Are you opposed to eating oysters? - Page 7 - VeggieBoards
Forum Jump: 
 
Thread Tools
#181 Old 06-28-2012, 01:49 PM
Veggie Regular
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Posts: 4,325

Marianne Faithfull (a singer who was famous in the 1960s)  remarked in a 1999 interview that she didn't eat oysters because they reminded her "of giving head."

 

Now whether or not oysters are "technically" ok for vegans to eat, I have no idea but the image of nibbling something that brought back a memory for somebody of slurrrping on Mick Jaggers wedding tackle would certainly make me think twice.

leedsveg is offline  
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
#182 Old 06-28-2012, 01:50 PM
Super Moderator
 
Werewolf Girl's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: BC, Canada
Posts: 16,664
Quote:
Originally Posted by leedsveg View Post

Marianne Faithfull (a singer who was famous in the 1960s)  remarked in a 1999 interview that she didn't eat oysters because they reminded her "of giving head."

Now whether or not oysters are "technically" ok for vegans to eat, I have no idea but the image of nibbling something that brought back a memory for somebody of slurrrping on Mick Jaggers wedding tackle would certainly make me think twice.

laugh.giflaugh.giflaugh.gif Thanks for that mental image!

"If we could live happy and healthy lives without harming others... why wouldn't we?" - Edgars Mission
Werewolf Girl is offline  
#183 Old 06-28-2012, 05:40 PM
Veggie Regular
 
das_nut's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 8,130
Quote:
Originally Posted by vrabbit View Post

Sorry if this sounds really dim (but hey, if you don't ask you'll never know!), why are oysters classed as animals not plants, if they're not sentient?

 

Sentience isn't a requirement for being classified as an animal.

 

A "sea cucumber", which is classified as an animal, doesn't have a brain in adulthood.  (It reabsorbs its brain.)

 

I'm not sure if an oyster is sentient or not.  It has a nervous system, but that does not mean it's sentient.

 

I think I'll err on the side of caution though.  Plus, oysters taste like snot.  :p

das_nut is offline  
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
#184 Old 06-28-2012, 06:26 PM
Banned
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 774

I do not consume undercooked food! Thanks for the info but it does not concern me. I do however eat uncooked vegetables. I am more worried about that than if I started to eat oysters.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ElaineV View Post

You may not worry much about Vibrio vulnificus since the risk is rather small. But the consequence is devastating! So why risk it if you can avoid it? Most people aren't interested in doing things that are fatally dangerous even if the risk is rather low. Like skydiving - it's really rather safe overall, but when it's not safe it's generally fatal. So why risk it unless you really enjoy it? Do you enjoy oysters enough to risk your life eating them??? Sure, you can cook the oysters properly and kill the bacteria (which is what you should do for any animal flesh or eggs - it's all contaminated) or you can just not eat them. It's certainly easier for most people to simply avoid eating them.

 

Norovirus is the most common cause of foodborne illness in the US and causes many deaths. Oysters are one of the most common foods associated with Norovirus. Often people get sick with Norovirus because the person making their food in the kitchen didn't wash their hands but in the case of lettuce and oysters, they get contaminated through polluted water.

 

Oysters become infected from sewage discharge (and/or become infected with Vibrio vulnificus in clean water) often enough that the CDC and FDA warn the public to NEVER consume raw oysters. Pregnant women are often advised to avoid all shellfish entirely during pregnancy, raw or cooked. Same goes for anyone with a compromised immune system (the very young, the very old, the sick). That's because even cooked oysters might be undercooked and thus the bacteria is still alive.

 

So there's Norovirus and Vibrio vulnificus... there's also Salmonella and e. Coli. We usually think of chicken and eggs when we think of Salmonella but it's been found in oysters too. We think of beef when we think of e. coli but it's been found in oysters too. Same goes for Staph and Hep A - both have beenfound in oysters. The simple fact is that most harmful bacteria & viruses survive longest and are more likely to infect you when it's on animal flesh than when it's on plant matter. When these pathogens get on plants, they can usually just be washed away. When these pathogens get on animal flesh, the flesh has to be cooked high enough and long enough to kill the pathogen. The cumulative effect of the potential for ALL food poisoning as well as other contaminents like mercury should rank oysters as more dangerous than lentils. I'm sure you can understand that logic.

