If you're not Vegan, you're stupid.


So, Heather decided to write a blog post titled, Atheists: when disbelief does not equal logic or critical thinking. Perhaps a more concise title would have been, If you're not Vegan, you're stupid.

Her post starts off reasonably enough. For some reason, she states, she had been under the misapprehension that atheists are generally more intelligent people than theists. This is an easy trap to fall into, and I am sure I have fallen victim to it in the past. After all, it is natural for the human ego to want to feel superior to other people. Just take a look, for example, at the comments section of any post on Pharyngula. Your smug-o-meter will go off the scale.

Fortunately, that illusion was shattered one sunny day, when she realised that not all atheists have the same opinions as her on a variety of issues. In Heathers own words, it was "A phenomenon that burst my smug little atheist bubble".

What happened next will probably sound familiar to a lot of people. It is reminiscent of the emails received by various sceptic podcasts which begin, "I love your show, BUT... ". I think it can be best explained in terms of something called the "Maddox effect".

The Maddox effect is named for George "Maddox" Ouzounian, author of the deliberately offensive satirical (and modestly named) web-site, The Best Page in the Universe (warning: potentially NSFW). The synopsis of the effect is that an individual, who had previously been a devoted fan of Ouzounian's work, will suddenly lose their sense of humour and become incredibly hostile when an article is posted deriding their particular sacred cow. I believe poor Heather is suffering from a variant of this rationality-imparing effect.

In Heather's case, exposure to viewpoints opposed to her own led her, not to introspection or enquiry, but to simply conclude that these pesky individuals must not be as intelligent as her.

What was that she said about smug?

The issue in question is, of course, Vegan-ism.

Level 5 Vegan (I don't eat anything that casts a shadow).Now, don't get me wrong. I have no problem with Vegan-ism, per se. If someone feels better about themselves - or heck, even better than other people - because they choose not to eat certain types of food, then all power to them. You do what you like. As long as it doesn't affect me in any way, then frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

Of course, a lot of Vegans can't seem leave it there. Instead, like missionaries embarking on their first voyage to Africa, they feel the overwhelming urge to share the Good News with everyone they can. They insist that their arbitrary ethical system is, in fact, superior and should be adopted by all. How is eating an cow, they ask, any different from eating a human? It's all life!

How then, I might respond, is red any different from green? After all, it's all colours! And where does that leave poor old yellow?

As was explained so eloquently (as usual) by Matt Dillahunty & co. on episode 8.8 of The Non Prophets, the value we attach to various different forms of life is not governed but the sole property of it being life. I value human life more than I value ant life. I value my life more than I value yours. In fact, I probably value my sisters dog's life more than yours. No offence - it's nothing personal - he's just a really great dog.

Anyway, far be it from me to try to summarise the thoughts presented by the Non-Prophets crew, so I'll leave it to interested parties to listen to the episode itself. The discussion in question begins at 49:07. I will, however, finish with a quote from my favourite Non-Prophet, Shilling, from that very episode:

"Where are all the Vegans volunteering for Chemotherapy to destroy their immune system and preserve the bacteria growing within them?"

- Shilling.

Views: 145

Tags: non-prophets, proselytizing, vegans

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Comment by Aaron S. (USA) on May 9, 2010 at 4:27pm
@Jason
I agree with you about dairy, and even a hard-liner like myself wouldn't hold it against you. For myself, though, it's difficult to find truly cruelty-free dairy - even the stuff you find that's labeled "Free Range" or "Cruelty-Free" seems to be more marketing hype than actual fact, from what I've read on the subject.

One idea that sounds really interesting to me is vat-grown meat - I'm no engineer and have no idea what the costs would be like, or what environmental issues it might entail, but if you could affordably and sustainably grow meat using stem cells or whatever, I'd be the first to sign up :P

@Jaume
I'm not sure what veganism is like in non-English speaking countries, but I know that it can be controversial in Britain, and the few Canadians I've talked to on the subject seem pretty well-aware of the issues, so I think it's at least as far as Anglo-Saxon societies.

However, I think it might be worthwhile to note that animal rights seems to be an especially large issue in the skeptical community, I'm guessing because there are that many more logic-oriented and opinionated people here.
Comment by Jason Spicer on May 9, 2010 at 2:23pm
Daniel, I am shocked at the behavior of the dinner's host. Hosts are supposed to make their guests feel comfortable and welcome. They violated rule number one of entertaining. I eat meat, but when I'm out with a vegetarian or invite one over, I make an effort to be accommodating; it certainly doesn't kill me to share a veggie pizza. That's just basic civility. And it's not like I eat enough vegetables anyhow.

As to your Humeat™ suggestion, however, I think you're missing a more lucrative market. Muscle transplants. Given our preference for a generally ass-widening lifestyle, who wouldn't want a muscle transplant from a recently deceased high-school football player whose bus went off a bridge? If you're going in for lipo anyway, might as well string a few new muscle fibers. It's probably like hanging wallpaper, I bet. Anyway, it beats working out.

As to the OP, I can see some ethical and environmental reasons for cutting back on meat consumption. Unfortunately, meat-eating seems to be in my genes. I feel worse if I don't have meat occasionally. Perhaps if enough people signed up for vegetarianism for enough generations, we'd evolve to the point where we wouldn't miss it, but that sounds a bit ambitious.

