dawkins (or anyone else) writes in order to be a fan of their general enterprise ...

;-)

Posted on Dec 14, 2007 at 7:52am by dougsmith Comment #65

Okay, now I’m going to put on my philosophical pedant hat for a moment. You state that “we have no moral obligation towards nonexistent entities”. Though this seems obvious in the case of characters like Santa Claus and Oliver Twist, it’s not so cut-and-dry in other cases. The metaphysics of nonexistent entities (and thus our possible obligations to them) is not so tidy when it comes to, for example, future generations. It’s certainly reasonable to argue that one has an obligation to nonexistent future earthlings to not presently poison the environment. I’m not saying that that is, by any means, supposed to be some kind of knock-down argument for obligations to nonexistent entities. I’m simply saying that a quick out-of-hand dismissal of the notion obscures some important and interesting potential problem cases.

Hi rcjones, and thanks for the comment. You do raise some very interesting metaphysical issues, but I hesitate to get into them too deeply here as they’re kind of OT in the thread ... Let me just say that I agree with you, but would not consider entities that exist at other times than this to be “nonexistent”. By “nonexistent” I mean “nonactual” (= not existing in the actual world). I think this is what Dawkins meant as well. He wasn’t making a claim about people only born in the past or the present. His point was rather about all people who will ever be born.

Agreed that we have obligations to future persons. As to whether we have obligations to past persons, that is an interesting claim, more questionable, but I think OT.


;-)

Thanks Doug. Good points. I have lots more I could say on this, but I agree, it’s a bit OT. Perhaps we’ll get a chance to discuss this stuff in person someday while we’re both donning our pedant philosopher’s caps! ;-)

Posted on Dec 14, 2007 at 8:09am by rcjones Comment #66

Thanks Doug. Good points. I have lots more I could say on this, but I agree, it’s a bit OT. Perhaps we’ll get a chance to discuss this stuff in person someday while we’re both donning our pedant philosopher’s caps! ;-)

Always up for some good philosophical pedantry!

:lol:

Start up a thread in the Philosophy folder anytime if something strikes your fancy.

Posted on Dec 14, 2007 at 8:19am by dougsmith Comment #67

Thanks Doug. Good points. I have lots more I could say on this, but I agree, it’s a bit OT. Perhaps we’ll get a chance to discuss this stuff in person someday while we’re both donning our pedant philosopher’s caps! ;-)

Always up for some good philosophical pedantry!

:lol:

Start up a thread in the Philosophy folder anytime if something strikes your fancy.

Thanks. I’m a newbie (joined two days ago) and didn’t realize there was a philosophy folder. Unfortunately I’m grading…philosophy papers, all day (WEE!!!) and will have to wait on the pedantry a bit (leaving aside the pedantry currently found in my student papers’ marginalia!). But thanks for the heads up. I’ll have a look/post this weekend I reckon.

Best,
-rcj

Posted on Dec 14, 2007 at 8:34am by rcjones Comment #68

Hi Jackson,
Again, perhaps it’s just a matter of what floats your boat. All I can say is that my metaphysical scruples don’t allow me to enjoy this particular part of Dawkins’s argument. But I fully appreciate where he is going with it, and certainly agree with his aims. As Zarcus intimates, we need not accept every jot of what Dawkins (or anyone else) writes in order to be a fan of their general enterprise ...
;-)

I agree that the reader gets to choose what appeals to him; he is in control of the book (not like the opening sequence of Outer Limits) - unless he’s infected by a meme or something…
I also agree that skepticism and critical thinking is at the heart of this forum.

Posted on Dec 14, 2007 at 5:20pm by Jackson Comment #69

They have the interview posted on RichardDawkins.net.

I bet we have more presents coming from the AAI conference.  :wow:


can you please point me out to which one (at his site), there are 1000’s of them in there and I have not been there in a while. thank you so much.

Posted on Feb 26, 2008 at 10:56pm by Daisy Comment #70

They have the interview posted on RichardDawkins.net.

I bet we have more presents coming from the AAI conference.  :wow:


can you please point me out to which one (at his site), there are 1000’s of them in there and I have not been there in a while. thank you so much.

I did a search on “Grothe” and it was 2nd on the list - I agree there is a lot here.  Hope this works…

http://richarddawkins.net/article,1974,Richard-Dawkins—-Science-and-the-New-Atheism,Point-of-Inquiry

Posted on Feb 27, 2008 at 4:08am by Jackson Comment #71

Thank you so much jackson, What I love about Daddy Dawkins is he always manages to completely uproot me out of my current confort zone, no matter how well grounded I may think I am at the moment. I love that man. Thank him for him.

Posted on Feb 27, 2008 at 8:37pm by Daisy Comment #72

What I would like to understand a bit better is his thoughts on vegetarianism. If I am hearing him correctly he is saying that yes there is a certain moral argument to be made to become vegetarian which is based on current understandings of animals. Yet, he appears to then say what it will take for him to become a non-meat eater is a consensus since he already fully understands the moral arguments and agrees with them. It’s a slightly odd position that I find myself in also. But, clearly the choice is mine to eat meat knowing full well the arguments that Richard highlights. These ideas are not new by any means and I find it difficult to fully accept this idea that what would change my behavior is for me to convince others of the moral argument so there becomes a tipping point of people who will accept the argument and change their behavior which will then finally allow me to convince myself.

Richard Dawkins made, what is in my opinion, an irrefutable argument that eating meat is immoral.  Yet, he is unwilling to put this into practice.  This is very disappointing and feeds into the accusation that atheists are immoral.  If Dawkins, without using religion but only his own reason, came to the conclusion that something is immoral, he should, without the threat of eternal damnation, refrain from doing that, which he just concluded is immoral.

His excuse for not being vegetarian is very lame.  There is no country (apart from India, maybe) in which it is easier to be vegetarian than in Great Britain.  When I visited GB, I found vegetarian food everywhere.  Even McDonalds was selling a veggie burger!   

I think Dawkins has a brilliant mind, but he needs to work on his will a bit.

Posted on Oct 20, 2008 at 3:36pm by BaIB Comment #73

“imagine if all the missing links that ever exist were here—would we behave differently” is a false analogy. Completely false. For me though I started thinking “wow! I wonder why the missing links ARE missing—why is that? why does that always happen?”

Why is this a false analogy? 

There is a reason why the related species are missing.  Darwin gives the answer.  Related species are similar, and if they occupy the same environment, they compete with each other.  With time, the better fit species wins. Others become extinct.

Posted on Oct 20, 2008 at 3:40pm by BaIB Comment #74

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)

To clarify to those who are not familiar with the animal rights philosophy, Peter Singer is not an advocate of rights, not for humans, not for non-human animals.  He believes in utilitarianism.  This is what causes his arguments to be contradictory with arguments for rights of individuals. Most animal rights advocates do not support Singer’s ideology.  They support the ideology of Tom Regan as presented in his book, The Case for Animal Rights.

Posted on Oct 20, 2008 at 3:41pm by BaIB Comment #75

but we don’t need to eat meat.

Of course, I agree, eramusinfinity. One thing that comes to mind is there would need to be a concerted effort needed by everyone to change their behavior in ways they may not realize at first. In the case of fish I think lessening intake quickly would not cause a disruption and they would be able to live in their natural environment with less disruption. With animals for which we already control their populations we would have the immediate problem of having an unprofitable market so retaining certain animals, such as cows, would quickly decline. Cows for the most part in North America would find it very difficult to survive in a more ‘natural’ environment. In essence cows would become either pet like or placed in zoos.  Then their is the more wild variety of animal, such as dear, where human activity also puts controls on their population. Since they are wild, population control becomes an issue, such as seen with ‘suburban sprawl’, where the natural environment for dear is eroded. Killing other animals to control their populations is common and we would be left with killing but not eating, unless a radically altered approach was taken by humans.

Edit: change “dear” to deer, dear folks.  :red:

The above comments do not make sense to me.  If non-human animals are entitled to rights, then killing them, regardless whether it is a large number or a small number, is morally wrong.
As for cows, they are domesticated animals.  All domesticated animals are a product of artificial selection.  These are species created by humans for the use of humans. They are cripples compared to their wild counterparts.  They do not fit into any ecosystem.  Most of them would not be able to survive in the wild.  The only ethical thing to do is to stop breeding domesticated animals.  We should make them extinct.

Posted on Oct 20, 2008 at 3:43pm by BaIB Comment #76

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…

Does he think fish are not animals?

Posted on Oct 20, 2008 at 3:45pm by BaIB Comment #77

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.

Peter Singer is not an advocate of rights.  He is a utilitarian.

Most animal rights advocated go by Tom Regan’s philosophy, which states that non-human animals have a right not to be used as a means to an end.  Breeding cows and slaughtering them is using cows for our end.  This is immoral.

Also, how can one have a happy life if one is not free nor has one self-determination? This is impossible.  This is why women fought for liberation.

Posted on Oct 20, 2008 at 3:51pm by BaIB Comment #78

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.

So you think a right to life is unimportant to a non-human animal? Non-human animals don’t care whether they live or die?

Posted on Oct 20, 2008 at 3:53pm by BaIB Comment #79

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.

Judging by our history, the answer is pretty obvious.  Up until not long ago, we enslaved members of our own species just because of a difference in the color of the skin. We oppressed other members of our own species because of gender.  Today, we perform the most horrible experiments on the chimpanzee, a species most related to us.  Draw your own conclusion.

Posted on Oct 20, 2008 at 3:55pm by BaIB Comment #80

For those of us with the sufficient income, I feel we shouldn’t subsidized the institutionalized mistreatment of animals with a sufficient nervous system to feel pain.

Who says that meat is less expensive than fruits, vegetables, grain and legumes?  Certainly meat takes a lot more resources to produce than do plant-based products.

Posted on Oct 20, 2008 at 3:56pm by BaIB Comment #81

I also find it interesting how we allow hunting of various species to control population growth, but almost all find it unethical to euthanize homo sapiens to control overpopulation.

Never mind euthanasia, most people consider it immoral to limit the number of children people can have.

Posted on Oct 20, 2008 at 3:57pm by BaIB Comment #82

Draw your own conclusion.

I did. I said I didn’t know. Do you? I assume you don’t mind killing mosquitos or bacteria that make you sick. If we go back to Dawkins’s thought and imagine that all the species between us and the mosquitos were alive, which ones of them would it be okay to kill? What is the obvious answer?

Posted on Oct 20, 2008 at 6:57pm by George Comment #83

Draw your own conclusion.

I did. I said I didn’t know. Do you? I assume you don’t mind killing mosquitos or bacteria that make you sick. If we go back to Dawkins’s thought and imagine that all the species between us and the mosquitos were alive, which ones of them would it be okay to kill? What is the obvious answer?

We kill every species there is, including our own, so why would we spare the other Homo species?  I would say we would exploit them and kill them.  They would make great models for our diseases.  We would experiment on them.  They are lucky that they are extinct.

I don’t know what bacteria I kill.  I am sure I do but I am not conscious of it.  I don’t kill mosquitoes.  I use repellent or else I blow on them and they fly away.  But this is a different matter.  Everyone has a right to protect oneself from harm.  Mosquitoes, BTW, are the species who have killed and continue to kill more humans than any other species.  A little mosquito against the mighty Homo sapiens….

Posted on Oct 20, 2008 at 7:14pm by BaIB Comment #84

I don’t think you understand what Dawkins wanted to say, BaIB.

Posted on Oct 20, 2008 at 7:16pm by George Comment #85

I don’t think you understand what Dawkins wanted to say, BaIB.

I think what he wanted to say is that, if there were other Homo species living today, where would we draw the line. Right now we draw the line between Homo sapiens and all other animals.  We grant rights to Homo sapiens and no one else.  But if there were other species between Homo sapiens and the chimpanzee, it would be more difficult to find a place to draw the line.

And I say we would not include other Homo species in our circle of moral concern.  I say this because we have no problem (or had no problem) excluding even some members of our own species.

Posted on Oct 20, 2008 at 8:02pm by BaIB Comment #86

The above comments do not make sense to me.  If non-human animals are entitled to rights, then killing them, regardless whether it is a large number or a small number, is morally wrong.

I think that point depends somewhat upon how you define “rights.”

Peter Singer is not an advocate of rights.  He is a utilitarian.

Most animal rights advocated go by Tom Regan’s philosophy, which states that non-human animals have a right not to be used as a means to an end.  Breeding cows and slaughtering them is using cows for our end.  This is immoral.

Peter Singer advocates specified “rights” for specified beings.  He does not blanketly assume that all beings should be afforded identical “rights.”  He also suggests that the conventional notion of “rights” needs to be thought out a bit more.  I agree with Singer, for example, in proposing that killing a mosquito or a hornet is not identical to killing a chimpanzee or human.  Different beings have different capacities for suffering and a “happy life.”

I do agree with you that it is not moral, in general in modern society, to breed cows for slaughter.  But although I would not eat a cow myself, I do believe that there are possible situations in which it would be morally justifiable to slaughter cows for food.

Peter Singer does advocate that certain rights that are commonly referred to as “human rights” be afforded to certain other primate species in The Great Ape Project.  He also argues that what any people consider to be “human rights” need not apply to all members of the species homo sapien.  For example, in the case of human vegetables.

So you think a right to life is unimportant to a non-human animal? Non-human animals don’t care whether they live or die?

Some beings care and some don’t have a capacity to care.  Some are capable of suffering via the sensation of pain but do not have the capacity for anguish via thoughts of concern about their future.  Certain rights should be afforded to certain beings and certain rights should not.  No creature should be needlessly made to suffer but a chicken, for example, need not be granted the “right” to vote or the “right” to freedom of press.

Never mind euthanasia, most people consider it immoral to limit the number of children people can have.

This may be a seperate topic, but I do not believe this.

Posted on Oct 21, 2008 at 5:06am by erasmusinfinity Comment #87

The above comments do not make sense to me.  If non-human animals are entitled to rights, then killing them, regardless whether it is a large number or a small number, is morally wrong.

I think that point depends somewhat upon how you define “rights.”


The principle right is the right not to be used as a means to an end.

 

Peter Singer is not an advocate of rights.  He is a utilitarian.

Most animal rights advocated go by Tom Regan’s philosophy, which states that non-human animals have a right not to be used as a means to an end.  Breeding cows and slaughtering them is using cows for our end.  This is immoral.

Peter Singer advocates specified “rights” for specified beings.  He does not blanketly assume that all beings should be afforded identical “rights.”  He also suggests that the conventional notion of “rights” needs to be thought out a bit more.  I agree with Singer, for example, in proposing that killing a mosquito or a hornet is not identical to killing a chimpanzee or human.  Different beings have different capacities for suffering and a “happy life.”


Peter Singer does not advocate any rights. Peter Singer is an advocate of utilitarianism.

“A utilitarian accepts two moral principles. The first is that of equality: everyone’s interests count, and similar interests must be counted as having similar weight or importance. White or black, American or Iranian, human or animal — everyone’s pain or frustration matter, and matter just as much as the equivalent pain or frustration of anyone else. The second principle a utilitarian accepts is that of utility: do the act that will bring about the best balance between satisfaction and frustration for all affected by the outcome. “

Read more of Tom Regan’s criticism of utilitarianism:
http://www.tomregan-animalrights.com/regan_rites1.html

Now read Tom Regan’s philosophy (in a nutshell):
http://www.thevegetariansite.com/ethics_regan.htm

A big difference, isn’t there!

I do agree with you that it is not moral, in general in modern society, to breed cows for slaughter.


What is your reason for claiming that breeding cows for slaughter is immoral?

But although I would not eat a cow myself, I do believe that there are possible situations in which it would be morally justifiable to slaughter cows for food.


What situations? Please give an example.

Peter Singer does advocate that certain rights that are commonly referred to as “human rights” be afforded to certain other primate species in The Great Ape Project.  He also argues that what any people consider to be “human rights” need not apply to all members of the species homo sapien.  For example, in the case of human vegetables.


Yes, Peter Singer does advocate that certain human rights be granted to the great apes, but this is not his ideology.  This is just a strategy.  It is an attempt to break the human/all other animals barrier.  Once you move the line to humans and all other great apes/all other animals, it is only a matter of time before that line has to be moved again further, and further, until all sentient beings are granted rights.

So you think a right to life is unimportant to a non-human animal? Non-human animals don’t care whether they live or die?

Some beings care and some don’t have a capacity to care.  Some are capable of suffering via the sensation of pain but do not have the capacity for anguish via thoughts of concern about their future.  Certain rights should be afforded to certain beings and certain rights should not.  No creature should be needlessly made to suffer but a chicken, for example, need not be granted the “right” to vote or the “right” to freedom of press.


I agree with most of the above.  I am not concerned about the right to vote or the freedom of speech.  I am only concerned about the right not to be used as a means to an end.  All sentient beings should be granted this right, regardless of their mental capabilities.

Posted on Oct 21, 2008 at 4:30pm by BaIB Comment #88

Peter Singer is not an advocate of rights.  He is a utilitarian.

Well, he has advocated specified human “rights” for Great Apes such as those I referenced above in The Great Ape Project.  He advocates that all animals that are capable of suffering have a right not to suffer.  He is also a strong advocate of social and economic justice as they apply to Human Rights Theory.  Although, it may be that ‘rights’ are defined in a somewhat different manner here than you have defined above.

Peter Singer describes himself as a Preference Utilitarian.  This stance is quite compatible with what most people refer to in Human Rights Theory.

But although I would not eat a cow myself, I do believe that there are possible situations in which it would be morally justifiable to slaughter cows for food.

What situations? Please give an example.

As I said before, in modern developed societies I see no legitimate moral grounds for slaughtering cows.  Thus I do not eat cows and I do not use most other cow “products” such as leather or gelatin.  But if one were starving and a cow were the only food source that were readily available then I think that it would not be immoral to slaughter and eat it.  Or at least, the justification for doing so would outweigh the meaningfulness of the immorality of the act.  Such as would be similar to the matter of stealing medicine, if one were forced to, in order to save the life of one’s child.

Once you move the line to humans and all other great apes/all other animals, it is only a matter of time before that line has to be moved again further, and further, until all sentient beings are granted rights.

How do you define sentience?  Are there not varying degrees and forms of sentience?

So you think a right to life is unimportant to a non-human animal? Non-human animals don’t care whether they live or die?

Some animals do care and some of don’t have the capacity to care.  I have little doubt that cows, pigs, sheeps, cats, dogs, etc. do care.  I find it highly unlikely that sea sponges or mosquitos care about much of anything.  Certainly, they care nothing of whether or not they are being used as means to ends.  I also think that some humans do not care.  Namely, fetuses and some human “vegetables.”  If beings are not capable of projecting upon their future then they need not be considered to possess a ‘right’ to much of anything, as far as I see it, apart from a right not to suffer.  And in cases where they can not be meaningfully said to suffer, we need not even be concerned about that.

I will read more on Regan and get back to you on him.  I do have a few problems with the notion that you express that “the principle right is the right not to be used as a means to an end.”  Does this principle also apply to beings that don’t know or care about being used as so-called means to an end?  Does it also apply to situations in which beings are used by others as part of reciprocal relationships?

Posted on Oct 21, 2008 at 5:41pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #89

A small item on the issue of animals caring about death: the awareness of death is a uniquely human trait, a side effect of consciousness. The ability to step outside yourself and look at yourself from the outside seems to be part of it. Another indicator is the ability to recognize oneself in a mirror. There are only a few species that can do this. Chimpanzees are one. Elephants are another. Interestingly, elephants have also shown behavior suggesting that they are affected by the deaths of others.

Posted on Oct 21, 2008 at 6:03pm by Chris Crawford Comment #90

As I said before, in modern developed societies I see no legitimate moral grounds for slaughtering cows.  Thus I do not eat cows and I do not use most other cow “products” such as leather or gelatin.  But if one were starving and a cow were the only food source that were readily available then I think that it would not be immoral to slaughter and eat it.  Or at least, the justification for doing so would outweigh the meaningfulness of the immorality of the act.  Such as would be similar to the matter of stealing medicine, if one were forced to, in order to save the life of one’s child.

It is difficult to decide what to do and what is morally justified in desperate situations.  The instinct to protect one’s life is very strong. On the brink of death by starvation, I am sure that some prisoners of Nazi concentration camps have done immoral acts such as stealing bread from other starving prisoners.  But can we blame them for it? What would we do if we were in their shoes? 
I think it is best if we exclude such situations from this discussion and focus on morality in more normal circumstances.

How do you define sentience? 

Sentience is the ability to experience sensations such as pain, pleasure, touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste.

Are there not varying degrees and forms of sentience?

Yes, there are varying degrees of sentience, but we don’t need to be concerned about this when discussing rights. The degree of sentience varies even among humans, but we don’t deny any human basic rights unless that human has no sentience at all (humans in vegetative state, early term fetuses).

Some animals do care and some of don’t have the capacity to care.  I have little doubt that cows, pigs, sheeps, cats, dogs, etc. do care.  I find it highly unlikely that sea sponges or mosquitos care about much of anything. 


Obviously a chicken does not have the same cognitive abilities as does a chimpanzee, but that does not give us a right to eat a chicken. A chicken has sentience, and that is all that is needed to be eligible to have a basic right not to be used as a means to an end.
If sea sponges or mosquitos have any sense organs and brains capable of processing the information, then we can conclude that they have sentience.  What would be a better use of sentience than to protect an individual from harm and death?  It would seem to me that individuals who cared whether they lived or died would be naturally selected for.  The others would be getting themselves killed left and right before they even had a chance to reproduce, and would eventually die out. 
The fear of death and the will to live seems to be common throughout animal kingdom.  Animals caught in leg hold traps often chew off their own paws to get free. Even insects can be seen struggling fiercely to get out of a spider web or other dangerous situations. Darwin talks a lot about insects in “The Origin of Species”. He even suggests that they have the ability to think rationally.
I think that whenever in doubt, we should err on the side of sentience.  It is better to assume that an individual is sentient even if in reality he isn’t, and respect that individual’s basic right, than to make the mistake and violate the right of an indeed sentient individual.
(continued below)

Posted on Oct 22, 2008 at 4:02pm by BaIB Comment #91

Certainly, they care nothing of whether or not they are being used as means to ends. 

If they don’t know, that means their life in not being disrupted.  If we use bees for pollinating our crops, but we don’t disturb them in any way, and they just go about doing what they naturally do, then I don’t see that as immoral.

I also think that some humans do not care.  Namely, fetuses and some human “vegetables.”

I agree.  Fetuses and humans in vegetative state don’t have sentience and they cannot be considered persons who have rights. Fetuses develop a functioning brain at some point, so they probably have some small degree of sentience, but they are not autonomous, and that disqualifies them from having rights.

If beings are not capable of projecting upon their future then they need not be considered to possess a ‘right’ to much of anything, as far as I see it, apart from a right not to suffer.  And in cases where they can not be meaningfully said to suffer, we need not even be concerned about that.[

I can’t say I agree with the above.  Take severely retarded humans.  They cannot project upon their future, but we don’t take away their basic right not to be used as a means to an end. We don’t use them in experiments (painless experiments), and we don’t kill them (painlessly).

I do have a few problems with the notion that you express that “the principle right is the right not to be used as a means to an end.”  Does this principle also apply to beings that don’t know or care about being used as so-called means to an end?  Does it also apply to situations in which beings are used by others as part of reciprocal relationships?


See my answer above about using bees to pollinate our crops.
Reciprocal relationship can only be between consenting parties.  Non-human animals don’t have the ability to give consent.
On that point, several years ago Peter Singer wrote an essay arguing that it is justified for humans to have sex with non-human animals. And yes, going by the utilitarian theory, as long as utility is maximized, it is justified. But from the rights theory perspective, it is wrong.  Non-human animals cannot give consent.  Their right not to be used as a means to an end is violated.  Singer took a lot of heat from the animal rights movement for his stance on this issue.

Posted on Oct 22, 2008 at 4:05pm by BaIB Comment #92

A small item on the issue of animals caring about death: the awareness of death is a uniquely human trait, a side effect of consciousness. The ability to step outside yourself and look at yourself from the outside seems to be part of it. Another indicator is the ability to recognize oneself in a mirror. There are only a few species that can do this. Chimpanzees are one. Elephants are another. Interestingly, elephants have also shown behavior suggesting that they are affected by the deaths of others.

I don’t know whether we can say why an individual wants to avoid death, but fear of death (or of harm, which can lead to death) seems to be common throughout the entire animal kingdom.  It would seem to me that the best use for the brain and senses would be to avoid harm.  It would seem to me that individuals who don’t care whether they live or die, would not try hard to avoid danger and death, and would be dying left and right (considering how difficult the survival in the wild is).  They would die before they even had a chance to reproduce.  Using the logic of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, these individuals would not be selected for.  They would die out without passing on their genes.

I am not sure exactly what you mean by awareness of death.  Do you mean that we are aware that we are going to die or that we are aware of what death is?  I don’t know how the awareness of one’s eventual death fits into the discussion about rights.  I am sure there are humans who are not aware that they are going to die, for example very young children and the mentally retarded. But we don’t deny basic rights to these individuals.  As far as the knowledge of what death is, IMO, there is no more delusional species than Homo sapiens.  Most people think that death is not the end but a passage to some other world.  Many are not even afraid to die and even sacrifice their lives. I don’t see how that is better than some ignorant little monkey who has no clue and just lives her life and avoids dangers that may cause her to die.

Posted on Oct 22, 2008 at 4:09pm by BaIB Comment #93

Yes, there are varying degrees of sentience, but we don’t need to be concerned about this when discussing rights. The degree of sentience varies even among humans, but we don’t deny any human basic rights unless that human has no sentience at all (humans in vegetative state, early term fetuses).

I think that we do need to be concerned about sentience when discussing rights.  What good is a “right” to any being who doesn’t care about having it?  “Rights” depend upon more than basic sentience, in terms of the capacity to sense or feel things.  They depend upon a higher level of perception that includes an awareness of oneself, the ability to reflect upon those sensations or feelings and the ability to project on the impact of such things upon one’s future.  The sorts of things outlined in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights fundamentally matter because they matter to those persons involved.

I actually don’t think that a being needs to be capable of these sorts of things in order for us to have a moral obligation with regards to it’s welfare.  But then we are no longer talking about animal “rights.”  We are talking about “welfare” as something different from “rights.”

Obviously a chicken does not have the same cognitive abilities as does a chimpanzee, but that does not give us a right to eat a chicken. A chicken has sentience,

I agree.  I don’t eat chicken.  I would like the human practice of eating chickens to end.

I think that whenever in doubt, we should err on the side of sentience.

I basically agree with this statement.  But I also think that there is much that we can tell.  Sea sponges clearly aren’t sentient in any meaningful sense.  Neither are mosquitos.

You must draw lines somewhere because there is such a fine line between what is life and what is merely a chemical process.  If you are really going to assign the same rights that you grant humans to animals on the simplistic basis of whether or not they are being used as means to ends, then you must also extend the same identical concerns for plants or the crystals that form on panes of glass or the waves in the ocean.

Posted on Oct 22, 2008 at 5:14pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #94

I think that we do need to be concerned about sentience when discussing rights.  What good is a “right” to any being who doesn’t care about having it?

A right gives a being protection from being tortured, imprisoned, exploited, and killed.  Sentient beings care about all of these things.  They care about personal security.  They care what happens to them.

“Rights” depend upon more than basic sentience, in terms of the capacity to sense or feel things.  They depend upon a higher level of perception that includes an awareness of oneself, the ability to reflect upon those sensations or feelings and the ability to project on the impact of such things upon one’s future.  The sorts of things outlined in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights fundamentally matter because they matter to those persons involved.

Mentally retarded people, babies, mentally ill people do not have a higher level of perception.  So are you saying that they should have no rights?  We can exploit them and use them for medical research?

I actually don’t think that a being needs to be capable of these sorts of things in order for us to have a moral obligation with regards to it’s welfare.  But then we are no longer talking about animal “rights.”  We are talking about “welfare” as something different from “rights.”

What is welfare?  Exploiting them humanely and killing them painlessly?

I agree.  I don’t eat chicken.  I would like the human practice of eating chickens to end.

And yet you seem to be arguing that non-human animals don’t deserve rights.  Then why should we not kill chickens if they have no rights?

I think that whenever in doubt, we should err on the side of sentience.

I basically agree with this statement.  But I also think that there is much that we can tell.  Sea sponges clearly aren’t sentient in any meaningful sense.  Neither are mosquitos.

Why is it so clear?  It is not clear to me. If they are animals (as opposed to plants), they must have some degree of sentience.

You must draw lines somewhere because there is such a fine line between what is life and what is merely a chemical process.  If you are really going to assign the same rights that you grant humans to animals on the simplistic basis of whether or not they are being used as means to ends, then you must also extend the same identical concerns for plants or the crystals that form on panes of glass or the waves in the ocean.

I never said that everything that is alive should have rights.  I said only beings who have sentience should have rights.  Plants have no sentience, therefore, they should not be granted rights. All animals have sentience, therefore, all animals should be granted rights.

I never said that non-human animals should have the same rights as humans.  Non-human animals don’t need a right to education, a right to vote, etc. Non-human animals only need a right not to be used as a means to an end.

Why in the world would we grant rights to plants and crystals?  Are plants and crystals sentient?  Is that what you are saying?  You are saying that mosquitoes and sponges have no sentience but crystals and plants have?  That seems to me completely absurd.  You need to explain this.

Posted on Oct 22, 2008 at 5:43pm by BaIB Comment #95

Sentient beings care about all of these things.  They care about personal security.  They care what happens to them.

Again, this depends on how we specifically define “sentience.”  There are degrees.  This term generally refers to an ability to perceive or feel things to unspecified degree.  A being can feel things without caring about them.  To “care” one must “know.”  To “know” one must have certain cognitive faculties.

Mentally retarded people, babies, mentally ill people do not have a higher level of perception.  So are you saying that they should have no rights?

That depends on the specific nature of their retardation.  Moreover, it depends upon their cognitive faculties.  I don’t believe that the answer to your question has to do with membership in kingdom animalia any more so than it does with membership in the species homo sapiens.

What is welfare?  Exploiting them humanely and killing them painlessly?

Providing welfare to animals means that we don’t cause them suffering even if we don’t grant them what are commonly referred to as rights.  It means that we take on a responsible role as their stewards.  That is not exploitation.

And yet you seem to be arguing that non-human animals don’t deserve rights.  Then why should we not kill chickens if they have no rights?

