They’re working hard at ensuring Soylent Green was a documentary. Next time you go to a megacorporate restaurant and it tries to sell you trendy “impossible” or “mystery” meat, make sure their supplier isn’t the funeral home.
For we are reminded by our highly credentialed elites that “Cannibalism is common in the animal kingdom, but for humans it’s the ultimate taboo.”
Taboo is a progressive word. Whenever you see it you’re supposed to react in a negative way. How can there be this taboo?, for all taboos are archaic, outmoded, restrictive, discriminatory. As if those are bad things.
Vulnerable spadefoot tadpoles eat their smaller competitors to speed towards toadhood as quickly as possible. Gulls and pelicans are among bird species that eat hatchlings for food or to prevent the spread of disease. In insect species such as the praying mantis or the Australian redback spider, males offer their bodies as a final gift to females after mating.
It’s more common than you’d think in mammals too. Many rodent mothers may eat some of their young if they’re sick, dead, or too numerous to feed…
For humans though, cannibalism is the ultimate taboo. In fact, our aversion to cannibalism is so strong that consent and ethics count for little.
Consent is the magick spell that turns evil into good. This makes sense, too, if man is the measure of all things, for that implies this man—in other words, you—is the ultimate measure. Man as god decides what is good and what is evil for himself alone.
Accepting man is not a god, consent used to justify acts is a fallacy. You are not that special. Since consenting to an act is not that which makes it good, you consenting to somebody eating you doesn’t make cannibalism moral.
Well, you knew that. The “researchers” didn’t.
In one of our own experiments, participants were asked to consider the hypothetical case of a man who gave permission to his friend to eat parts of him once he died of natural causes.
Participants read that this occurred in a culture that permitted the act, that the act was meant to honour the deceased, and that the flesh was cooked so that there was no chance of disease. Despite this careful description, about half of the participants still insisted that the act was invariably wrong.
You can tell the college student cannibalism is common and wonderful in some hypothetical place, but that doesn’t mean that the student assimilates that information, and believes it.
This makes this research like those trolley problems forever trotted out. You stand inside a control room next to a switch that will divert a trolley full of cannibals to a precipice or into a university parking lot. What would you do?
Nobody knows what they’d do, not for real, not unless they were there.
Even in this case. For one person might think how nice it would be to see a trolley full of cannibals plummet off a cliff, while another person might have more fun imagining those same hungry savages let loose on campus on Celebrate Diversity Day.
I opt for the university:
So why our disgust for human flesh but not that of other animals? Philosopher William Irvine has us imagine a ranch that raises plump babies for human consumption, much like we fatten and slaughter cattle for beef. Irvine suggests that the same arguments we apply to justify the killing of cows also apply to babies. For example, they wouldn’t protest, and they’re not capable of rational thought.
Although Irvine is not seriously advocating eating babies, the scenario is useful for illuminating our bias when considering the ethics of cannibalism.
It’s easy to argue academic philosophers suffer the same cognitive deficits as cows. Not because this Irvine has questionable taste in imaginary sausage, but because of his use of “bias”. Bias is like taboo in being intolerable to progressives. How dare you question my desire; you are biased.
We suspect that we could adapt to human flesh if need be. Many people develop disgust for all kinds of meat, while morticians and surgeons quickly adapt to the initially difficult experience of handling dead bodies. Our ongoing research with butchers in England suggests that they easily adapt to working with animal parts that the average consumer finds quite disgusting.
My favorite all-time joke, alas, is no longer funny and now has to be recast. Two cannibals are eating a clown, and one says “This used to be taboo.”
The punchline used to be “Does this taste funny to you?” If you hear that now, it’ll mean somebody’s about to call the Health Department.
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