 

Let me quote from a study by Applied and Environmental Microbiology:

 

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC546685/

 

Peter Singer is a philosopher of some prestige. If he makes scientific claims I assume he has done his homework well and consulted the proper sources. No serious philosopher would blunder by making unjustified scientific claims in their work.

I already addressed the first article and it will certainly affect my decision. What I would like is for the author to have given more details and some sources.  I do not agree with his philosophical viewpoint. He seems to think plants aren’t alive. I would also have liked him to make a comparison between oysters and plants. Basically he has not given enough details as a biologist, which leaves me wondering if he has even done any work with oysters. It would be nice to hear from experts working on the field but random google searches did not bring up any results. I am no biologist but it seems to me that someone claiming that an animal without a brain might be sentient would have a bigger burden for proof than someone who claimed the opposite. But again if there is even minor controversy among experts in the field I would not eat them. I would not eat them unless the doubt is comparable to that for plants. What remains to be done is settle the doubt one way or the other.

The second article isn’t useful and the third is emotional BS.

Suppose that oysters are proven beyond a doubt to be non-sentient. Then would you think there is anything wrong with eating them (ethically)? Why do you avoid this question?

Suggesting I would like to eat oysters to spite other vegans is very immature.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ElaineV View Post

Cato

For the record, Peter Singer is a philosopher, not a scientist. And he is hardly representative of the majority of vegans or ARAs. His particular brand of ethics, Utilitarianism, is exceedingly unpopular.

 

Here is a list of links of other vegan scientists, ethicists, and writers who do not believe it is acceptable to eat oysters and call one's self vegan:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marc-bekoff/vegans-shouldnt-eat-oyste_b_605786.html - article by Marc Becoff, Professor emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado

http://prime.peta.org/2011/03/shellfish - article on PETA blog

http://supervegan.com/blog/entry.php?id=1472 - vegan writer, Jason Das

 

By the way, if you were omni and saying "I'd go vegan but I love oysters too much!" Then I'd say, "OK, dont' go 100% vegan; eat plants plus oysters. That's so much better than eating cows and chickens and fishes all the time. Go ahead, eat oysters."

But you're not an omni. You say you're vegan and you're considering adding oysters to your diet. Well, there's just no real good reason to do so. And there are plenty of reasons not to. So... it really just seems like you want to eat oysters to spite us because you think we're dogmatic. That's the worst reason in the book to eat something - to spite people with whom you disagree.

 

Hi Mary, if you happen to find any good scientific sources please post them. I haven’t had much luck. Thank you.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by vMaryv View Post

Thanks Cato for bringing this topic up. I actually was thinking about bivalves and sentience and pain etc etc just recently. After reading all the discussion and doing a bit more research and reflection on my own, I have decided to fall back on this idea: We just don't know if they feel pain, so let's err on the side of compassion :-) 

 

Cheers,

Mary

http://www.marystestkitchen.com

 

I have no knowledge on the matter. How could I reasonably grant what I do not know?

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ElaineV View Post

We've already tried that, Mary. Cato believes it is unreasonable to think oysters might feel pain. He won't even grant that the possibility that oysters feel pain is greater than the possibility that plants feel pain.

Cato is offline  
#185 Old 06-28-2012, 11:38 PM
Veggie Regular
 
otomik's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: columbus, ohio
Posts: 4,248

no. not opposed.

 

 

 

Quote: Beancounter
Oysters are animals. Veg*ns do not eat animals.  Regardless of their awareness or lack thereof.

 

if you can't find a meaningful difference between an oyster and a plant then it turns vegetarianism into speciesism.