I am distinguishing between “rights” and “welfare” because I feel that it is important to recognize what should be granted to particular beings based on what they actually are.  They are not all the same and ought not be treated identically.  To confuse this causes great harm to the causes of animal rights and welfare in terms of establishing credibility.

I suppose that I am arguing largely in favor of Peter Singer’s positions and contra Tom Regan’s, just as you have been arguing the converse.

Why is it so clear?  It is not clear to me. If they are animals (as opposed to plants), they must have some degree of sentience.

Although they are animals, sea sponges are invertebrates and do not have brains, spinal columns or even nerve cells.  Many plants have photo-receptors and other responsive cell tissues.  Why would an invertebrate animal species have a greater capacity for suffering than a plant?  I don’t think that it is meaningful to draw an absolute line for sentence between plants and animals.  Maybe Singer’s notion of ‘speciesism’ could be extended here.  Maybe we could call this “kingdomism.”

Like Peter Singer I think that there are discernible varying levels.

Why in the world would we grant rights to plants and crystals?  Are plants and crystals sentient?  Is that what you are saying?  You are saying that mosquitoes and sponges have no sentience but crystals and plants have?  That seems to me completely absurd.  You need to explain this.

I am not saying that plants and crystals are sentient.  I am saying that not all animals are sentient, and that there are varying degrees of sentience amongst different beings.  By the same token that you feel it is absurd to consider plants and crystals sentient I think that it is absurd to regard some animals as sentient and I think that it is absurd to regard all species that have some sentience as identically sentient.

A big part of the problem of human cruelty to animals lies in the matter that many people do not properly regard the sentience of cows, sheep, pigs, chimpanzees, etc.  Perhaps if we could show them how certain animals can suffer from pain and feel torment about their deaths and the uncivil conditions to which we subject them then we may help raise peoples’ consciousnesses about treating animals more humanely.

Posted on Oct 22, 2008 at 6:43pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #96

On the fear of death among animals: yes, there is definitely something very similar to fear as far down as the reptilian brain. However, it is not like sentient fear in humans: there is no larger awareness. It’s very much a Pavlovian reaction to stimuli.

Posted on Oct 22, 2008 at 8:49pm by Chris Crawford Comment #97

Again, this depends on how we specifically define “sentience.

I already defined it.  See above.

There are degrees.

And I said that degrees are irrelevant to the discussion about rights.

This term generally refers to an ability to perceive or feel things to unspecified degree.  A being can feel things without caring about them.  To “care” one must “know.”  To “know” one must have certain cognitive faculties.

What being doesn’t care about his/her own pain or pleasure?

Re: Mentally retarded people

That depends on the specific nature of their retardation.  Moreover, it depends upon their cognitive faculties.  I don’t believe that the answer to your question has to do with membership in kingdom animalia any more so than it does with membership in the species homo sapiens.

Are you saying that you would deny rights to certain retarded people depending on their specific nature of retardation?  Are you saying that it is morally justified to use retarded people for medical research, for example?

I asked the question because you want to exclude all non-human animals from having rights, but include all humans.  I want to know how are you going to do this.  What criteria for the eligibility for rights are you going to use?

Providing welfare to animals means that we don’t cause them suffering even if we don’t grant them what are commonly referred to as rights.  It means that we take on a responsible role as their stewards.  That is not exploitation.

I suggest you stop reading the bible and pick up Darwin.  Stewardship?  That is straight from the bible! Are you a theist? If you are, then that clearly explains why you argue the way you do.  Only humans were made in the image of god.  God gave humans stewardship over all the plants and animals.  Let me ask you this: who kept stewardship over the animals for the millions of years before humans got on this planet?  How did the animals manage without us?

Animals don’t need our stewardship.  They don’t need us to give them welfare.  They need us to leave them alone and let them live their lives in peace.

I am distinguishing between “rights” and “welfare” because I feel that it is important to recognize what should be granted to particular beings based on what they actually are.  They are not all the same and ought not be treated identically.  To confuse this causes great harm to the causes of animal rights and welfare in terms of establishing credibility.

Either non-human animals deserve the basic right not to be used as a means to an end or they don’t.  There is no middle ground.

We don’t need to treat any animals in any way.  We just need to leave them alone.

I suppose that I am arguing largely in favor of Peter Singer’s positions and contra Tom Regan’s, just as you have been arguing the converse.

No, you are not.  Peter Singer applies his utilitarian theory to all.  You discriminate between humans and all other animals. And also, if you advocate Singer’s philosophy, then you also don’t have rights.  If it would be beneficial to experiment on you and kill you in order to save 100 people, the utilitarian theory says it is OK to do this to you.
(more below)

Posted on Oct 23, 2008 at 5:19pm by BaIB Comment #98

(continued)

Why is it so clear?  It is not clear to me. If they are animals (as opposed to plants), they must have some degree of sentience.

Although they are animals, sea sponges are invertebrates and do not have brains, spinal columns or even nerve cells.  Many plants have photo-receptors and other responsive cell tissues.  Why would an invertebrate animal species have a greater capacity for suffering than a plant?  I don’t think that it is meaningful to draw an absolute line for sentence between plants and animals.  Maybe Singer’s notion of ‘speciesism’ could be extended here.  Maybe we could call this “kingdomism.”

I said, if a being has a brain, then we can conclude that that being has sentience.  Plants don’t have brains.  Even if they are able to collect information, that information is not sent to the brain.  I do realize that even biologists have a problem with certain species.  They are not sure whether some species belong to the animal kingdom or to the plant kingdom.  And I said, if in doubt, err on the side of sentience.  After all, what do you want to do with sea sponges?  Why can’t you just leave them alone and let them be?

Also, because of sea sponges and other such species, you are willing to deny rights to the entire animal kingdom with the exception of Homo sapiens.  How is that fair?  Is it the elephants’ fault that there are sea sponges in this world?  Why should elephants be denied rights because of the existence of sea sponges?

Like Peter Singer I think that there are discernible varying levels.

Yes, there are, but that is completely irrelevant. 

I know what you are trying to do.  You are trying to find a level where you can say: individuals above this level have rights and below this level have no rights.  And you think by picking a specific level, you are going to include all humans and exclude all non-human animals.  Let me tell you that you won’t succeed. There will be some humans below a certain level and some non-human animals above it.  Also, how would you even measure the level of sentience, and you would have to measure each individual, not just representatives of a species? Furthermore, such drawing of a line would be immoral because all characteristics (sentience, brain complexity, physical strength, etc.) exist on a continuum throughout the animal kingdom.  There are only two logical places where a line can be drawn: at the beginning of the continuum or at the end of it.  In other words, either all animals (including humans) should have rights, or no animal (including humans) should have rights.

I am not saying that plants and crystals are sentient.  I am saying that not all animals are sentient, and that there are varying degrees of sentience amongst different beings.  By the same token that you feel it is absurd to consider plants and crystals sentient I think that it is absurd to regard some animals as sentient and I think that it is absurd to regard all species that have some sentience as identically sentient.

And I did agree that some animals have a very small degree of sentience, and some it may even be doubtful that have any significant degree at all.  But I said that when in doubt, err on the side of sentience.  Why is that so difficult to do?  If you are swimming in the ocean and you find a sea sponge, instead of harassing or killing the sea sponge, just leave the sea sponge alone.

A big part of the problem of human cruelty to animals lies in the matter that many people do not properly regard the sentience of cows, sheep, pigs, chimpanzees, etc.  Perhaps if we could show them how certain animals can suffer from pain and feel torment about their deaths and the uncivil conditions to which we subject them then we may help raise peoples’ consciousnesses about treating animals more humanely.

All of the above named species of animals are capable of suffering.  I think the great majority of people know that.  But the great majority of people think that humans are special, that humans are above other animals, and that humans have a god-given right to do with other animals as they please. Your position is not helping to eradicate that attitude, and in fact, I think you share that attitude.

Posted on Oct 23, 2008 at 5:20pm by BaIB Comment #99

On the fear of death among animals: yes, there is definitely something very similar to fear as far down as the reptilian brain. However, it is not like sentient fear in humans: there is no larger awareness. It’s very much a Pavlovian reaction to stimuli.

As I replied to erasmusinfinity above, some animals have a low degree of sentience, and some it is doubtful that have any significant degree of sentience.  I said that when in doubt, err on the side of sentience. 

There are many people who have no larger awareness (mentally ill, mentally retarded, very young children).  Are you saying that it is ok for us to deny them rights?  And there are people who are not afraid of death because they think they will go to heaven.  Is it ok for us to kill them?

Posted on Oct 23, 2008 at 5:21pm by BaIB Comment #100

What being doesn’t care about his/her own pain or pleasure?

Perhaps a plant???  You seem to draw a line there.  I would include a sea sponge and a mosquito.

Are you saying that you would deny rights to certain retarded people depending on their specific nature of retardation?  Are you saying that it is morally justified to use retarded people for medical research, for example?

I would not consider the granting of compassionate welfare to a human being who is severely retarded to be the same thing as granting him/her rights.  If a person was not capable of appreciating “rights” I would not see the value in granting them.  This does not mean that I would perform medical experiments on them any more so than I would most animals.  Again, it is not a “rights” issue.

I asked the question because you want to exclude all non-human animals from having rights, but include all humans.

No.  In general I include other great apes and I do not include many humans, such as early term fetuses and the severely mentally retarded.  I base the entitlement to rights upon a beings interest in having them.

I suggest you stop reading the bible and pick up Darwin.  Stewardship?  That is straight from the bible! Are you a theist?

I am not a theist and I see nothing particularly religious about the idea of stewardship.  I think that it is a matter of responsibility that more powerful beings treat less powerful beings with decency and respect whenever possible.

Either non-human animals deserve the basic right not to be used as a means to an end or they don’t.  There is no middle ground.

I don’t see it as so black and white.  I believe that most all sentient beings deserve to have their welfare taken into consideration and that some beings deserve certain rights.  I don’t see why the matter of using beings as means to ends is an issue.  I am often used by other persons as a means to an end.  I am even used this way by my cat sometimes.  I have no problem with this.

We just need to leave them alone.

What about the ones that we have already raised to depend upon us?

No, you are not.  Peter Singer applies his utilitarian theory to all.  You discriminate between humans and all other animals. And also, if you advocate Singer’s philosophy, then you also don’t have rights.  If it would be beneficial to experiment on you and kill you in order to save 100 people, the utilitarian theory says it is OK to do this to you.

I don’t think that you are accurately representing Peter Singer’s conception of Preference Utilitarianism.  It sounds more to me as if you are referring to a more traditional sort of utilitarianism, such as that of John Stuart Mill.

Are you aware of how much work Peter Singer has done and is doing on behalf of animals? 

I also don’t discriminate between humans and animals.  I discriminate between levels of sentience and cognition.

Also, because of sea sponges and other such species, you are willing to deny rights to the entire animal kingdom with the exception of Homo sapiens.  How is that fair?  Is it the elephants’ fault that there are sea sponges in this world?  Why should elephants be denied rights because of the existence of sea sponges?

I am not denying them their welfare.  I am denying them certain specified rights.  No being should be unnecessarily made to suffer.

I know what you are trying to do.  You are trying to find a level where you can say: individuals above this level have rights and below this level have no rights.

Haven’t you already done that by stopping with plants?  Also, I am not interested in establishing a hierarchy.  I am looking at different qualities.

Posted on Oct 23, 2008 at 6:07pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #101

For what it’s worth, I’ll offer my take on this. I do not consider there to be any such thing as rights, especially with respect to animals. This does not mean that I consider it acceptable to make animals suffer. Rather, I believe that each person extends a sense of identity to include those animals with whom that person can have some sort of emotional relationship. In other words, we perceive dogs as very much like people, not in an anatomical sense but rather in an emotional sense. We extend this sense to many other animals, often for reasons that may seem arbitrary. Baby animals attract particular interest because women are programmed to love babies (I believe it’s based on the ratio of eye size to head size). Soft and fuzzy animals attract more of this sense of identity than slimy animals. But we extend this sense right down to the smallest bug, in lesser degrees.

Now, when harm is visited upon such animals, we internalize their pain. The same empathetic mechanisms that are part of our social reasoning process give us a sense of pain when the animals suffer pain. This has nothing to do with any rights the animals are claimed to have—it is a strictly emotional process. But the fact that it’s emotional doesn’t deny it reality. When a man tortures a dog, every person who learns of that act suffers some pain. And it is entirely proper for society to criminalize that act, not because of the dog’s pain, but because of the people’s pain.

So I think that the appropriate way to handle this question is to ask “to what degree does a particular action outrage the sensitivities of the people?” The answer to this question changes over the decades. A hundred years ago nobody felt the slightest pain upon the death of many animals. Nowadays people have greater sensitivity to this and we already have some laws criminalizing certain injuries to animals. With the passage of time we can expect to see such laws expanded.

Posted on Oct 23, 2008 at 8:56pm by Chris Crawford Comment #102

What being doesn’t care about his/her own pain or pleasure?

  Perhaps a plant???  You seem to draw a line there.  I would include a sea sponge and a mosquito.

I agree.  This is what I have been arguing. I don’t consider plants beings.  They are things.  Living things.

Are you saying that you would deny rights to certain retarded people depending on their specific nature of retardation?  Are you saying that it is morally justified to use retarded people for medical research, for example?

  I would not consider the granting of compassionate welfare to a human being who is severely retarded to be the same thing as granting him/her rights.  If a person was not capable of appreciating “rights” I would not see the value in granting them.  This does not mean that I would perform medical experiments on them any more so than I would most animals.  Again, it is not a “rights” issue.

Explain what you precisely meant by “welfare”.

One does not have to have a very complex brain to appreciate a right to life, a right to freedom, a right not to be tortured.  Some individuals may not understand what rights are, but they surely know when their rights are being violated.

You say you would not experiment on most animals.  On what animals then would you experiment and why?

I asked the question because you want to exclude all non-human animals from having rights, but include all humans.

  No.  In general I include other great apes and I do not include many humans, such as early term fetuses and the severely mentally retarded.  I base the entitlement to rights upon a beings interest in having them.

What sentient being has no interests in having basic rights? I don’t understand. Please explain.

I suggest you stop reading the bible and pick up Darwin.  Stewardship?  That is straight from the bible! Are you a theist?

  I am not a theist and I see nothing particularly religious about the idea of stewardship.  I think that it is a matter of responsibility that more powerful beings treat less powerful beings with decency and respect whenever possible.

I see stewardship as having everything to do with religion.  This kind of thinking assumes that humans are above all, above all other animals, above nature, that humans need to manage nature or else all will fall apart.  There is no rational basis for such a belief.  Humans are a part of nature.  Humans are just one of the animal species.  If we disappeared from this planet tomorrow, nothing would happen to the planet (at least nothing bad).  Life would go on as before, as before we got here.

Either non-human animals deserve the basic right not to be used as a means to an end or they don’t.  There is no middle ground.

  I don’t see it as so black and white.  I believe that most all sentient beings deserve to have their welfare taken into consideration and that some beings deserve certain rights. 

Again, I don’t understand what you mean by “welfare”.  Why do you say that some beings deserve rights and some don’t?  What criterion are you using to exclude a being from having rights?

  I don’t see why the matter of using beings as means to ends is an issue.  I am often used by other persons as a means to an end.  I am even used this way by my cat sometimes.  I have no problem with this.

I doubt that you are being used purely as a means to an end.  Please provide an example. 

I think you must be getting something in return or else you would not enter into the relationship.  You are a person.  You are not a property.

It can be argued that it is you who are using your cat as a means to an end.  What choices did the cat have?  You are the one who chose to take the cat and have him/her live with you.  The cat is totally dependent on you.  You most likely are getting something out of it (affection, companionship, etc.). 

When it comes to laws, your cat is definitely your property.  If you wanted to have the cat euthanized tomorrow, you can do it and it would be perfectly legal. The cat has no rights what so ever.  The cat is only a property.

This is what I am after.  I think it is immoral to treat sentient beings as if they were things, or property.  They should be persons, and the law should recognize them as persons.
(continued below)

Posted on Oct 24, 2008 at 3:14pm by BaIB Comment #103

(continued)

We just need to leave them alone.

  What about the ones that we have already raised to depend upon us?

We created domesticated animals by artificial selection.  We made them the way we wanted them.  We selected for the traits we liked, not the traits that would be most advantageous to the animal for survival.  This is why domesticated animals are cripples compared to their wild counterparts.  To take an extreme example: domesticated turkeys.  We have messed them up so badly by artificial selection that they cannot even mate on their own.  Domesticated turkeys have to be artificially inseminated.

No, you are not.  Peter Singer applies his utilitarian theory to all.  You discriminate between humans and all other animals. And also, if you advocate Singer’s philosophy, then you also don’t have rights.  If it would be beneficial to experiment on you and kill you in order to save 100 people, the utilitarian theory says it is OK to do this to you.

  I don’t think that you are accurately representing Peter Singer’s conception of Preference Utilitarianism.  It sounds more to me as if you are referring to a more traditional sort of utilitarianism, such as that of John Stuart Mill.

Yes, there are different versions of the utilitarian theory.  My point is that, no matter what version you use, the utilitarian theory allows, and even recommends, violating individual rights in certain cases. The utilitarian theory is a very good theory for economics, but not for ethics.

  Are you aware of how much work Peter Singer has done and is doing on behalf of animals? 

Yes, I am aware of his work.  I am also aware of the damage he is doing to the animal rights movement.

  I also don’t discriminate between humans and animals.  I discriminate between levels of sentience and cognition.

But how can you precisely measure the level of sentience and then say that if one is above this level then one has rights, and if below then one doesn’t? And why is the level of sentience the criterion? We don’t discriminate among humans depending on their level of sentience or intelligence.  Why take such discrimination to the level of species?  After all, no one has a choice of what brain one will be born with any more than one has choice of gender, sexual preference, or species.  We are lucky to be born at all.  And we all should have a right to make the best of our short lives, and to seek happiness and fulfillment, whatever that may be.

Also, because of sea sponges and other such species, you are willing to deny rights to the entire animal kingdom with the exception of Homo sapiens.  How is that fair?  Is it the elephants’ fault that there are sea sponges in this world?  Why should elephants be denied rights because of the existence of sea sponges?

  I am not denying them their welfare.  I am denying them certain specified rights.  No being should be unnecessarily made to suffer.

Not understanding what you mean by welfare, I don’t see how one cannot suffer if one has no rights.  If one has no rights, one is treated as property, which means one can be used as a means to an end.  Elephants are used as means to an end.  We exploit them for entertainment in circuses and zoos. If elephants had the status of persons, then we would not be able to exploit them.

Re: suffering

If I had a choice of either being beaten up or painlessly killed,  I would choose being beaten up (with the hope that I will recover and continue my life).  Non-human animals exhibit a similar choice, as for example, when animals chew off their own paws to get out of a leghold trap.  They make themselves suffer to preserve their life.

I know what you are trying to do.  You are trying to find a level where you can say: individuals above this level have rights and below this level have no rights.

Haven’t you already done that by stopping with plants?  Also, I am not interested in establishing a hierarchy.  I am looking at different qualities.

Yes, I did stop with plants, and I think I gave a rational reason why.  You are establishing a hierarchy by judging beings by the level of their sentience.  I can’t see that as moral.  After all, sentience is depended on the complexity of the brain.  And what is a brain but simply a tool for adaptation to the environment.  Just because not all species evolved in that direction, does not mean that they don’t have any rights.  No one species had a choice of how evolution will shape it. And who is to say that a complex brain is a better tool than say the ability to procreate fast?  Only time will tell.  We will see who will become extinct first: humans or rats.

Posted on Oct 24, 2008 at 3:15pm by BaIB Comment #104

For what it’s worth, I’ll offer my take on this. I do not consider there to be any such thing as rights, especially with respect to animals. This does not mean that I consider it acceptable to make animals suffer. Rather, I believe that each person extends a sense of identity to include those animals with whom that person can have some sort of emotional relationship. In other words, we perceive dogs as very much like people, not in an anatomical sense but rather in an emotional sense. We extend this sense to many other animals, often for reasons that may seem arbitrary. Baby animals attract particular interest because women are programmed to love babies (I believe it’s based on the ratio of eye size to head size). Soft and fuzzy animals attract more of this sense of identity than slimy animals. But we extend this sense right down to the smallest bug, in lesser degrees.

Now, when harm is visited upon such animals, we internalize their pain. The same empathetic mechanisms that are part of our social reasoning process give us a sense of pain when the animals suffer pain. This has nothing to do with any rights the animals are claimed to have—it is a strictly emotional process. But the fact that it’s emotional doesn’t deny it reality. When a man tortures a dog, every person who learns of that act suffers some pain. And it is entirely proper for society to criminalize that act, not because of the dog’s pain, but because of the people’s pain.

So I think that the appropriate way to handle this question is to ask “to what degree does a particular action outrage the sensitivities of the people?” The answer to this question changes over the decades. A hundred years ago nobody felt the slightest pain upon the death of many animals. Nowadays people have greater sensitivity to this and we already have some laws criminalizing certain injuries to animals. With the passage of time we can expect to see such laws expanded.

There are several problems with the above.  You definitely discriminate based on species (“especially with respect to animals”).  Please justify morally such discrimination.  How is it different than discrimination based on gender, race, sexual preference or mental or physical handicaps? 

There are no rational reasons why some humans have no personal identity with members of other animal species.  Those who don’t have this identity either have no clue what evolution is and/or are highly religious. If they thought rationally and had some knowledge, they would know that all animals are our evolutionary sisters and brothers.

Where did you get the idea that humans are compassionate toward other animals?  We imprison them in concentration style factory farms.  We torture them.  We kill them by the billions just because we like the taste of meat.  And people do not seem to be particularly bothered by all this.

Regarding dogs, the situation is not much better. We use dogs in wars (thousands have died).  We put them in danger such as when we use them for police work.  We breed them in concentration style puppy mills, where dogs are kept in small wire cages and just made to produce litters one after another.  We use them in horrible medical experiments. We kill them by the millions in shelters because we have bred so many that we can’t provide them all with homes. So I don’t understand how you came to the conclusion that we treat dogs with any compassion or respect.  We simply don’t. We treat them as disposable consumer products and tools.

One’s rights should not be dependent of the way others think of one. Individual rights should be based on the inherent value of the individual, regardless of his/her value to others or feelings that individual evokes in others. Since the beginning, men have claimed to love women (see all the literature thought centuries that deals with the subject).  Yet men treated women like property.  It is only recently that women got their rights, and we got it be fighting for them.  No one handed them to us on a plate.

You ask, “to what degree does a particular action outrage the sensitivities of the people”.  I guess it depends on the person.  I am greatly outraged by what we humans do to other animals.  If it were up to me, all this exploitation would be criminalized immediately.  But unfortunately, I am in a minority.  To pass such a law would require a majority to share my view.  I believe in moral progress.  I believe, to quote Leonardo da Vinci, “The day will come when men such as I will look on the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men.”  But this is not going to happen by itself any more than slavery, oppression of women, and child labor, just disappeared on their own.  Someone has to fight for what he/she believes is right.  Someone has to raise consciousness.  This is what I am trying to do, even on this forum.  I want people to think critically.  To reexamine the way we have been treating animals, to apply our advanced knowledge of evolution, and to draw new conclusions.

Posted on Oct 24, 2008 at 3:19pm by BaIB Comment #105

You ask me to justify discriminating between species. Since my approach is based on the injury done to humans, the discrimination is based on different human perceptions of different species.

I think you’re taking an overly black and white approach to this. When you say that “We” don’t respect animals. What do you mean “We”, Kemosabe? There are some people who are extremely sensitive to animals, some who are moderately sensitive, and some who don’t care at all. It’s a distribution of people, not a step function.

So you would like to criminalize the abuse of any animal. OK. But there are some people who want to criminalize homosexual behavior. The line you draw between yourself and those people is pretty thin. The problem here is an old one. We have always defined crime in terms of the injury it visits upon other people. Even such victimless crimes as recreational drug use and prostitution are justified with (rather flimsy) arguments about the injury that the behaviors indirectly do to other people. So if you want to criminalize animal abuse, you have to come up with a justification based on the injury such actions impose upon others. That will be extremely difficult to do with animals raised for meat, although it won’t be long before we are able to manufacture artificial meat that is healthier than the real thing. THEN we can criminalize what’s done to meat animals. For now, though, we are only able to criminalize abuse of animals on the grounds that it is “outrageous to public sensibilities”. That’s really dangerous ground. Homosexuality if outrageous to the sensibilities of many members of the public.

Posted on Oct 24, 2008 at 3:51pm by Chris Crawford Comment #106

[

You ask me to justify discriminating between species. Since my approach is based on the injury done to humans, the discrimination is based on different human perceptions of different species.

 

I am saying that your approach is wrong because it discriminates against non-human animals.  How can you justify such discrimination?

I think you’re taking an overly black and white approach to this. When you say that “We” don’t respect animals. What do you mean “We”, Kemosabe? There are some people who are extremely sensitive to animals, some who are moderately sensitive, and some who don’t care at all. It’s a distribution of people, not a step function.

By “we” I mean humanity.  As humanity we don’t respect non-human animals.  Of course I know there are individuals who do respect animals, but still because the majority does not respect animals, animals are exploited on a mass scale.

So you would like to criminalize the abuse of any animal. OK. But there are some people who want to criminalize homosexual behavior. The line you draw between yourself and those people is pretty thin.

Homosexuality is not immoral.  Homosexual acts, if done with consent, do not violate anyone’s rights.  Abusing animals violates the rights of animals.

The problem here is an old one. We have always defined crime in terms of the injury it visits upon other people.

That is not true.  There are laws prohibiting certain cruelty to animals. Also, just because something has “always” been done does not mean that it is right.

Even such victimless crimes as recreational drug use and prostitution are justified with (rather flimsy) arguments about the injury that the behaviors indirectly do to other people. So if you want to criminalize animal abuse, you have to come up with a justification based on the injury such actions impose upon others.

The injury to non-human animals.

That will be extremely difficult to do with animals raised for meat, although it won’t be long before we are able to manufacture artificial meat that is healthier than the real thing. THEN we can criminalize what’s done to meat animals. For now, though, we are only able to criminalize abuse of animals on the grounds that it is “outrageous to public sensibilities”. That’s really dangerous ground. Homosexuality if outrageous to the sensibilities of many members of the public.

Are you not aware of all the anti-cruelty to animals laws?  Also, recently in Spain, chimpanzees were granted basic rights.  I don’t care about people’s sensibilities.  I care about the rights of non-human animals.

Posted on Oct 24, 2008 at 4:15pm by BaIB Comment #107

I am saying that your approach is wrong because it discriminates against non-human animals.  How can you justify such discrimination?

I justify it by denying the moral significance of such discrimination. We disagree.

Abusing animals violates the rights of animals.

I disagree. I don’t believe that animals have rights. (I don’t believe that humans have rights, either, but that’s another discussion.)

just because something has “always” been done does not mean that it is right.

Agreed, but it provides us with a surer foundation for discussion. If you want to begin by assuming that animals have moral rights, then the discussion gets no further than that because I disagree with your assumption.

I don’t care about people’s sensibilities.  I care about the rights of non-human animals.

OK, that’s fine, but you’ll get no political traction with your approach. You declare that animals have rights. Most people say they don’t. End of discussion. Whereas my approach has some political traction.

Posted on Oct 24, 2008 at 4:36pm by Chris Crawford Comment #108

I am saying that your approach is wrong because it discriminates against non-human animals.  How can you justify such discrimination?

I justify it by denying the moral significance of such discrimination. We disagree.

Is this supposed to be an answer?  I need a reason.

Abusing animals violates the rights of animals.

I disagree. I don’t believe that animals have rights. (I don’t believe that humans have rights, either, but that’s another discussion.)

What kind of discussion is that?  How can I even answer you when you don’t give any reasons or explanation?

just because something has “always” been done does not mean that it is right.

Agreed, but it provides us with a surer foundation for discussion. If you want to begin by assuming that animals have moral rights, then the discussion gets no further than that because I disagree with your assumption.

I made an argument that non-human animals should be granted the basic right not to be used as a means to an end (see my posts above).  It is your job to refute it.

I don’t care about people’s sensibilities.  I care about the rights of non-human animals.

OK, that’s fine, but you’ll get no political traction with your approach. You declare that animals have rights. Most people say they don’t. End of discussion. Whereas my approach has some political traction.

I am the one who made arguments (see my posts above).  All you do is deny everything, not giving an argument or even a reason.

Posted on Oct 24, 2008 at 8:52pm by BaIB Comment #109

You seem put out that I do not bother to refute your claims. That’s because our disagreement is at the fundamental level of assumptions. You assume that animals have rights. You offer no proof for your assumption; it’s the starting point of your discussion. I do not accept your assumption. Since we have no commonality of belief on the foundation issues, any discussion between us is futile. We just keep coming back to your assumption that animals have rights—and I don’t accept that assumption. OK?

Posted on Oct 24, 2008 at 9:11pm by Chris Crawford Comment #110

BaIB,

I think that you and I are on the same page with regards to how we would like to treat and see other people treat animals in general, with only subtle differences.  The reason why I nitpick Tom Regen’s (or your) conception of animal “rights” is that people will not be convinced that the feelings and concerns of animals matter based on “rights” which they do not recognize.  Although I disagree with the way in which Chris sees the issue, I think that his perspective is rather understandable.  I don’t think that he will be convinced that animals are entitled to some sort of “right” to not be used as a means to an end if he does not believe that animals have “rights” to begin with.  While I empathize with most of your sentiments, I don’t think that it makes for convincing argument to repeatedly insist that animals have “rights” without showing why they have “rights” and where those “rights” come from.

As a PETA member I regularly receive their Animal Times magazine.  I am a strong supporter of most of what PETA does, but occasionally a thing or two that makes me wince.  In that magazine once, for example, was a fabulous expose on the horrible treatment of cows in factory farms.  Directly across the page was an article about mistreatment of cockroaches.  I think that this sort of “across the board” - “all animals are equal” approach appears absurd to most people and for good reason.  And I think that this can cause serious distraction to the cause of actually alleviating the suffering of animals who do genuinely suffer.

Posted on Oct 25, 2008 at 5:23am by erasmusinfinity Comment #111

I do not consider there to be any such thing as rights, especially with respect to animals. This does not mean that I consider it acceptable to make animals suffer. Rather, I believe that each person extends a sense of identity to include those animals with whom that person can have some sort of emotional relationship.

A person’s concerns are commonly higher for those who are most closely connected to themselves.  Do you believe that we have no obligation, or good reason, to extend our circle of concern to a broader sphere?

