I read posts here that call different things, "harmful to humanity."  Others call something, "good" or "bad" or "evil."

A very simple question, who gets to decide the definition of  "harmful to humanity" and what is there critieria? The same for "good," "bad," and "evil?" These are not material terms. If everything is material isn't there just "is" and not these moral declarations if one is being thoroughly atheist?

Help me understand your position so I am fair and honest about the views. Thanks.

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Yes, Mabel, from your uninformed comments, it seems true that the only thing you know is that you love pork chops. This is a post about ethics, not gastronomy.

Actually, we are an animal with the FOXP2 gene.  That doesn't make some something other than animals, it just means we are animals with a certain attribute.  The only way to say we are not animals is if every animal has the exact same set of genes except for us.  You would have to claim that there is no animal on the planet that had a gene that was unique to that species and, although I am not a biologist, I just can't believe that is true.  Therefor, we are just another animal, that happens to have a specific gene.

Mabel - fascinating article, thanks!

Richard Dawkins has a lot of interesting things to say to those intent on preserving the species barrier and in so doing perpetuate the myth we were created in the image of God with dominion over other species.

Our ethics and our politics assume, largely without question or serious discussion, that the division between human and 'animal' is absolute. 'Pro-life', to take just one example, is a potent political badge, associated with a gamut of ethical issues such as opposition to abortion and euthanasia. What it really means is pro-human-life. Abortion clinic bombers are not known for their veganism, nor do Roman Catholics show any particular reluctance to have their suffering pets 'put to sleep'. In the minds of many confused people, a single-celled human zygote, which has no nerves and cannot suffer, is infinitely sacred, simply because it is 'human'. No other cells enjoy this exalted status.

We do have differences from other species but the one marked difference for me is our ability to be rational and escape our evolutionary past. Dawkins says:

The human brain has been equipped by the natural selection of genes with the power to take its own decision that can override the ultimate goal which were originally used to program it. We can take decisions which are not based on the ultimate Darwinian value of gene survival, but upon other proximate values, such as hedonistic pleasure, or, such as something more noble–something such as sitting down together with the peoples of the world and trying to plan what would be the best future for the whole of the planet.  Totally unique. Totally foreign to our evolutionary past…

Rather than plan what is best for the while planet, and ALL the species on it, many, Christians and atheists alike, use the differences we have to subjugate other species for our own self-interest. Unbelieveable.

Whoa . . . Me thinks you've given this some serious thought.

"use the differences we have to subjugate other species for our own self-interest."

I would have said that we raise animals for the purpose of becoming food, much like a beaver builds a dam to contain the fish, which i hardly find unbelievable as eating is the basis of survival. Since we have to eat, I draw the line between what's edible and not at humans. Any proposal of shifting that merely requires the line to be drawn somewhere else, and since all biological life is related any other line will be equally arbitrary as the one I agree with. The justification for my line is that it maximizes my survival potential while providing social stability.

How could I argue that we don't raise animals to provide food? And of course  you justify your choice to eat animals on the basis that it promotes your own survival. What Dawkins argues is that we should be fighting against this self-interest. He describes himself as a passionate anti-Darwinian when it comes to human social and political affairs. We can be more noble than to act for our own survival, we can use our intelligence to plan for what is best in the world and I couldn't agree more with him.

The reasons I described the subjugation of other species as 'unbelieveable' are several. The planet is heading into disaster and a significant cause of this is the expoitation of animals for food. I know I don't have to quote reports from the United Nations, European Union or scientific literature to support my statement, they are widely known. So, like Dawkins, I don't think it's good enough to justify our politics or ethics on what a beaver does, we have to be better, smarter than that.

I do not think it is ethical to to derogate our responsibility for the exploitation of other animals onto a beaver or any other creature. They lack the ability to plan for the good of the planet.

I would also question the ethics of such exploitation even if the good of the planet was not an issue.

If you're interested take a look at this article also written by Dawkins:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2009/jan/02/richard-dawkins-...

We have in prospect human chimp hybrids. Whether or not they actually ever are bred is immaterial, the idea is enough to make the point.

For the sake of arguement, let's say that an animals was born, 90% human, 10% chimpanzee. Let's imagine that the creature will be still endowed with a big brain and will attain language but will never become any more intelligent than the average 10 year old child. It will have a peculiar grey coloured skin.

It is NOT homo sapien.

