Cultural blindness

The following excerpt is from an article in The Times this week, Richard Dawkins: ‘When I see cattle lorries, I think of the railway wagons to Auschwitz‘.

Is this what it was like, Richard Dawkins wonders, for ordinary people in Nazi Germany? “There’s a kind of laziness if you live in a society where things are just accepted. People might have been vaguely uneasy about what was going on in Germany but also thought, ‘Oh well, everyone else is doing it’.”

What crime is it that he thinks that we, like Germans in the 1930s, are blind to? It is, perhaps, a surprising one from him: the crime of eating meat. Dawkins, 76, is not known for being a woolly, liberal, tofu-eater. He is better known for his espousal of red-in-tooth-and-claw evolutionary logic and, even more so, for his three million-selling atheist book The God Delusion. Speaking from his Victorian Gothic house in Oxford, he says that just because you don’t fear the judgment of God, doesn’t mean you don’t fear judgment.

The judgment that Dawkins fears, as he recovers from a minor stroke, is that of history. Will the 21st century’s “speciesism” one day be viewed in the same way we view the 20th century’s racism? The world’s most famous evolutionary biologist thinks so.

“We put humanity on a pedestal miles higher than the surrounding territory. A human foetus that has approximately the anatomy and brainpower of a worm is accorded more status than an adult chimpanzee,” he said. And chimpanzees have more rights than, say, cows. “When I pass one of those lorries with little slats and see fearful eyes peering out, I think of the railway wagons to Auschwitz.”

To see Richard Dawkins promoting plant-based diets in a mainstream newspaper is amazing. Veganism is no longer a fringe movement for hippies and crackpots. We now have lots heavy-weight intellectuals arguing for a meat-free diet which gives me hope for our planet.


The inconsistency of eating meat while objecting to abortion

For any woman having an abortion is a serious decision that she will only do if she has something quite important at stake. Whereas people who are prepared to go into the supermarket and buy some ham don’t need to do that at all. They could easily eat something else. They are supporting the pain that is inflicted on those animals during their factory-farmed lives in the process of slaughter for a very trivial reason. So they certainly shouldn’t be looking askance at women who have terminated their pregnancy for much more serious reasons. At least not on the grounds of pain that might be inflicted on the foetus.

This quote is from Peter Singer in a conversation with Richard Dawkins:

The God Delusion

I’m currently reading Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. I’m already an atheist but have become somewhat interested in religion lately, perhaps because of the rise of ISIS and the violence they encourage in the name of God.

What makes someone believe in the supernatural? The existence of a supernatural being is no more likely than the existence of the tooth fairy or Santa Claus, and can you imagine ISIS killing non-believers in the name of the tooth fairy? That’s pretty much how their logic looks to an atheist like me.

Anyway, there are lots of quotes in the book and I might share some of them as I read it. This one is from Gore Vidal. It’s particularly interesting because I didn’t know that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all evolved from the same religion.

The great unmentionable evil at the centre of our culture is monotheism. From a barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament, three anti-human religions have evolved – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These are sky-God religions. They are, literally, patriarchal – God is the omnipotent father – hence the loathing of women for 2000 years in those countries afflicted by the sky-God and his earthly male delegates.

Masturbation is sinful!

But only for men and only if you’re Catholic. We women can masturbate as often as we want 🙂

Ok, this is complete nonsense. Masturbation is not a moral issue and nor is sex for that matter. The reason I’m bringing it up is because Richard Dawkins found himself in the middle of a Twitter storm last week. He tweeted about abortion and whoa, I thought climate change debates were contentious. Abortion also generates heated discussions and often emotional ones too. His Tweet was perhaps a little callous but it’s hard to phrase something as complex as what he was trying to say in 140 characters. You can read what he said and his more detailed explanation here – Abortion & Down Syndrome.

I am absolutely in favour of abortion so I’m with Richard Dawkins on this one. Something he and others have pointed out is that most of the people rallying against abortion, also eat animals. It seems quite inconsistent to me to have a pro-life view and then apply it to just one species: your own. This is callous too!

People who include only humans in their moral sphere, while excluding other creatures, often do so because they hold a sanctity of life view; that humans and humans alone are holy and/or sacred. I disagree with this view. I don’t think there’s anything holy or sacred about us. We’re only human by virtue of our DNA. The species we belong to has no relevance from a moral or ethical point of view. What does matter is our capacity for pain and suffering, our autonomy, and our self-consciousness but other animals possess these things too. A foetus in the early stages of pregnancy has a mental capacity inferior to that of a cow or a pig. Yet how often are anti-abortionists seen picketing abattoirs and defending the right to life of the animals we eat?

Two years ago a young woman in Ireland died of septic shock after being refused an abortion. She was admitted to hospital at 17 weeks’ gestation due to miscarriage but there was still a foetal heartbeat so they denied her an abortion. She died a week later. Before she died staff at the hospital told her she couldn’t have an abortion because this is a Catholic country and that’s the law.

If we follow the argument that humans are sacred and every potential human sacred too, we’re going to end up here:

No masturbating! It’s sinful!