Also, do you really not recognize any such thing as rights for humans?  How do you feel about The Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

Posted on Oct 25, 2008 at 5:33am by erasmusinfinity Comment #112

Do you believe that we have no obligation, or good reason, to extend our circle of concern to a broader sphere?

My moral code with respect to non-humans is not based on extended genetic altruism (although I recognize some merit in that method), because I place greater value on a tree than a fly, even though the fly is genetically closer. Rather, I value a life form by two factors: its emotional connection to humans, and the natural replacement cost of the creature. Examples:

When I see a dead animal on the road, I am relieved if I discover that it is a wild animal rather than a cat or dog, because I know that no human will suffer the loss.

I feel greater sadness for the death of a big oak tree than for an insect, because I know it will take hundreds of years to replace the oak tree.

However, I have some reservations about the second criterion, because it may merely reflect the degree of loss to humans. An oak tree is an aesthetically appealing creature.

Also, do you really not recognize any such thing as rights for humans?  How do you feel about The Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

I see the whole idea of rights as an obfuscatory middleman in the moral calculus. For example, you would argue that a person has a right to life, and conclude that murder is immoral because it violates that right. You have simply assumed your conclusion by enshrining a right. What’s the difference between your right and the sixth commandment? Why introduce a new undefined term into the moral calculus?

Posted on Oct 25, 2008 at 8:22am by Chris Crawford Comment #113

My moral code with respect to non-humans is not based on extended genetic altruism (although I recognize some merit in that method), because I place greater value on a tree than a fly, even though the fly is genetically closer. Rather, I value a life form by two factors: its emotional connection to humans, and the natural replacement cost of the creature.

When you say “natural replacement cost of a creature” I assume that by “creature” you mean an animal species that is not human and by “replacement cost” you are referring to the cost for a human or humans.  Am I misinterpreting that?

So what is the reason that you care about the interests of other people?  Why care about anyone’s interests but your own?  Or do you?

For example, you would argue that a person has a right to life, and conclude that murder is immoral because it violates that right.  You have simply assumed your conclusion by enshrining a right. What’s the difference between your right and the sixth commandment? Why introduce a new undefined term into the moral calculus?

Well, I would consider that a “right” to live stems from a deliberate desire to live, and that this sort of desire can take on various psychologies.  In my mind, it has nothing to do with the fact of being human.  For example, early term fetuses have no “right to live” in any meaningful sense.  Chimpanzees, who share many similar feelings and cognitive responses to the idea of dying, ought be regarded as in a similar category to that of humans.

Then I would say that if we are to behave civilly we ought consider more fundamental interests, such as that of living, for the sake of others and prioritize it before certain more selfishly decadent interests of our own.  I think that this sort of prioritization is what meaningfully gives a “right” that name.  Of course, I will admit that there are more complex moral dilemmas in which it is more difficult to ascertain what interests should be put away in favor of others.  But I do not believe that the simple fact of empowerment in any way legitimizes an outcome.

Do you think that slavery is justifiable because it serves the interests of the slave master?  Do you think that rape is justifiable because it serves the interests of the rapist?  Is it that you feel that it is OK for us to not consider the interests of other beings or that you only care about these things when they pertain to beings who are human?

I also do not think that it is appropriate to compare my position to that of a commandment or state that it is any sort of enshrinement in any absolute sense.

Posted on Oct 25, 2008 at 11:25am by erasmusinfinity Comment #114

OK, first I have to make clear a big difference here, between my own personal morals, and my description of morality as a social construct. When I talk about the latter, I am merely describing what I think lies behind the popular moral systems. Remember, I am not prescribing this latter description; I am merely observing that “this is the way it really is”.

It seems to me that several of you seem to be searching for a prescriptive system. In other words, you want to find a way to prove that a particular moral rule should be applied to everybody. We don’t need any grand philosophizing to establish a prescriptive system of morality; we already have an excellent system in place: law. We all get together (through our representatives) and decide, based on overall majority rule, what moral rules we wish to impose upon others. If you want to find some way to prove that a particular moral rule should be imposed upon others, I have no objection, but I consider such discussion pointless, because you’re attempting to prove something that is fundamentally subjective. You might as well try to prove that mousse is better than tapioca.

With these thoughts in place, I can now answer your questions:

When you say “natural replacement cost of a creature” I assume that by “creature” you mean an animal species that is not human and by “replacement cost” you are referring to the cost for a human or humans.

No, I’m talking about the cost to nature to replace that creature. It will take nature 300 years, tons of nutrients, and particular weather conditions to replace the oak. It only takes a few days and a piece of shit to replace the fly.

So what is the reason that you care about the interests of other people?  Why care about anyone’s interests but your own?

I personally care about the interests of other people. Why? Because I choose to do so. I am reminded of a scene late in the third Matrix movie, where Agent Smith demands to know why Neo keeps on fighting. He is furious as he reminds Neo of the utter futility of his efforts, and repeatedly asks why Neo would carry on in such a ridiculous fashion. And Neo responds, “Because I choose to do so.” It’s that simple. I choose to care about the interests of other people. No justification needed for a personal decision like that. If you wish to tell me what I ought to do, then make a law for it.

I would consider that a “right” to live stems from a deliberate desire to live

OK. I reject your claim. So where does that leave us? Nowhere.

Do you think that slavery is justifiable because it serves the interests of the slave master?  Do you think that rape is justifiable because it serves the interests of the rapist?

No and no.

I again remind you that there are two dimensions of moral consideration: personal and social. The personal is just that: personal. If you challenge my personal moral code, I simply shrug my shoulders and say, “Too bad”. If you wish to impose any moral standard upon other people, use the law.

Posted on Oct 25, 2008 at 11:44am by Chris Crawford Comment #115

I am merely observing that “this is the way it really is”.

I don’t disagree that this is the way that it really is.  I just don’t think that the fact that something is so makes it OK.  People sometimes hurt each other unnecessarily.  People sometimes hurt animals unnecessarily.  Those are bad things.

we already have an excellent system in place: law.  We all get together (through our representatives) and decide, based on overall majority rule, what moral rules we wish to impose upon others.

Well, sometimes laws are excellent.  There are also bad laws.  Institutionalized slavery and segregation illustrate bad laws.  Rape is even legal in some contexts in some countries.  I suspect that you will agree that those are/were bad things.  There are also many cases in which pretty clear forms of injustice have been decided by majority rule.

If you want to find some way to prove that a particular moral rule should be imposed upon others, I have no objection, but I consider such discussion pointless, because you’re attempting to prove something that is fundamentally subjective. You might as well try to prove that mousse is better than tapioca.

But I thought you said that slavery and rape we’re not justified on the basis of their serving the interests of the person committing them.  Do you believe that your agreement with this principle is merely a reflection of your tastes?

I would consider that a “right” to live stems from a deliberate desire to live

OK. I reject your claim. So where does that leave us? Nowhere.

Why do you reject that claim?

Do you think that slavery is justifiable because it serves the interests of the slave master?  Do you think that rape is justifiable because it serves the interests of the rapist?

No and no.

Well, why not then?  Do you consider it to be just your opinion that slavery and rape are immoral?  Is it like having a preference for mouse while someone else might like tapioca?  Someone else might enjoy slave keeping or rape.  Is that their legitimate subjective preference???

If you wish to impose any moral standard upon other people, use the law.

Should not the law represent something that is moral or ethical?

Posted on Oct 25, 2008 at 12:47pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #116

Let me attempt to sort out some of the confusion here. You seem dissatisfied with the notion that law is the means by which we impose our moral standards upon others. First you argue that law is sometimes wrong. That’s easy to answer—fix it!

You next argue that there are or were laws that we would consider bad. You offer slavery as an example. This requires you to judge the people of that time. Basically, you’re saying that they were immoral because they had laws that permitted slavery. Well, OK. I myself won’t condemn those people—I wasn’t there and I do not fully grasp the historical context. But if you want to condemn them, that’s fine with me. Still, it’s a pointless exercise, isn’t it? We now have laws forbidding slavery. What’s to be gained by condemning the people who didn’t have such laws?

You also raise the case of laws in other cultures that you consider to be wrong. I share your distaste for such laws. But these laws represent another society’s perception of right and wrong. Perhaps they represent the oppression of a minority. In such a case, it might be morally beneficial to intervene to protect the minority. That’s a complicated call that requires us to consider many factors. How to find the right decision? I suggest we do so by pooling the collective wisdom of the citizenry. It’s called politics!

Do you believe that your agreement with this principle is merely a reflection of your tastes?

I don’t understand your question. Could you flesh it out?

You ask why I reject your claim that “a “right” to live stems from a deliberate desire to live”. My answer is that I do not recognize the existence of rights. They’re nothing more than an intermediate and poorly-defined term in the moral calculus. Cut out the middleman and your statement becomes: “It is immoral to kill a creature that desires to live.” If that is indeed what you want to say, then say it.

You ask why I reject slavery and rape. Again, there are TWO answers here: personal and social. Personally, I would not participate in either activity, as I believe that it would sully me. On the social level, I consider both activities to be unacceptable behavior and I therefore support laws against them.

Should not the law represent something that is moral or ethical?

Absolutely! But WHOSE moral or ethical standards? Those of an expert or wise person, such as the Pope or and ayatollah? Moral and ethical standards are the source of much disagreement in society, so we rely on a majority of citizens to establish those moral and ethical standards and express them in law. Thus, the law DOES represent what is moral or ethical—in the judgement of the majority of citizens.

Posted on Oct 25, 2008 at 1:33pm by Chris Crawford Comment #117

Just a clarification here, because I’m a bit confused. Clearly there must be an “in principle” distinction between what is ethical and what is legal, for the obvious reason that what is legal is sometimes unethical, and what is ethical is sometimes illegal.

So while it’s well and good to argue that in some sense society’s first draft of what it (collectively) believes is ethical is enshrined in the laws, one cannot simply identify the two. That’s a nonstarter.

Posted on Oct 25, 2008 at 1:48pm by dougsmith Comment #118

Doug, I maintain that the legal vs ethical distinction exists only for “personal ethics”—the ethical system that an individual espouses. But I claim that the only time that what is legal differs from what is “socially ethical” is when our law fails to properly reflect the intentions of the majority—which will always happen to some small degree.

Again, I am drawing a big distinction between “personal ethics”—what you believe or I believe—and “social ethics”—what you or I believe should be imposed upon others.

Posted on Oct 25, 2008 at 2:12pm by Chris Crawford Comment #119

But any ethics is ipso facto ethics that applies for everyone. That’s what it means to be ethical or moral. There is no distinction between personal and social ethics. We certainly wouldn’t make such a move for words like “true”. (Personal vs. social truth).

I expect that you will disagree, however I think you’re using the term “ethics” in an idiosyncratic and confusing sense. At least, I am still confused by it. Social ethics is just the ethics of the majority? But once again, there must be an “in principle” distinction between what is ethical and what the majority believes is ethical, for the obvious reason that what the majority believes is ethical is sometimes in fact unethical, and what is ethical is sometimes not accepted as such by the majority.

So what is ethical is neither identical to what is legal nor to what the majority believes is ethical.

Posted on Oct 25, 2008 at 2:26pm by dougsmith Comment #120

Do you believe that your agreement with this principle is merely a reflection of your tastes?

I don’t understand your question. Could you flesh it out?

You said that slavery is not justifiable simply because it serves the interests of the slave master.  You also said that rape is not justifiable simply because it serves the interests of the rapist.  So then why aren’t these things justifiable if they suit someone else?  Or are they?  Is it simply your subjective view that they are not OK or is it somehow genuinely unjustifiable to do these things to someone who, as pertains to our discussion, does not want us to do these sorts of things to them.

We are not talking about the exercise of personal freedoms and liberties in a vacuum.  We are talking specifically about social behaviors that have consequences for others.

You ask why I reject your claim that “a “right” to live stems from a deliberate desire to live”. My answer is that I do not recognize the existence of rights. They’re nothing more than an intermediate and poorly-defined term in the moral calculus. Cut out the middleman and your statement becomes: “It is immoral to kill a creature that desires to live.” If that is indeed what you want to say, then say it.

I did say it.  But some people don’t get that it is unethical to kill a creature that desires to live, so I am presenting a reason why it is.  A supporting argument is not a middle man.

My argument is that there are certain fundamental core things that ought be weighed as more substantial than other more decadent things in resolving conflicts of interest.  There are basic interests that stem from our shared natures as human animals.  These are things that are inhumane to deny and might does not make right.  The desire to alleviate one person’s carnal lust does not justify the forceful imposition of one’s body upon someone else.  The personal gain achieved by a plantation owner in increasing his own financial profits by not paying his labor force (and whipping and beating them, etc.) does not justify doing these sorts of things.

You said that you agreed that these things were not OK.  But it sounds to me as if you are arguing that while you have concern that people aren’t raped or enslaved, you have no good reason that there is anything legitimately wrong there.  You have also suggested that it is somehow OK to do these things to people - people who do not want these things done to them - if it is a normative standard in a different culture.  This seems a severe contradiction to me.

Perhaps they represent the oppression of a minority. In such a case, it might be morally beneficial to intervene to protect the minority. That’s a complicated call that requires us to consider many factors. How to find the right decision? I suggest we do so by pooling the collective wisdom of the citizenry. It’s called politics!

Your first two sentences seem to me to contradict your last two sentences here.  First you have proposed that it might be necessary to intervene in order to protect a minority.  Then you suggest that we should pool the collective.  Is it not implicit that the need to protect the minority stems from some sort of violation being committed by the majority?  Which is it?

Posted on Oct 25, 2008 at 3:54pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #121

Doug, I’ll honor your preferred definition of ethics, which is a moral code that applies to everybody. And I’ll next tell you that ethics is a figment of human imagination. There’s no reality to it, because moral codes are intrinsically subjective. I’ll restate my point in different terms: there is no such thing as an objectively correct moral code. At no point in history is it possible for somebody to look under the right rock, climb the right mountain, or fly to the right planet and discover “the correct moral code”—because such a thing does not exist. Everybody has their own moral code. Who are you to judge another person’s moral code? By their code, you’re the sinner!

I’m not saying that this gives everybody license to unconstrained hedonism. We have a system—law—by which we pool our common sense of morality and decide what rules of our moral codes are so widely shared that we will impose them upon everybody.

To summarize my claims:

moral code: an individual’s personal, subjective rules of behavior
ethics: a universal moral code that applies to everybody—I consider this a chimera
law: a moral code established by society and applied to all its members

Posted on Oct 25, 2008 at 4:03pm by Chris Crawford Comment #122

erasmusinfinity, we cross-posted, so now let me respond to you. It’s obvious to me that you simply cannot get my thinking down your craw, probably because it seems so alien to anything you have encountered before. So let me re-state my approach:

I deny the existence of any objectively correct moral code. You keep asking me what is objectively correct, and I keep explaining that nothing is objectively correct—which you then interpret as a rejection of all morality (I think that’s what you’re doing). Let me repeat this:

1. There are three kinds of morality.
2. The first is personal, subjective morality, which need be neither justified nor explained. If I decide that flipping somersaults on the Ides of each month is a moral obligation for myself, you have no basis for objecting. It’s my own damn business, so keep your nose out of it!!  :)
3. The second is an imaginary moral code, the “objectively correct moral code”, which most people believe in and does not exist. (If it did, you’d think they would have found it by now!)
4. The third is one type of external moral code that is applied to all members of a society: its laws.

I don’t justify anything I do. If I think it moral, that’s all that matters. If you think it immoral, well, that’s your business, but I certainly don’t care. But if you think it illegal, and you can convince a jury that it is, then you can take action against me for that behavior.

So, how do I assess the rape of a woman? By the first moral code, my own, the answer is, “That’s wrong”, so I don’t do it. By the third moral code, the law, we find that it is also wrong, so we punish the rapist. What more is there to say?

And how do I assess a past event such as the enslavement of black people? I feel empathy for the slaves, I wish it hadn’t happened, but I chalk it up as one of the infinite tragedies of human history. I don’t see much point in judging the slaveholders. What good does it do? Do you want to find their graves, dig up their bones, and burn them? What would that accomplish?

Does this explain my thinking to you?

Posted on Oct 25, 2008 at 4:17pm by Chris Crawford Comment #123

Well, Brennen and I have had a very similar discussion before, so I don’t feel the need to go through it in detail again. Let me just say a couple of things.

First, I don’t know what you mean when you say that moral codes are intrinsically subjective. Moral codes on their face purport to be objective—one should do X, one shouldn’t do Y. So I’d have thought they were intrinsically objective.

Second, I do know the standard subjectivist response is to say that the theory doesn’t give a license to unrestrained action. But this is not actually justified by the theory. Or to put it another way, the theory does not justify restraint of any sort, hence a fortiori it does not justify restraint of hedonistic action. What it does do is to codify people’s feelings about what they like and dislike into laws, and then those laws are used by police and courts to restrain actions. But the feelings upon which the laws are based are (by hypothesis) not true justifications for anything. Why not? Because people with diametrically opposite likes and dislikes are equally “justified” (or not) in codifying their likes and dislikes into laws and restraining actions based upon them. If the theory justifies both X and not-X then it does not actually justify anything.

Posted on Oct 25, 2008 at 4:18pm by dougsmith Comment #124

I deny the existence of any objectively correct moral code. You keep asking me what is objectively correct, and I keep explaining that nothing is objectively correct

I’m not making claims to absolute truth here.  I’m really being quite a bit more pragmatic.

I only assert here that (1) certain beings have certain basic interests,  (2) some interests are more basic and essential to human animals than others (the interests of living free of slavery or living at all are more basic than the interest of owning a luxury yacht), (3) either we care about these basic interests of others or we don’t,  and (4) we should care.  We should care because (4a) the notion of basic rights underlies the precepts that define and legitimize social utility.  Perhaps more importantly, (4b) to not care is to behave unconscionably with regard to oneself and others.  Indeed, it is sado-masochistic.

Assertions about human rights are not cosmic assertions.  They simply get down to the matter of defining some of the more basic shared human interests as I referred to in my assertion #2 above.

So, how do I assess the rape of a woman? By the first moral code, my own, the answer is, “That’s wrong”, so I don’t do it.

But why does your moral code say that it is wrong?  You don’t seem to want to probe that.  I think that it’s worth a look.  Is it really nothing but a matter like your preference for one flavor or another of pudding?  Do you ascribe it entirely to enculturation?  Perhaps you have a conscience and it is telling you something that you don’t consciously know.

And how do I assess a past event such as the enslavement of black people? I feel empathy for the slaves, I wish it hadn’t happened, but I chalk it up as one of the infinite tragedies of human history. I don’t see much point in judging the slaveholders. What good does it do? Do you want to find their graves, dig up their bones, and burn them? What would that accomplish?

We should learn from their mistakes.

I have not been condemning people.  As I see it, a person could be a slave owner yet have other decent qualities.  But slave owning is something that is wrong.  A person can inflict unnecessary suffering upon animals yet have other positive qualities.  But inflicting suffering upon animals is wrong.  I have not called anyone a bad person.  I have only been advocating for and against certain actions and behaviors.

I advocate against slavery, rape, murder, etc… and unnecessarily harming animals who do not wish to be harmed.  Their interests also matter.

Posted on Oct 25, 2008 at 6:07pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #125

If the theory justifies both X and not-X then it does not actually justify anything.

Yep. The entire concept of justification is a chimera. I agree that people desire to believe that their moral code is objectively correct, but wishing don’t make it so. Ultimately there is no basis on which anybody can declare any action as objectively wrong. What people can do is declare an action as objectively illegal, in which case we can do something about it.

(3) either we care about these basic interests of others or we don’t, and (4) we should care.

Again I ask, “What do you mean we, Kemosabe?” What you really mean is that “Everybody should care”—which is simply an instance of “Everybody should obey the same moral code that I obey.” To which any person can retort, “No everybody should obey the same moral code that *I* obey!” and you’re back in a demolition derby of opinions.

You would like to know how I establish my moral code. It is founded upon the notion of unity—that I desire to be “one with the universe”. It’s actually a lot more complicated than that, but that’s the basic idea. And no, you can’t be one with the universe if you kill and destroy.

Posted on Oct 25, 2008 at 6:25pm by Chris Crawford Comment #126

The entire concept of justification is a chimera.

I assume you mean “moral justification”.

Posted on Oct 25, 2008 at 6:55pm by dougsmith Comment #127

Again I ask, “What do you mean we, Kemosabe?” What you really mean is that “Everybody should care”—which is simply an instance of “Everybody should obey the same moral code that I obey.” To which any person can retort, “No everybody should obey the same moral code that *I* obey!” and you’re back in a demolition derby of opinions.

I am not the same Kemosabe that you addressed with this point before.  :lol:

*Yes, I do think that everybody who can care should care for the reasons (#4a & #4b) that I detailed above in my last post.  I am not interested in anyone obeying any sort of code.  I don’t “obey” one either.  Neither #4a or #4b have anything at all to do with any sort of obedience.

*I don’t see how either of those points has anything to do with opinion.  Sure, they represent some of my take on ethics.  But different angles of insight into matters are not the same things as opinions.  A moral assertion is not an opinion any more so than an economic assertion is an opinion.  They are perspectives, perhaps, but not opinions.

You would like to know how I establish my moral code. It is founded upon the notion of unity—that I desire to be “one with the universe”. It’s actually a lot more complicated than that, but that’s the basic idea. And no, you can’t be one with the universe if you kill and destroy.

And why do you care about any of that… and why that… and why that?

Posted on Oct 25, 2008 at 7:01pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #128

I am not the same Kemosabe that you addressed with this point before.

Damn! There’s Kemosabe’s everywhere! I better check under the bed…

If you want to present your position as an opinion having no compelling weight, that’s good. I certainly don’t wish to denigrate your opinions qua opinions. I’m drawing a line about expecting other people to share your opinions. If you choose not to kill animals, that’s fine with me. Many of my neighbors hunt deer. I cannot fathom how any self-aware human could hunt and kill deer. But they enjoy doing it, and I’m not about to condemn them. If it comes to a vote for or against deer hunting, I’ll vote against deer hunting.

You ask me why I have chosen the foundation for my moral code. There is no explanation—it’s the foundation. As Neo said, “Because I choose to do so.”

Posted on Oct 25, 2008 at 8:59pm by Chris Crawford Comment #129

You ask me why I have chosen the foundation for my moral code. There is no explanation—it’s the foundation. As Neo said, “Because I choose to do so.”

Hi Chris.
Of course, we know there is some sort of foundation. Humans are not random number generators for morality (and even if they were, it could hardly then be called morality). I submit to you that the problem is not that the objective does not exist, but that the subjective does not. Nothing is really subjective, not even morality or comedy or what have you. Old “subjectives” have been increasingly diminished by science. Taste in food, for example. Totally subjective right? You like chocolate and I like vanilla. Except that now we know genetics, environmental exposure, and metabolical feedback mechanisms among others play a role. The subjective part has shrunk, in the face of objective factors and the chances are eventually it ceases to exist.

We call subjective what we can not yet (or ever) untangle the messy, intractable causes for. If we can’t, that does not mean they are not there and we should assume they are in light of the constantly shrinking pool of the “purely subjective” over time.

But hey, that’s just my subjective opinion.

Posted on Oct 26, 2008 at 4:19am by sate Comment #130

sate, you and I are using different definitions for “subjective”. You seem to use it to mean something like “unexplainable”. I am using it to mean “unique to the individual’s perspective”. The crucial factor at issue here is whether there exists a universal moral code. I deny the existence of such a code, and other people defend its existence.

BTW, there’s an approach to this question of universality that we haven’t yet touched upon. Rather than trying to establish one moral code for all people, let us imagine a young teenager approaching us and asking, “What is the ideal moral code?” (Let us set aside for the moment the reality that all teenagers are omniscient.) Is it even possible to formulate an answer to that question without taking into account the personality of the teenager?

Posted on Oct 26, 2008 at 7:50am by Chris Crawford Comment #131

BTW, there’s an approach to this question of universality that we haven’t yet touched upon. Rather than trying to establish one moral code for all people, let us imagine a young teenager approaching us and asking, “What is the ideal moral code?” (Let us set aside for the moment the reality that all teenagers are omniscient.) Is it even possible to formulate an answer to that question without taking into account the personality of the teenager?

This is similar to the famous question of the ancient greek philosophers: What is the good life? Now, clearly there are many bad ways to answer that question; ways that are overly specific. The good life is not a life playing basketball, because not everyone plays basketball well. But perhaps the good life is something like doing what you do best, along the lines of Aristotle. In that case we might say that the ideal moral code is one which allows us to get the most out of life, and allows the largest number the ability to do what they do best. I’m not saying that this is obviously true, but I am saying it is not obviously false.

There are plenty of arguments in favor of universal theories of morality of one sort or another. One may in the end argue that they all fail for one reason or another, but one cannot deduce such an argument ab initio.

Posted on Oct 26, 2008 at 8:02am by dougsmith Comment #132

You ask me why I have chosen the foundation for my moral code. There is no explanation—it’s the foundation. As Neo said, “Because I choose to do so.”

It sounds to me like you’re saying “it’s magic.”  I see reasons in there.

This discussion is not about whether or not there is a universal arbiter of morality.  I think that we both agree that there is no such a thing as gods or fairies.  It is simply a fact that you are moral… you and I are moral… yes…  we, kemosabee, are moral.

Posted on Oct 26, 2008 at 8:18am by erasmusinfinity Comment #133

It sounds to me like you’re saying “it’s magic.” I see reasons in there.

Every logical structure must have some founding assumptions, basic premises that cannot be logically deduced and from which the logical structure is deduced. I am presenting this concept as the foundation of my moral system. There’s gotta be a last turtle down there somewhere.

It is simply a fact that you are moral… you and I are moral… yes… we, kemosabee, are moral.

But is a suicide bomber giving his life for his cause moral? It’s easy when “we” includes two people whose views are substantially similar. What happens when we widen the circle and start bringing in different people? Are the supporters of Proposition 8 in California moral? Are hunters moral?

Posted on Oct 26, 2008 at 8:26am by Chris Crawford Comment #134

sate, you and I are using different definitions for “subjective”. You seem to use it to mean something like “unexplainable”. I am using it to mean “unique to the individual’s perspective”. The crucial factor at issue here is whether there exists a universal moral code. I deny the existence of such a code, and other people defend its existence.

I was not merely answering you but asserting a point about our fundamental definitions. You said, “You ask me why I have chosen the foundation for my moral code. There is no explanation—it’s the foundation.” Saying there is no explanation sounds like unexplainable to me.  Here is what I am getting at- your morality has a source however you define it. That source is ultimately grounded in the physical laws of nature which makes your own morality, no matter how unique to you as an individual, objective.

There does seem to be a universal moral grammer akin to the universal language grammar. This is what makes it possible for people who come from entirely different backgrounds to even have a discussion about morality. In other words, no one’s morality is actually all that unique. I fully grasp the morality of people even if I do not agree with them. This is much more significant than it seems at first glance.
The list of moral feelings and values common to all societies in all times and places ever studied is long and for that, telling. For example,
proscription of rape, murder, dishonesty
shame, repentence, redemption
moralistic anger/outrage (keyed by sense of injustice)
concepts of revenge, punishment, restitution
distinction between moral and legal spheres
concepts of selfishness/selflessness
Us vs. Them moral distinctions whereby outgroup has diminished moral value

All “unique” individual moralities are just re-arrangements of values that seem to exist everywhere.

Posted on Oct 26, 2008 at 8:36am by sate Comment #135

But is a suicide bomber giving his life for his cause moral?

Of course not.  Why do you strain so hard to appreciate the misguided way in which a suicide bomber perceives morality.  They are wrong.  You know it and I know it.  Even the suicide bomber knows it or else the killing / harming of others part of the act would not be the least bit difficult thing for them to consider.

It’s easy when “we” includes two people whose views are substantially similar. What happens when we widen the circle and start bringing in different people? Are the supporters of Proposition 8 in California moral? Are hunters moral?

To widen our circle of concern is not the same thing as to embrace the way that others perceive things.  It is to apply our concerns to a broader category of others.

Humans are innately driven to try to be moral but they often fail miserably.  They do not automatically and equally understand social utility and they do not automatically and equally understand their consciences.  Rape, slavery and the unnecessary killing of beings that do not want to be killed are perfect examples.

Posted on Oct 26, 2008 at 9:02am by erasmusinfinity Comment #136

Some very interesting points have been raised here.

your morality has a source however you define it. That source is ultimately grounded in the physical laws of nature which makes your own morality, no matter how unique to you as an individual, objective.

OK, I’ll concede that, but this line of reasoning also suggests that, because experience is not universal, moral systems will not be universal.

The list of moral feelings and values common to all societies in all times and places ever studied is long and for that, telling.

Agreed. There is much that we hold in common. It is the differences that fascinate me—and also belie the notion of a universal moral code.

All “unique” individual moralities are just re-arrangements of values that seem to exist everywhere.

Yes, there is some truth in this. Yet, those re-arrangements can yield contradictory end results. For example, the notion of family honor, which makes families enforcers of morality, leads to honor killing, which Westerners hold to be immoral. In the same fashion, a soldier who dies to save his buddies is a hero in our culture, but a suicide bomber is held to be immoral in our culture and moral in other cultures. The underlying principles can be the same but the end results can be contradictory.

erasmusinfinity, you denounce the suicide bomber as immoral, yet the fact remains that hundreds of people have chosen to do this. Do you really believe that they think themselves immoral? I read a lengthy interview with a Somali who left his wife and child so that he could fight the Americans in Fallujah. He was sad to leave his family destitute, and he knew full well that he would die, but he considered it his sacred duty. This man clearly did not think that what he was doing was immoral.

If I understand you aright, you believe that people who do things that you disagree with—such as hunting—operate under the same moral system that you operate under, but fail to understand it fully. I see no difference between these two statements:

1. He hunts because he fails to understand that his moral system forbids hunting.
2. He hunts because his moral system permits hunting.

In both cases, his perception of moral systems differs from yours.

Posted on Oct 26, 2008 at 9:26am by Chris Crawford Comment #137

Do you really believe that they think themselves immoral?

One does not actually need to believe that they are immoral (in the sense of willing something evil) in order to have a universalist ethics. Socratic ethics asserts that all people will the good as they see it. The difference between people who are conventionally viewed as moral and immoral is that those viewed as immoral simply are ignorant about what the good actually is. The base problem then is one of ignorance, not one of immorality.

