Saturday, April 15, 2017

Consistent Vegetarianism and the Suffering of Wild Animals

Is life in the wild worse than life on the farm?

If so, and if life on the farm is worse than no life at all, then life in the wild must be worse than no life at all. And it would seem that reducing the number of wild animals should be top priority. From the paper in the Journal of Practical Ethics:
Some consequentialists may be vegetarian because of environmental concerns, and others for non-consequentialist reasons, but these are not my main focus here.
 Instead he focuses on ethical consequentialist vegetarians. But I wonder how many of them will retreat to environmental concerns or non-consequentialist reasons when their view is criticized?
Vegetarians reduce the demand for meat, so that farmers will breed fewer animals... I will argue that if vegetarians were to apply this principle consistently, the suffering of wild animals would dominate their concerns, and would plausibly lead them to support reducing the number of wild animals, for instance through habitat destruction or sterilisation.
 This puts vegetarians in a trap. If life on the farm is worse than not getting a life at all, then surely life in the wild is worse than no life at all, because the nature is horrible (evidence that nature is horrible is the next part, but I think it's obvious). On the other hand, if no life at all is worse than life on the farm, then reducing the demand for farmed animals just keeps them out of existence.
Nature is often romanticised as a well-balanced idyll, so this may seem counter-intuitive. But extreme forms of suffering like starvation, dehydration, or being eaten alive by a predator are much more common in wild animals than farm animals. Crocodiles and hyenas disembowel their prey before killing them (Tomasik 2009). In birds, diseases like avian salmonellosis produce excruciating symptoms in the final days of life, such as depression, shivering, loss of appetite, and just before death, blindness, incoordination, staggering, tremor and convulsions
Again, this shouldn't really need evidence. Nature is nothing like Bambi, it's like animal planet.

He quotes Richard Dawkins along the same lines:
During the minute it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive; others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear; others are being slowly devoured from within by rasping parasites; thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst and disease.
That was a very smart quote, especially since many vegetarians are Dawkins lovers.
Some may choose to treat this outlandish conclusion as a reductio against consequentialist ethical vegetarianism (either against the idea that farm animals matter morally or against the belief that we should prevent them from coming into existence).
I always note the difference between reductio-ad-absurdum and reductio-ad-a-conclusion-I-don't-like. If you really had enough evidence to say that farm animals are better off never born, and then new evidence comes along and points out that wild animals are even worse off than that, then you follow reason where it leads: start preventing wild animals from existing!

Or on the other hand you could admit that you never had enough evidence in the first place, and then introspect on why it seemed to appealing at first. Is it social desirability bias? Maybe because you thought that cause looked good on you?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Prison taken Seriously

Why Prison? An Economic Critique

Not for people with heavy status quo bias

It seems to me like chopping off limbs is a better system of justice.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Does the bible say to love yourself?

"And hence it is, that to feel much for others and little for ourselves, that to restrain our selfish, and indulge our benevolent, affections, constitutes the perfection of human nature; and can alone produce among mankind that harmony of sentiments and passions in which consists their whole grace and propriety.
As to love our neighbor as we love ourselves is the great law of Christianity, so it is the great precept of nature to love ourselves only as we love our neighbor, or what comes to the same thing, as our neighbor is capable of loving us."
-Adam Smith

Churches I used to go to used to make this point. "Love each other as you love yourselves implies that you should love yourself too!"

But for as long as I can remember I've thought that the interpretation of the verse as, "as you SHOULD love yourselves" rather than, "as you CURRENTLY love yourselves" was reading personal views into the verse. Jesus is saying, "you are lovers of yourselves, now go love each other that much," which is to say nothing about how much you should love yourself.

When you read any new Testament author, it's hard to find anything that says you should love yourself. On the contrary, when being a lover of yourself is mentioned it's always treated like a BAD thing.

Of course, rationalizers will argue that these same words mean different things for no other reason than because they say so. 

So does the bible say to love yourself? Most certainly not. That doesn't make it wrong unless you're a bible fundamentalist, but I think citing verses like this to help forward your already established moral views is discourteous to original authors.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Friday, March 3, 2017

"I gave them War so they would Smelt Iron"

" 'Hermes,' asked Prometheus, 'has it ever occurred to you that I was out, in the world, for countless aeons before you imprisoned me here? ...Zeus thought he was so clever, giving [the humans] a box full of evils, but I selected every one of those evils eons beforehand. You know what was in that box, Hermes? Things to made humanity stronger. I gave them famine so they would invent agriculture. I gave them disease so they would invent medicine. I gave them war so they would smelt iron. And I left them hope, so that even in their darkest moments they would pull through and keep dreaming. Dream of putting all of those evils back in the box they came from and closing it forever. And they will. Do you know how many sentient species in the multiverse developed an industrial base, liberal democracy, and human rights without killing themselves or collapsing into barbarism, Hermes? The number is one. One sentient species. Mine.' "

-Prometheus, in the very delightful short story here

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Tyler Cowen on a16z Podcast

Here is a great interview with Tyler Cowen on Technology, Mobility, and The American Dream.

I've bookmarked the podcast for it's quality. I was impressed by the interviewer's input of informed examples, and I thought their willingness to argue the other side rare.

Tyler mentioned the point of how much easier it is to measure income than wealth. Because income is in the form of paper (mostly), and wealth is not and wealth can be so important.