Can the public be excused for not knowing about the circumstances of food animal production? We were first warned about the inhumanity of using animals as machines 50 years ago, but dietary habits change slowly. Then intensive animal production was in its infancy. Now most of us live in cities and animals are crowded into sheds far away, and the public rely mostly on the media rather than first-hand knowledge for information about farming. • • •
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. • • •
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.”Brian Dunning, “Domestic Terrorists Strike Again,” Skepticblog, July 23, 2009, http://www.skepticblog.org/2009/07/23/domestic-terrorists-strike-again. • • •
To borrow from Brad Pitt’s line in Moneyball, you get skeptics with a clue, then you get skeptics exhibiting logical inconsistencies and denial, and then there’s the rock bottom of totally clueless skeptics, and then there’s 50 feet of crap, and then there’s Penn and Teller.
Before looking at their skeptical inquiries into the ethical treatment of nonhuman animals, some background on their reputation will give a clue of what to expect. In his blog Rationally Speaking, author Massimo Pigliucci discusses Penn and Teller’s television series Bullshit! and its flaws. He criticizes the show for having “presented caricatures of complex issues such as recycling, animal rights, the relationship between health and exercise, and global warming.”Massimo Pigliucci, “Bullshit! • • •
Hostility toward animal advocacy is fairly typical among skeptics who know little about the subject or who think their ability to rationalize guarantees a righteousness on everything—you get this smug righteousness a lot in skeptical circles. The Non-Prophets, for example, an Austin based internet radio show, once addressed ethical veganism with a range of cliché fallacies and hypotheticals that would take pages to explain, but ultimately might-is-right trumped as their guide to moral authority.The Non-Prophets, Episode 8.8, April 25, 2009, http://www.nonprophetsradio.com/audio/The Non-Prophets 8.8.mp3.
Projecting sins onto scapegoats is a delusional act that goes back to the days before science and rationality. Yet even with science and rationality, you still get humans exercising the “scapegoat” impulse, sometimes disguised by belief systems or cloaked in ceremonial practices.
In the case of this Korean protest, a young pig was sacrificed to express how emotional people felt. It symbolized the “sin” they objected to. That’s all. The protesters, around 1,500 of them, were at the rally in Icheon to protest the proposal to relocate a US military facility (or perhaps only an office) to the area.
Such barbarism, however, only reflects badly on scum performing it. • • •