On any view the suicide bomber isn’t required to think himself immoral, however on the socratic view he would literally also be willing the good—he would be trying to do good as he best understood it—but his understanding of what is really good for him and for others would be in fact in error.

Once again, there are ways of capturing these intuitions on a universalist system of ethics.

Posted on Oct 26, 2008 at 9:33am by dougsmith Comment #138

But Doug, isn’t this shift from “moral system” to “understanding of moral system” really just begging the question? Again, I present two statements which I claim to be indistinguishable:

1. The suicide bomber has a moral system different from mine.
2. The suicide bomber has the same moral system as mine, he just doesn’t understand it the same way I understand it.

Posted on Oct 26, 2008 at 9:45am by Chris Crawford Comment #139

erasmusinfinity, you denounce the suicide bomber as immoral, yet the fact remains that hundreds of people have chosen to do this. Do you really believe that they think themselves immoral?

I do not think that they reason themselves to be behaving immorally.  I believe that their conscience leads them to such things as sweating, shaking fingers on triggers, anxiety, guilt, etc. because there is a part of them that feels very differently then the more convoluted cognitive part that has determined to commit the act.  This is why the committing of heinous and violent acts, for example, is such a significant part of hazing for gangs, terrorist organizations, etc.  It takes great work to suppress the one’s innate empathy.

If I understand you aright, you believe that people who do things that you disagree with—such as hunting—operate under the same moral system that you operate under, but fail to understand it fully.

I do not think that they operate under similar moral systems.  Such systems are cognitive devices.  I think that they are driven to be moral on a more instinctual level, and that they can either embrace or reject their compunctions.

Posted on Oct 26, 2008 at 9:58am by erasmusinfinity Comment #140

But Doug, isn’t this shift from “moral system” to “understanding of moral system” really just begging the question? Again, I present two statements which I claim to be indistinguishable:

1. The suicide bomber has a moral system different from mine.
2. The suicide bomber has the same moral system as mine, he just doesn’t understand it the same way I understand it.

Let’s keep the metaphysics separate from the epistemology. Insofar as you are discussing epistemology (“indistinguishable”) we are talking past one another. There is clearly a logical distinction between your 1 and 2, hence they are distinct possibilities, and each must be treated in turn.

We’re also eliding two different understandings of “moral system”. One sense of a moral system is one’s private, pre-theoretical intuitions about what is right and wrong. Of course, in that sense we all have different moral systems. Another sense of a moral system is an abstract system of morality, such as one proposed by Socrates, Aristotle, Kant, Mill, etc. In that sense of moral system our beliefs may be better or worse encapsulated by one or another of them, and our intuitions better or worse captured, and it is indeed possible that there is one or another of them that does the most justice to our moral reasoning. It is also possible that none does. But one cannot begin by assuming so.

That said, I certainly do agree that we have to take certain things as axiomatic. The problem comes when one begins a discussion asserting the axiom without much intuition-priming. That is permissible insofar as reason takes us, however it does tend to isolate one rhetorically. And this is a particular problem when that axiom has such clearly anti-intuitive corollaries, such as that there is no such thing as moral justification. Then it sounds somewhat perverse.

Posted on Oct 26, 2008 at 9:59am by dougsmith Comment #141

Very interesting point, Doug. Time for me to mull it over. Thanks for making me think! :-)

Posted on Oct 26, 2008 at 10:37am by Chris Crawford Comment #142

BaIB, I think that you and I are on the same page with regards to how we would like to treat and see other people treat animals in general, with only subtle differences.  The reason why I nitpick Tom Regen’s (or your) conception of animal “rights” is that people will not be convinced that the feelings and concerns of animals matter based on “rights” which they do not recognize. 

I think that the toughest barrier for people to cross is religion (humans made in the image of god, etc.).  I don’t see how a non-religious person, one who has an understanding of evolution by natural selection, can draw a line between humans and all other animals.  It is just not rational. I think that as religion becomes less important to people, and as science and rationalism gain ground, the concept of rights for animals will be less difficult for people to grasp.  And progress is already visible, as in Spain granting basic rights to chimpanzees.

Of course, not all people will ever be convinced.  There are still people living today who don’t think racism or gender discrimination is wrong.  This is why, by democratic means, we have enacted laws to force these people to comply with what are now considered universal moral principles.  The same will be with the rights of animals.  Those people who won’t want to respect the rights of animals will be forced to do so by law.

Although I disagree with the way in which Chris sees the issue, I think that his perspective is rather understandable.  I don’t think that he will be convinced that animals are entitled to some sort of “right” to not be used as a means to an end if he does not believe that animals have “rights” to begin with. 

Chris has not even considered any of the arguments presented.  He seems totally close-minded.

While I empathize with most of your sentiments, I don’t think that it makes for convincing argument to repeatedly insist that animals have “rights” without showing why they have “rights” and where those “rights” come from.

If you don’t like the way I presented the argument, then consider Tom Regan’s argument, or Richard Dawkins’ argument as presented in the interview or in his book, “A Devil’s Chaplin” in chapter titled, “Gaps in the Mind”. 

I would like to see Chris try to refute any one of these arguments, but of course he won’t.  He will just deny everything without giving a reason.

As a PETA member I regularly receive their Animal Times magazine.  I am a strong supporter of most of what PETA does, but occasionally a thing or two that makes me wince.  In that magazine once, for example, was a fabulous expose on the horrible treatment of cows in factory farms.  Directly across the page was an article about mistreatment of cockroaches.  I think that this sort of “across the board” - “all animals are equal” approach appears absurd to most people and for good reason.  And I think that this can cause serious distraction to the cause of actually alleviating the suffering of animals who do genuinely suffer.

I don’t think this causes distraction.  It shows consistency.  As a long time animal rights activist, I have often heard people say, “Sure, you care about dogs and cows because they are cute, but what about rats and cockroaches?” I don’t see any rational reason why cows are more important than cockroaches.  All individuals have an inherent value regardless of how others see them. If animals were granted basic rights, cows would become extinct and cockroaches, if we need to protect ourselves from them (and everyone has a right to protect oneself from harm), would be dealt with humanely.

Posted on Oct 26, 2008 at 11:42am by BaIB Comment #143

That source is ultimately grounded in the physical laws of nature which makes your own morality, no matter how unique to you as an individual, objective.
OK, I’ll concede that, but this line of reasoning also suggests that, because experience is not universal, moral systems will not be universal.

Depends on what is meant by universal or system. I only say the rules are universal. Like weather. The same principles of temperature, pressure, humidity etc are responsible for all weather everywhere but that doesn’t mean it’s sunny everywhere. That said, human societies are progressive which means that potentially… it could be sunny everywhere, morally speaking.

All “unique” individual moralities are just re-arrangements of values that seem to exist everywhere.
Yes, there is some truth in this. Yet, those re-arrangements can yield contradictory end results. For example, the notion of family honor, which makes families enforcers of morality, leads to honor killing, which Westerners hold to be immoral. In the same fashion, a soldier who dies to save his buddies is a hero in our culture, but a suicide bomber is held to be immoral in our culture and moral in other cultures. The underlying principles can be the same but the end results can be contradictory.

I don’t think these contradictory end results bear scrutiny. I think under examination you find elements at play in location A but not B. There is some notion of family honor almost everywhere, but most places do not have the killing. I expect there are good reasons this is the case.. not merely capriciously varying moral compasses.  For example we find extremes of morality in places where people have extremes of day to day circumstance- not knowing if your children will survive or you will. When the stakes are high and there is little to lose, human actions will reflect this. This is just what I would expect if there is in fact a universal moral grammar.

I also find the differences among cultural mores compelling, if not for philosophical reasons. I once questioned an Iraqi about why he had come to work on a Friday (I told him he had angered Allah. I’m kind of a prick). He answered simply ‘must feed baby’. For two people who could not have been more different, we could not have agreed more.

Posted on Oct 26, 2008 at 12:12pm by sate Comment #144

This is all a fascinating discussion. I will also mull it over and watch South Park.

Posted on Oct 26, 2008 at 12:13pm by sate Comment #145

I’ve been thinking over Doug’s point and come up with some weak conclusions to present. Here’s the statement that struck me the most:

it is indeed possible that there is one or another of them that does the most justice to our moral reasoning. It is also possible that none does. But one cannot begin by assuming so.

What bothers me about this is its vagueness. What do we mean by “a moral system that does the most justice to our moral reasoning”? This suggests that, instead of there being a universal moral system, there’s a universal moral reasoning, which different moral systems approximate to greater or lesser degree. But I don’t see any reason to believe that there’s universal moral reasoning.

It’s not a matter of assuming one way or the other. I deny the existence of some universal moral reasoning process. If you can point to such a thing, I’ll accept it. So let me try to identify those things that are universal.

There certainly is a universal sense that there is such a thing as right and wrong, and there’s a great deal of commonality in the world’s moral systems. In many ways, this discussion echoes the “nature versus nurture” debate, but I’m not arguing for nurture alone. I see everybody vested with a universal moral grammar, rather like Chomsky’s universal grammar, but it covers only some moral fundamentals, and has nothing to say about many of the differences between moral systems. Just as Chomsky’s deep structure does not specify any details of a language, our universal moral grammar specifies few specifics. The end results in both cases are arbitrary, a matter of convention. Arguing that one culture’s moral system is superior to another’s is no different from arguing that one culture’s language is superior to another’s.

Oh, and BaIB, I have not refused to answer your questions, I have argued that no answer exists to your questions.

Posted on Oct 26, 2008 at 2:36pm by Chris Crawford Comment #146

I don’t see how a non-religious person, one who has an understanding of evolution by natural selection, can draw a line between humans and all other animals.  It is just not rational.

I agree.

Chris has not even considered any of the arguments presented.  He seems totally close-minded.

Chris expresses feelings of empathy toward others and a desire to be moral as he understands it.  Perhaps presenting a convincing argument that humans are entitled to certain “rights” is a good starting place for discussion.  The step from human rights to animal rights is a very small step indeed.

If you don’t like the way I presented the argument, then consider Tom Regan’s argument, or Richard Dawkins’ argument as presented in the interview or in his book, “A Devil’s Chaplin” in chapter titled, “Gaps in the Mind”

Although I have not read the Tom Regan book that you suggested,  I did read the Regen articles that you linked in.  I do not find the notion of animal rights that he presents in them so convincing for the reason of it’s rooting in a “right to not be used as a means to an end” that we discussed earlier.  I also think that he very much mis-characterizes modern utilitarian philosophies, a ungrounded jab that is clearly intended t the likes of Peter Singer.  I do not have a copy of Dawkins’ A Devil’s Chaplin on my book shelf, although I will re-read through the chapter that you mention next time that I am at Barnes & Noble.

I have often heard people say, “Sure, you care about dogs and cows because they are cute, but what about rats and cockroaches?” I don’t see any rational reason why cows are more important than cockroaches.  All individuals have an inherent value regardless of how others see them. If animals were granted basic rights, cows would become extinct and cockroaches, if we need to protect ourselves from them (and everyone has a right to protect oneself from harm), would be dealt with humanely.

How is it more rational to draw a fixed line between plant and animal species?  There really isn’t such a clear line in nature.  Why does a sea sponge get a “right to not be used as a means to an end” whilst a sunflower that equally so “wants” to reach for the sun does not.

Although I disagree with your “animalist” approach, I respect your choice to not get in the way of the organic processes of even the simplest of animal organisms.  I see no moral harm in your aesthetic lifestyle, at least so long as these appreciations are not introduced into any sort of law.

I think that we can both agree that all people ought to become vegetarian, that sport hunting should generally be banned, that we should use alternatives to leather products, etc.

Posted on Oct 26, 2008 at 2:55pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #147

What bothers me about this is its vagueness. What do we mean by “a moral system that does the most justice to our moral reasoning”? This suggests that, instead of there being a universal moral system, there’s a universal moral reasoning, which different moral systems approximate to greater or lesser degree. But I don’t see any reason to believe that there’s universal moral reasoning.

Hmm ... as for vagueness, I’ll definitely concede that point. I was arguing at the most abstracted level.

As for moral reasoning, it is simply a version of any other sort of reasoning, except that it’s about moral matters. Now, unless you’re going over to the dark side of postmodernism, I think you’ll agree that there is a universal sort of reasoning, at least of a rough-and-ready sort, that allows people of all times and cultures to come up with workable predictions and explanations, and figure out how the world works. And of course insofar as we’re talking about deductive logic and mathematics, there is demonstrably a universal sort of reasoning.

It certainly looks prima facie like this sort of reasoning could be turned to moral matters. Of course, doing so would involve introducing concepts like “ought”, “should”, “should not”, in order to overcome the is/ought gap. But these predicates function quite like other predicates that we know well. Perhaps they are ultimately vacuous or fictional, but that certainly isn’t apparent simply from the logic of their usage.

So, we have here a baby argument of the form:

(1) We possess a rough form of (universal) reasoning.

(2) Moral concepts and properties function much like other concepts and properties which we use in ordinary reasoning.

(3) Concepts and properties which function like those we ordinarily use in reasoning should themselves be amenable to reason.

Therefore (4) Moral concepts should be amenable to reason.

I should add that I do agree that there is something like a universal moral grammar. I agree with Pinker and others that it is likely in our genes in some sense; that is, it is inculcated in us by our biological past. But this is actually not relevant to the point I am making. This is because for any biologically based moral belief we possess, it is still possible for us to ask whether or not that predisposition is itself moral. That is, whatever our propensities are, it is logically possible that they be propensities for immoral rather than moral behavior. Something more needs to be argued before we can assume that our biological propensities are moral ones. (Just to take an example or two, it is clear that we have a biological propensity for violence. Some have argued that males have a biological propensity to rape. Neither of these goes anywhere towards demonstrating that these are moral behaviors).

Posted on Oct 26, 2008 at 3:31pm by dougsmith Comment #148

The example of a suicide bomber may not be a good test case.First it involves suicide,which most likely implies madness.Second,it involves murder.Let us count the ways in which murder is wonderfully incorporated in well known ideas of morality.Death penalty,wars/combat,police actions,self defense.Now,you may say that none of those things are actually murder,but the suicide bombers and their captains can apply the same justifications.
There is no formula for morality.It is a loose idea,which slightly varies from culture to culture.It lies somewhere between the intrinsic animalistic behaviors we have and the judgements we make upon one another.

Posted on Oct 26, 2008 at 4:41pm by VYAZMA Comment #149

Doug, your baby argument is flawless, but when we proceed to the next step, we fall into a hole. Yes, we should be able to reason with moral principles, and yes, we all share a fundamental sense of morality. The problem (as I see it) is that the fundamental sense of morality that we are born with does not take the form of fundamental axioms or propositions; it’s all quite vague. For example, here are two of the basic concepts built into every human (IMHO):

1. I should empathize with others.
2. I should enforce fairness.

The problem is that these axioms are too vague to take us any further. What, precisely, does “empathize” mean? Does it mean that we should definitely feel bad when we murder somebody for their shoes? If it does affect behavior, how far does it go? The same thing goes with “fairness”. We all know that things should be fair, but is it fair that Bill Gates has billions of dollars and my neighbor is losing his house? Bill Gates earned his money ‘fair and square’—but it still doesn’t sit right in anybody’s stomach that he is so filthy rich when others are so filthy poor.

So while I must concede the existence of some universal moral primitives, I counter by noting that they are too general to serve our needs.

Posted on Oct 26, 2008 at 4:43pm by Chris Crawford Comment #150

[quote author=“erasmusinfinity” date=“1225072519]
Chris expresses feelings of empathy toward others and a desire to be moral as he understands it.  Perhaps presenting a convincing argument that humans are entitled to certain “rights” is a good starting place for discussion.  The step from human rights to animal rights is a very small step indeed.

I had no idea that I would have to start with the argument that humans deserve basic rights.  I thought that is universally accepted.

If I relied on Chris’ empathy, I would be very worried.  He seems to think that only individuals with whom we relate deserve rights.  Obviously he and I don’t relate, so he must think that I don’t deserve rights.

[quote author=“erasmusinfinity” date=“1225072519]
Although I have not read the Tom Regan book that you suggested,  I did read the Regen articles that you linked in.  I do not find the notion of animal rights that he presents in them so convincing for the reason of it’s rooting in a “right to not be used as a means to an end” that we discussed earlier.

What other right than the right not to be used as a means to an end would be a more basic right?

[quote author=“erasmusinfinity” date=“1225072519]
I also think that he very much mis-characterizes modern utilitarian philosophies, a ungrounded jab that is clearly intended t the likes of Peter Singer.

We do not apply the utilitarian theory to humans.  Most people believe that every individual human (except those with no sentience) deserves rights.  Why should we apply a different moral theory to humans and a different moral theory to non-human animals?  Seems like speciesism to me.

[quote author=“erasmusinfinity” date=“1225072519]
I do not have a copy of Dawkins’ A Devil’s Chaplin on my book shelf, although I will re-read through the chapter that you mention next time that I am at Barnes & Noble.

Watch this:

Richard Dawkins - Argument for Gorillas’ Rights

http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=cTZnBQ3aWVk&feature=related

[quote author=“erasmusinfinity” date=“1225072519]
How is it more rational to draw a fixed line between plant and animal species?  There really isn’t such a clear line in nature.  Why does a sea sponge get a “right to not be used as a means to an end” whilst a sunflower that equally so “wants” to reach for the sun does not.

We have to draw a line somewhere or else, what would we eat?

We draw a line with sentience when it comes to humans (we don’t grant rights to fetuses or humans in vegetative state).  This is a good principle (I think you agreed to it).  Why not apply it to the other species?  And when in doubt whether a particular species has sentience or not, just give that species a basic right, it won’t hurt us.

[quote author=“erasmusinfinity” date=“1225072519] 
Although I disagree with your “animalist” approach, I respect your choice to not get in the way of the organic processes of even the simplest of animal organisms.  I see no moral harm in your aesthetic lifestyle, at least so long as these appreciations are not introduced into any sort of law.

If they are not introduced into law, then they are meaningless. I am arguing that the respect for the rights of non-human animals is not a matter of private morality but of universal morality.

The same what you said above could have been said about any other moral progress we have made. For example: “I respect your right not to send your children to the coal mines, but don’t introduce a law and ban me from sending mine”.  “I respect your right not to own slaves, but don’t make it a law that no one can own slaves”.

[quote author=“erasmusinfinity” date=“1225072519]
I think that we can both agree that all people ought to become vegetarian, that sport hunting should generally be banned, that we should use alternatives to leather products, etc.

Yes, but not all people will respect these moral principles.  There have to be laws.  In fact, not long ago, fox hunting was banned in England.  The majority of people in England thought that fox hunting is cruel and immoral, and it was banned.  The few people that wanted to fox hunt can no longer do it.  What is wrong with that?

Posted on Oct 26, 2008 at 4:45pm by BaIB Comment #151

I had no idea that I would have to start with the argument that humans deserve basic rights.  I thought that is universally accepted.

Yes, it’s a big world, full of strange ideas. But remember, I’m denying the existence of any rights and arguing that moral behavior is better discussed without that useless intermediate term.

If I relied on Chris’ empathy, I would be very worried.  He seems to think that only individuals with whom we relate deserve rights.

No, I don’t think anybody has rights; I’m arguing that we can understand morality better if we jettison this confusing concept and focus directly on the moral issues.

Posted on Oct 26, 2008 at 4:54pm by Chris Crawford Comment #152

Yes, it’s a big world, full of strange ideas. But remember, I’m denying the existence of any rights and arguing that moral behavior is better discussed without that useless intermediate term.

This is a strange idea, one that I have never heard of.  Can you explain?

No, I don’t think anybody has rights; I’m arguing that we can understand morality better if we jettison this confusing concept and focus directly on the moral issues.

I don’t see how that is possible.
Please explain, in terms of your “strange” idea, why is it morally justified to use non-human animals as means to our ends, and why such behavior would be immoral if applied to humans?

Posted on Oct 26, 2008 at 5:03pm by BaIB Comment #153

OK, to explain the basic idea: you use some moral thinking to declare that some entity has a particular right. Then you use that right to claim that the entity is being mistreated. My argument is that you should cut out the middleman (the right) and proceed directly from whatever moral thinking you have to the behavior you wish to discuss.

However, I go even further: I claim that there is no objective basis for a universal moral code. I acknowledge only two factors in this regard:

1. There is a genetically-founded sense of morality that vests each human with some basic concepts of right and wrong, but this sense is too vague to use for moral reasoning.
2. There are some moral rules that are used by virtually all societies. I’d be willing to concede that these rules can be treated as universal—because they are!

Now, an argument that arises from #2 is that we might be able to use these universal moral rules as the basis for interpolating and entire moral system. Unfortunately, even this proves impossible: the few truly universal rules just don’t cover enough ground. For example, all societies have rules against murder—but they define murder differently because they do not forbid some forms of killing.

So now let me turn to your specific question:

why is it morally justified to use non-human animals as means to our ends, and why such behavior would be immoral if applied to humans?

I claim that it is not morally justifiable to use non-human animals as a means to our ends. There is no argument that you could concoct to objectively prove that such behavior is either right or wrong. If another person denies your claim, and I am observing your discussion, I do not believe that you could provide a compelling argument.

I am not denying the existence of morality; I am claiming that there is no objective basis for declaring any particular moral system superior to any other.

That’s a summary of my position. I hope it makes sense now.

Posted on Oct 26, 2008 at 6:26pm by Chris Crawford Comment #154

The problem (as I see it) is that the fundamental sense of morality that we are born with does not take the form of fundamental axioms or propositions; it’s all quite vague.

Absolutely. But the question is not whether we are born with fundamental moral axioms in mind. Clearly we are not. The question is whether the vague moral bearings that we all share can be codified and made precise by some carefully chosen set of axioms.

I don’t mean to suggest that at the end of the process we will all agree on the specifics, BTW. But the same is true for physics. Lack of agreement does not imply lack of universality. In some instances it implies ignorance by one or more of the parties.

Posted on Oct 27, 2008 at 4:06am by dougsmith Comment #155

I think that this thread has melded somewhat with this thread HERE from the philosophy section.

(I didn’t want to post twice)

Posted on Oct 27, 2008 at 5:18am by erasmusinfinity Comment #156

I think that this thread has melded somewhat with this thread HERE from the philosophy section.

(I didn’t want to post twice)

Yeah, and it’s a discussion we have had a number of times here on the forum.

Posted on Oct 27, 2008 at 6:32am by dougsmith Comment #157

The question is whether the vague moral bearings that we all share can be codified and made precise by some carefully chosen set of axioms.

Yes, that’s the core of the problem. I cannot deny that such a codification is possible, but so far I have never seen any convincing codification, and that leads me to the (admittedly provisional) conclusion that it can’t be done. What lends confidence to my conclusion is the failure of so many great minds through history to solve the problem.

Posted on Oct 27, 2008 at 8:23am by Chris Crawford Comment #158

OK, to explain the basic idea: you use some moral thinking to declare that some entity has a particular right. Then you use that right to claim that the entity is being mistreated. My argument is that you should cut out the middleman (the right) and proceed directly from whatever moral thinking you have to the behavior you wish to discuss.

However, I go even further: I claim that there is no objective basis for a universal moral code. I acknowledge only two factors in this regard:

1. There is a genetically-founded sense of morality that vests each human with some basic concepts of right and wrong, but this sense is too vague to use for moral reasoning.
2. There are some moral rules that are used by virtually all societies. I’d be willing to concede that these rules can be treated as universal—because they are!

Now, an argument that arises from #2 is that we might be able to use these universal moral rules as the basis for interpolating and entire moral system. Unfortunately, even this proves impossible: the few truly universal rules just don’t cover enough ground. For example, all societies have rules against murder—but they define murder differently because they do not forbid some forms of killing.

So now let me turn to your specific question:

why is it morally justified to use non-human animals as means to our ends, and why such behavior would be immoral if applied to humans?

I claim that it is not morally justifiable to use non-human animals as a means to our ends. There is no argument that you could concoct to objectively prove that such behavior is either right or wrong. If another person denies your claim, and I am observing your discussion, I do not believe that you could provide a compelling argument.

I am not denying the existence of morality; I am claiming that there is no objective basis for declaring any particular moral system superior to any other.

That’s a summary of my position. I hope it makes sense now.

So you are against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?  I cannot agree with you.  You are probably a heterosexual, white male, who never had to fight for his rights.  Were you a female, black, a non-human animal, or any other oppressed group, you would feel quite differently. If your rights were not being respected, you would no doubt fight for them. Your whole moral system is immoral.

Posted on Oct 27, 2008 at 3:57pm by BaIB Comment #159

So you are against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

Goodness gracious, where-ever do you get these crazy ideas? No, I am not “against” that declaration; I think it represents some very good ideas. I think it’s couched in entirely the wrong language, but the sentiments it expresses are noble and I support those sentiments.

I think you have completely misunderstood my position. I am not arguing against morality, I am arguing that there exists no objective basis for imposing any single moral code on other people.

Posted on Oct 27, 2008 at 4:25pm by Chris Crawford Comment #160

Chris,

I don’t think that human rights are attempts at the sort of objectively based moral code that you oppose.  They are not themselves rules or commandments.

As an economist, I’m sure that you can appreciate that competing interests are implicitly self serving.  If there is no discussion of the most basic of human entitlements, such as those generally termed as “rights” then there is no line to which we can say that the interests of the powerful should not be allowed to cross in violating the interests of the less powerful.  Indeed, there even becomes a motivation to violate others at the most grotesque levels if only doing so will in any way service one’s own interests, however decadent those may be.

Posted on Oct 27, 2008 at 5:04pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #161

So you are against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

Goodness gracious, where-ever do you get these crazy ideas? No, I am not “against” that declaration; I think it represents some very good ideas. I think it’s couched in entirely the wrong language, but the sentiments it expresses are noble and I support those sentiments.

There is no other way to protect an individual and his/her personal security than by giving that individual some basic rights.  If you disagree, propose an alternative.

I think you have completely misunderstood my position. I am not arguing against morality, I am arguing that there exists no objective basis for imposing any single moral code on other people.

So, in other words, there should be no laws that impose moral codes on people?  We should let pedophiles have sex with children (obviously pedophiles don’t think that that’s immoral), we should let rapists rape, murderers murder, etc. etc.?
Society could not function if no moral codes were imposed.

To clarify, I am not interested in personal morality (issues such as cheating on a husband or a wife, sex before marriage, etc.).  I am only talking about universal morals. Morals that can be rationalized if we start from one main moral principle that everyone agrees on.

Posted on Oct 27, 2008 at 5:12pm by BaIB Comment #162

BaIB and erasmusinfinity, you are both deducing that, since I claim that there is no objective basis for any particular moral system, I must be opposed to all law. This is an incorrect deduction. I have already made a very clear distinction: a moral system is specific to an individual, and a legal system is how society imposes its commonly-shared values on all members of society.

Now, in many societies, that legal system is determined by powerful people. In a democracy, it is determined by electing legislators. However it is built, the legal system is the proper means for applying portions of a moral code upon people.

So let me make this clear:

1. My own behaviors are evaluated by my own moral code and nobody else’s. Anybody who tries to tell me that my moral code is somehow incorrect or immoral is necessarily mistaken.
2. My behaviors towards others, and their behaviors towards me, are judged by the moral code enshrined in law.

To boil it down even further:

Moral code: personal
Legal code: social

OK?

Posted on Oct 27, 2008 at 5:35pm by Chris Crawford Comment #163

BaIB and erasmusinfinity, you are both deducing that, since I claim that there is no objective basis for any particular moral system, I must be opposed to all law. This is an incorrect deduction. I have already made a very clear distinction: a moral system is specific to an individual, and a legal system is how society imposes its commonly-shared values on all members of society.

I thought from the start we were talking about commonly-shared values of all members of society and the progress of these commonly-shared values.  After all, why would I or anyone here be interested in your own personal moral view?  What relevance would it have to anything?  If you think, for example, that sex outside marriage is morally wrong, I would not even enter a debate with you about this.  If you think it’s wrong, that’s fine with me.  It has absolutely no importance to me.

Now, in many societies, that legal system is determined by powerful people. In a democracy, it is determined by electing legislators. However it is built, the legal system is the proper means for applying portions of a moral code upon people.

Yes, and that is what I thought we were talking about.  Hopefully, we live in democracy.

So let me make this clear:
1. My own behaviors are evaluated by my own moral code and nobody else’s. Anybody who tries to tell me that my moral code is somehow incorrect or immoral is necessarily mistaken.
2. My behaviors towards others, and their behaviors towards me, are judged by the moral code enshrined in law.
To boil it down even further:
Moral code: personal
Legal code: social
OK?

OK.  But we were talking about social moral code from the beginning of this debate.  So why did you even bring up personal moral code?

Posted on Oct 27, 2008 at 6:09pm by BaIB Comment #164

But we were talking about social moral code from the beginning of this debate.  So why did you even bring up personal moral code?

Because one of our correspondents took the position that his own personal moral code with respect to animals should be applied to everybody. I objected that the proper way to impose a moral constraint on others is through the enactment of a law, not the mere declaration of one person’s subjective moral code.

So, if you want to talk about specific proposals, such as banning hunting, or specifying minimum conditions for meat animals, or banning the eating of meat, then make that proposal. To offer a broad-brush claim that animals have rights is quite another thing from proposing a law.

Posted on Oct 27, 2008 at 6:20pm by Chris Crawford Comment #165

Chris,

I think that you are clearly just skating around the issue now because your terminology is shifting as we go.  Moral talk bothers you but you surely recognize that there is some sort of arena, apart from which currently is legal or illegal, for discussing that which should be legal or illegal.  Most people call that moralizing.  Call it whatever you want.  It is something.  Let’s just call it A.  You clearly have no problem making assertions within the realm of A.  The terminological distinction between “rights” and saying things like “specifying minimum conditions” is inconsequential.  Call that whatever you want.  It is also a thing… B.  You agree that there is a thing A and a thing B.  You say that we should make laws.

So let’s go back to square one, where we started with this thread.  Where is the logic in making such assertions in arena A on behalf of human animals and not on behalf of certain animals of other species?  What good reason does one have to care about others that just happen to be human but not to care about others that happen to belong to other species of the animal kingdom?