How should we treat the hybrid. Should we send it to school, love it and cherish it? Perhaps they could be bred as servants to be traded as commodities? Treat it as a pet? Could they be used for sport, hunting them like tigers? Should we eat them?

Dawkins believes such a hybrid would change everything and I agree. But we don't have to wait for this to happen.

My ethics says no, we would not treat the hybrid as a slave, we would not hunt or eat it. Not because it is part human. This would be a nonsense, but because it can feel pain and suffer.

It would not be ethical to treat it differently on the basis of skin colour - most humans are past that arbitrary distinction. Intelligence - again no because it might be more intelligent than the insane, mentally retarded or new-born human. Again, this would be arbitrary. What is not arbitrary, as Dawkins agrees, is the capacity to feel pain and suffer and it is on this basis that the interests of the hybrid should be considered. And it is on this basis that the interests of other animals should be considered. We need not wait for the hybrid to start thinking about these issues.

I find it quite unsettling that free thinkers on these forums are still trying to differentiate between humans and all the other animals. We all came out of the same mix and not only do we need to recognise that as a scientific fact, but also the ethical considerations it raises.

"How could I argue that we don't raise animals to provide food?"

A question I did not ask and which you proceed to answer, effectively strawmanning me.

"The planet is heading into disaster"

The end is nigh! This is merely rhetoric from your side, which you wiggle out of by not actually providing any evidence.

"They lack the ability to plan for the good of the planet."

You mean what is good for humans? The planet is a dead piece of rock.

"And it is on this basis that the interests of other animals should be considered."

The point is that you don't know what is in the best interest of animals since you have no idea what they cherish, if anything. Thus it becomes what humans guess is in their best interest.

----

You have taken an emotional stand on the issue, clearly evident in your continued use of rhetoric, choosing negatively loaded words (subjugate, disaster, exploitation, etc), and subtly changing from arguing your position using 'I' in the beginning to selling it using 'we' in the last half.

You also completely ignored my question: What is OK to eat? Why is that acceptable and why is not an equally arbitrary choice of drawing the line?

The end is nigh! This is merely rhetoric from your side, which you wiggle out of by not actually providing any evidence.

This UN report warns of the global dangers of livestock production.

ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/a0701e/A0701E00.pdf

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jun/02/un-report-meat-fr...

The deforestation in Brazil is driven by the cattle industry (and for the production of soy beans as animal feed).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deforestation_in_Brazil

Greenhouse gas emissions from livestock endanger the planet.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/oct/26/palm-oil-initiati...

http://www.worldwatch.org/node/549

http://www.news.cornell.edu/releases/aug97/livestock.hrs.html

The point is that you don't know what is in the best interest of animals since you have no idea what they cherish, if anything. Thus it becomes what humans guess is in their best interest.

They want to survive. This is evolution. To equip them, they can feel pain and suffer. So they want to avoid pain and suffering. Again, based on evolution.

You also completely ignored my question: What is OK to eat? Why is that acceptable and why is not an equally arbitrary choice of drawing the line?

Our eating habits should minimise harm to individual creatures and to the planet as a whole. It is acceptable becuse of the reasons outlines above and which you have chosen not to comment on at this time.



'Reports of dangers' is not exactly the same a 'heading towards disaster'.

"They want to survive. So they want to avoid pain and suffering."

Aaaand..? I don't get how this is relevant. What is conclusion?

"Our eating habits should minimise harm to individual creatures and to the planet as a whole."

Could you be a bit more vague and all-encompassing in your arguments?  Should we form a committee to research whether a decision to propose implementation of required changes necessary for a study into the permanent alteration to the status-quo? (I'm a fan of Humphrey Appleby too.)

I am asking a specific question: Where exactly do YOU draw the line between edible and not?

John - RE: "the deforestation in Brazil is driven by the cattle industry (and for the production of soy beans as animal feed)."

The US government subsidizes American farmers each year not to grow certain crops - why couldn't the UN similarly subsidize countries that border our rain forests, not to disturb them?

@Archaeopteryx

The US government subsidizes American farmers each year not to grow certain crops - why couldn't the UN similarly subsidize countries that border our rain forests, not to disturb them?


I don't know why. I think the rate of deforestation has declined but is still a major concern. If he price of beef or soy goes up, the pressure to increase deforestation will become more pronounced. I certainly don't feel relieved of my ethical responsibility because I feel a inter-governmental organisation is failing to address the problem.

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