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Richard Dawkins’ Cannibalism Suggestion is Hard to Digest

Part of a high protein, low reason diet

Don’t accept any dinner invitations to Richard Dawkin’s house. You might be asked to swallow more than his bizarre idea that God doesn’t exist.

If you do do, don’t be surprised to find the soup course followed by Roast Spleen of Graduate Student, or Ten Toe Casserole.

Why the warning? Dawkins noted that playful scientists managed to created meat-like goo in a test tube. And so he wondered in a tweet “What if human meat is grown? Could we overcome our taboo against cannibalism? An interesting test case for consequentialist morality versus ‘yuck reaction’ absolutism.”

There are some kinds of indigestion even the strongest antacids can’t cure.

Before getting to the meat of this subject, it’s well to point out this isn’t the first time Dawkins was caught licking his lips while reminiscing about the Donner Party.

Fellow atheist David McAfee reminds us that Dawkins in a 2010 video “raised the idea of cannibalism as the logical end to those who won’t eat animals because they can’t ‘consent’ to it. If a human being consents, he says, it would follow that you could eat that person under that logic.”

McAfee thinks Dawkins is not “a secret cannibal or that he ‘craves’ human meat.” Rather “he enjoys asking questions that many people shy away from.”

Childish impertinence may be the right explanation for Dawkins’s cannibalistic quips, but it’s just as well to ban Dawkins from manning the grill at the next atheist convention.

Let’s return to the big people’s table and contrast Dawkins’s “consequentialist morality” versus “absolutism.” Consequentialism says that the consequences of a person’s actions should be the sole basis to judge whether those actions are right or wrong. There is nothing inherently right or wrong in any act, but only what flows from an act. Absolutism does not deny consequences, but insists acts can be good or bad in themselves.

Many who heard Dawkins’s dinner bell and jumped to his defense embraced consequentialism. They pointed out that human meat carries more diseases than animal meat. Therefore, unless these diseases can be screened from human meat, the consequence of bad health shows cannibalism is wrong.

One person compared cannibalism to incest, saying “The ‘yuck reaction’ associated with cannibalism & incest have a far deeper purpose than a mere taboo avoidance. We know incest is bad since there’s lots of evidence for offspring turning out w[ith] terrible conditions.”

This conclusion is as consequentialist as it gets. Incest is bad only because of its health consequences.

Another man looked to economics. He said “I doubt [artificial meat production] will succeed without massive resistance. Millions of farmers will click here to read the rest.

12 thoughts on “Richard Dawkins’ Cannibalism Suggestion is Hard to Digest Leave a comment

  1. I don’t see anything quoted where Dawkins is expressing a desire to, or suggesting that others should, eat human flesh.

  2. Soylent Green, baby!

    Lee:

    Briggs does include the following:
    McAfee thinks Dawkins is not “a secret cannibal or that he ‘craves’ human meat.” Rather “he enjoys asking questions that many people shy away from.”

    And Briggs loves saying stuff that he knows will tick you off.

    Briggs is engaging in a little reducto absurdum …

  3. Human flesh was eaten in quite a lot of human societies. Mainly for superstitious reasons, like believing that you gained the strength of your enemies by eating them. Dawkins has a slightly different reason, eating humans is a taboo, and breaking taboo’s is apparently a good idea.

    So Dawkins also gains strength by eating other humans. And that is not superstition?

  4. Dr. Briggs is commenting on the distinction between pegging moral choices on consequentialism versus on the absolute goodness of the act itself and is using cannibalism to illustrate the point. Consequentialists, believing moral absolutes are somehow “theistic,” shun them like the plague, and tie themselves unwittingly in logical knots in finding “consequential” reasons for saying they are wrong, rather than simply saying that are wrong per se. See Stanley Fish’s “Are there Secular Reasons?” for a more extended discussion. https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/22/are-there-secular-reasons/

  5. “the absolute goodness of the act itself ”

    what would you define as an act of “absolute goodness” i.e one that is always good no matter what the consequences?

  6. what would you define as an act of “absolute goodness”

    One that perfects and completes the nature of the actor. For example, a gray squirrel must be able evade its predators, find its food, find mates, build nests, etc. In general, to do all the acts required by the profession of gray squirrelling. To perform these acts successfully makes it a good gray squirrel.

  7. “One that perfects and completes the nature of the actor. For example, a gray squirrel must be able evade its predators, find its food, find mates, build nests, etc. In general, to do all the acts required by the profession of gray squirrelling. To perform these acts successfully makes it a good gray squirrel.”

    So a Squirrel that gets eaten by a hawk or bobcat and so fails to be a good squirrel is immoral/evil ; even though eating squirrels is part of the profession of hawking/bobcatting and so “absolutely good” from their point of view?

    How about a squirrel that gets nicked by a rabid bat and transmits it fatally to say, one of your children? It’s still a squirrel doing squirrely things in a perfectly natural way…

  8. Being eaten by a hawk is not an act of the squirrel. Hint: it is not expressed in the ACTive voice. Ditto for your other examples.

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