* This post may contain pork, beef and fingers of undocumented workers. This post was manufactured in a facility that processes peanuts.
otomik is offline  
#186 Old 06-28-2012, 11:48 PM
Newbie
 
lynchalbert's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Posts: 80

Me too.


http://allstopsnoringaids.com

lynchalbert is offline  
#187 Old 06-29-2012, 01:09 AM
Veggie Regular
 
nogardsram's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 6,032
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cato View Post

Peter Singer is a philosopher of some prestige. If he makes scientific claims I assume he has done his homework well and consulted the proper sources. No serious philosopher would blunder by making unjustified scientific claims in their work.

 

Why would you assume that without given evidence?  What 'proper sources' do you think Peter Singer has consusted?  I've read that Peter Singer say's he's gone back and forth on the topic of consuming oysters since Animal Liberation was first published (wasn't it published in the 70s?).  If he'd "done his homework" wouldn't it be clear and he wouldn't change his mind?

 

As for doing homework, what kind of homework are you suggesting?  That some specialized biologists have done some kind of sentience study of oysters?

 

As for a serious philosopher (I have no clue what you even mean by that), making a blunder by unjustified scientific claims, I'm sure you can find quite a few philosophers making unjustified scientific claims.

 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by Cato View Post
 

I am no biologist but it seems to me that someone claiming that an animal without a brain might be sentient would have a bigger burden for proof than someone who claimed the opposite.

 

I think anyone making any claim requires burden of proof.  One need not provide any burden of proof to give the benefit of doubt.

 

As for being sentient or not, what proof do you think there is for sentience?


I believe everything.
nogardsram is offline  
#188 Old 06-29-2012, 05:14 AM
Veggie Regular
 
das_nut's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 8,130
Quote:
Originally Posted by nogardsram View Post

 

If he'd "done his homework" wouldn't it be clear and he wouldn't change his mind?

 

It looks like he's erring on the side of caution.

 

Oysters, clams, mussels, scallops, and the like are mollusks, and mollusks are in general very simple organisms. (There is an exception: the octopus is a mollusk, but far more developed, and presumably more sentient, than its distant mollusk relatives.) With creatures like oysters, doubts about a capacity for pain are considerable; and in the first edition of this book I suggested that somewhere between shrimp and an oyster seems as good a place to draw the line as any. Accordingly, I continued occasionally to eat oysters, scallops, and mussels for some time after I became in every other respect, a vegetarian. But while one cannot with any confidence say that these creatures do feel pain, so one can equally have little confidence in saying that they do not feel pain. Moreover, if they do feel pain, a meal of oysters or mussels would inflict pain on a considerable number of creatures. Since it is so easy to avoid eating them, I now think it better to do so.

 

http://www.wesleyan.edu/wsa/warn/singer_fish.htm

das_nut is offline  
#189 Old 06-29-2012, 03:31 PM
Banned
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 774

Interesting point!

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by otomik View Post

no. not opposed.

 

 

 

 

if you can't find a meaningful difference between an oyster and a plant then it turns vegetarianism into speciesism.

 

Philosophers practice reason above all. I do not believe it likely that a philosopher of Singer’s standing would blunder by making unjustified scientific claims. I would assume he consulted experts who worked in the field in addition to general Biology sources.

I do not know why he changed his mind but there may be many reasons for him to change his mind. Perhaps new research became available, or perhaps he changed his mind for philosophical reasons. Or perhaps he wishes to be consistent with other beliefs of his. Maybe his intuitions are simply unstable and he is unsure if the doubt is large enough to justify not eating them. Many factors come into play I do not know which ones are to be blamed for the instability in Singer’s position on this over the years.

However when he says:

 

Quote:
"I've gone back and forth on this over the years," he said. "Perhaps there is a scintilla more doubt about whether oysters can feel pain than there is about plants, but I'd see it as extremely improbable. So while you could give them the benefit of the doubt, you could also say that unless some new evidence of a capacity for pain emerges, the doubt is so slight that there is no good reason for avoiding eating sustainably produced oysters."

