More Anti-Science Views from a New Atheist Leader

As we have seen, Bill Maher is a recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award and sits on the Advisory Board of Project Reason (Sam Harris’s private “think tank”). We have also seen that Maher is an anti-vaxxer, leading us to question just how sincere the New Atheist movement is when it postures as being “pro-science.”

Now there is more reason to question this “pro-science” posturing, as Maher not only opposes Western medical science, it turns out he opposes the use of animals in scientific experiments. Maher once said:

To those people who say, ‘My father is alive because of animal experimentation,’ I say, ‘Yeah, well, good for you. This dog died so your father could live.’ Sorry, but I am just not behind that kind of trade-off.

Maher is also a longtime celebrity spokesman for PETA and has also wished people would die of mad cow disease:

If ten people in America died of mad cow disease, in the long run it would save probably millions of lives. Because people would stop eating meat. That’s not a catty thing to say, to say — in the long run this is what I hope.

One has to wonder just how common this animal rights extremism is among the New Atheists, given Maher’s animal rights extremist views can be traced back to atheist Peter Singer. And don’t forget that both Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris think it is wrong to eat meat. The Friendly Atheist even seems to agree. In fact, Dawkins thinks eating meat is as bad as slavery.

This issue is significant because animal rights extremism is not only anti-science, but has been harmful to science and scientists. If a group that postures as “pro-science” embraces or tolerates such harmful anti-science ideology, then we have something worse than hypocrisy.

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6 Responses to More Anti-Science Views from a New Atheist Leader

  1. GM says:

    Peter Singer is fascinating in a certain way. When I first really thought about utilitarianism, I crossed off a list of my objections because I thought they would be straw men, in so far as I didn’t think any popular thinker would ever actually take up the positions the objections would address. And then comes Peter Singer and a bunch of people agreeing with him precisely those insane positions.

    Anyone who thinks a cow is more ethically valuable than a disabled child is a dangerous pervert.

  2. Rabbit says:

    I don’t mind most forms of animal experimentation, but I don’t see how being against animal experimentation makes you “anti-science.”

    To me, being against animal experimentation just means you don’t think it’s fair for millions of animals to be killed or forced to suffer extreme pain to cure our own diseases. It has nothing to do with being “against science.” I believe C.S. Lewis was against vivisection. Was he anti-science?

    I just don’t see how thinking it’s wrong to cut up a beagle while it’s still alive makes you “anti-science.” This is way too similar to how atheists state Christians are “anti-science” because they believe in God instead of 100% materialistic evolution.

  3. Isaac says:

    A) It is far nobler, by any measure, to kill and test an animal in order to cure someone else’s disease, than it is to kill an animal in order to satisfy one’s own hunger.

    B) The eating of meat to satisfy hunger is perfectly natural in most all mammals, and it is established by science that our own bodies are built to tear and ingest meat. Therefore, emotional/moral appeals to vegetarianism are just that, emotional, without scientific merit, and therefore unscientific.

    Which makes emotional/moral appeals to ban animal testing even MORE unscientific, and justifiably anti-science. (See A.)


    To put it another way, if dolphins cannot be judged immoral for slaughtering porpoises for sport, how are humans immoral for slaughtering bunnies to save millions of humans?

    It can fairly be called anti-science because:

    1. Opposing medical research involving animals on moral grounds is illogical and lacks sense (see above.)

    2. Hindering the good-faith practice of X without any good reason is harmful to X and therefore anti-X, even if the person doing the hindering is not personally opposed to X on principle.

    For example, a school principal banning Bibles from being seen in public, on the grounds that the sight of them makes some people uncomfortable, would be considered nuts, and his behavior clearly would be seen as anti-Christian, even if the principal swore that he had no problem with Christians, and was only sticking up for the hurt feelings of the offended.

    3. Stopping scientists from doing science, based on moral arguments that don’t hold up under scrutiny, is anti-scientific behavior, even if you swear that you are not opposed to science.

