Dawkins is not the only atheist to struggle when challenged by another atheist about the sin of his meat-eating. New Age Atheist Sam Harris, who is supposed to have an answer for everything, also has the same problem.
Many have asked about his spiritual beliefs, meditation practices, and even drug use policies, but social news site Reddit opened up their forum to questions last week for Harris to answer at his leisure. Two were directly related to the issue of vegetarianism/veganism, and referenced fellow atheist and philosopher Peter Singer’s claims that carnism cannot be defended from a secular, moral basis.
In other words, atheist Peter Singer argues carnism cannot be defended from an atheistic perspective. And remember that Dawkins’s performance supports his point.
User Xodarap, whose reddit history indicates he is an atheist, asked Harris:
You may remember that Peter Singer challenged Richard Dawkins at an event as to why Dawkins still ate meat. Dawkins essentially punted, saying that, while eating meat was immoral, he was not strong enough to quit.I would like to put the same question to you: if we can no longer claim divinity as a reason for human superiority, how can we justify our treatment of the other animals? As a neuroscientist, you must be aware of the great similarities between us and the other species; as a philosopher, you must be aware of the argument from marginal cases which makes these similarities so morally relevant. (emphasis added)
Notice the point I emphasized, as we once again see the clear connection between atheism and animal liberation.
The blog author writes:
Harris’ answer is interesting. He admits that he does currently eat meat, but can’t ethically defend it, and while he was vegetarian for many years, stopped due to health concerns that he basically boils down to “not enough protein.” Guess he didn’t hear about tofu or kidney beans?
Okay, while Dawkins blames society for his inability to refrain from meat-eating, Harris blames his “health concerns.” Maybe he even has a doctor’s note. But it sounds like another cop-out to me. Neither atheist can ethically defend their behavior and Harris even acknowledges this. This shows the intrinsic hypocrisy of their atheism, which tells them there is nothing special about humanity, yet they insist on living as if they are special through their diets. Of course, it’s not that important if they are behaving unethically, now is it? Not important enough to change, that is.
The blog author picks out two of Harris’s points to highlight:
Sam Harris: It’s unethical to delegate something to be done that you wouldn’t do yourself for ethical reasons. If you would be horrified to kill an animal and would just never countenance it to get your next hamburger, well then to have it done out of sight and out of mind is not an ethical solution.
Is Harris trying to say he’d be willing to put a pig in some type of ninja-style choke hold if he had to?
Someone else from reddit asked this question:
In your latest book “A Moral Landscape” you propose a quasi-utilitarian model of morality where the goal is to minimize suffering/maximize wellbeing. You touch on animal suffering several times in the book yet never come out strongly on either side of the animal rights debate. Does the concept of maximizing wellbeing imply that a vegan society is the most morally sound?
The basis of morality is, on my view, a concern for the well-being of concious creatures. To the extent that any creature can suffer, or be made happy, or be deprived of happiness…we have an ethical interest, and ethical concerns can come into play.
And, according to the blog author,
He goes on to say that because of our intense levels of experiences and feelings that he looks out for humans first, and that this view isn’t speciesism…he would bow down to an alien if they have even richer experiences or mental capacities!
So not only does his atheism completely incapacitate his ability to defend his own diet, it even leads him to acknowledge he would prostate himself before another creature if that creature had superior mental abilities.