Posted on Oct 28, 2008 at 1:58pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #166

erasmusinfinity, it appears that I have failed to communicate my meanings to you, so I will use your terminology. As I understand it, Arena A is the discussion of proposed laws. Some law has been proposed—let’s say it’s a popular initiative. So now we have a discussion of the merits of Proposition 66. This is what you call Arena A. And you are welcome to participate in Arena A, talking about it as much as you want. But Arena A doesn’t decide the matter. The matter is decided by a vote of the people. If somebody decides to vote against Proposition 66, and you are in favor of Proposition 66, then you are welcome to present your arguments (assuming he’s willing to listen). And you can formulate your arguments any way you desire. But if, in the end, he decides that you have failed to convince him, are you willing to condemn him as irrational? Are you claiming that everybody who disagrees with you on any political issue is necessarily irrational?

Where is the logic in making such assertions in arena A on behalf of human animals and not on behalf of certain animals of other species?

I don’t know. But if somebody else makes the assertions that you describe, I’m not so sure of my own opinions as to dismiss him as irrational.

What good reason does one have to care about others that just happen to be human but not to care about others that happen to belong to other species of the animal kingdom?

I don’t know. But suppose that you encountered somebody who thinks the way you describe. Suppose that they gave as “good reason” the argument that they can converse with humans but not animals, so they see a fundamental distinction between humans and animals on those grounds. Would you dismiss them as irrational?

Posted on Oct 28, 2008 at 2:23pm by Chris Crawford Comment #167

suppose that you encountered somebody who thinks the way you describe. Suppose that they gave as “good reason” the argument that they can converse with humans but not animals, so they see a fundamental distinction between humans and animals on those grounds. Would you dismiss them as irrational?

I would not consider the ability to converse with humans as opposed to animals to be a good reason.  Firstly, because we can converse in certain ways with certain other species of animal and cannot converse with all members of our species (human vegetables and fetuses… not even newborns).  Secondly, because I don’t see how the capacity to converse is to be equated with the B (our specified minimum conditions).

So yes, I would consider them as being entirely irrational on the issue.  But I would not dismiss them.  A person can be irrational on one thing and that doesn’t make them an irrational person altogether.  I would hope to persuade such a person to change their mind.  Maybe I would even work, to the best of my ability, to enact or change a law or two.

Posted on Oct 28, 2008 at 2:40pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #168

I would not consider the ability to converse with humans as opposed to animals to be a good reason.  Firstly, because we can converse in certain ways with certain other species of animal and cannot converse with all members of our species (human vegetables and fetuses… not even newborns).  Secondly, because I don’t see how the capacity to converse is to be equated with the B (our specified minimum conditions).

Your first argument is of little weight: the conversations we can have with other species are vastly inferior to the conversations that we have with humans. And the argument about human vegetables ignores the family connections of those people (and they’re a pretty special exception). The second argument is really the core of your case—and it’s an entirely subjective point. You don’t believe that the ability to converse is an important consideration. But your hypothetical opponent does. The difference between your two points of view are purely subjective. That’s the problem.

Posted on Oct 28, 2008 at 3:13pm by Chris Crawford Comment #169

I do hope that you will probe deeper into animal psychology.  Chimpanzee IQ scores are sometimes quoted as high as 80 or 90 and with questions that are tremendously anthropocentric.  I have many neighbors with lesser IQs.  Chimpanzees are routinely taught to communicate via sign language.

If by conversation you are referring specifically to spoken conversation, the only reason that chimpanzees can not talk is because they do not have the proper vocal apparatus.  But if speaking is what you mean by communication, then by this criterion you must also regard people who have such speech impediments as to be functionally mute as belonging in the same “we don’t have to care about their interests” category as chimpanzees, even if they have tremendously high IQs.  If by conversation you mean something broader, then it simply isn’t true that all other species are incapable of conversation.  Can you even imagine a species of animal that does not communicate in some capacity?  Perhaps a sea sponge?  Certainly not a cow, pig, sheep, dog, cat, chicken, etc.

It is also a fact that not all humans are capable of conversation.  The extending of considerations to the families of human vegetables is one thing, but it is not an extension of consideration to the vegetables themselves.  My point was that a human being is not uniquely more special than, for example, a chimpanzee simply on the basis of being a human being.  That is certainly a fact if we are talking about the ability to communicate.  It is also a fact if we are talking about the capacity to suffer.

Posted on Oct 28, 2008 at 3:47pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #170

Wow, erasmusinfinity, you are way, way off in suggesting that any animals are capable of conversation. The very best that was achieved was with the child of a chimp, who was brought up watching the experimenters attempt to teach language to his mother. Mom never learned much, but Junior got pretty good—I think he had a vocabulary of several dozen words. But to suggest that this amounts to language comprehension is just wrong. There is a gigantic gap in the capabilities of humans and all other animals for communication. I can dig up the references on this, but I’ll ask that you concede my main point if you’re not going to argue it: the argument described above boils down to a difference of opinion, not reason.

Posted on Oct 28, 2008 at 4:18pm by Chris Crawford Comment #171

Do you really believe that animals do not communicate with each other or are you just claiming a specialness to the nature of human language?  I do think that there are certain qualitative differences between human language and thought and that of other species, if that is what you are referring to.  But, as I said before, even these more “human” forms of communication are not possessed by all members of the human species.

If it is the case that you believe that animals do not communicate with one another, than are you prepared to argue that zoosemiotics and the entire world of research into the area of animal communication are built on sand.  This is a flourishing field.  Your argument will require more than a few references.

Posted on Oct 28, 2008 at 4:47pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #172

erasmusinfinity, please stay consistent with the terminology. I made it very clear that the distinguishing factor was the ability to hold a conversation. Not intra-species communication. Not animal intelligence. Not proto-language, pseudo-language, semi-language, demi-language, or hemi-language. The ability to hold a conversation. I used that phrasing because I am fully aware of the various animal studies involving communication, and I didn’t want to leave any opportunity for confusion. It seems my effort in this case was futile.

Posted on Oct 28, 2008 at 6:28pm by Chris Crawford Comment #173

I don’t think that there is anything “way off” or inconsistent about my usage of terminology.  The parameters of what constitute “conversation” are hotly debated among animal behaviorists.

So then it is the capacity to speak words in complete sentences that utilize complex grammars and construct verbal phrases that gives us reason to care about someone?  Surely you can see how arbitrary that it is.  Again, what of human beings who can not do these things?  Should they be placed in the “we don’t need to care about them” category?

Posted on Oct 28, 2008 at 8:14pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #174

The parameters of what constitute “conversation” are hotly debated among animal behaviorists.

What!?!??!! Now you’re bringing in a truly weirdo definition of “conversation”???

Look, the ability to converse with somebody—you know, ask them about the weather, what kind of day they’re having, etc—is something that you can do with humans and you can’t do with non-humans. You can easily do it with humans and you cannot do it with animals. That’s what differentiates humans as a species from other creatures. And that provides a clear, non-arbitrary means of discriminating based on somebody’s values.

The end result is that another person could disagree with you based solely on subjective values, not objective truth. So there is no basis for you to claim that your values on this matter are objectively superior to anybody else’s.

Posted on Oct 28, 2008 at 8:29pm by Chris Crawford Comment #175

Chris, once again you are digressing.  You do not regard that we should care about other humans as a matter of subjective values, unless you’ve changed your mind back down that route again.  That we should care about animals has nothing to do with subjectivity by the same token.

First it was “morality” then it was “rights.”  Now it is the parameters that surround the ability of a being to communicate.  Would you demand that Chimpanzees recite Shakespeare before accepting that any consideration be given for them?  I think that I am starting to agree with BaIB that you are not really considering any of the presented arguments.  It seems at this point that you will keep fishing, whatever argument is presented.

Posted on Oct 29, 2008 at 4:25am by erasmusinfinity Comment #176

I agree that we are the only animals capable of conversation, as it is defined by dictionary.com as “informal interchange of thoughts, information, etc., by spoken words.” We are the only animals that have language.

If we need to look for some “objective truth” why it might be wrong to kill animals, we should perhaps consider the fact that they experience pain when being killed. But even then I guess it is up to the individual to decide what to do with that knowledge. Knowing this, and not acting upon it, compares to a psychopath who knows of doing wrong, but incapable of feeling emotional about it.

Posted on Oct 29, 2008 at 5:59am by George Comment #177

If we need to look for some “objective truth” why it might be wrong to kill animals, we should perhaps consider the fact that they experience pain when being killed.

Yes I agree George.  But Chris is arguing, at least hypothetically, that the line should be drawn at a being’s ability to have a conversation.  He does not, at least hypothetically here, care if a being experiences pain.  He is asserting that the ability to have a conversation, about the weather or football stats perhaps, is as meaningful of a place to draw the line over who’s concerns ought be cared about as any other.

He is also stuck on the idea that all humans, and not just humans who can do this, should be given a special status simply because they are members of the human species and despite the fact that many members of the human species do not have this ability.  (Ie. Babies can not do anything remotely resembling this for the first several months of life… the list of examples goes on and on.)

But even then I guess it is up to the individual to decide what to do with that knowledge. Knowing this, and not acting upon it, compares to a psychopath who knows of doing wrong, but incapable of feeling emotional about it.

It certainly is up to individuals and societies when it comes to the matter of empowerment.  Unfortunately.
This may just be another case that someone needs a visit from the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.

I agree that we are the only animals capable of conversation, as it is defined by dictionary.com as “informal interchange of thoughts, information, etc., by spoken words.” We are the only animals that have language.

I would be quite interested in discussing the matter of “animal conversation.”  Although I would prefer that it not distract from the course of conversation in this thread.  FWIW I never asserted that any other species of animal could do things like recite Shakespeare or grasp complex language grammars.  There are qualitative differences in both thought and communication between various species.  I have even used this point to argue, in this thread, that not all species of animal are deserving of identical moral consideration.

Posted on Oct 29, 2008 at 6:37am by erasmusinfinity Comment #178

erasmusinfinity, you have misunderstood me again, so this time I am going to explain myself with excruciating care.

But Chris is arguing, at least hypothetically, that the line should be drawn at a being’s ability to have a conversation.  He does not, at least hypothetically here, care if a being experiences pain.  He is asserting that the ability to have a conversation, about the weather or football stats perhaps, is as meaningful of a place to draw the line over who’s concerns ought be cared about as any other.

No, I am arguing that, if some person chooses to draw a line there, you have no objective basis for rejecting that criterion.

Let me write that again in different words:

I am arguing that you cannot present a values-free argument that would reject a discriminating criterion based on ability to converse.

Let me write that a third time:

The ability to converse, if used as a criterion for discriminating between humans and other creatures, cannot be rejected without recourse to subjective values.

He is also stuck on the idea that all humans, and not just humans who can do this, should be given a special status simply because they are members of the human species and despite the fact that many members of the human species do not have this ability.

No, I am arguing that the species homo sapiens can be discriminated from all other species by its ability to converse. Once the discrimination has been established and a class of creatures has been defined (in this case, members of a species that is capable of conversing), then the assignment of rights or moral factors or whatever you want to call it is a purely subjective decision, immune to objective criticism.

Let me write that a second time in different words:

I am not arguing that members of the species homo sapiens SHOULD be given given a special status. I am arguing that they CAN be given a special status based on their unique ability to converse.

Let me write that a third time:

Assignment OR DENIAL of a special status to members of the species homo sapiens is a purely subjective decision; establishment of a criterion for distinguishing homo sapiens from other species is logically independent of any assignment of special status.

You do not regard that we should care about other humans as a matter of subjective values, unless you’ve changed your mind back down that route again.

Huh? I’ve been arguing for the subjectivity of moral systems from the outset of this discussion!

Would you demand that Chimpanzees recite Shakespeare before accepting that any consideration be given for them?

No, I do not. But you have no basis for objectively challenging such a claim. It’s all a matter of personal values. Your values are not the objectively correct values, and the values of those who disagree with you are not objectively false.

It seems at this point that you will keep fishing, whatever argument is presented.

Let’s keep it clean. If you prefer to argue rather than discuss, I suggest that you take up the matter with Bryan. Or perhaps a chimpanzee.  :)

Posted on Oct 29, 2008 at 8:57am by Chris Crawford Comment #179

You do not regard that we should care about other humans as a matter of subjective values, unless you’ve changed your mind back down that route again.

Huh? I’ve been arguing for the subjectivity of moral systems from the outset of this discussion!

So then you are back down that road.  You were arguing as such at the outset of this discussion, but I had thought that you had more or less conceded that there were good reasons that people should care about others… that it wasn’t just a matter of taste.  No then?  This is a bit of a circle dance, isn’t it?

It seems at this point that you will keep fishing, whatever argument is presented.

Let’s keep it clean. If you prefer to argue rather than discuss, I suggest that you take up the matter with Bryan. Or perhaps a chimpanzee.  :)

You are right.  Point well taken, Kemosabe.  ;-)  :lol:

Posted on Oct 29, 2008 at 10:27am by erasmusinfinity Comment #180

So then you are back down that road.  You were arguing as such at the outset of this discussion, but I had thought that you had more or less conceded that there were good reasons that people should care about others… that it wasn’t just a matter of taste.  No then?  This is a bit of a circle dance, isn’t it?

No, I never left that road. I got caught in a digression about silly things like whether chimpanzees can use language and whether animals can converse. Yes, I think that people should care about others, but I have consistently argued that there is no rational basis for any particular moral code, that this is a subjective matter, not an objective one. That has been the central claim I have been making all this time, and it has underlain all of my comments. Nothing I have written contradicts that fundamental point.

Posted on Oct 29, 2008 at 10:36am by Chris Crawford Comment #181

But we were talking about social moral code from the beginning of this debate.  So why did you even bring up personal moral code?

Because one of our correspondents took the position that his own personal moral code with respect to animals should be applied to everybody. I objected that the proper way to impose a moral constraint on others is through the enactment of a law, not the mere declaration of one person’s subjective moral code.

All universal moral codes started out as personal codes.  Some people had a personal moral code that no person should be used as a slave to another person.  The people who had this personal moral code are responsible for abolishing slavery! There is no other way to bring about moral change in society than by enacting laws.  If you have a better idea, I’m listening.

So, if you want to talk about specific proposals, such as banning hunting, or specifying minimum conditions for meat animals, or banning the eating of meat, then make that proposal. To offer a broad-brush claim that animals have rights is quite another thing from proposing a law.

Hunting should be banned because non-human animals have basic rights.  Meat eating should be banned because non-human animals have basic rights.  Vivisection should be banned because non-human animals have basic rights.  The use of animals in circuses should be banned because non-human animals have basic rights. 

I mean, what do you want me to say?  Do you need more arguments (besides the ones provided in previous posts) why non-human animals should have basic rights?  If yes, I will be happy to provide them.

Posted on Oct 30, 2008 at 6:29pm by BaIB Comment #182

erasmusinfinity, it appears that I have failed to communicate my meanings to you, so I will use your terminology. As I understand it, Arena A is the discussion of proposed laws. Some law has been proposed—let’s say it’s a popular initiative. So now we have a discussion of the merits of Proposition 66. This is what you call Arena A. And you are welcome to participate in Arena A, talking about it as much as you want. But Arena A doesn’t decide the matter. The matter is decided by a vote of the people. If somebody decides to vote against Proposition 66, and you are in favor of Proposition 66, then you are welcome to present your arguments (assuming he’s willing to listen).

FYI, pro-animal voter initiatives from 1990 to 2008
(source: The Humane Society of the United States)
————————————————————————————-
Yes No
1990 California prohibit sport hunting of mountain lions Proposition 117 Approved 52% 48%
1992 Colorado prohibit spring, bait, and hound hunting of black bears Amendment 10 Approved 70% 30%
1994 Arizona prohibit steel jawed traps and other body-gripping traps Proposition 201 Approved 58% 42%
1994 Oregon ban bear baiting and hound hunting of mountain lions Measure 18 Approved 52% 48%
1996 Alaska ban same-day airborne hunting of wolves and foxes Measure 3 Approved 58% 42%
1996 California allow the trophy hunting of mountain lions Proposition 197 Rejected 42% 58%
1996 Colorado ban leghold traps and other body-gripping traps Amendment 14 Approved 52% 48%
1996 Massachusetts restrict steel traps and other body-gripping traps, Question 1 Approved 64% 36%
1996 Oregon repeal ban on bear baiting and hound hunting of Measure 34 Rejected 42% 58%
bears and cougars
1996 Washington ban bear baiting and hound hunting of bears, cougars, Initiative 655 Approved 63% 37%
bobcats, and lynx
1998 Arizona prohibit cockfighting Proposition 201 Approved 68% 32%
1998 California ban the use of cruel and indiscriminate traps and poisons Proposition 4 Approved 57% 43%
1998 California prohibit slaughter of horses and sale of horse meat Proposition 6 Approved 59% 41%
for human consumption
1998 Missouri prohibit cockfighting Proposition A Approved 63% 37%
1998 Ohio restore the ban on mourning dove hunting Issue 1 Rejected 41% 59%
2000 Alaska ban wildlife issues from ballot Measure 1 Rejected 36% 64%
2000 Alaska ban land-and-shoot wolf hunting Measure 6 Approved 53% 47%
2000 Arizona require 2/3 majority for wildlife ballot issues Proposition 102 Rejected 38% 62%
2000 Montana prohibit new game farm licenses Initiative 143 Approved 52% 48%
2000 Washington restrict steel traps and certain poisons Initiative 713 Approved 55% 45%
2002 Arizona expand gambling at greyhound tracks Proposition 201 Rejected 20% 80%
2002 Florida ban gestation crates for pigs Amendment 10 Passed 55% 45%
2002 Oklahoma ban cockfighting State Question 687 Passed 56% 44%
2002 Oklahoma increase signature requirement for animal issues State Question 698 Rejected 46% 54%
2004 Florida expand gambling at race tracks Amendment 4 Approved 51% 49%
2006 Arizona ban gestation crates, veal crates Proposition 204 Passed 62% 38%
2006 Michigan allow mourning dove hunting Proposal 3 Rejected 31% 69%
2008 California ban battery cages, gestation crates, and veal crates
2008 North Dakota prohibit canned hunt and game ranch facilities
2008 Massachusetts ban greyhound racing
2008 Alaska ban airborne hunting of wolves

And you can formulate your arguments any way you desire. But if, in the end, he decides that you have failed to convince him, are you willing to condemn him as irrational? Are you claiming that everybody who disagrees with you on any political issue is necessarily irrational?

Yes, I would not only condemn him as irrational, but downright immoral.  I would expect him to at least try to present a refutation to my argument.

Moral progress in general is slow.  Look how long it took for women to gain personhood and voting rights.  Yes, all those who opposed equal rights for women were irrational and immoral.

What good reason does one have to care about others that just happen to be human but not to care about others that happen to belong to other species of the animal kingdom?
I don’t know. But suppose that you encountered somebody who thinks the way you describe. Suppose that they gave as “good reason” the argument that they can converse with humans but not animals, so they see a fundamental distinction between humans and animals on those grounds. Would you dismiss them as irrational?

Yes, I would dismiss them as irrational.  The ability to talk is not a qualification for basic rights.  There are many humans who are mentally challenged and cannot talk.  And what about humans who are deaf and dumb and did not have an opportunity to learn sign language? On the other hand, chimpanzees and gorillas have been taught sign language and they have been able to communicate at the level of a 4-year old human child.

Erasmusinfinity answered this pretty well.
(continued below)

Posted on Oct 30, 2008 at 6:33pm by BaIB Comment #183

Wow, erasmusinfinity, you are way, way off in suggesting that any animals are capable of conversation. The very best that was achieved was with the child of a chimp, who was brought up watching the experimenters attempt to teach language to his mother. Mom never learned much, but Junior got pretty good—I think he had a vocabulary of several dozen words. But to suggest that this amounts to language comprehension is just wrong. There is a gigantic gap in the capabilities of humans and all other animals for communication. I can dig up the references on this, but I’ll ask that you concede my main point if you’re not going to argue it: the argument described above boils down to a difference of opinion, not reason.

All traits, including the capability for language, exist on a continuum throughout the whole animal kingdom.  To put a line between Homo sapiens and all other animals is irrational.

Also, what is so special about language? It is nothing more than a tool for adaptation.  Other animals may have evolved other tools, just as useful for survival in their particular environment.  Certainly, solitary animals have little use for communication.  Humans, being highly social animals, have a great need for communication.  Hence we evolved a sophisticated way to communicate.  How does that make us special and exclusive holders of basic rights?

Posted on Oct 30, 2008 at 6:34pm by BaIB Comment #184

There is no other way to bring about moral change in society than by enacting laws.

Exactly! And in a democracy, that means getting together a majority of people who share some moral tenet. So let’s apply that concept to your proposals:

Hunting should be banned because non-human animals have basic rights.


Very few people share this moral tenet. Therefore, a law banning hunting has no hope of being enacted in this country or in any state in this country. That doesn’t make your moral tenet wrong, but it certainly devastates any claim you might make that your tenet is somehow superior to everybody else’s.

Again, I emphasize that I am not denying your claim. I am denying that there is any reason why your claim is in any way more meritorious than anybody else’s moral tenet. It’s subjective, not objective.

Posted on Oct 30, 2008 at 6:35pm by Chris Crawford Comment #185

I agree that we are the only animals capable of conversation, as it is defined by dictionary.com as “informal interchange of thoughts, information, etc., by spoken words.” We are the only animals that have language.

What is so special about the capability of language?  Please explain.  And what about humans who don’t have that ability?

If we need to look for some “objective truth” why it might be wrong to kill animals, we should perhaps consider the fact that they experience pain when being killed.

Then we may kill them painlessly.  The ability to feel pain is not everything.  We do not deny basic rights to paralyzed people. One must have sentience to be considered a moral patient.


But even then I guess it is up to the individual to decide what to do with that knowledge. Knowing this, and not acting upon it, compares to a psychopath who knows of doing wrong, but incapable of feeling emotional about it.

We cannot leave universal moral principles up to individuals.  What if someone thinks there is nothing wrong with kidnapping you, torturing and killing you?  His personal moral code tells him this is perfectly fine.  Do you still argue individuals should decide for themselves what to do with knowledge and personal moral codes?

Posted on Oct 30, 2008 at 6:38pm by BaIB Comment #186

So then you are back down that road.  You were arguing as such at the outset of this discussion, but I had thought that you had more or less conceded that there were good reasons that people should care about others… that it wasn’t just a matter of taste.  No then?  This is a bit of a circle dance, isn’t it?

No, I never left that road. I got caught in a digression about silly things like whether chimpanzees can use language and whether animals can converse. Yes, I think that people should care about others, but I have consistently argued that there is no rational basis for any particular moral code, that this is a subjective matter, not an objective one. That has been the central claim I have been making all this time, and it has underlain all of my comments. Nothing I have written contradicts that fundamental point.

So, in other words, you are throwing all morality out the window.  To you, morality is whatever suits someone.  I cannot agree.  Society could not function.  I believe that the final authority on morality must be reason.  If we start with a universally accepted moral principle, say that all humans should have basic rights, we can deduce other universal moral principles from that starting point. The argument for basic rights for non-human animals starts with the principle that all sentient humans should have rights, and concludes that all sentient individuals should have rights.

Posted on Oct 30, 2008 at 6:40pm by BaIB Comment #187

There is no other way to bring about moral change in society than by enacting laws.

Exactly! And in a democracy, that means getting together a majority of people who share some moral tenet. So let’s apply that concept to your proposals:

Hunting should be banned because non-human animals have basic rights.


Very few people share this moral tenet. Therefore, a law banning hunting has no hope of being enacted in this country or in any state in this country. That doesn’t make your moral tenet wrong, but it certainly devastates any claim you might make that your tenet is somehow superior to everybody else’s.

Again, I emphasize that I am not denying your claim. I am denying that there is any reason why your claim is in any way more meritorious than anybody else’s moral tenet. It’s subjective, not objective.

Look at the list I posted of laws passed by referendum.  Many of them are anti-hunting or anti-trapping.  The majority of people do not support the killing of animals for recreation (I have reference to this study if you need it).  Fox hunting was banned in England.
Also, even if the majority does not think this way or that way, it does not mean that the opinion will not change in the future.  Most people in the past saw nothing wrong with slavery or sending children to coal mines.  There is such a thing as moral progress.

Posted on Oct 30, 2008 at 6:44pm by BaIB Comment #188

The list of initiatives that you provide makes very clear that Americans are opposed to the used of non-humane traps, that they oppose hunting of certain rare or special species, and that they oppose certain nasty agricultural practices. It also makes it very clear that they have no problem with the vast majority of hunting, because most hunters go after deer or ducks. Hunting of cougars and bears is a tiny subset of overall hunting. Therefore, inasmuch as Americans have banned perhaps 1% of hunting activities and refused to ban 99% of hunting activities, I think your data clearly demonstrate that your opposition to all forms of hunting is not supported by most Americans. (BTW, I voted for one of those initiatives that passed banning cougar hunting.) You claim that ” The majority of people do not support the killing of animals for recreation” but in fact the majority of Americans have no problem with the great bulk of hunting, as demonstrated by your data.

So, in other words, you are throwing all morality out the window.  To you, morality is whatever suits someone.  I cannot agree.  Society could not function.


I have said many times that I differentiate between private morality—a subjective matter—and social morality, which is expressed in law. We have gone round and round on this and you just keep repeating your claims without ever acknowledging my explications. I am therefore abandoning all hope of explaining this point to you.

What is so special about the capability of language?  Please explain

This is another example of how you just keep repeating your claims without ever responding to my explications. I have already answered this question thoroughly.

I will conclude my participation in this discussion with a simple restatement of the point that I have been making over and over and over and over:

You are not the center of the moral universe. Your personal moral code is not better than anybody else’s. You are welcome to believe that your personal moral code is superior to everybody else’s. You are also welcome to believe that you are the most handsome, intelligent, saintly, kindly, wise, and virtuous person on the planet—as well as being better in bed than everybody else.

Posted on Oct 30, 2008 at 10:08pm by Chris Crawford Comment #189

[quote author=“Chris Crawford” date=“1225444122"You are not the center of the moral universe. Your personal moral code is not better than anybody else’s. You are welcome to believe that your personal moral code is superior to everybody else’s. You are also welcome to believe that you are the most handsome, intelligent, saintly, kindly, wise, and virtuous person on the planet—as well as being better in bed than everybody else.

Aye. An interesting observation of Baib’s position of social moral progress is that assuming he or she is correct, the morality of society 100 years after his death will be horrified at his or her lack of moral rectitude.

I find that cruelty toward animals is wrong, no animal has the “right” not to be eaten for sustenance.  Hunting for sport is barbaric.. unless the prey is the most dangerous of all.. man! da daah DUUUUUM..

Posted on Oct 31, 2008 at 1:02am by sate Comment #190

I agree with BaIB’s last few points.  It should be simple enough to say that people are moral.  It very well may be that some people have a greater biological inheritance for things like empathy, care, concern for others, etc than others do.  But that is an afterthought.  The main point is that some people are more reasonable about this phenomenon than others.  Of course, to think about moral situations requires that we care about others.  We can choose to think about situations that effect others rationally, or we can choose to dispense with reason altogether for lack of care.  But the second choice is a choice to be amoral.

Also, although I support the passing of certain laws to protect beings from the harm of others (laws against cruelty to animals, etc.) I do also think that there is a valid and important place for moral advocacy and argument outside of the courtrooms.  It is a mistake to think that we should either be at work to pass laws or just shut up about things.  Sure, authority is useful and necessary in many situations.  But well reasoned persuasion is as good and even, in general, a more ideal motivator than is being letigious.

Posted on Oct 31, 2008 at 4:53am by erasmusinfinity Comment #191

Aye. An interesting observation of Baib’s position of social moral progress is that assuming he or she is correct, the morality of society 100 years after his death will be horrified at his or her lack of moral rectitude.

While animals rights and welfare activists may constitute a minority, I think that this point has already shown itself to be the case.  Consider the emergence of so many vegetarians, vegetarian restaurants and societies, animal rights and welfare organizations, etc. over the past 100 years.  The only concern is that evolution does not always lead us in ideal directions.  It is possible that people will become less conscientious and evolve to be less compassionate creatures.  We should work to influence humanity in the right direction.

Posted on Oct 31, 2008 at 5:01am by erasmusinfinity Comment #192

We cannot leave universal moral principles up to individuals.

No, we leave them up to the majority. The rest will either adopt or die out.

Posted on Oct 31, 2008 at 6:26am by George Comment #193

Aye. An interesting observation of Baib’s position of social moral progress is that assuming he or she is correct, the morality of society 100 years after his death will be horrified at his or her lack of moral rectitude.

While animals rights and welfare activists may constitute a minority, I think that this point has already shown itself to be the case.  Consider the emergence of so many vegetarians, vegetarian restaurants and societies, animal rights and welfare organizations, etc. over the past 100 years.  The only concern is that evolution does not always lead us in ideal directions.  It is possible that people will become less conscientious and evolve to be less compassionate creatures.  We should work to influence humanity in the right direction.

I don’t take as significant the rise of small fringe and often extreme/irrational groups as “progress” no matter their bent. I find the general moral shift more compelling. People today find cruel treatment of animals shocking and disgusting and this did not used to be the case.
I do not understand your point about evolution. It is far too slow (and maybe for us, absent entirely) to play any role in social moral thought or policy even if you were taking as evidence 3000 years.

Posted on Oct 31, 2008 at 12:25pm by sate Comment #194

I share your hopes sate.  I was only introducing some healthy pessimism into the picture.  :lol:  Let’s just call it a non-assuming sort of meliorism.  My only point about evolution is that it is not necessarily directed in such ways as we might wish.  It is not always progressive.  It is only adaptive.  I am part of the minority that would like animals to be treated better.

I do think that things over the past 100 years or so have gotten generally better, with regards to the treatment of animals, then they were 200 or 300 or 400 years ago.  Although, not across the board.  Factory farms today, for example, are doing horrific things to animals that would have been unfathomable in the distant past.  I don’t know that this point has anything to do with morality, but anyway.  There clearly was not such thing as an “animal rights” movement during the middle ages.

Posted on Oct 31, 2008 at 12:46pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #195

The list of initiatives that you provide makes very clear that Americans are opposed to the used of non-humane traps, that they oppose hunting of certain rare or special species, and that they oppose certain nasty agricultural practices. It also makes it very clear that they have no problem with the vast majority of hunting, because most hunters go after deer or ducks. Hunting of cougars and bears is a tiny subset of overall hunting. Therefore, inasmuch as Americans have banned perhaps 1% of hunting activities and refused to ban 99% of hunting activities, I think your data clearly demonstrate that your opposition to all forms of hunting is not supported by most Americans. (BTW, I voted for one of those initiatives that passed banning cougar hunting.) You claim that ” The majority of people do not support the killing of animals for recreation” but in fact the majority of Americans have no problem with the great bulk of hunting, as demonstrated by your data.

