Pollan Up To His Old Fallacies

pollan-cooking

The rationalizations of Michael Pollan were explored on this site some time ago here. Sadly, he has not progressed or phased out his old fallacies. They have just been repackaged. Pollan is like religions: he would scarcely be as popular or be able to earn a living were it not for promoting meat eating.

Now he’s back with a series on Netflix that I cannot be bothered watching. For this reason, I repost this takedown by Robert Grillo, guest blogger over at Vegan Place. Here it is:

Putting Out Michael Pollan’s Fire
Robert Grillo

Last night I watched “Fire,” the first episode of Michael Pollan’s Netflix mini-series Cooked based on his book by the same name. The show weaves together Pollan’s life as an author/personality in California with the story of a group of Aboriginal people in Australia portrayed as hunter-gatherers as well as a “pit master” from the American South. The central theme explores fire as an evolutionary and cultural symbol that allegedly predisposes us to eating animals. And the sweep from one cultural extreme to another is supposed to make some profound statement about the cultural universality of hunting, raising, killing, preparing and eating animals as a kind of rite of evolutionary passage and a remedy for our modern day aversion to cooking. In his search to find the primordial roots of eating flesh, Pollan’s new-age journey finds himself sitting around a fire pit, upon which a whole, gutted pig is searing, and drinking beer with his 50-something friends in a kind of male-bonding ritual. Here Pollan seems to go out of his way to impress upon us that he is as real and down-to-earth about food as he is worldly and philosophical.

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The Herd: Factory Farming from Another Point of View

The award winning short film directed by Melanie Light.

The Herd replaces female cows with female humans, and by doing so hopes to promote a greater understanding of the suffering inflicted upon cows in the dairy industry.

Known as the first feminist vegan horror film.

Shermer Sticks to Bloodying the Moral Landscape

“I went Vegan once,” mocks Michael Shermer, “it started just after breakfast one day and ended at dinner that night.”[1]Michael Shermer, “Leaving Las Vegas… Rich,” Skepticblog, July 17, 2012, http://www.skepticblog.org/2012/07/17/leaving-las-vegas-rich/. Oh, what a card.

Shermer’s dismissal of veganism is a direct reflection of his ethics and flexitarianism as a skeptic. And yet years later, his take on morality is in keeping with the paradigm set out by Sam Harris in his The Moral Landscape, where the ideal is the maximum “flourishing of sentient beings.” One flaw in Harris’s book noted elsewhere was the glaring omission of the vast majority of most sentient beings on the planet from it, other than some minor asides.

That overt humanist-centered vision Harris presented is mirrored in Shermer’s new book The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity Toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom. Notice that the title emphasizes “Humanity” and mentions nothing of most other sentient beings. How telling, right off the bat.

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Notes   [ + ]

1. Michael Shermer, “Leaving Las Vegas… Rich,” Skepticblog, July 17, 2012, http://www.skepticblog.org/2012/07/17/leaving-las-vegas-rich/.

Pope Makes More Stuff Up: Animals Go To Heaven… But Not Really

You know what they say, “As a dog returneth to his vomit, a fool returneth to his folly” (Proverbs 26:11). Thus the Pope, in the tradition of all religious leaders throughout human history, returneth to the usual folly of making stuff up.

“The holy scripture teaches us that the fulfillment of this wonderful design also affects everything around us,” said the Holy Father.

Relying heavily on St Paul’s letters to the early Christian communities, Pope Francis reminded everyone that a “new creation” lies ahead.

He added, “It is not an annihilation of the universe and all that surrounds us. Rather it brings everything to its fullness of being, truth and beauty.”[/ref]

Italian daily Corriere della Sera was in no doubt about his meaning. “It broadens the hope of salvation and eschatological beatitude to animals and the whole of creation,” wrote the paper’s Vatican specialist.[1]”Animals also go to heaven suggests Pope,’ Cathnews New Zealand, http://cathnews.co.nz/2014/12/02/animals-also-go-heaven-suggests-pope/. The paper’s specialist was wrong.

