Re: Moo/Boo! Was: Agricultural Skyscrapers

Charlie Stross (
Thu, 29 Jan 1998 10:30:16 +0000

On Wed, Jan 28, 1998 at 01:36:54PM -0500, Michael Lorrey wrote:
> Using exceptions (i.e. disabled/mutated) to prove the rule is another typical
> liberal bullshit rhetorical method.

And making wildly inflated sweeping over-generalizations with enough holes
in 'em to steer a supertanker through is a typical right-wing redneck
bozo method.

Please can we cut the ad hominem shit and try to hold a rational discussion?

> If a mutant cow that sudden developed
> intelligence came up to me tomorrow and said, "howdy doo", does that mean that all
> normal moron cows deserve my protection? I don't think so.

Can you please state what your criteria for sentience are? In other words,
how do you determine this state? (Can you prove that _I_ am sentient? Let
me argue for the sake of playing devil's advocate that I'm actually a
monstrously powerful Chinese Room a la Searle. C'mon, now. What do you say
to that?)

And why is sentience your criterion for eating or not eating something?

> That disabled humans can be taught to communicate by other means than speech or
> writing english is evidence enough.

Thanks. You've just come up with an argument for eating or euthanising
people in persistent vegetative states.

Please explain why eating mentally defective humans is bad but eating
cows is good. Or state _why_ the forgoing question strikes you as being
a red herring.

> > You're assuming a rights-based transaction between humans and their prey.
> Essentially, but as a contest of rights. A prey that flees is contesting my right to
> eat it. If I catch it, I've proven my fitness/right to do so. Classic natural
> selection. A cow that contests nothing implies no contestation of right.

That's not a rights-based system as I understand it. Rights as a concept
are derived from this odd eighteenth-century rationalist theory about
social contracts, which in turn were derived as an answer to the
question of how to run a society without a king (or other
divinely-mandated source of authority). The idea is that there exists an
implicit contract between the citizen and their peers -- all of them are
to observe the terms of the contract, under threat of sanction, but they
benefit from it as well because the terms include things like "thou shalt
not rape, murder, and eat thy neighbours", so being part of a community
that observes such a contract means you're reasonably safe from being
raped, murdered, and eaten by your neighbour.

What you're suggesting is simply a contest of strength. Say you're the
hunter and I am the cow; there's no opportunity for me to say "this is an
invalid contract!".

It's not even classic natural selection -- go read Darwin's Dangerous Idea
by Daniel Dennett, or The Extended Phenotype by Richard Dawkins, then get
back to me.

(Clue: I live with a vegan. _I_ eat meat regularly. I'm not arguing with
you because you've tweaked my fanaticism bone, I'm arguing with you because
I think your arguments against vegetarianism don't survive scrutiny.)

> > > If the human race becomes all herbivores, what species will then claim the job
> > > of top carnivore???
> >
> > The species that have already got it. Remember, we're all food for the
> > prokaryotes in the end. (At least until we manage to develop uploading.
> > And even then, we might find there's something that eats human minds ...)
> parasites? I'm thinking of predators that work for their meals.

Bacteria don't work for their meals?

Sorry, what you seem to mean is something furry and warm blooded with teeth
and fangs that can run faster than you can. This is _not_ an efficient
predator. (Compare the carrying capacity of a chunk of land in lions per
hectare with it's carrying capacity of deer per hectare and you might
eventually figure out why lions are rare.) In fact, anything high up the
food chain is at risk -- over-specialised, needs to eat only a comparatively
rare food-stuff, vulnerable to population crashes among its prey.

Perhaps as things
> accelerate, we might develop human variants or other predators that will cull out
> the weak. You'll notice how penal psychology refers to many criminals as
> 'predators'. If they are the predators, does this mean that psychology has already
> abdicated our role for us and thinks of well adjusted people as 'sheep'???

This whole paragraph is phrased on the basis of the assumption that
human phenotypic behaviour is inherited. Human phenotypic behaviour is
NOT inherited, it's largely ACQUIRED. (What do you think a meme is?) Our
extended phenotype -- the expression of our genes -- is a virtual
machine for running memes on. As such, we're really the first species on
our planet to achieve the breakthrough to a Lamarckian evolutionary
perspective, hence the astounding rate of change over the past five
hundred centuries. This isn't my crank theory; it belongs to Richard
Dawkins, but I happen to think it more or less fits the facts.

Basing your arguments for the next century, and for how life will look
in an uploaded universe, on a Victorial view of events of a million
years ago is Not Rational.

-- Charlie