And I just can't see an ethical problem with dairy and egg products, no matter how hard I look. If the animals are humanely treated (not saying they currently are to the extent that they could be), what's the issue? I always look for eggs from free-roaming chickens, and dairy cows get to mosey about between milkings. Veganism just seems bizarre and unnecessary to me. But I wouldn't lecture a dinner guest about it.
Comment by Jaume on May 9, 2010 at 2:20pm
I have to say I'm flabbergasted by all these bitter vegan/vegetarian/omnivore controversies. I've never seen that in my country, at least not to the same extent. Is it specific to the US or the Anglosphere, or what? I'd think France would be more sensitive to anything that is food or diet-related, obviously I was dead wrong :-/
Comment by Sentient Biped on May 9, 2010 at 1:29pm
Aaron,
I would have responded to your comment too, but we overlapped. You express your point well, and make an excellent point.

I would now like to add to my own comment, however, that the Humeat™ Humberger™ product originates not with intentional suffering, but in most cases people doing just what they wanted to do, and do every day - getting from point a to point b. In some cases, possibly, having had too much fun prior to doing it. The Humeat™ Humberger™ product could then be considered the most cruelty-free animal-based protein product.
Comment by Sentient Biped on May 9, 2010 at 1:16pm
Ann,
I thought about that. Humeat™ (human meat) should be inspected by the FDA. Also, my impression is that diseased animals already wind up in the distribution chain, so not much difference there. Also, by eating your Humeat™ Humberger™ quarterpounder, you may also be inadvertantly consuming prozac (which might be good for most people) and hormones (and, beef, chicken, and pork are not injected with hormones?). I acknowledge that information may be controversial.
I also thought about the organs - they would not be wasted as burgers, they can still be used for transplants. Only the muscle for burgers.
And maybe some brain cheese.

Jim,
Thanks for the comments. It's actually quite easy, I've done it for over 30 years. The main potential vitamin deficieny is vitamin B12, and that's easy for the ovolacto veg to overcome, a bit more challenging for the vegan. In many places, even omnivores develop certain vitamin deficiencies, especially Vitamin D - they just aren't as aware. I don't even think about the amino acid issue, I just eat a very varied diet with a diversity of grains, legumes, fruits, and veggies.
Comment by Aaron S. (USA) on May 9, 2010 at 1:12pm
An apology beforehand - somebody said something wrong on the internets and I have to go on my rant now.

First of all, vegans sound pushy because, well, that's the entire point. Veganism is about ethics, and ethics is that special arena of human activity where we do just get to tell each other what to do. Telling a vegan (or an omnivore, for that matter) "Don't force your 'lifestyle' on me" makes as much sense as a pedophile telling the cops "Hey, don't push your lifestyle on me". If something is wrong, then it's not a personal choice, it's wrong. Now, if you disagree with the merit of vegan arguments, then feel free to disagree, but I'm just saying - "personal choice" is a nonsensical argument to make on an ethical issue.

Second of all, veganism isn't about saving "life" per se, it's about limiting suffering as much as reasonably possible (as well as personal health, economic reasons, environmental reasons, etc.). I understand that this sort of reasoning can get really abstract when we're talking about bacteria, but the point is, from the perspective of suffering, we have no reason to believe that things like bacteria are capable of human-like suffering, whereas we have every reason to believe a cow does. With all due respect to the OP, Matt Dillahunty (who I think is very sharp in other areas), and Shilling, they don't seem to understand this fundamental aspect of what veganism is. Again, if you disagree with the reasoning, feel free to make a counterargument - but when people criticize something without having a clue what it is that they're criticizing, it doesn't convince anyone, it just pisses people off.
Comment by Ann on May 9, 2010 at 1:02pm
Yes, really a terrible waste. I'm sure that people dying of diseases would be edible too. Well, maybe not by gourmet' restaurants' level but would surely do as sausage material. Soylent Green.
Comment by Jim DePaulo on May 9, 2010 at 1:02pm
Daniel,
Good response. I think informed vegetarians are probably healthier than the average citizen largely because they are more conscious of what they eat. I see a problem, however, with the uninformed or "fad" vegetarians.
No single plant based food contains all 9 amino acids, consequently, a balance of vegetables must be eaten to obtain all 9. Without that understanding, people can develop serious deficency disease.
I had many biology students (mostly female) who told me they were vegetarians.
I always asked them to talk with one of my collegues, a biology teacher and vegetarian, she had a full understanding of the diet that must be followed to maintain good health - what combination of vegetables that would supply essential nutrients.
Although I'm not a vegetarian I eat very little meat and enjoy many vegetarian meals (that usually include eggs or dairy). Further, when I invite a vegetarian to my home I feel it is an obligation of hospitally to provide a vegetarian fare.
Comment by Sentient Biped on May 9, 2010 at 12:49pm
Ann,

In 2008, there were 37,261 fatalities related to motor vehicle accidents, alone. Making a totally wild guess of 50 pounds of muscle per person, that's 37,261 people X 50 pounds per person = 1,860,000 pounds of potential humanburger. X4 to get quarterpounders, that's 7.5 millium quarterpounders, with or without the cheese. Much of it probably quite tender and well marbelized, based on the sedentary American lifestyle. Also, some is probably pre-tenderized due to alcohol ingestion. This doesn't include drunk guys who try to impress their friends and wind up on the Darwin Awards website.

We could increase that opportunity by raising speed limits and raising the legal blood alcohol level.

Such a waste. And embalming is not environmentally friendly.

Still, I'm going to stick to my gardenburgers.
Comment by Ann on May 9, 2010 at 12:33pm
@Daniel
Embalming is an American thing. Accident victims are a good source of spare parts here.

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