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Notes   [ + ]

1. ”Animals also go to heaven suggests Pope,’ Cathnews New Zealand, http://cathnews.co.nz/2014/12/02/animals-also-go-heaven-suggests-pope/.

Perdue and Systematic Cruetly to Chickens

You need to be heartless to be a factory farmer, but if you do begin to see and acknowledge the suffering around you, what do you do?

This farmer was prompted to speak out after hearing Joe Perdue’s agrispin in a promotional video, saying “Doing the right thing is things like treating your chickens humanely.” This is a standard platitude for the meat industry, which appropriates the language of animal welfare for self-promotion and profit. In fact, the Perdue family has a long history of animal abuse and run-ins with animal advocates, along with their “pile of poultry puffery hiding the brutal realities of an inhumane industry.”[1]Henry Spira took them to task back in the 70s for this, see http://www.upc-online.org/henry_tribute.html..

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Notes   [ + ]

1. Henry Spira took them to task back in the 70s for this, see http://www.upc-online.org/henry_tribute.html.

Will Potter and the Fallacy of Ecoterrorism

If you don’t know about this guy, here is the TED blurb by way of explanation:

In 2002, investigative journalist and TED Fellow Will Potter took a break from his regular beat, writing about shootings and murders for the Chicago Tribune. He went to help a local group campaigning against animal testing: “I thought it would be a safe way to do something positive,” he says. Instead, he was arrested, and so began his ongoing journey into a world in which peaceful protest is branded as terrorism.

And featuring on the TED blog is an interview with Potter that provides more of an overview.[1]http://blog.ted.com/2014/01/31/will-potter-on-of-treating-environmentalists-like-terrorists/ Wikipedia sums up the importance of Potter’s skeptical approach to governments and corporations trying to silence social activism.

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Notes   [ + ]

Pinker’s Reducetarianism of Mind

Imagine the puzzlement when this Tweet popped up from Pinker. Was he serious? What is he on about? Judging by the response by others, they weren’t too sure either. Some were certain it was criticism of vegetarianism, so they sprouted typical defensive omnivore fallacies that don’t bear repeating. But most found it hard to interpret.

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Dunning Piles Up the Cowpies

We now turn to one of those rationalists in the secular community who, far from ponder the ethical treatment of nonhuman animals, seems bent on publicly demonstrate his ignorance on both animal rights and skeptical inquiry. There’s a failure of consistency because he allows emotion to get in the way. That’s because Brian Dunning has no interest in examining animal issues and has a distinct grudge against animal activists. He likes to simply label them as extremists that allegedly “don’t really give a flying [censored] about animals, they really just hate people.”[1]Brian Dunning, “Domestic Terrorists Strike Again,” Skepticblog, July 23, 2009, http://www.skepticblog.org/2009/07/23/domestic-terrorists-strike-again. That’s not the last of the cliches we’ll see from him.

While he does question the post-911 label of “terrorist” for acts of vandalism, he is quick to call the perpetrators of vandalism “domestic terrorists” himself. Animal activists belong to terrorist organizations, in his view, just like the United States Department of Homeland Security says they do. After all, he’s only too happy to echo “terrorist” propaganda perpetuated by the US government to protect commercial interests. It fits with his already hostile prejudice against animal advocacy.

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Notes   [ + ]

1. Brian Dunning, “Domestic Terrorists Strike Again,” Skepticblog, July 23, 2009, http://www.skepticblog.org/2009/07/23/domestic-terrorists-strike-again.

Phony Feminists

When visiting the non-vegan home of a self-proclaimed feminist, she offered me cow’s milk with my tea. That’s when I made the profound connection that it’s impossible to truly be a feminist while consuming dairy (or any animal products), as the entire animal industry is built on the exploitation of the female reproductive system. This must be recognized as a feminist issue because it is analogous to the feminist movement’s struggle for women to have control of their own bodies. — Angel Flinn

Among feminists there are those who have aligned their ethics with their actions after recognizing the deep connections between male patriarchy, religion, the control of animals, and the control of women throughout history. They have grasped that unequal rights create oppressive hierarchies and social structures, separating the haves and have-nots and reinforcing discriminative behaviors such as racism, sexism, and—yes—speciesism. Their logical choice and course of action was to go vegan.

