Re: Vegetarianism and Ethics

Sean Hastings (
Fri, 13 Dec 1996 10:51:25 -0600

David Musick wrote:
> About a week ago, Twirlip of Greymist posted:
> "And why should the Meaning of Life be observer-independent? Meaning of whose
> life? My meaning of a chicken's life is to feed me.
> (How many vegetarians on the list? How many for reasons other than health?) "
> This got me thinking about vegetarianism and what reasons, if any, there are
> for not eating animals, other than for health reasons. Most specifically, I
> was looking for any "ethical" reasons for not eating animals. Is it "wrong"
> to eat animals? This prompts more thinking of why we consider *anything* to
> be wrong. Perhaps the idea of "wrong" could be translated into "interferes
> with my goals." Certainly someone injuring my body or killing it would seem
> "wrong" to me, because it interferes with my goals to remain living and as
> uninjured as possible. But what about me hurting other people? If they are
> people who I may wish to trade with, which would help me achieve my goals, it
> would be "wrong" (in the goal-interference sense) for me to injure them or do
> anything to them to cause them to perform for me in a degraded manner. But
> what about people whom I have no dealings with? If they are capable of
> hurting me or interfering with my goals in other ways, I certainly wouldn't
> want to provoke them to do that; creating enemies is not in my best interests.
> But what if they are defenseless and powerless? Then why should I care about
> them? Perhaps driving them off their land or even killing them would actually
> help me achieve certain goals. Would it be "wrong" to do then? Certainly not
> in a goal-interference sense, since the murdering is helping me achieve my
> goals. But are there any realistic ethical concerns besides goal attainment?
> I don't know. This would be interesting to discuss.
> ... if someone really enjoyed human meat...,

I'm not much of a cook, but if it were on the menu I'd probably try it.

My own theory of memetics^* puts the "don't eat people" meme into the
Altruistic Class. Such memes survive because they protect the continued
existence of other available hosts, and allow continued close contact
between potential hosts. It is very easy for such memes to be picked up
as part of an environmentally stable strategy (ESS) because close host
contact allows the "trade" meme and "specialization" memes to work
together to the benefit of individual hosts. Such close contact also
allows the quick spread of new memes through the local population, and
this homogenization reinforces any local ESS.

There is a meme of the Symbiotic Class which I call "young fuzzy animals
people too" which has evolved to take advantage of the imprinting
which creatures smart enough to host even simple memetic patterns go
through at an early age. This meme has survived because of the
of the domestication of non-food animals (specifically dogs) which made
symbiotic partners when primitive man made them part of the tribe.
cats are just parasites exploiting this meme to gain survival advantage)

Vegetarianism practiced on moral grounds is a combination/mutation of
the "don't eat people" meme and the "young fuzzy animals are people too"
meme into an "all animals are people too and therefore should not be
meme. Since heart disease is a big killer, and can be linked to high fat
diets, this meme may convey a degree of host survival advantage.

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^*I briefly detail my three memetic categories at:
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--Sean H.
--V-mail: (504)825-1232 or (800)WHY-SEAN
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