Saturday 15 May 2010

Science, Reason, Critical Thinking and Bacon Butties

Over the past week I have published Skeptic Trump cards for Jerry Coyne and Peter Singer. As a consequence of which, I have revisited some of their work and trawled the Internet for some interesting facts that I could perhaps pervert into a cheap gag to adorn their trump card.

Whilst reading up about Jerry, I came across an anecdote about an educated, seemingly rational person who simply refused to accept Jerry’s overwhelming evidence for why evolution is true.

Living in a country where evolution is only a controversy amongst the hard lined religious fundamentalists, who do their best to stir up a controversy, it’s hard to understand why so many people can reject such solid science.

In the anecdote I am referring to, Jerry presents his towering wall of convergent reliable evidence for evolution to a businessman who understands the evidence and reason presented by Jerry but nonetheless refuses to accept it as he perceives it as contradictory to his unchallengeable religious viewpoint.

What a fucktard.

We in the Skpetical community may look upon this individual with pious scorn. We are more open-minded, we are prepared to change our opinions based on incontrovertible evidence that disputes our original conclusions. How superior we are to be able to think clearly and accept sometimes counter intuitive realities no matter how ingrained in our culture.

Then I came to write Peter Singer’s trump card I read and listened to many condensed versions of his philosophies. This included some of his arguments for vegetarianism. Singer puts forward multiple reasons as to why we should be vegetarian based on energy efficiency, environmental factors and morality.

I listened to these arguments, considered them, and compared them to my own inferior arguments for eating meat. There is indeed no reason why in today’s society we should farm animals in such conditions. We could produce much more healthy vegetarian food for more of the worlds growing population. I think on the whole Peter Singer was right.

Then I made myself a delicious bacon sandwich with crispy fat and fried egg.

Perhaps I’ll think about that again next time I deride irrational behaviour.


Anonymous said...

I'm a rational skeptic who was raised as a very religious Catholic but rejected it when I went to college and studied philosophy and thought about religion critically. I used to eat meat. I also read Singer and other books on animal rights (today I'd strongly recommend Foer's "Eating Animals"); as a result, realizing eating meat was irrational, and harmful to me, the animals, and the planet, I gave up meat, and haven't eaten meat since. But I understand your position: indeed, so many folks are with religion as you are with meat: they know it's irrational, but due to habit, tradition, and peer pressure, perhaps, they compartmentalize and rationalize their religious routine and never question it to the point of affecting their actions.

Jourdemayne said...

Oh no - the bacon classic butty conflict!

I fell off a ten-year vegetarian wagon with a bacon butty in my hand. Guilt and ecstasy, all in one handy package. I hadn't felt the like of it since teenage sex.

It's even worse than lamb or chicken, because pigs are so bright.

But if god didn't want us to eat pigs, why did he clothe them in lovely crackling?

Moll Flanders said that everybody wants to prosper and everybody wants to be good - pray you never have to choose between the two.

The bacon conundrum lies so squarely between the undeniable urge and the undeniable truth.

You're right Crispian. And ad hoc rationalisations serve us so regularly that it's easy to mistake them for the truth.

Life could only be worse if Mint Aeros grew on low-lying branches.

Psiloiordinary said...

Ahh Glasshopper!

Selwf knowledge is a door to to the sandwhlich of twuth.

Baaat you have to use the teeth of chlange and the tonge of honesty to be able to ewentuawwy produce the poo of fleedom!



Bruce Cordell said...

I too "ate the bacon sandwich" for severals years after knowing the rational arguments why I shouldn't. But eventually, I finally made the switch to a veggie lifestyle, with only a few falls from the wagon since.

I did so because it became an emotional argument to me, I'm afraid; so I still don't know that if in the face of a bacon sandwich, the rational arguments alone would have finally swayed me.

Rabbitpirate said...

Hmmm, well put.

Alice said...

This is genius, Crispian.

Pigs are so clever and it seems so wrong to eat them - but bacon is as delicious as it comes!

When I first started working, my salary was £3.50 an hour. I cut down on all kinds of foods I liked and never ate good meat. My ferratin levels ended up being 3% of what they should be. The doctor was very worried and put me on iron tablets. I promptly got very ill. Meat, however, was the perfect cure . . .

One thing seldom mentioned was pointed out to me this morning by my mum, who grew up partly on a farm. Namely, some land just isn't suitable for arable farming. It won't grow food suitable for a vegetarian diet. Animals, on the other hand, are very good for keeping the land in a sensible state by nibbling the scrub - and this is a friendlier environment for wildlife than intensive crop growing . . .

Excuses . . .

It's hard. I want bacon.

Unknown said...

I have never yet come across an economic or environmental argument for vegetarianism that doesn't work better as an argument for eating much less meat. This also solves the bacon sandwich dilemma, because an occasional bacon sandwich is much more delicious than a routine one just by its rarity, and better still if not made from factory-farmed pig. Problem solved.

Deb Bradley said...

Interesting article.
I have recently come to the conclusion that reports of the latest scientific findings have no real affect on the lifestyles we choose to live. People are only open to the reports that support the lifestyle they already live and want to continue to live.
This applies for most lifestyle decisions – to smoke or not?; to fight against climate change or not?; to eat meat or not?; to go to war or not?.
People talk about, tweet about, blog about reports that tell them that the way they think was right all along, and remain irritatingly quiet about articles that would seek to prove them wrong.
I think this applies to most people, even the most open minded and ‘rational’ amongst us. At least the recognition of this barrier could signal it’s eventual downfall.

Unknown said...

Singer's argument for vegetarianism employs logic to great effect, but it is ultimately a moral argument. We can reject it even while we accept its logic - provided we admit that by doing so we are making a conscious and rational decision to act immorally.

The argument in support of evolution is not a moral argument, and nor is the argument against it. Coyne's friend does not reject it for moral reasons. He rejects it for psycho-pathological reasons.

frozenwarnings said...

After alomost 20 years of vegetarianism I returned to the meat eating world last year. Along with many people the bacon butty was the one thing that was missed during the wilderness years, mainly I suspect because of the delightful smell that wafted over many a festival field. Needless to say it wasn't long after relapsing that I prepared myself for the potentially orgasmic experience of a bacon sarnie. Sadly it was a massive anticlimax, even with brown sauce. Damn you pigs for torturing me for so long.

sanbikinoraion said...

Funny how cannibals never get away with the "but humans are so tasty!" defence, whereas "bacon is nice!" appears to be a perfectly reasonable defence for meat eaters.

Moetzi said...

Evolution gave us teeth. Evolution gave us a stomach that could handle meat. Evolution made us part-time carnivores.
Vegetarianism is rejecting evolution.

sanbikinoraion said...

Evolution gave us a brain to question the morality of eating meat.

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NtrlScn said...

I came across this engaging article of yours- I find it all fascinating except for one bit- the presupposition that empirical evidence only exists to support the evolutionary viewpoint which is not fact. The fact is compelling evidence in natural science exists to support the idea of an intelligent designer (this is not a religious argument), namely irreducible complexity found in "simple cell" organisms. Yes, I agree it is quite open minded as you say to challenge the mechanisms and nature of evolutionary theory, but it is more open minded to consider that perhaps the assumptions in evolutionary theory are not grounded in holistic reality.