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Coyne and Accommodating Skeptical Disconnect

it was my 40th birthday dinner, which I cooked myself with the help of a Ph.D student at the U of C, John Willis (he’s now a fancy professor of biology at Duke, and has always been a superb cook). I don’t have the menu at hand, but there were about a dozen courses, each accompanied by a different fine wine from my collection. It began with a fino sherry, olives, and almonds, an entire side of smoked Scottish salmon, then foie gras (brought from France) with a fine Sauternes (Chateau Climens), and progressed through fish courses, meat courses (chicken with 40 cloves of garlic and then a tenderloin of beef with Roquefort sauce, the former served with a 1982 Bordeaux, the latter with a 1982 Hermitage), to cheese and then homemade desserts.[1]http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/the-best-meal-i-ever-had/.

As you can tell, evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne is among the famous atheists vocal about their love of meat.

The suffering and death that goes into the provision of such delicacies only ever registers lightly on the moral radar. Here is what Coyne has to say about morality:

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Notes   [ + ]

Dawkins Still Can’t Fully Evolve

One theme throughout Richard Dawkins’ career has been the criticism of apportioning moral concern and worth according to species boundaries. Like writers and philosophers before him, especially after Darwin, he consistently stresses the idea of a biological continuum that implies a moral continuum.

The idea is right there in his first book, The Selfish Gene, when he is deriding the exceptional status some give a foetus over an adult chimpanzee. In that passage he also notes the speciesist bigotries inherent in the ill-treatment of animals:

The only thing more strongly forbidden by our culture is eating people (even if they are already dead). We enjoy eating members of other species, however. Many of us shrink from judicial execution of even the most horrible human criminals, while we cheerfully countenance the shooting without trial of fairly mild animal pests. Indeed we kill members of other harmless species as a means of recreation and amusement. …Whether the ethic of ‘speciesism’, to use Richard Ryder’s term, can be put on a logical footing any more sound than that of ‘racism’, I do not know.[1]Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 10.

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Notes   [ + ]

1. Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 10.

Dennett, a Fourth Horseman on a High Horse

Among a number of secularists that deny animal interests based on attributions of consciousness, there is history and science writer Stephen Budiansky, who insists that animals lack anything like human rationality and consciousness such that in their case “sentience is not sentience, and pain isn’t even pain”;[1]Quoted in Matthew Scully, Dominion: the Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2002), 6; also see Scully, “Pet Project,” First Things, February, 1999, http://www.firstthings.com/article/2008/12/005-pet-project-7. philosopher Peter Carruthers, who sees animals as having no moral standing because they are not rational agents, and therefore conferring protective rights upon them is the height of moral decadence;[2]Peter Carruthers, The Animals Issue: Moral Theory in Practice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), xi. and then there is Dennett, who proposes a distinction between pain and suffering based on human language and higher consciousness.[3]Daniel C. Dennett, “Animal Consciousness: What Matters and Why,” in Brainchildren: Essays on Designing Minds (Bradford Books ), 337-350, and Kinds of Minds: Toward an Understanding of Consciousness (New York: Basic Books, 1996). The origin of these secular deniers’ standpoints can be traced back to B.F. Skinner, the behaviorist who believed animals had no self-consciousness.

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Notes   [ + ]

1. Quoted in Matthew Scully, Dominion: the Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2002), 6; also see Scully, “Pet Project,” First Things, February, 1999, http://www.firstthings.com/article/2008/12/005-pet-project-7.
2. Peter Carruthers, The Animals Issue: Moral Theory in Practice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), xi.
3. Daniel C. Dennett, “Animal Consciousness: What Matters and Why,” in Brainchildren: Essays on Designing Minds (Bradford Books ), 337-350, and Kinds of Minds: Toward an Understanding of Consciousness (New York: Basic Books, 1996).

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