I said that the majority of Americans oppose killing of animals for RECREATION. The majority of hunting in the U.S. is done for recreation. Hunting overall is dying.
The point I was trying to illustrate by providing the list of pro-animal initiatives that passed is that society is improving morally.  Its attitude towards animals is changing.  There is moral progress.

So, in other words, you are throwing all morality out the window.  To you, morality is whatever suits someone.  I cannot agree.  Society could not function.

I have said many times that I differentiate between private morality—a subjective matter—and social morality, which is expressed in law. We have gone round and round on this and you just keep repeating your claims without ever acknowledging my explications. I am therefore abandoning all hope of explaining this point to you.

And I said that I am not interested in your private morality.  I am interested in universal morality and how to advance it.

What is so special about the capability of language?  Please explain.

This is another example of how you just keep repeating your claims without ever responding to my explications. I have already answered this question thoroughly.

I did not see any explanation.  Could you tell me which post it is in?

I will conclude my participation in this discussion with a simple restatement of the point that I have been making over and over and over and over:
You are not the center of the moral universe. Your personal moral code is not better than anybody else’s. You are welcome to believe that your personal moral code is superior to everybody else’s. You are also welcome to believe that you are the most handsome, intelligent, saintly, kindly, wise, and virtuous person on the planet—as well as being better in bed than everybody else.

As I said before, all universal moral codes start out as personal moral codes.  Someone had a personal moral code that children should not be sent to coal mines.  That person(s) then convinced others that child labor is wrong.  When enough people were convinced, child labor was banned and this became a public moral code.  It will be the same with rights for non-human animals.  The movement started in the 1970’s, so it is still young, but it has made a lot of progress.  Everyone knows the phrase “animal rights”.  Pro-animal voter initiatives are being passed.  Chimpanzees were granted rights in Spain.  Animal testing is about to be banned in the European Union.  The list goes on and on.  When enough people are convinced that exploitation of non-human animals is wrong, animals will be granted basic rights and it will become a public moral code.

I have a right to my beliefs, and in a free society, I also have a right to express these beliefs and try to convince others that my beliefs are correct.  This is what I am doing.  Is that wrong?

Posted on Nov 01, 2008 at 1:19pm by BaIB Comment #196

I agree with BaIB’s last few points.  It should be simple enough to say that people are moral.  It very well may be that some people have a greater biological inheritance for things like empathy, care, concern for others, etc than others do.  But that is an afterthought.  The main point is that some people are more reasonable about this phenomenon than others.  Of course, to think about moral situations requires that we care about others.  We can choose to think about situations that effect others rationally, or we can choose to dispense with reason altogether for lack of care.  But the second choice is a choice to be amoral.

It is not as complicated as you make it seem.  When it comes to non-human animals, it is very simple: LEAVE THEM ALONE, let them live their lives in peace.
I disagree that one has to care for others.  All that is needed is that one respects the rights of others. Do I care if my neighbor cares about me?  Not really.  As long as he does not do me harm and respects my rights, I am perfectly OK with it and think that he is moral.

Also, although I support the passing of certain laws to protect beings from the harm of others (laws against cruelty to animals, etc.) I do also think that there is a valid and important place for moral advocacy and argument outside of the courtrooms.  It is a mistake to think that we should either be at work to pass laws or just shut up about things.  Sure, authority is useful and necessary in many situations.  But well reasoned persuasion is as good and even, in general, a more ideal motivator than is being letigious.

First morality needs to be discussed outside courtrooms and legislature (like on this forum, for example).  When enough people are convinced that a certain act is immoral, then it will be banned by majority vote at the legislature.  The courts then will enforce the law and punish those who break it.

Is there any other way?

Posted on Nov 01, 2008 at 1:26pm by BaIB Comment #197

We cannot leave universal moral principles up to individuals.

No, we leave them up to the majority. The rest will either adopt or die out.


No, the rest will either adopt or go to prison.

Posted on Nov 01, 2008 at 1:28pm by BaIB Comment #198

  I do not understand your (erasmusinfinity’s) point about evolution. It is far too slow (and maybe for us, absent entirely) to play any role in social moral thought or policy even if you were taking as evidence 3000 years.

I think erasmusinfinity was talking about memenic (Dawkin’s term) evolution, which can be pretty fast. Let’s just hope that it goes in a desirable direction.

Posted on Nov 01, 2008 at 1:34pm by BaIB Comment #199

I do think that things over the past 100 years or so have gotten generally better, with regards to the treatment of animals, then they were 200 or 300 or 400 years ago.  Although, not across the board.  Factory farms today, for example, are doing horrific things to animals that would have been unfathomable in the distant past.  I don’t know that this point has anything to do with morality, but anyway.  There clearly was not such thing as an “animal rights” movement during the middle ages.

As I said, the animal rights movement started in the 1970’s with the publication of Peter Singer’s “Animal Liberation”.
The only reason why, in some aspects, animals are treated worse than in the past, is that in the middle ages they did not have the technology.  Imagine if they did!  I don’t even want to think about it.  Also, the population was much smaller.  Obviously, the bigger the population, the more animals will have to be killed to feed it.

Posted on Nov 01, 2008 at 1:40pm by BaIB Comment #200

  I do not understand your (erasmusinfinity’s) point about evolution. It is far too slow (and maybe for us, absent entirely) to play any role in social moral thought or policy even if you were taking as evidence 3000 years.

I think erasmusinfinity was talking about memenic (Dawkin’s term) evolution, which can be pretty fast. Let’s just hope that it goes in a desirable direction. But this kind of evolution we can control.

Posted on Nov 01, 2008 at 1:41pm by BaIB Comment #201

Posted through browser glitch. admin please delete.

Posted on Nov 01, 2008 at 1:42pm by sate Comment #202

I think erasmusinfinity was talking about memenic (Dawkin’s term) evolution, which can be pretty fast. Let’s just hope that it goes in a desirable direction. But this kind of evolution we can control.

Perhaps. If so, it should be stated clearly as the two have little in common. Scientifically speaking, there is no such thing as memetic evolution.

Posted on Nov 01, 2008 at 1:44pm by sate Comment #203

I was pointing out that there is nothing necessarily progressive about history.

500 years from now it is entirely possible that humans will evolve to be more cruel to both animals and each other.

Posted on Nov 01, 2008 at 1:47pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #204

I was pointing out that there is nothing necessarily progressive about history.

500 years from now it is entirely possible that humans will evolve to be more cruel to both animals and each other.

It is possible, like regressing from ancient Greece to the middle ages.  Religion was to blame for that.  To prevent such regress from happening again, we should fight religion.
BTW, religious people in general are very hostile to the idea of animal rights.  That’s not surprising considering that they don’t want women or gays to have rights either.

Posted on Nov 01, 2008 at 2:08pm by BaIB Comment #205

I said that the majority of Americans oppose killing of animals for RECREATION. The majority of hunting in the U.S. is done for recreation. Hunting overall is dying.
The point I was trying to illustrate by providing the list of pro-animal initiatives that passed is that society is improving morally.  Its attitude towards animals is changing.  There is moral progress.

What evidence supports the contention that hunting is dying? If this is true (which seems to me likely) it might have absolutely nothing to do with morality. It may be the simple result of more people living in urban/suburban places instead of rural ones where hunting is obviously facilitated and traditionally accepted. It could be a consequence of increased technological penetration as today’s yuong people might be a lot more interestted in blasting aliens on their Playstation 3 than sitting in a camo box for 4 hours waiting for a deer to happen by.

‘Have to admit, as a city slicker I have occasionally been straight weirded-out when meeting sport hunters. I just don’t get it.. they are alien to me. And I’m no peta-lovin paint-hurtlin wacko like.. some.

Posted on Nov 01, 2008 at 2:11pm by sate Comment #206

I was pointing out that there is nothing necessarily progressive about history.

500 years from now it is entirely possible that humans will evolve to be more cruel to both animals and each other.

I disagree. I think Penn Gillete compared progress to the stock market. Any month looks like a randomly zigzaging line but when you pull back to the big picture…it’s a steadily, inexorably rising line (even including the Great Depression and the recent tumult). I think the average person does not realize this both because they do not look at the wide view and because most people don’t realize what day to day life was like 10,000, 5,000 or 2,000 years ago. We see set backs localized in time and space but in the big picture progress along many fronts including moral thought, has been constant.

Posted on Nov 01, 2008 at 2:35pm by sate Comment #207

It is possible, like regressing from ancient Greece to the middle ages.  Religion was to blame for that.  To prevent such regress from happening again, we should fight religion.

I agree that religion is retarding the advance of more civilized behavior today, but as a matter of history, it’s pretty clear that the Church was the primary civilizing agent for the West from the collapse of the Roman Empire up until the Reformation.

What evidence supports the contention that hunting is dying? If this is true (which seems to me likely)

I see no evidence in support of that. Hunting remains quite popular in rural areas. Ducks Unlimited has a membership of about 3/4 of a million people; the NRA (which admittedly is not all hunters) has 7 million. If the numbers are falling, then they’re falling very slowly.

I’m not weirded out by hunters, largely because so many of my neighbors hunt. I don’t approve of what they do and I want to make certain that the laws in place protect me from them, but I’m not about to impose my preferences on them. I find the notion of gay sex revolting but I’m not about to impose my tastes on gays, either. It’s a big world.

Posted on Nov 01, 2008 at 2:45pm by Chris Crawford Comment #208

I see no evidence in support of that. Hunting remains quite popular in rural areas. Ducks Unlimited has a membership of ...
I’m not weirded out by hunters, largely because so many of my neighbors hunt. I don’t approve of what they do and I want to make certain that the laws in place protect me from them, but I’m not about to impose my preferences on them. I find the notion of gay sex revolting but I’m not about to impose my tastes on gays, either. It’s a big world.

No idea.. that’s why I asked. Your number by themselves mean little. The question is are those numbers bigger or smaller than they used to be? perhaps even more qualification is needed such as as a % of rural population etc.., regardless it is not a foregone conclusion either way.

As for the hunters, I did not mean to say I am afraid of them or that I would criminalize them. I’ve probably never considered the matter of law specifically for sport-type because banning hunting seems crazy as hunting/fishing is still how many people ya know, stay alive. I just don’t think I could have a discussion with the sport hunters. No common ground. No place to start. alien. Killing large animals for fun.. bizarre, incommensurate with any ideas in my head. I also don’t go for the gay sex but at least the general sex part I can understand. This point, this paragraph is not a moral or legal argument of course.. just a comment.

Posted on Nov 01, 2008 at 3:07pm by sate Comment #209

I was pointing out that there is nothing necessarily progressive about history.

I disagree.

If we are to compare the lives of people living 2000 years ago with the lives of people living today we might find that people are better off on average these days, in the sense of longevity, happiness, etc.  But then again, there were people living in luxury 2000 years ago and there are many miserable people in the world today who are far worse off than were, for example, the pharaohs o Egypt.  There are millions of children, for example, who die from diarrhea every year.  So things are not uniformly better for everyone.  I also see no good reason to assume that they will ever get better, although I am not denying that it will.  I hope that you are right and that it goes the positive way.

I’m not weirded out by hunters, largely because so many of my neighbors hunt. I don’t approve of what they do and I want to make certain that the laws in place protect me from them, but I’m not about to impose my preferences on them. I find the notion of gay sex revolting but I’m not about to impose my tastes on gays, either. It’s a big world.

Hunting involves victims.  Gay sex involves only pleasure for it’s participants (assuming of course that they are willing participants).  It is entirely victimless.  I don’t think this is anything reasonable of a comparison.

We should impose things on others only when they are imposing, and only to the extent that our imposition is a demand that they not be allowed to impose.

Posted on Nov 01, 2008 at 3:30pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #210

*If it is wrong of us to tell hunters that they should not hunt then it is wrong of hunters to shoot animals.

*If it is not wrong to shoot animals, on the basis that disapproval of hunting is only a subjective opinion, then it is not wrong of me to tell others that they should not hunt.  How dare you impose your own subjective view upon me by saying that I must leave hunters alone!  For that matter, neither you nor a hunter would have any legitimate claim to criticize me if I were to exercise my subjective preference to go out and start shooting hunters.

Posted on Nov 01, 2008 at 4:02pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #211

If we are to compare the lives of people living 2000 years ago with the lives of people living today we might find that people are better off on average these days, in the sense of longevity, happiness, etc.  But then again, there were people living in luxury 2000 years ago and there are many miserable people in the world today who are far worse off than were, for example, the pharaohs o Egypt.  There are millions of children, for example, who die from diarrhea every year.  So things are not uniformly better for everyone.  I also see no good reason to assume that they will ever get better, although I am not denying that it will.  I hope that you are right and that it goes the positive way.

I certainly agree things are not uniformly better. Like I said you have to take the long view. Consider the poorest peoples.. in some ways they actually are better off. They don’t get invaded by a new tribe/chiefdom every year because the globe has become (comparatively) much more stabilized.  10,000 years ago the number 1 cause of death wasnt diarrhea because it was probably murder. Many of these poorest owe their existance to relatively modern agriculture- without it millions could never have been born (the moral benefit here is debatable of course) but they have a shot at life they would not have had before. The US and other nations send aid, charity and money on a truly massive scale. Your chance of a foreign people 10,000 miles away sending you any aid 2,000+ years ago? Zero.

As for the pharoahs.. they could not dream of the fantastic luxuries enjoyed by the poorest people of mine and other nations who have refridgeration, TVs, radios, antibiotics, cars, internet, easy access to nigh-infinite information, etc..,

Over time violence, famine, and war have all declined. Over time literacy, quality of life, and political stability have gone up. These are facts. I am not being optimistic.. I am regularly called a cynic in fact.
You see no good reason to think the situation will improve? History is not enough? The most basic reason for progress and continued progress is that as a species we are fundamentally technological and equally social. All humans in every time and place ever studied were constant inventors of new things and also they banded into groups as large as practical limits allowed. To put it briefly, the demands of group living are high and favor pro-stability pro-order pro-equity type values over time because groups without these features eventually disintegrate. We invent technologies that further these goals, one of the first being the written word which had the result of taking ideas from one place to a distant one. Information technology always makes it harder to oppress and easier to innovate. Info tech has only exploded in this role over time and this is only a single example of a transformative technology which can not be put back into the bottle.
Again this is all in broad strokes. Conditions in some places are horrible but think about this- a) you know about them. a previous impossibility. b) you only know they are horrible because you have a frame of reference- a non-horrible life. That horrible place you’re thinking of? it used to be standard life, not horrific exception and c) we have the power to intervene and at least sometimes have. This seems like progress to me.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 1:10am by sate Comment #212

Hunting involves victims.  Gay sex involves only pleasure for it’s participants (assuming of course that they are willing participants).  It is entirely victimless.  I don’t think this is anything reasonable of a comparison.

If I kill an animal to eat, then it is prey. Not a victim. If you claim otherwise, then how is it not a victim when other animals kill it to eat it? Further, it is not clear that some animals in fact don’t kill or maim for apparent “sport”. Should they be arrested? How ‘bout lions that kill each other for dominance reasons? If animals get rights and victimhood surely politcal murder by a rival should be punished?

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 1:17am by sate Comment #213

Welcome to the century of the moral arguments. ;-) Why not go all the way and stop eating DNA altogether? You can always munch on viruses, dirt, and red blood cells.

It’s strange in a way because I keep coming back to this “is-ought” problem when talking about morals, ethics. Ever since I heard Sam Harris say that not only is the is-ought problem a myth but we can apply oughts to “happiness” (contentment etc.) I can’t help but think this issue is more spongy then just making the claim as fact. Looking at the moral argument for vegetarianism as an evolutionary understanding we are faced with an “ought”. I ought not eat meat because I recognize the moral dilemma of killing and eating other animals. So, as human animals we ought not eat meat.

Do you recognize yourself as an animal?Do you recognize that many other animals eat other animals?Do you recognize that zoologically man is an omnivore?(Biologically as well)
The fact that some people are put off by the current industrialization of animal sources of food is understandable.It is the result of overpopulation centered around large urban areas.Nonetheless it is secondary to the fact that eating animals is NOT immoral.
You know,when the christians or buddhists or whatever religion speaks of intelligent design,I often think their best argument could concern food sources.Look at pigs and cows.The hybridization and stocking of these animals is perfect.Look at a pig.It’s a veritable feast of plenty walking around on four legs.Same for the cow.Pigs,cattle and chickens.These animals were slowly domesticated and evolved right along side of man.This was no accident.Eggs,milk,cheese,meat,tallow,hides,glue,medicine.
Yes,today the massive,industrialization of these animals is,for some,disgusting.And why wouldn’t it be,what with the negative environmental impact,the lower quality of meats,eggs and milks,the introduction of growth horomones and questionable fodder.The crowded feedlots and the occasional media spotlight on brutality.These could be sound reasons to be a vegetarian.
So eating meat is not immoral.What about overpopulation and the formation of civilization as we know it today?Can this be called immoral?

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 6:45am by VYAZMA Comment #214

So eating meat is not immoral.What about overpopulation and the formation of civilization as we know it today?Can this be called immoral?

Overpopulation is not likely to be a problem. Virtually no 1st-world nation has a birthrate that can even maintain its present size. The rate of population global growth is falling continually. It is a projected economic crisis in Japan (for example), as it is expected not to have the manpower to sustain its industry in the coming years. Google “demographic winter”.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 7:37am by sate Comment #215

Hunting involves victims.  Gay sex involves only pleasure for it’s participants (assuming of course that they are willing participants).  It is entirely victimless.  I don’t think this is anything reasonable of a comparison.

If I kill an animal to eat, then it is prey. Not a victim. If you claim otherwise, then how is it not a victim when other animals kill it to eat it?

Terminologically, it is prey when a person or other animal kills to eat.  I do not think that it is necessarily wrong to hunt and eat animals if one needs to do so in order to survive (as if this is really a serious consideration for humans in the 21st century).  However, from the perspective of the animal (or person) being hunted and killed and presumably eaten it is a matter of being a victim, whether perpetrated by humans or other species of animals.  I have said in this thread that it is sometimes justifiable to commit acts that might otherwise be immoral if necessary for survival or as choices over greater immoral acts.

If animals get rights and victimhood surely politcal murder by a rival should be punished?

Isn’t that what we call a war crimes tribunal?

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 7:38am by erasmusinfinity Comment #216

As for the pharoahs.. they could not dream of the fantastic luxuries enjoyed by the poorest people of mine and other nations who have refridgeration, TVs, radios, antibiotics, cars, internet, easy access to nigh-infinite information, etc..,

I suppose that it depends on which particular part of the contemporary world we are comparing with which part of the ancient world.  There are millions of people in the world today who would be hard pressed to imagine such fantastic luxuries as indoor plumbing and sewage, clean safe drinking water, bountiful food, etc. as were enjoyed by the powerful in the ancient world.

I don’t disagree with your other points about particular improvements in the conditions of life.  I do believe that civilization and technology have the capacity to make life better.  I think that things can get better for any and all of us if and to the degree to which we make them better.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 7:50am by erasmusinfinity Comment #217

What evidence supports the contention that hunting is dying? If this is true (which seems to me likely) it might have absolutely nothing to do with morality. It may be the simple result of more people living in urban/suburban places instead of rural ones where hunting is obviously facilitated and traditionally accepted. It could be a consequence of increased technological penetration as today’s yuong people might be a lot more interestted in blasting aliens on their Playstation 3 than sitting in a camo box for 4 hours waiting for a deer to happen by.

The evidence for the decline in hunting is the decline of hunting licenses.
The evidence for moral progress is polls showing that the majority of Americans are opposed to the killing of animals for recreation.

‘Have to admit, as a city slicker I have occasionally been straight weirded-out when meeting sport hunters. I just don’t get it.. they are alien to me. And I’m no peta-lovin paint-hurtlin wacko like.. some.

Most people have this feeling.  There is something about a person who gets thrills out of killing.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 7:50am by BaIB Comment #218

Most people have this feeling.  There is something about a person who gets thrills out of killing.

Yes.  If there were no heart pounding, no sweaty fingers, no challenge to the suppression of one’s moral instinct involved in hunting then it would be hard to imagine anyone getting any more of a thrill from hunting than from skeet shooting and camping.  Sport hunting exemplifies sadism.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 7:57am by erasmusinfinity Comment #219

the Church was the primary civilizing agent for the West from the collapse of the Roman Empire up until the Reformation.

What makes you think that?  I think if it were not for the Church, the Reformation would have come a lot sooner.  Just consider the scientific and philosophical thought that the Church tied to suppress.

What evidence supports the contention that hunting is dying? If this is true (which seems to me likely)

I see no evidence in support of that. Hunting remains quite popular in rural areas. Ducks Unlimited has a membership of about 3/4 of a million people; the NRA (which admittedly is not all hunters) has 7 million. If the numbers are falling, then they’re falling very slowly.

This is from a PRO-hunting website:
The future of fishing and hunting in America does not look good. In the 18 to 24 year age group, fishing participation dropped from 20% in 1991 to 13% in 2001 (Source: U.S. Fish & Wildlife survey). For the same age group, hunting participation dropped from 9% in 1991 to ONLY 6% in 2001!
Read more: http://www.deer-library.com/artman/publish/article_145.shtml

I’m not weirded out by hunters, largely because so many of my neighbors hunt. I don’t approve of what they do and I want to make certain that the laws in place protect me from them, but I’m not about to impose my preferences on them. I find the notion of gay sex revolting but I’m not about to impose my tastes on gays, either. It’s a big world.

How in the world can you compare gays to hunters?!!!  Gays are not hurting anyone, not violating anyone’s rights.  Hunters murder animals for fun.  Hunters also endanger the rest of us who just want to enjoy nature (5 people were killed by hunters in my state in the last decade).

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 8:02am by BaIB Comment #220

*If it is wrong of us to tell hunters that they should not hunt then it is wrong of hunters to shoot animals.

*If it is not wrong to shoot animals, on the basis that disapproval of hunting is only a subjective opinion, then it is not wrong of me to tell others that they should not hunt.  How dare you impose your own subjective view upon me by saying that I must leave hunters alone!  For that matter, neither you nor a hunter would have any legitimate claim to criticize me if I were to exercise my subjective preference to go out and start shooting hunters.


Bravo erasmusinfinity!

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 8:07am by BaIB Comment #221

If we are to compare the lives of people living 2000 years ago with the lives of people living today we might find that people are better off on average these days, in the sense of longevity, happiness, etc.  But then again, there were people living in luxury 2000 years ago and there are many miserable people in the world today who are far worse off than were, for example, the pharaohs o Egypt.  There are millions of children, for example, who die from diarrhea every year.  So things are not uniformly better for everyone.  I also see no good reason to assume that they will ever get better, although I am not denying that it will.  I hope that you are right and that it goes the positive way.

I certainly agree things are not uniformly better. Like I said you have to take the long view. Consider the poorest peoples.. in some ways they actually are better off. They don’t get invaded by a new tribe/chiefdom every year because the globe has become (comparatively) much more stabilized.  10,000 years ago the number 1 cause of death wasnt diarrhea because it was probably murder. Many of these poorest owe their existance to relatively modern agriculture- without it millions could never have been born (the moral benefit here is debatable of course) but they have a shot at life they would not have had before. The US and other nations send aid, charity and money on a truly massive scale. Your chance of a foreign people 10,000 miles away sending you any aid 2,000+ years ago? Zero.

  <<cut>>>


I thought we were talking about MORAL progress, not economic progress.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 8:09am by BaIB Comment #222

neither you nor a hunter would have any legitimate claim to criticize me if I were to exercise my subjective preference to go out and start shooting hunters.

Why bother criticizing you when we can put you in jail for the rest of your life?

Sport hunting exemplifies sadism.

I disagree. The hunters I know can spend all day tramping around in the forest, never even get a shot, and still enjoy the experience. For them, it’s the getting out into the woods that’s enjoyable. It’s no different than fishermen who sit in their boats doing nothing all day, waiting for a fish to take the hook. It’s just absorbing the peace and quiet. People who climb mountains are the same. Why bother going to the top of the mountain? You could just as well wander all around the mountain. But getting to the top creates a sense of purpose even though that purpose is not the ultimate cause of the activity.

Yes, I find it disgusting to shoot animals. But I am not so small-minded as to condemn other cultures for their values unless those values cause injury to me.

Just consider the scientific and philosophical thought that the Church tied to suppress.

Right up until the Reformation, all the scientists and all the philosophers were clerics and indeed most people who could read were educated by the Church. The Church was the font of all science and philosophy during that period.

Thanks for the solid numbers on hunting. They do indeed demonstrate that hunting is declining. Attributing the cause of this decline to moral revulsion of killing animals remains unjustified—but perhaps you can find some data on that.

How in the world can you compare gays to hunters?!!!

I am NOT comparing gays to hunters. I am comparing my emotional reaction to gays to my emotional reaction to hunters.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 8:15am by Chris Crawford Comment #223

Hunting involves victims.  Gay sex involves only pleasure for it’s participants (assuming of course that they are willing participants).  It is entirely victimless.  I don’t think this is anything reasonable of a comparison.

If I kill an animal to eat, then it is prey. Not a victim. If you claim otherwise, then how is it not a victim when other animals kill it to eat it? Further, it is not clear that some animals in fact don’t kill or maim for apparent “sport”. Should they be arrested? How ‘bout lions that kill each other for dominance reasons? If animals get rights and victimhood surely politcal murder by a rival should be punished?

Non-human animals do not have brains complex enough to judge right and wrong to the same degree that (some) humans can.  In a court of law, a non-human animal, even the smartest chimpanzee, could not be tried, just as a 4 year old human child (regardless of how bright) could not be tried.
Non-human animals must hunt to survive.  They have no choice.  We, humans are moral agents and we have choices.  Therefore, we have a moral obligation to do what is right and to not do what is wrong.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 8:16am by BaIB Comment #224

It’s strange in a way because I keep coming back to this “is-ought” problem when talking about morals, ethics. Ever since I heard Sam Harris say that not only is the is-ought problem a myth but we can apply oughts to “happiness” (contentment etc.) I can’t help but think this issue is more spongy then just making the claim as fact. Looking at the moral argument for vegetarianism as an evolutionary understanding we are faced with an “ought”. I ought not eat meat because I recognize the moral dilemma of killing and eating other animals. So, as human animals we ought not eat meat.

Do you recognize yourself as an animal?Do you recognize that many other animals eat other animals?Do you recognize that zoologically man is an omnivore?(Biologically as well)

Humans (some humans that is) are MORAL animals.  This means that our brains are complex enough to judge what is right and what is wrong.  We have this tool (our brain), therefore, we have an obligation to use it.  Also, we have choices.  Non-human animals do not have choices.  They have to hunt or else they will starve.

The fact that some people are put off by the current industrialization of animal sources of food is understandable.It is the result of overpopulation centered around large urban areas.Nonetheless it is secondary to the fact that eating animals is NOT immoral.

You said above that humans are just animals.  If eating animals is not immoral, then it logically follows that eating humans is not immoral.

You know,when the christians or buddhists or whatever religion speaks of intelligent design,I often think their best argument could concern food sources.Look at pigs and cows.The hybridization and stocking of these animals is perfect.Look at a pig.It’s a veritable feast of plenty walking around on four legs.Same for the cow.Pigs,cattle and chickens.These animals were slowly domesticated and evolved right along side of man.This was no accident.Eggs,milk,cheese,meat,tallow,hides,glue,medicine.

Do you know the difference between and natural selection and artificial selection?

Yes,today the massive,industrialization of these animals is,for some,disgusting.And why wouldn’t it be,what with the negative environmental impact,the lower quality of meats,eggs and milks,the introduction of growth horomones and questionable fodder.The crowded feedlots and the occasional media spotlight on brutality.These could be sound reasons to be a vegetarian.
So eating meat is not immoral.

Eating meat is immoral because it violates non-human animals’ basic right not to be used as a means to an end.  If killing animals is moral, as you say, please provide an argument that killing humans is immoral. After all, we are all animals (as you agreed).

What about overpopulation and the formation of civilization as we know it today?Can this be called immoral?

I personally believe that anyone who has more than 2 children is acting immorally because he/she is degrading the quality of life on this planet for everyone.  And those who have no children are the most virtuous.
The formation of civilization is not immoral.  This is how we humans survive in this world.  Why did you ask that question in the first place?  What makes you think that it could be immoral?

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 8:29am by BaIB Comment #225

neither you nor a hunter would have any legitimate claim to criticize me if I were to exercise my subjective preference to go out and start shooting hunters.

Why bother criticizing you when we can put you in jail for the rest of your life?

You can go to prison for hunting foxes in England.  True, there is still no law against hunting in general, but give it maybe 20 more years.  As I said, moral progress can be slow.

Sport hunting exemplifies sadism.

I disagree. The hunters I know can spend all day tramping around in the forest, never even get a shot,

That’s because they are “bad” hunter.

and still enjoy the experience. For them, it’s the getting out into the woods that’s enjoyable.

If so, then why don’t they just hike?  Why do they have to go around with rifles and ready to kill someone?

It’s no different than fishermen who sit in their boats doing nothing all day, waiting for a fish to take the hook.

Of course it is not different.  Fishing is the same as hunting.  You are just killing different species of animals and using different methods to kill them.

It’s just absorbing the peace and quiet. People who climb mountains are the same. Why bother going to the top of the mountain? You could just as well wander all around the mountain. But getting to the top creates a sense of purpose even though that purpose is not the ultimate cause of the activity.

Again, if hunters just hiked the woods, I would have nothing against them.  But they murder animals and they enjoy it.

Yes, I find it disgusting to shoot animals. But I am not so small-minded as to condemn other cultures for their values unless those values cause injury to me.

So it is all about you.  You don’t care if the rights of others are violated, as long as you have your rights.  In that case, I can predict that you don’t support women’s rights, gay rights, animal rights (obviously), children’s rights, or any other individual rights except for white male rights.  Right?

Just consider the scientific and philosophical thought that the Church tied to suppress.

Right up until the Reformation, all the scientists and all the philosophers were clerics and indeed most people who could read were educated by the Church. The Church was the font of all science and philosophy during that period.

That is because that was the easiest way to get an education.  But any cleric who expressed any views that contradicted the bible was burned at the stakes.

Thanks for the solid numbers on hunting. They do indeed demonstrate that hunting is declining. Attributing the cause of this decline to moral revulsion of killing animals remains unjustified—but perhaps you can find some data on that.