  4. Rabbit says:

    “The eating of meat to satisfy hunger is perfectly natural in most all mammals, and it is established by science that our own bodies are built to tear and ingest meat. Therefore, emotional/moral appeals to vegetarianism are just that, emotional, without scientific merit, and therefore unscientific.”

    It’s also natural for billions of people to want to have sex with multiple partners, or have sex with someone that is the same gender as them, or to have sex before marriage, but a Christian would say all three are immoral. Does belief in chastity until marriage, chastity for homosexual people, and monogamy make someone “unscientific” or “anti-science” because they believe it is immoral to give into natural urges? I don’t think so.

    For the record, I don’t believe, nor ever stated, that meat-eating is inherently bad/immoral.

    “For example, a school principal banning Bibles from being seen in public, on the grounds that the sight of them makes some people uncomfortable, would be considered nuts, and his behavior clearly would be seen as anti-Christian, even if the principal swore that he had no problem with Christians, and was only sticking up for the hurt feelings of the offended.”

    Having Bibles in public doesn’t cause immense pain to millions of pain-feeling organisms.

    “Stopping scientists from doing science, based on moral arguments that don’t hold up under scrutiny, is anti-scientific behavior, even if you swear that you are not opposed to science.”

    What about people who are against embryonic stem cell research, despite the countless scientists that think it is ethical? Are they anti-science for wanting to “stop scientists from doing science”? Of course not, because it’s not about being against science. It’s about finding a specific method unethical.
    .
    Labeling someone “anti-science” because they find it unethical to spray cosmetics in the eyes of rabbits or whatnot just seems like a cheap insult tactic to me.

  5. Michael says:

    What about people who are against embryonic stem cell research, despite the countless scientists that think it is ethical? Are they anti-science for wanting to “stop scientists from doing science”? Of course not, because it’s not about being against science. It’s about finding a specific method unethical.

    But New Atheists, and accomodationists, have indeed labeled those who oppose embryonic stem cell research as “anti-science.” This is something Jerry Coyne and Chris Mooney would agree on and have done so for years. This blog is about balance. If those those who oppose embryonic stem cell research or don’t accept evolution are “anti-science,” then by the same logic, those who oppose animal experimentation are “anti-science.”

  6. Isaac says:

    I’m sorry Rabbit, but I can’t really respond word-for-word with you because you’re failing to follow the logical progressions.

    Christians who are against “having sex with multiple partners” makes for a terrible comparison with opposition to animal testing. Why would anyone consider chastity “anti-science?” How does belief in chastity prevent scientists from doing their job? Who ever said that being against promiscuity was a science-based argument? It’s obviously a religious/moral argument, just as being against animal-testing is an emotional argument. The difference is that being chaste doesn’t hinder scientific practice. Not every moral needs to be based on a scientific argument, but if your position handcuffs scientists from doing science, be prepared to be called anti-science, with reason.

    Your second counter-example completely misses the point, too. The point was that being in favor of X while preventing the practice of X makes one, for all practical purposes, anti-X. That seems to have just whooshed over your head, and you just repeated the emotional argument against animal testing over again. Try to keep up, please.

    Your final example about stem-cells exactly proves the point I was making. Opposing stem-cell research can fairly be called anti-science, and as Michael astutely pointed out, atheists call it that all the time. This does not mean that it isn’t right to be anti-science in that arena- in fact, things like embryo-harvesting and racist eugenics programs illustrate exactly where I would indeed personally draw the line, and declare myself to be anti-science.

    You seem to just want to be able to have it both ways, at the expense of all reason, and make emotional, science-crippling appeals while forbidding anyone to call you anti-science. That way madness lies.

    And FYI, assuming that one must choose between human and animal sanctity of life, a far more logical case can be made for sanctifying human life at the expense of animal, than the reverse, even using purely secular logic. Weakening the stem-cell comparison further.

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