Sam Harris Struggles Too

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?

Harris replies:

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.

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9 Responses to Sam Harris Struggles Too

  1. ingx24 says:

    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.

    Why do we need to be “special” in order to be justified in eating meat? Animals eat each other all the time; why is it only “wrong” when we do it? Why do we need the idea that humans are intrinsically morally more valuable than animals for it to not be wrong for us to eat meat?

  2. Crude says:

    he would bow down to an alien if they have even richer experiences or mental capacities!

    So if, say… William Lane Craig bested him in a debate, he would be morally obligated to bow down to him?

  3. Justin says:

    All is not lost! Thre are still plenty of sources of meat for the discerning Gnu herbivore… road shoulders, vet clinics, animal shelters, and old age homes are all good sources of PETA-approved meats. Gnu cattle farmers will just need to wait a bit longer to sell cattle to the processors (and cows that have passed on from old age are easier to herd and cheaper to feed anyway). And given Dawkins’ statement, “any fetus is less human than an adult pig”…

    I just don’t see what all the fuss is about.

  4. rubbermallet says:

    this whole thing is beyond ridiculous. Its a wonderful snippet of how these peoples minds work though and wonderfully illustrates all of the reasons why you should take them about as serious as a clown.

  5. stcordova says:

    Good analysis, Justin.

  6. Stephanie says:

    The big deal is cruelty… How can a thinking person not understand the horrible pain we cause to these animals we don’t even need to eat because we can get all our nutrients animo acids from plants? There’s simply no source of humane meat, and those of us who oppose eating other animals do so because it’s simply unethical to believe you have the right to take someone else’s life just because you can. Especially when it’s unnecessary.

  7. Crude says:

    The big deal is cruelty… How can a thinking person not understand the horrible pain we cause to these animals we don’t even need to eat because we can get all our nutrients animo acids from plants?

    Pretty easily. How can a thinking person not understand that their abhorrence of meat and meat-eating does not in and of itself confer moral status?

    There’s simply no source of humane meat, and those of us who oppose eating other animals do so because it’s simply unethical to believe you have the right to

    Based on what? Where is this ‘unethical’ talk grounded? Objective moral truth, like God, God’s commands, some platonic realm of the Good?

    Because if it’s just ‘Well, I feel quite strongly about this / I get worked up emotionally, and so do others’, it’s not much of a concern. Doubly so since prey animals aren’t exactly being sentenced to a pain-free life if humans don’t eat them.

    By the by – just about every bit of human construction and major technology (from roads to air travel to electricity production, including by wind farms and solar plants) result in the taking of animal life. I notice vegetarians and vegans will swear off meat, but not so much ‘travel’. Why is that?

  8. Dhay says:

    http://skepchick.org/2013/03/pigs-fetuses-and-an-emotional-richard-dawkins/ expands Justin’s quote to:

    With respect to those meanings of “human” that are relevant to the morality of abortion, any fetus is less human than an adult pig
    9:42 AM – 13 Mar 2013

    followed by:

    “Human” features relevant to the morality of abortion include ability to feel pain, fear etc & to be mourned by others
    9:49 AM – 13 Mar 2013

    A secondary puzzle, for me, is why Richard Dawkins thinks people would mourn the death of an adult pig more than the death of a human fetus.

    The more important puzzle is: Dawkins doesn’t seem to know about those things which make a human fetus quintessentially human; at the very least, Dawkins needs to get in touch with a competent biologist, one who will teach him the basics of evolution, DNA and genes.

  9. TFBW says:

    Dawkins doesn’t seem to know about those things which make a human fetus quintessentially human …

    Your sarcasm is appreciated, but let’s take a more serious assessment. Clearly he does know, but he thinks that the things which make a human foetus quintessentially human are irrelevant to morality. It’s not the biological humanness of the being that matters, but rather its ability to function in a certain manner. This, like the rest of his moral pronouncements, is based entirely on his personal moral intuitions — a foundation which he mocks as “revelation” when theists do it.

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