That is proven by the polls.

How in the world can you compare gays to hunters?!!!

I am NOT comparing gays to hunters. I am comparing my emotional reaction to gays to my emotional reaction to hunters.

How can you possibly have the same emotional reaction?

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 8:42am by BaIB Comment #226

neither you nor a hunter would have any legitimate claim to criticize me if I were to exercise my subjective preference to go out and start shooting hunters.

Why bother criticizing you when we can put you in jail for the rest of your life?

You could also put me in jail if I did nothing at all.  The ability to control others via force does not give reason to the matter of whether something is OK or not.  We discussed slavery earlier as an example of something that was not only legal but sanctioned by the law and not OK.  In fact, many people were put in jail who spoke out strongly and acted against slavery.  Did the fact of the law make the actions of the slave owners right?

As much as you dislike the term morality, you are issuing a moral statement when you say that it is not my business to tell hunters that they should not hunt.  Is it also not my business if someone wants to beat their wife for disobedience or throw acid on her face because they are dissatisfied with the size of her dowry?  Is it not your place to get involved if one of your neighbors wants to rob or rape or murder one of your other neighbors?  If you think that it is, then is that only a reflection of your subjective moral preference?  One that is no better than any other?  Even no better then that of the perpetrator?

Also, many of us do not need the threat of being put in jail to prevent us from raping or murdering others.  Some of us just get it without a need to be controlled.

Yes, I find it disgusting to shoot animals. But I am not so small-minded as to condemn other cultures for their values unless those values cause injury to me.

If your neighbor harms another one of your neighbors then that does not cause harm to you.  Is it small minded for you, or even society to get involved?  Is a no snitching policy really best?

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 8:47am by erasmusinfinity Comment #227

There is a connection between our discussions in this thread about progress in human society/civilization and our discussion of the notion of basic rights.

There are an overabundance of basic resources on the globe today.  Far more than are needed to feed, protect and sustain the entire human population.  The fact that certain people in the world have tremendous luxuries today, as would have been unimaginable to the Pharaohs, whilst simultaneously other people either barely subsist or die under the most squalid of conditions is a direct example of what happens when the most basic of moral assertions, as are “human rights,” are dismissed as nothing but subjective whims.  To say that politics and law should be the sole determinants in the world and that there is no place for moralizing is nothing more than to make an excuse for regarding only oneself as important.  Indeed, it is itself a flawed moral commndment.  It is to assert that the best way is “everyone for themselves.”

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 9:06am by erasmusinfinity Comment #228

It’s strange in a way because I keep coming back to this “is-ought” problem when talking about morals, ethics. Ever since I heard Sam Harris say that not only is the is-ought problem a myth but we can apply oughts to “happiness” (contentment etc.) I can’t help but think this issue is more spongy then just making the claim as fact. Looking at the moral argument for vegetarianism as an evolutionary understanding we are faced with an “ought”. I ought not eat meat because I recognize the moral dilemma of killing and eating other animals. So, as human animals we ought not eat meat.

Do you recognize yourself as an animal?Do you recognize that many other animals eat other animals?Do you recognize that zoologically man is an omnivore?(Biologically as well)

Humans (some humans that is) are MORAL animals.  This means that our brains are complex enough to judge what is right and what is wrong.  We have this tool (our brain), therefore, we have an obligation to use it.  Also, we have choices.  Non-human animals do not have choices.  They have to hunt or else they will starve.

The fact that some people are put off by the current industrialization of animal sources of food is understandable.It is the result of overpopulation centered around large urban areas.Nonetheless it is secondary to the fact that eating animals is NOT immoral.

You said above that humans are just animals.  If eating animals is not immoral, then it logically follows that eating humans is not immoral.

You know,when the christians or buddhists or whatever religion speaks of intelligent design,I often think their best argument could concern food sources.Look at pigs and cows.The hybridization and stocking of these animals is perfect.Look at a pig.It’s a veritable feast of plenty walking around on four legs.Same for the cow.Pigs,cattle and chickens.These animals were slowly domesticated and evolved right along side of man.This was no accident.Eggs,milk,cheese,meat,tallow,hides,glue,medicine.

Do you know the difference between and natural selection and artificial selection?

Yes,today the massive,industrialization of these animals is,for some,disgusting.And why wouldn’t it be,what with the negative environmental impact,the lower quality of meats,eggs and milks,the introduction of growth horomones and questionable fodder.The crowded feedlots and the occasional media spotlight on brutality.These could be sound reasons to be a vegetarian.
So eating meat is not immoral.

Eating meat is immoral because it violates non-human animals’ basic right not to be used as a means to an end.  If killing animals is moral, as you say, please provide an argument that killing humans is immoral. After all, we are all animals (as you agreed).

What about overpopulation and the formation of civilization as we know it today?Can this be called immoral?

I personally believe that anyone who has more than 2 children is acting immorally because he/she is degrading the quality of life on this planet for everyone.  And those who have no children are the most virtuous.
The formation of civilization is not immoral.  This is how we humans survive in this world.  Why did you ask that question in the first place?  What makes you think that it could be immoral?

So then,humans are basically “moral"I agree.So why then do you think,if humans are moral,that the vast human population eats meat??
I never said cannibalism was immoral.It crops up when normal meat sources are scarce.It could also be used for rites and ritual.
Yes I know the difference between artificial and natural selection.What is your point in relation to my sentences there?
I won’t provide any argument,everything I stated in my post is basically fact.I don’t think that the progress of civilization is immoral.Just like the progress of civilization included stocking of animals,and hunting of animals for food and hides.As far as animals having rights,feel free to help the animals defend their rights,just as people try and defend their own rights.
I don’t need to provide any arguments.You however must provide an argument supporting why people have been wrong to hunt,capture,breed and stock animals for food,hides,raw materials.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 9:21am by VYAZMA Comment #229

BaIB, you have some hyperbolic opinions:

I personally believe that anyone who has more than 2 children is acting immorally because he/she is degrading the quality of life on this planet for everyone.  And those who have no children are the most virtuous.

So it is all about you.  You don’t care if the rights of others are violated, as long as you have your rights.  In that case, I can predict that you don’t support women’s rights, gay rights, animal rights (obviously), children’s rights, or any other individual rights except for white male rights.  Right?

Your prediction is totally incorrect. Perhaps you should re-examine your assumptions. I’d also like to point out that your position is no different from that of pro-life people who insist that fertilized ova have a “right to life”. I really shouldn’t be engaging you, because we have already established that our discussions are futile. I’ll try to exercise more discipline in the future.

Erasmusinfinity, you are once again confusing public morality (law) with private morality. I’ve explained this several times so I won’t bother beating my head against a brick wall trying to explain it to you.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 9:22am by Chris Crawford Comment #230

Although the vast majority of people are averse to view slaughter,most however do eat meat.Vegetarianism based soley on the idea of morality concerning animal rights,is a behavioral anomoly.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 9:29am by VYAZMA Comment #231

Say, since we’re on the topic, have any of you all seen the film Earthlings?  If you are a meat eater and can stomach watching it, you’ll never eat meat again.

This is quite an old post but I only recently read through it. I did stomach the entirety of “Earthling” today and I remain a meat eater. If food animals are mistreated the logical solution is to end the mistreatment, not to turn vegan. I would in fact kill animals (as humanely as possible) with my own hands if I had no other means of getting meat.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 10:16am by sate Comment #232

Erasmusinfinity, you are once again confusing public morality (law) with private morality. I’ve explained this several times so I won’t bother beating my head against a brick wall trying to explain it to you.

You don’t need to explain it anymore.  I absolutely get it.  You are intent concocting irrational excuses for immoral behavior.

You have invented a two category distinction that you repeatedly use inconsistently, and you are irrationally disregarding the usefulness of a third category of social moralizing that does not fit into either of those two categories.  To suggest in any way that an imposition upon a hunter is inappropriate is to attempt to reason away morality by suggesting that it is immoral to moralize.  This is an obviously absurd.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 10:23am by erasmusinfinity Comment #233

If food animals are mistreated the logical solution is to end the mistreatment,

Agreed.

not to turn vegan.

Wouldn’t this be the surest and most absolute way to stop the mistreatment?  Accompanied, of course, by a halt in the usage of leather, etc.  FWIW I am not vegan.  I am an ovo-lacto vegetarian.

I would in fact kill animals (as humanely as possible) with my own hands if I had no other means of getting meat.

I would also kill animals with my bare hands if I had no other means of surviving.  I have said before that I would eat my neighbor if I had to.  That sort of desperation is not what we have been talking about in this thread.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 10:30am by erasmusinfinity Comment #234

Wouldn’t this be the surest and most absolute way to stop the mistreatment?

Except that I want meat. Reform would work perfectly just as reform as alleviated other social ills. Taking meat off the table just isn’t on the table, far as I am concerned.

I would in fact kill animals (as humanely as possible) with my own hands if I had no other means of getting meat.

I would also kill animals with my bare hands if I had no other means of surviving.  I have said before that I would eat my neighbor if I had to.  That sort of desperation is not what we have been talking about in this thread.

I didn’t say anything about desperation or survival. if I had a warehouse full of tofu and wheat or whatever you folks eat I’d still kill animals and eat them.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 10:42am by sate Comment #235

So then,humans are basically “moral"I agree.So why then do you think,if humans are moral,that the vast human population eats meat??

I said humans are moral animals.  Humans are moral agents.  Moral in this context means capable of judging right from wrong.  The opposite is amoral, as opposed to immoral.

I never said cannibalism was immoral.It crops up when normal meat sources are scarce.It could also be used for rites and ritual.

I don’t even know what to say to that.  What century are you from?

Yes I know the difference between artificial and natural selection.What is your point in relation to my sentences there?

Pigs, cows and other domesticated animals did not evolve, as you said, they were created by us using artificial selection.  They are the way they are because we created them precisely the way we wanted them.

I won’t provide any argument,everything I stated in my post is basically fact.I don’t think that the progress of civilization is immoral.Just like the progress of civilization included stocking of animals,and hunting of animals for food and hides.

And also including slavery, genocide, oppression of women, and child labor.  So should we revive these practices and continue with them?

As far as animals having rights,feel free to help the animals defend their rights,just as people try and defend their own rights.

I am working towards non-human animals being granted basic rights.  This has already happened in Span where chimpanzees were granted basic rights.

I don’t need to provide any arguments.You however must provide an argument supporting why people have been wrong to hunt,capture,breed and stock animals for food,hides,raw materials.

I did provide an argument.  Again, it is wrong to kill humans, humans are one of the animals species, therefore, it is wrong to kill other animals.  But since you don’t agree with the first premise, there is no common ground for us to begin with.  And frankly, I am glad I have no common ground with someone who even thinks that killing and eating humans is OK.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 11:33am by BaIB Comment #236

Your prediction is totally incorrect. Perhaps you should re-examine your assumptions.

The prediction is based on your statement that if an action does not affect you, you are not concerned about it.

  I’d also like to point out that your position is no different from that of pro-life people who insist that fertilized ova have a “right to life”. I really shouldn’t be engaging you, because we have already established that our discussions are futile. I’ll try to exercise more discipline in the future.

That is ridiculous!  A fertilized ova cannot be compared to an animal.  An animal is autonomous and sentient. That cannot be said about a fertilized ova.  I am pro-choice.  I defend the right of a woman to her own body.  All sentient (and autonomous) individuals (that is including non-human animals) should have a right to bodily integrity. My pro-animal rights argument is the same as my pro-choice argument.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 11:40am by BaIB Comment #237

Although the vast majority of people are averse to view slaughter,most however do eat meat.Vegetarianism based soley on the idea of morality concerning animal rights,is a behavioral anomoly.

The vast majority of people used to believe that the Earth is flat.  The vast majority of people used to believe that slavery is ok.  So those who believed otherwise were an anomaly.  So what is your point?

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 11:43am by BaIB Comment #238

Except that I want meat.

And pedophiles want to have sex with children.  Rapists want to rape. So I guess that’s ok because a want justifies it.

Reform would work perfectly just as reform as alleviated other social ills. Taking meat off the table just isn’t on the table, far as I am concerned.

Reform would not solve anything.  Animals would still be murdered.

I didn’t say anything about desperation or survival. if I had a warehouse full of tofu and wheat or whatever you folks eat I’d still kill animals and eat them.

And you would be acting immorally.
If you can justify killing humans, then you can justify killing other animals.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 11:49am by BaIB Comment #239

I didn’t say anything about desperation or survival. if I had a warehouse full of tofu and wheat or whatever you folks eat I’d still kill animals and eat them.

:down:

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 12:02pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #240

I didn’t say anything about desperation or survival. if I had a warehouse full of tofu and wheat or whatever you folks eat I’d still kill animals and eat them.

:down:

Don’t be sad, erasmusinfinity.  Sate has no argument what so ever to justify this.  When it comes time to enact laws, he and his kind will have nothing and will easily lose.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 12:28pm by BaIB Comment #241

I didn’t say anything about desperation or survival. if I had a warehouse full of tofu and wheat or whatever you folks eat I’d still kill animals and eat them.

:down:

Don’t be sad, erasmusinfinity.  Sate has no argument what so ever to justify this.  When it comes time to enact laws, he and his kind will have nothing and will easily lose.

Yes-soon there will be laws outlawing the production and consumption of meat. %-P BaIB,you’re zealotry in regards to the rights of animals shines forth in your argumentative “skills”.Can you envision a world where the rights of animals will soon take precedent over humankind?NO?Me either.So,given that I don’t see the rights for millions of humans improving anytime soon,I have a feeling that the animals connected with the production of food and hides and medicines and by-products are going to be waiting a long time.
I love animals,I don’t condone animal cruelty,or the needless killings of animals.
Please,your irrational arguing in the defense of animal rights is becoming insulting to some of the more pertinent issues at hand.
You’ve taken peoples quotes out of context,twisted phrases around and given a generous heaping of ad-hominem.For example,I stated,I didn’t think cannibalism was immoral.Look how you convoluted my phrase to make me look cruel and barbaric.Shame on you.Shame on you and your ruthless judgemental attacks!!!

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 12:40pm by VYAZMA Comment #242

So then,humans are basically “moral"I agree.So why then do you think,if humans are moral,that the vast human population eats meat??

I said humans are moral animals.  Humans are moral agents.  Moral in this context means capable of judging right from wrong.  The opposite is amoral, as opposed to immoral.

I never said cannibalism was immoral.It crops up when normal meat sources are scarce.It could also be used for rites and ritual.

I don’t even know what to say to that.  What century are you from?

Yes I know the difference between artificial and natural selection.What is your point in relation to my sentences there?

Pigs, cows and other domesticated animals did not evolve, as you said, they were created by us using artificial selection.  They are the way they are because we created them precisely the way we wanted them.

I won’t provide any argument,everything I stated in my post is basically fact.I don’t think that the progress of civilization is immoral.Just like the progress of civilization included stocking of animals,and hunting of animals for food and hides.

And also including slavery, genocide, oppression of women, and child labor.  So should we revive these practices and continue with them?

As far as animals having rights,feel free to help the animals defend their rights,just as people try and defend their own rights.

I am working towards non-human animals being granted basic rights.  This has already happened in Span where chimpanzees were granted basic rights.

I don’t need to provide any arguments.You however must provide an argument supporting why people have been wrong to hunt,capture,breed and stock animals for food,hides,raw materials.

I did provide an argument.  Again, it is wrong to kill humans, humans are one of the animals species, therefore, it is wrong to kill other animals.  But since you don’t agree with the first premise, there is no common ground for us to begin with.  And frankly, I am glad I have no common ground with someone who even thinks that killing and eating humans is OK.

Another example of your methods.Concerning evolved and artificial selection.As you no doubt read my post,my statement was,”...these animals were slowly domesticated and evolved alongside man"Slowly domesticated implying artificial selection,or husbandry.Evolved alongside man,meaning the literal sense and the “slow passage of time,and referencing long period of refinement"Yes baIB,“Evolve” meaning a slow gradual term where something is refined and perfected!!!
I will seek no further to parse out anymore of your argumentative low-blows.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 12:54pm by VYAZMA Comment #243

Yes-soon there will be laws outlawing the production and consumption of meat. %-P

When did I ever say “soon”?  I am very much aware that it won’t be soon, but it will happen.  As I said, chimpanzees in Spain were granted rights recently.

BaIB,you’re zealotry in regards to the rights of animals shines forth in your argumentative “skills”.

If I am so bad at arguing, then why do people still feel a need to answer my posts? And no one was able to refute my arguments.  They were just ignored.

Can you envision a world where the rights of animals will soon take precedent over humankind?NO?Me either.

I can envision a world when non-human animals will not be used by humans as means to our ends.  I never said that non-human animals’ rights should take precedence over human rights.  I don’t even see a conflict.

So,given that I don’t see the rights for millions of humans improving anytime soon,I have a feeling that the animals connected with the production of food and hides and medicines and by-products are going to be waiting a long time.

Is it the fault of non-human animals that we humans violate each other’s rights?  Why should non-human animals be punished because we are rotten to each other?

I love animals,I don’t condone animal cruelty,or the needless killings of animals.

You can take your love and shove it you know where!  Do you think animals care whether you love them or not?  No.  They care about not being killed.  You kill them and dead them.  Yeah, you love them alright, when they are lying dead on your dinner plate.
Throughout centuries men claimed to love women (just look at the literature), but what good was that to us women.  Men still treated us as their property.

Please,your irrational arguing in the defense of animal rights is becoming insulting to some of the more pertinent issues at hand.

My arguments are not irrational just because you call them irrational.  You have to prove by rational argument that they are irrational.  You have not done that.
What pertinent issues at hand?  Were we not discussing animal rights?  I am not aware of any other issue being discussed just now on this thread.

You’ve taken peoples quotes out of context,twisted phrases around and given a generous heaping of ad-hominem.For example,I stated,I didn’t think cannibalism was immoral.Look how you convoluted my phrase to make me look cruel and barbaric.Shame on you.Shame on you and your ruthless judgemental attacks!!!

I did not take anything out of context.  How can I do that when everything is recorded?
You said that you don’t think cannibalism is immoral.  That leads me to conclude that you are cruel and barbaric.  I don’t think any sane person would disagree with me.  Cannibalism is cruel and barbaric.  It is not practiced in civilized society.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 1:14pm by BaIB Comment #244

Don’t be sad, erasmusinfinity.  Sate has no argument what so ever to justify this.

Thanks for the cheer up BaIB.  I know that he has no argument to justify this.  But that he is intent without reason makes me even more sad.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 1:19pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #245

    Another example of your methods.Concerning evolved and artificial selection.As you no doubt read my post,my statement was,”...these animals were slowly domesticated and evolved alongside man"Slowly domesticated implying artificial selection,or husbandry.Evolved alongside man,meaning the literal sense and the “slow passage of time,and referencing long period of refinement"Yes baIB,“Evolve” meaning a slow gradual term where something is refined and perfected!!! I will seek no further to parse out anymore of your argumentative low-blows.

You said: “ You know,when the christians or buddhists or whatever religion speaks of intelligent design,I often think their best argument could concern food sources.Look at pigs and cows.The hybridization and stocking of these animals is perfect.Look at a pig.It’s a veritable feast of plenty walking around on four legs.Same for the cow.Pigs,cattle and chickens.These animals were slowly domesticated and evolved right along side of man.This was no accident.Eggs,milk,cheese,meat,tallow,hides,glue,medicine.”

As if to argue that since cows, pigs, and chickens are so good at giving us meat, milk and eggs, that it is obvious and natural that we should use them.
I replied that they are the way they are because WE MADE THEM that way by using artificial selection. We can take any animal (humans included) and alter his/her genetics to make the animal so that we can best exploit her/him.  It is not a moral justification for exploitation of non-human animals.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 1:20pm by BaIB Comment #246

Yes-soon there will be laws outlawing the production and consumption of meat. %-P

When did I ever say “soon”?  I am very much aware that it won’t be soon, but it will happen.  As I said, chimpanzees in Spain were granted rights recently.

BaIB,you’re zealotry in regards to the rights of animals shines forth in your argumentative “skills”.

If I am so bad at arguing, then why do people still feel a need to answer my posts? And no one was able to refute my arguments.  They were just ignored.

Can you envision a world where the rights of animals will soon take precedent over humankind?NO?Me either.

I can envision a world when non-human animals will not be used by humans as means to our ends.  I never said that non-human animals’ rights should take precedence over human rights.  I don’t even see a conflict.

So,given that I don’t see the rights for millions of humans improving anytime soon,I have a feeling that the animals connected with the production of food and hides and medicines and by-products are going to be waiting a long time.

Is it the fault of non-human animals that we humans violate each other’s rights?  Why should non-human animals be punished because we are rotten to each other?

I love animals,I don’t condone animal cruelty,or the needless killings of animals.

You can take your love and shove it you know where!  Do you think animals care whether you love them or not?  No.  They care about not being killed.  You kill them and dead them.  Yeah, you love them alright, when they are lying dead on your dinner plate.
Throughout centuries men claimed to love women (just look at the literature), but what good was that to us women.  Men still treated us as their property.

Please,your irrational arguing in the defense of animal rights is becoming insulting to some of the more pertinent issues at hand.

My arguments are not irrational just because you call them irrational.  You have to prove by rational argument that they are irrational.  You have not done that.
What pertinent issues at hand?  Were we not discussing animal rights?  I am not aware of any other issue being discussed just now on this thread.

You’ve taken peoples quotes out of context,twisted phrases around and given a generous heaping of ad-hominem.For example,I stated,I didn’t think cannibalism was immoral.Look how you convoluted my phrase to make me look cruel and barbaric.Shame on you.Shame on you and your ruthless judgemental attacks!!!

I did not take anything out of context.  How can I do that when everything is recorded?
You said that you don’t think cannibalism is immoral.  That leads me to conclude that you are cruel and barbaric.  I don’t think any sane person would disagree with me.  Cannibalism is cruel and barbaric.  It is not practiced in civilized society.

I also thought your assertions that some members arguments were derived from being “....white,male and heterosexual”,was a very bad choice in taste.How contrived!!
Cannibalism is considered cruel by you,and the christian missionaries that encountered them.Scientific viewpoints can point to rational explanations for cannibilism.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 1:21pm by VYAZMA Comment #247

Don’t be sad, erasmusinfinity.  Sate has no argument what so ever to justify this.

Thanks for the cheer up BaIB.  I know that he has no argument to justify this.  But that he is intent without reason makes me even more sad.


But without an argument or even a reason, he is not going to be successful in the long run. In the long run, we will win.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 1:22pm by BaIB Comment #248

I admire your optimism BaIB.  I don’t think that it always works that way.  I hope that you are right.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 1:25pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #249

Don’t be sad, erasmusinfinity.  Sate has no argument what so ever to justify this.

Thanks for the cheer up BaIB.  I know that he has no argument to justify this.  But that he is intent without reason makes me even more sad.


But without an argument or even a reason, he is not going to be successful in the long run. In the long run, we will win.

In humankinds quest for rationality,and progressive thinking,any situation in which a win/lose scenario is envisioned verily cancels out the rationality or progression,thereby making it redundant.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 1:31pm by VYAZMA Comment #250

sate:Except that I want meat.

And pedophiles want to have sex with children.  Rapists want to rape. So I guess that’s ok because a want justifies it.

I have seen no argument here that persuedes me for the slightest moment any comparison between human suffering and the painless death of an animal could be made. I’ve seen no persuasive argument that humans and animals are morally identical. and yes, wants do matter. They are human industry, art, culture, and science.

Sate:Reform would work perfectly just as reform as alleviated other social ills.

Reform would not solve anything.  Animals would still be murdered.

So, eliminating the cruel warehousing, painful killing, cannibalism, disease and suffering of millions and millions of animals counts as nothing to you.. if we kill them painlessly later? Animals can not be murdered, only people can.

sate:I didn’t say anything about desperation or survival.

And you would be acting immorally.
If you can justify killing humans, then you can justify killing other animals.

According to you. I reject your pronouncements and I submit there is no convincing argument that humans and non-human creatures are morally identical. However, I am always willing to entertain them. Want to share some? Indulge yourself, pedophile-style.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 1:42pm by sate Comment #251

Don’t be sad, erasmusinfinity.  Sate has no argument what so ever to justify this.

Thanks for the cheer up BaIB.  I know that he has no argument to justify this.  But that he is intent without reason makes me even more sad.

What madness grips this thread? BaiB is in full-tilt foaming at the mouth mode, but what is your excuse? Why wouldn’t I have an argument to justify it? is this insult necessary? What is the matter with you? intent without reason? Here’s an idea: how about you ask instead of just leap to hurling insults? I thought you were better than this.

First, no preference need be justified. It is what it is. You like chocolate and I like rocky road. So what? Now is one choice moral or immoral? That’s another question- an action needs to be justified. My justification is that animals do not have sufficient moral status that prohibits using them for sustenance. They are not people. They do not have any particular right to exist.

Where are the protestors for protozoa and dust mites, I wonder? Funny their animalistic rights to life seem absenta even from PETAs agenda. Seems we all draw our line somewhere.. don’t we?

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 1:55pm by sate Comment #252

...As I said, chimpanzees in Spain were granted rights recently.

I’m glad Spain is there to show us the way. They are on the frontier of animal rights.. in between that thing where they slice up drugged cows to the cheers of stadium crowds I mean. Either way, they’re all about the cutting edge.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 2:02pm by sate Comment #253

    Another example of your methods.Concerning evolved and artificial selection.As you no doubt read my post,my statement was,”...these animals were slowly domesticated and evolved alongside man"Slowly domesticated implying artificial selection,or husbandry.Evolved alongside man,meaning the literal sense and the “slow passage of time,and referencing long period of refinement"Yes baIB,“Evolve” meaning a slow gradual term where something is refined and perfected!!! I will seek no further to parse out anymore of your argumentative low-blows.

You said: “ You know,when the christians or buddhists or whatever religion speaks of intelligent design,I often think their best argument could concern food sources.Look at pigs and cows.The hybridization and stocking of these animals is perfect.Look at a pig.It’s a veritable feast of plenty walking around on four legs.Same for the cow.Pigs,cattle and chickens.These animals were slowly domesticated and evolved right along side of man.This was no accident.Eggs,milk,cheese,meat,tallow,hides,glue,medicine.”

As if to argue that since cows, pigs, and chickens are so good at giving us meat, milk and eggs, that it is obvious and natural that we should use them.
I replied that they are the way they are because WE MADE THEM that way by using artificial selection. We can take any animal (humans included) and alter his/her genetics to make the animal so that we can best exploit her/him.  It is not a moral justification for exploitation of non-human animals.

Would you argue that mans domestication of these animals,whether it is chickens for food,cows for meat and milk,horses for power and transportation,was unnatural?Would you argue that this development of humankind was a wrong turn in the history of civilization?Are you proposing that man,now in the present day is enlightened enough to know that these were wrong choices,and that now we must turn away from the animal as a means of resource?
One other question.Do you have any pets?

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 2:09pm by VYAZMA Comment #254

I have seen no argument here that persuedes me for the slightest moment any comparison between human suffering and the painless death of an animal could be made.

Why are you comparing these two things?  What do they have in common?

I’ve seen no persuasive argument that humans and animals are morally identical. and yes, wants do matter. They are human industry, art, culture, and science.

When did you join this discussion?  There were at least 3 variations of the argument for animal rights:
1.  Richard Dawkins’ in the interview under which this discussion is taking place
2.  Tom Regan’s as discussed in his book “The Case for Animal Rights”
3.  Mine

Add to that Peter Singer’s utilitarian argument.  Go back and read the discussion. It is rude to just jump in and make everyone repeat himself or herself.

So, eliminating the cruel warehousing, painful killing, cannibalism, disease and suffering of millions and millions of animals counts as nothing to you.. if we kill them painlessly later? Animals can not be murdered, only people can.

Maybe not nothing, just a temporary fix until the animals are totally liberated.

According to you. I reject your pronouncements and I submit there is no convincing argument that humans and non-human creatures are morally identical. However, I am always willing to entertain them. Want to share some? Indulge yourself, pedophile-style.

When someone presents an argument, the opponent either accepts it or refutes it.  If you don’t want to do either of these two, then leave the discussion.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 3:49pm by BaIB Comment #255

( to erasmusinfinity) What madness grips this thread? BaiB is in full-tilt foaming at the mouth mode, but what is your excuse? Why wouldn’t I have an argument to justify it? is this insult necessary? What is the matter with you? intent without reason? Here’s an idea: how about you ask instead of just leap to hurling insults? I thought you were better than this.

You have a very bad way of conducting debates.  You jumped in the middle of the discussion, did not read what was already said, make everyone repeat himself/herself, and demand to be bagged for input.

First, no preference need be justified. It is what it is. You like chocolate and I like rocky road. So what? Now is one choice moral or immoral? That’s another question- an action needs to be justified. My justification is that animals do not have sufficient moral status that prohibits using them for sustenance. They are not people. They do not have any particular right to exist.

Is this supposed to be an argument?  You are just making a statement.  Where are you premises?

Where are the protestors for protozoa and dust mites, I wonder? Funny their animalistic rights to life seem absenta even from PETAs agenda. Seems we all draw our line somewhere.. don’t we?

AR draw the line at sentience and autonomy.  This is the same line we draw with humans.  We do not give rights to humans who are in vegetative state or live inside someone else’s body.
Where do you draw the line and WHY?

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 3:58pm by BaIB Comment #256

Would you argue that mans domestication of these animals,whether it is chickens for food,cows for meat and milk,horses for power and transportation,was unnatural?

I don’t care what is natural and what is unnatural (whatever you mean by these terms).  I care what is moral and what is immoral.

Would you argue that this development of humankind was a wrong turn in the history of civilization?

It was not wrong to domesticate plants.  It was wrong to domesticate animals.  Animals are sentient beings, and as such deserve a right not to be used as a means to an end.

Are you proposing that man,now in the present day is enlightened enough to know that these were wrong choices,and that now we must turn away from the animal as a means of resource?

Yes.

One other question.Do you have any pets?

A couple of cats, whom I took off the street, live with me. They would have starved if I did not take them. But I am against pet ownership.  I am against breeding domesticated animals.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 4:04pm by BaIB Comment #257

I’m glad Spain is there to show us the way. They are on the frontier of animal rights.. in between that thing where they slice up drugged cows to the cheers of stadium crowds I mean. Either way, they’re all about the cutting edge.

Bullfighting is a very old tradition and a big tourist attraction.  That is why it is very difficult to eradicate.  But it has been banned in a few cities; Barcelona is one of them, if I remember correctly.  Bullfighting is definitely dying a slow death.  Young people are not interested in it at all.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 4:07pm by BaIB Comment #258

I’m glad Spain is there to show us the way. They are on the frontier of animal rights.. in between that thing where they slice up drugged cows to the cheers of stadium crowds I mean. Either way, they’re all about the cutting edge.

Bullfighting is a very old tradition and a big tourist attraction.  That is why it is very difficult to eradicate.  But it has been banned in a few cities; Barcelona is one of them, if I remember correctly.  Bullfighting is definitely dying a slow death.  Young people are not interested in it at all.

I would say that pork chops are a very old tradition too.What’s the numbers on them?Are they also a dying tradition?
How are your cats adjusting to the all vegetable diet you’ve imposed on them?

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 4:15pm by VYAZMA Comment #259

This ongoing argument concerning vegetarianism is interesting indeed.Science and the New Atheism.I don’t know what the “New Atheism"is,but let’s look at it from a humanist standpoint.What is a humanist,if a humanist doesn’t know where humans came from?
It would be impossible to trace back to where humans,or their forebearers began incorporating animals into their diet.As a matter of fact,you would have to go back to a point where these progenitors of man didn’t even resemble man.And still,animals would have been included in their diet.
As for the past in which we can see,we can accurately trace the “evolution” in which man began to use animals.The wolf turning into a dog,and subsequently,and symbiotically joining humans in their UNPLANNED rise to dominance.Vast herds of ruminous animals,which even if man never domesticated,even if man never ate single cow,would still be ripe pickings for plenty of other predators.These herding ruminators were there,almost as if evolution had planned it that way!!The horse.Where would man be now without the horse.For those of you who bellow that man can advance without interfering with other sentient beings,where do you think we would be without the horse,the mule,or the ox???This is symbiosis.Evolutionary symbiosis.The fact that we have reason,and an ability for multi-tiered thinking is part of the evolutionary process that allowed us to use these animals.
Now,some may say,NO,that’s not symbiosis because it is not mutually beneficial.Well who’s to say that?How do we know that animals once domesticated,aren’t “happy"in their roles.They are cared for,fed,and protected from other predators.We don’t know.We can’t communicate with animals.Are we certain that animals can’t dread “enslavement”.Can animals think of their mortality.Most scientists would answer NO to these preceding 2 questions.Therefore,if the animal is used to benefit mankind,and it’s
treated with the care that humans have given them-thus their continued existance-then what is the problem?The animal is not immortal.It is going to die anyways.
Now I know I put up a few sentences there at the end that will offer grist for the opposing opinion,but I’m willing to do so.As someone who tries to live life with humanist values,I am willing to offer up all sides of the coin.A humanist must first know the definition of a human.Period!
Meanwhile,humankind went right along,enrichening their diets with a wide array of food.Proteins which are essential to human diet are broken down into different amino acids.These acids are found piecemeal in different food sources.Some vegetables are ripe with some amino acids,some meats contain more of other amino acids.Animals,including humans know by instinct where to aquire these different nutrients.Thus,the fly being attracted to a dung heap.An elk knows which plants to eat,which are rich with the minerals that it needs to grow antlers.Bears instinctly know when salmon spawn,and sit at the perfect spot on a river.
“The New Atheism” At first glance,this seems an attempt to gain followers.Organized Atheism.In todays world of “new age” beliefs,veganism,vegetarianism,environmentalism,god questioners etc..“The New Atheists” have a whole new caste of people to recruit from.To advance the cause with.The new atheists!What happened to the old atheists?
Trying to categorize a “new moral code"of atheism,or humanism,and inject those codes into humankinds instinctual behavior,is a study in frivolity.Can someone start a commune with these “moral codes”?Yes.How about a county?Maybe.A country?A world?A humanist should be concerned with rationality,peace,sharing natural resources,knowledge.When someone begins to toy with the idea of questioning the practices of the human animal,then what.Whos morals are the right ones?How idiotic it would be,to look back on humans past and say,“That was wrong!They evolved all wrong!!They weren’t supposed to eat meat,or tame oxen,or keep goldfish"How crazy is it,to think that we can convince people that eating animals is wrong?Can you convince someone from Conneticut of this?Can you convince a Vietnamese peasant of this?How about a Slovakian?While you’re telling them meat is evil,you can close your argument by convincing them that there is no god.Yes that all ties in together real nice.
To be a humanist,one must first know the origins of humanity.Then a humanist can look forward and see where the humans are going.

Posted on Nov 02, 2008 at 5:13pm by VYAZMA Comment #260

Why are you comparing these two things?  What do they have in common?

I didn’t. You did. But hey, why should you have to remember what you said? You arn’t a database so much as a gatlin gun’o truth! fire away.

When did you join this discussion?  There were at least 3 variations of the argument for animal rights…

I am late to the party but I have read this entire thread, I’ve heard the podcast, I watched the bloody porn-umentary Erasmus suggested (Earthlings- 1h35m), and I even read up on Singer and Regan. Since I got in here a bit late I would like to present my own ethical theory on animal rights. I call it the Doctrine of Deliciousness.

Doctrine of Deliciousness
I assert that animals have fundamental and inalienable rights. The right to be food (only when necessary and delicious). The right to become quality consumer goods (when tastefully accessorized). Now before you object, let me say not every animal should get to be food. No animal (or plant, really) has the right to become food without having the relevant characteristics- no animal shall gain said right unless found delicious by a “reasonable” cook or sous chef. For example a reasonable sous chef would agree that any animal entree should be spruced up with the right spices & species & side dishes but that simply adding bacon to an untasty animal in fact does not make it so for ethical considerations. Similarly a board of retail moral philosophers will be convened to decide what animals can ethically be made into exciting new activewear and the like.

Erring on the side of Delectability
While we know many domesticated animals desire nothing more than to serve mankind (dogs, carrier pigeons, helper monkeys), we can’t be sure cows want to be eaten. In these cases we should err on the side of yumminess for the reason that the satiety of millions hangs in the balance. Further, we know as a fact that all the smarter animals choose to serve man- seeing-eye dogs, canaries who willingly fly into coal mines, circus elephants and dolphins who deliberately swim into nets so they can be sandwiches later. Therefore, we can conclude that dumber animals strive toward this goal but don’t yet have the capacity to actualize their desire to become products. Why should they be penalized? Don’t you want to help lower animals achieve their biological ambitions the way seeing-eye dogs have? Or maybe you want to see blind people stumble in front of buses. That’s just sickening. I can’t believe you suggested it.

Ending Speciesism
I agree with Peter Singer in that we must end speciesism. That is why the doctrine of deliciousness applies to all species and in fact, all living things- plants, fungi.. everything which makes my moral theory much broader in application than Singer’s own narrow view. I do not think one species gets the right to be food and another does not just because it is a different kind of creature- all living things have this right on the basis of their own culinary merit. Why, even the lowliest mushroom has rights. I’m sad to report that even today in 2008 we have raccoons eating garbage on the streets who could have been on a starlet’s arm strolling down the red carpet. This inhumanity toward nonhuman animals must end.

Posted on Nov 03, 2008 at 3:19am by sate Comment #261

I would say that pork chops are a very old tradition too.What’s the numbers on them?Are they also a dying tradition?

The number of vegetarians is on the rise.

How many adults are vegetarian? The Vegetarian Resource Group asked in a 2006 national poll:

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0FDE/is_4_25/ai_n16834301

How are your cats adjusting to the all vegetable diet you’ve imposed on them?

It is possible to feed cats a vegetarian diet: http://www.vegsoc.org/info/catfood.html
I feed my cats regular cat food. Cat food is made from slaughterhouse by-products.  As long as humans eat meat there will be slaughterhouse by-products.  When people become enlightened and stop eating animals, they will also stop breeding them for pets.

Posted on Nov 04, 2008 at 6:40pm by BaIB Comment #262

I will only touch on a few points because most if what VYAZMA wrote makes no sense.  Furthermore, VYAZMA has no idea what the pro-vegeterianism arguments are, yet he/she tries to refute them.

This is symbiosis. Evolutionary symbiosis. The fact that we have reason,and an ability for multi-tiered thinking is part of the evolutionary process that allowed us to use these animals.

What does evolution (whatever kind) have to do with morality?

Now, some may say, NO, that’s not symbiosis because it is not mutually beneficial. Well who’s to say that?How do we know that animals once domesticated,aren’t “happy"in their roles.They are cared for,fed,and protected from other predators.

Happy?  They live in concentration camps in cages where they cannot even turn around.  After they suffer there, they are killed. 
Have you even seen a factory farm or a slaughterhouse?

A humanist must first know the definition of a human.Period!

And what is that? And how does that relate to the discussion of vegetarianism and animal rights?

While you’re telling them meat is evil,you can close your argument by convincing them that there is no god.Yes that all ties in together real nice.

Do you see a contradiction?  I don’t.

To be a humanist,one must first know the origins of humanity.Then a humanist can look forward and see where the humans are going.

Are you saying that we should behave like our distant ancestors and never progress morally?

Posted on Nov 04, 2008 at 6:52pm by BaIB Comment #263

Doctrine of Deliciousness

Sate, 
If you are not interested in this discussion, then why don’t you just leave?  You are not even funny.
Either refute one of the presented arguments or remain silent.

Posted on Nov 04, 2008 at 6:57pm by BaIB Comment #264

ZZZZ-SNORE-ZZZZ

Posted on Nov 04, 2008 at 7:46pm by VYAZMA Comment #265

It is possible to feed cats a vegetarian diet: http://www.vegsoc.org/info/catfood.html

It is possible, but it’s not healthy. The cat’s metabolism is geared towards eating small prey such as mice. A number of health problems in cats are directly attributable to diets high in carbohydrates. Glutins are the worst components of the artificial feline diet.

As to your point about eliminating animals as pets, that’s a matter of personal taste. I love my animals, and they’re happy with me, and if you don’t like that, it’s just too bad for you.

Posted on Nov 04, 2008 at 11:05pm by Chris Crawford Comment #266

BaIB,

We did it! Prop 2 passes in California.

Posted on Nov 05, 2008 at 5:32am by erasmusinfinity Comment #267

We did it! Prop 2 passes in California.

I’m very pleased by this news. It’s a small consolation after the success of Prop 8.

Posted on Nov 05, 2008 at 9:45am by Chris Crawford Comment #268

BaIB,

We did it! Prop 2 passes in California.


And a ban on greyhound racing in MA.

Posted on Nov 09, 2008 at 9:00am by BaIB Comment #269

As to your point about eliminating animals as pets, that’s a matter of personal taste. I love my animals, and they’re happy with me, and if you don’t like that, it’s just too bad for you.


It is not a matter of personal choice because it affects someone other than you, namely animals.  How can you tell that “your” animals are happy?  What kind of animals are they?  What kind of life do they have?

No one can be happy and fulfilled unless one has a right to self determination.  Animals used as pets have no choices about their lives.  They are treated as property.  This cannot be morally justified.

Posted on Nov 09, 2008 at 9:05am by BaIB Comment #270

As to your point about eliminating animals as pets, that’s a matter of personal taste. I love my animals, and they’re happy with me, and if you don’t like that, it’s just too bad for you.


It is not a matter of personal choice because it affects someone other than you, namely animals.  How can you tell that “your” animals are happy?  What kind of animals are they?  What kind of life do they have?

No one can be happy and fulfilled unless one has a right to self determination.  Animals used as pets have no choices about their lives.  They are treated as property.  This cannot be morally justified.

BaIB:You stated that you had pets!You stated that you feed your pets meat!Are you saying you are the overseer in whose pets are correct and whose pets aren’t?

Posted on Nov 15, 2008 at 1:33pm by VYAZMA Comment #271

BaIB:You stated that you had pets!You stated that you feed your pets meat!Are you saying you are the overseer in whose pets are correct and whose pets aren’t?

I said cats, whom I took off the streets, live with me.  I try to provide them with as natural life as possible, but I would never claim that they have an ideal life.  It is a better life than they would have had on the streets, but not as good as a wild animal, who has freedom and self-determination.
Yes, I feed them meat.  This is left over meat that is not suitable for humans.  That is what goes into cat food.  When people stop eating meat, there will no longer be slaughterhouses, but by that time, we will have stopped breeding animals for the pet trade.

Posted on Nov 15, 2008 at 1:49pm by BaIB Comment #272

Why are you comparing these two things?  What do they have in common?

I didn’t. You did. But hey, why should you have to remember what you said? You arn’t a database so much as a gatlin gun’o truth! fire away.

When did you join this discussion?  There were at least 3 variations of the argument for animal rights…

I am late to the party but I have read this entire thread, I’ve heard the podcast, I watched the bloody porn-umentary Erasmus suggested (Earthlings- 1h35m), and I even read up on Singer and Regan. Since I got in here a bit late I would like to present my own ethical theory on animal rights. I call it the Doctrine of Deliciousness.

Doctrine of Deliciousness
I assert that animals have fundamental and inalienable rights. The right to be food (only when necessary and delicious). The right to become quality consumer goods (when tastefully accessorized). Now before you object, let me say not every animal should get to be food. No animal (or plant, really) has the right to become food without having the relevant characteristics- no animal shall gain said right unless found delicious by a “reasonable” cook or sous chef. For example a reasonable sous chef would agree that any animal entree should be spruced up with the right spices & species & side dishes but that simply adding bacon to an untasty animal in fact does not make it so for ethical considerations. Similarly a board of retail moral philosophers will be convened to decide what animals can ethically be made into exciting new activewear and the like.

Erring on the side of Delectability
While we know many domesticated animals desire nothing more than to serve mankind (dogs, carrier pigeons, helper monkeys), we can’t be sure cows want to be eaten. In these cases we should err on the side of yumminess for the reason that the satiety of millions hangs in the balance. Further, we know as a fact that all the smarter animals choose to serve man- seeing-eye dogs, canaries who willingly fly into coal mines, circus elephants and dolphins who deliberately swim into nets so they can be sandwiches later. Therefore, we can conclude that dumber animals strive toward this goal but don’t yet have the capacity to actualize their desire to become products. Why should they be penalized? Don’t you want to help lower animals achieve their biological ambitions the way seeing-eye dogs have? Or maybe you want to see blind people stumble in front of buses. That’s just sickening. I can’t believe you suggested it.

Ending Speciesism
I agree with Peter Singer in that we must end speciesism. That is why the doctrine of deliciousness applies to all species and in fact, all living things- plants, fungi.. everything which makes my moral theory much broader in application than Singer’s own narrow view. I do not think one species gets the right to be food and another does not just because it is a different kind of creature- all living things have this right on the basis of their own culinary merit. Why, even the lowliest mushroom has rights. I’m sad to report that even today in 2008 we have raccoons eating garbage on the streets who could have been on a starlet’s arm strolling down the red carpet. This inhumanity toward nonhuman animals must end.

This is why I would call someone A PATRONIZER!!!

Posted on Nov 16, 2008 at 2:57pm by VYAZMA Comment #273

I said cats, whom I took off the streets, live with me.  I try to provide them with as natural life as possible, but I would never claim that they have an ideal life.  It is a better life than they would have had on the streets, but not as good as a wild animal, who has freedom and self-determination.
Yes, I feed them meat.  This is left over meat that is not suitable for humans.  That is what goes into cat food.  When people stop eating meat, there will no longer be slaughterhouses, but by that time, we will have stopped breeding animals for the pet trade.

Are your cats spayed and neutered? My guess is if you say no, it is because it takes away from their self determination. In that case, you are adding to the problem of wild unwanted and starving cats. If you say yes, I would say that you are compromising your argument for self determination.

I have dogs, I have always had dogs, and they have always been rescue dogs. My dogs have always been spayed and neutered. In a wild pack, only the pack leaders would be allowed to breed anyway, and I refuse to add to the problem of strays and abandoned pets. My dogs are trained, and I am their pack leader. If they were living in the wild, they would be ‘trained’ by the pack to follow the pack leader. My dog IS happy. How do I know? My dogs will willingly follow me to the ends of the earth. He loves to ‘hunt’ his frisbee and tennis balls. My dog is also healthy, he will probably have a life span unheard of in the wild.

Posted on Nov 16, 2008 at 3:09pm by asanta Comment #274

Why are you comparing these two things?  What do they have in common?

I didn’t. You did. But hey, why should you have to remember what you said? You arn’t a database so much as a gatlin gun’o truth! fire away.

When did you join this discussion?  There were at least 3 variations of the argument for animal rights…

I am late to the party but I have read this entire thread, I’ve heard the podcast, I watched the bloody porn-umentary Erasmus suggested (Earthlings- 1h35m), and I even read up on Singer and Regan. Since I got in here a bit late I would like to present my own ethical theory on animal rights. I call it the Doctrine of Deliciousness.

Doctrine of Deliciousness
I assert that animals have fundamental and inalienable rights. The right to be food (only when necessary and delicious). The right to become quality consumer goods (when tastefully accessorized). Now before you object, let me say not every animal should get to be food. No animal (or plant, really) has the right to become food without having the relevant characteristics- no animal shall gain said right unless found delicious by a “reasonable” cook or sous chef. For example a reasonable sous chef would agree that any animal entree should be spruced up with the right spices & species & side dishes but that simply adding bacon to an untasty animal in fact does not make it so for ethical considerations. Similarly a board of retail moral philosophers will be convened to decide what animals can ethically be made into exciting new activewear and the like.

Erring on the side of Delectability
While we know many domesticated animals desire nothing more than to serve mankind (dogs, carrier pigeons, helper monkeys), we can’t be sure cows want to be eaten. In these cases we should err on the side of yumminess for the reason that the satiety of millions hangs in the balance. Further, we know as a fact that all the smarter animals choose to serve man- seeing-eye dogs, canaries who willingly fly into coal mines, circus elephants and dolphins who deliberately swim into nets so they can be sandwiches later. Therefore, we can conclude that dumber animals strive toward this goal but don’t yet have the capacity to actualize their desire to become products. Why should they be penalized? Don’t you want to help lower animals achieve their biological ambitions the way seeing-eye dogs have? Or maybe you want to see blind people stumble in front of buses. That’s just sickening. I can’t believe you suggested it.

Ending Speciesism
I agree with Peter Singer in that we must end speciesism. That is why the doctrine of deliciousness applies to all species and in fact, all living things- plants, fungi.. everything which makes my moral theory much broader in application than Singer’s own narrow view. I do not think one species gets the right to be food and another does not just because it is a different kind of creature- all living things have this right on the basis of their own culinary merit. Why, even the lowliest mushroom has rights. I’m sad to report that even today in 2008 we have raccoons eating garbage on the streets who could have been on a starlet’s arm strolling down the red carpet. This inhumanity toward nonhuman animals must end.

Now reference this persons arguments towards animal rights in the latest Peter Singer thread.Patronism!!Pure and simple!!

Posted on Nov 16, 2008 at 3:17pm by VYAZMA Comment #275

I have dogs, I have always had dogs, and they have always been rescue dogs. My dogs have always been spayed and neutered. In a wild pack, only the pack leaders would be allowed to breed anyway, and I refuse to add.

I’ve never had any pet dogs. Do stray dogs who arn’t related (or for that matter, are) form packs? I mean we arn’t talking about wolves on the Discovery channel here. At some point in domestication don’t dogs see you as their owner, a human, not some quasi-dog pack leader?

Anyway it does seem lose/lose to own pets for the animal rights crowd. They don’t care about your compassionate impulses- you’re part of the problem.

Posted on Nov 16, 2008 at 3:23pm by sate Comment #276

UGH!  I’m glad I didn’t put forth anymore than what I did.  Not all people who are vegetarians, have reasons that are patronism.  Maybe empathy or other emotional reasons, but not necessarily patronism, for their abhorance of eating meat.  BTW, how did this thread go from science to vegetarianism/veganism anyway?

Posted on Nov 16, 2008 at 3:28pm by Mriana Comment #277

Your guess is as good as mine.  :) A couple of other threads have devolved into other subjects, it seems to be a trend. :blank:

Posted on Nov 16, 2008 at 3:32pm by asanta Comment #278

UGH!  I’m glad I didn’t put forth anymore than what I did.  Not all people who are vegetarians, have reasons that are patronism.  Maybe empathy or other emotional reasons, but not necessarily patronism, for their abhorance of eating meat.  BTW, how did this thread go from science to vegetarianism/veganism anyway?

In another thread,Sate put forth conflicting views,against what he said in another post.I called him a Patronizer.Perhaps I was too bold,but I still wait for adjudication.

Posted on Nov 16, 2008 at 3:39pm by VYAZMA Comment #279

Your guess is as good as mine.  :) A couple of other threads have devolved into other subjects, it seems to be a trend. :blank:

Listen to the podcast again. At the end, Dawkins is taken to task for his position on eating meat while being a naturalist. Dawkins comments are honest and self effacing- he agrees it is immoral but does it anyway.

Posted on Nov 16, 2008 at 3:53pm by sate Comment #280

in another thread,Sate put forth conflicting views,against what he said in another post.I called him a Patronizer.Perhaps I was too bold,but I still wait for adjudication.

I have no idea what you are talking about or why you are obsessed with me. I think on these issues we are pretty much on the same page.

(fix formatting edit)

Posted on Nov 16, 2008 at 3:56pm by sate Comment #281

in another thread,Sate put forth conflicting views,against what he said in another post.I called him a Patronizer.Perhaps I was too bold,but I still wait for adjudication.

I have no idea what you are talking about or why you are obsessed with me. I think on these issues we are pretty much on the same page.

(fix formatting edit)

I am not obsessed with you.I am trying to make a case,based on some of your past postings.I called you a PATRONIZER.A moderator edited my comment and removed it.I guess to protect your good graces.By patronizer I mean something akin to a Troll.Someone who argues both side of the fence for the fun of it.Usually someone of low mental character.
I said usually.I am in no way refering to you directly.You know what I’m talking about.Your inflammatory remarks towards bAIB,concerning animal rights,and vegetarianism.Then in this latest bit,you come across as someone who is all for animal ethics and rights.Patronizer.A fancy word,for more derogatory taxonomy.

Posted on Nov 16, 2008 at 6:20pm by VYAZMA Comment #282

I am not obsessed with you.I am trying to make a case,based on some of your past postings.I called you a PATRONIZER.A moderator edited my comment and removed it.I guess to protect your good graces.By patronizer I mean something akin to a Troll.Someone who argues both side of the fence for the fun of it.Usually someone of low mental character.
I said usually.I am in no way refering to you directly.You know what I’m talking about.Your inflammatory remarks towards bAIB,concerning animal rights,and vegetarianism.Then in this latest bit,you come across as someone who is all for animal ethics and rights.Patronizer.A fancy word,for more derogatory taxonomy.

I’ve never argued ‘both sides’. Where did I say eating meat is wrong? I’ve consistently said the opposite. Where did I say animals don’t get moral consideration or that humans are in a special position to do as they please? Never. My position has remained the same. In this thread I take my cues about proper type of discussion from those here. Other posters set the standard.. the standard being hawkish, impulsive and perhaps irrational. I responded as close to that setting as possible, though clearly I am not as good.

And what if I was patronizing? Who cares? Is this not for debate and discussion of dissenting views? What if I wanted to play devil’s advocate so I (or whoever) could explore the ideas further? To understand opposing, potentially more correct views better? No one’s position gets stronger by being recycled in a homogenized vat of nonthreatening ideas.

My last remarks I will PM, so as not to offend anyone’s delicate sensibilities.

Posted on Nov 17, 2008 at 1:40am by sate Comment #283

As to your point about eliminating animals as pets, that’s a matter of personal taste. I love my animals, and they’re happy with me, and if you don’t like that, it’s just too bad for you.

It is not a matter of personal choice because it affects someone other than you, namely animals.  How can you tell that “your” animals are happy?  What kind of animals are they?  What kind of life do they have?

No one can be happy and fulfilled unless one has a right to self determination.  Animals used as pets have no choices about their lives.  They are treated as property.  This cannot be morally justified.

You have elsewhere argued that we can know that animals suffer and I agree. So why do you suddenly insist we can’t tell if they are here?
When it comes to dogs, cats and similar mammals their emotions are fairly evident.. symptoms of emotional pathologies (and well being) are well documented. I’m pretty sure an average 8 year old can tell the family dog or cat is miserable or hates her. Pets often show clear and unambiguous love and devotion to their owners. Do you deny them these emotions as well?

Moreoever, the nature of the domestication process is such that the emotional disposition of “prefering to live among humans” is artificially selected for. No one would want a pet that had to be chained to them 24/7 and desperate to escape. Even if you could argue that the process of domesticating animals is wrong, it wouldn’t change the fact that the end product is still here and that end product is animals who absolutely are fine with living among humans and in many cases could not survive any other way (don’t their interests matter?).

Pets are in fact, not treated like property. I can do whatever I want with property but we have cruelty laws about animals which I could be arrested for mistreating. I don’t think anyone has ever been arrested for mistreating their sofa. Pets are given Christmas stockings, affection, individual fashion items, and even funerals by their human caretakers. Name me other property which does so well on a large scale basis, please. Human caretakers of course do decide the fate of their animal companions but then this is required- in modern times and places they can not decide matters of their own health (very few 4-legged doctors) and well being. The lives of uncared-for stray animals is nasty and short.

Posted on Nov 18, 2008 at 1:49pm by sate Comment #284

Excerpts from a Dog’s Journal

* 8:00 am - Dog food! My favorite thing!
* 9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite thing!
* 9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
* 10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
* 12:00 pm - Lunch! My favorite thing!
* 1:00 pm - Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
* 3:00 pm - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
* 5:00 pm - Milk bones! My favorite thing!
* 7:00 pm - Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
* 8:00 pm - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
* 11:00 pm - Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!
:lol:

Posted on Nov 18, 2008 at 1:54pm by asanta Comment #285

I agree, my girls are not treated as property.  They get gifts, they have their own table for food an water set appropriately to their size, shoot!  Amber loves to lick the spoon when I give them canned catfood.  They sleep in my bed, preferring it over the one I tried to give them and they even have their own pillows.  Scarlette got the best care I could afford, without affecting us, when she got sick, came home to die, and was buried (ran out of money for cremation, so we did it ourselves).  Shiva runs all over the house and knocks things over and gets in trouble for it, just like one of my human sons…  Um…  Well…  They are like children.  The only difference is that they can’t clean up their messes.  Yes, I’m one of those weird humans who treats her girls (cats) like part of the family.  My older son jokingly told his friends when he was younger, my sisters are cats.  :lol:

Posted on Nov 18, 2008 at 5:15pm by Mriana Comment #286

Speaking as a vet, I can say that legally animals are defined as property and are often treated as such. Obviously, Mriana spoils her girls, but we all know she’s crazy. ;-) There are cruelty laws, but they are weak and rarely enforced. Millions of animals are killed, or simply denied relief from suffering, because their owners can’t or won’t care for them adequately, and the law allows this.

FWIW, I personally don’t find the “keeping pets is slavery” argument pursuasive at all. “Self-determination” is a concept way beyond the cognitive capacity of most companion animals. Their well-being is most usefully analyzed in terms of how well their physical and behavioral needs are met, and I think this can often be accomplished in “captivity.” The lives of dogs and cats, in particular, and generally much better and happier with our care than without it.

But the naturalistic fallacy (whatever they did in nature is optimal for them) is especially ridiculous when applied to our pets, which we have bred intensively to be very different from any creature living in a truly human-free environment. Dogs have a great need for social interaction, but we’ve “designed” them to get that need met pretty well by interaction with us. So imagining that we can or should “free” them is ridiculous.

Posted on Nov 18, 2008 at 5:33pm by mckenzievmd Comment #287

Speaking as a vet, I can say that legally animals are defined as property and are often treated as such. Obviously, Mriana spoils her girls, but we all know she’s crazy. ;-)

Yup! When it comes to my girls they are and I am.  ;-)  I love them dearly though and still miss Scarlette sorely.  Legally they maybe property, but in my house they have all the rights of humans, with a few exceptions.  They aren’t allowed chocolate, can’t go outside, and other safety and health issues like that.

I think we should add that the health benefits of companion animals is a two way street, they lower our blood pressure, help relieve depression, among other things.

Posted on Nov 18, 2008 at 5:40pm by Mriana Comment #288

My Puck (he certainly lives up to his name) is our friend and an integral part of the family. He is spoiled rotten! After the family, his frisbee and tennis ball are his favorite friends and we make sure they have frequent play dates! His medical bills are higher than mine (fox tail removal, allergic reaction to food etc.)

Yes, unrelated strays will roam around in packs. In the 1980s they were a BIG problem in Oakland, Ca until the animal control department worked to control the stray dog population. They were threatening and aggressive towards people too, the people living there were afraid someone would get seriously injured, which thankfully did not happen. Oakland is a large urban city with a huge amount of undeveloped parkland running parallel to the city where they can hide during the day.

Posted on Nov 18, 2008 at 7:34pm by asanta Comment #289

I have read one of Dawkins’ books called The God Delusion.  I find his writing excellent and his points hard to refute.  Reading Dawkins makes me a believer more and more each day that religious thought should be challenged.  If we are to find purpose in our lives, we shouldn’t make things up to make them fit our egocentric world views.  The world is not about simple answers, but about complex and fascinating questions.  Life’s finiteness makes it infinitely meaningful.

Posted on Oct 20, 2010 at 6:05am by questionsaboutfaith Comment #290

You seem put out that I do not bother to refute your claims. That’s because our disagreement is at the fundamental level of assumptions. You assume that animals have rights. You offer no proof for your assumption; it’s the starting point of your discussion. I do not accept your assumption. Since we have no commonality of belief on the foundation issues, any discussion between us is futile. We just keep coming back to your assumption that animals have rights—and I don’t accept that assumption. OK?

Chris, you need help seriously. Read this aloud 10 times:

- Humans are ANIMALS too! Did you notice how BaIB has been careful by using the term “non-human” at various places?
- The Sun is a star too (just kidding, I know you already knew this)!

In today’s age, most (if not all) suffering to sentient beings can be eliminated without much compromise. I do not see why anyone would not support this cause.

I do not *need* to eat beef, so I do not kill cows (or have them killed), but very occasionally I drink milk. I do not approve of hunting at all; I do not use leather. I might have to use medicines that have been tested on clearly sentient animals.

I FEEL BAD about the things I cannot change for various reasons, and I admit selfishness is one of those reasons, but I do congratulate other people who live better lives.

Posted on Jan 27, 2013 at 1:02pm by Shashank Comment #291