Christopher Cox, Consider the Oyster

 

I assume he has consulted the appropriate scientific sources otherwise it would be a very irrational thing to do. I would not think it likely that serious philosophers would be as irrational as to make such a mistake.

It is unlikely that modern philosophers would make relevant scientific claims in their work without consulting the appropriate sources. I have heard them make such claims while talking but there is much more effort that goes into writing a paper or a book than in talking. It might rarely happen but they tend to be refuted rather quickly and they change their mind and do not continue to make such claims for decades.

 

I believe the burden of proof is greater for the person making unlikely claims. If someone claims that the Romans conquered Scandinavia I would disagree. Then I could say: that is untrue, what proof do you have for that? And she could say: prove me wrong! Instead of me going to consult every single primary source to show that there is no record of such conquest and reviewing every single archaeological excavation of the period in Scandinavia and showing no evidence exists to support the hypothesis and adding the assumption that since the hypothesis is supported by neither primary sources nor archaeological evidence it is extremely unlikely to be true, I believe it is more reasonable to place the burden of proof on the person making the unlikely claim. If a person claims there is this animal that is anatomically similar to the common pig but is capable of flight I am greatly inclined to place the burden of proof on him rather than go about trying to prove that wrong!

 

It seems to be common knowledge/opinion in biology that a brain is necessary for pain and consciousness. If two people disagree on this there is a greater burden for proof on the person denying the hypothesis. Such a person would be forced into accepting propositions such as: a headless body which still has nerves on it and is kept functioning by artificial means might still be capable of consciousness and pain. A brain dead human on life support who has zero chance of brain recovery still should be kept on life support because the body (with a dead brain) might still be capable of feeling pain and being conscious. Even though a person undergoing surgery is under general anaesthetic they should also be under local anaesthetic in the area of surgery for although the brain is unconscious and unable to experience pain the body with nerves may be conscious and able to experience pain in its own way. I believe such propositions are very unlikely to be true and are unreasonable therefore any hypothesis leading to them should be seen as highly unlikely.

 

Someone might claim: fine we need a brain to feel pain and be conscious and brainless animals would not be capable of such experiences. But there may be other unknown phenomena which make them worthy of moral consideration. Ok fine but give some details of what that might be! Otherwise that is wild speculation and I might similarly make the wild speculation that there may be unknown phenomena which make plants worthy of moral consideration. As such vegans are immoral for denying such consideration. Any person willing to conjecture the existence of such phenomena for brainless animals should not ignore the consequences of doing so and they should show the limits of their conjectures and how other conjectures which work against them cross that limit! They should also justify that limit. A system of ethics based on assuming the truth of selective wild conjectures is a very unattractive one to me.

The following source contains very interesting info on how pain actually works:

http://pain.about.com/od/whatischronicpain/a/feeling_pain.htm

 

It might be prudent to double check my biological and medical claims in this post. I am not an expert.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by nogardsram View Post

 

Why would you assume that without given evidence?  What 'proper sources' do you think Peter Singer has consusted?  I've read that Peter Singer say's he's gone back and forth on the topic of consuming oysters since Animal Liberation was first published (wasn't it published in the 70s?).  If he'd "done his homework" wouldn't it be clear and he wouldn't change his mind?

 

As for doing homework, what kind of homework are you suggesting?  That some specialized biologists have done some kind of sentience study of oysters?

 

As for a serious philosopher (I have no clue what you even mean by that), making a blunder by unjustified scientific claims, I'm sure you can find quite a few philosophers making unjustified scientific claims.

 

 

 

I think anyone making any claim requires burden of proof.  One need not provide any burden of proof to give the benefit of doubt.

 

As for being sentient or not, what proof do you think there is for sentience?

Cato is offline  
#190 Old 06-29-2012, 04:10 PM
Veggie Regular
 
'IckenNoodleSoup's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: not here
Posts: 1,468

"I believe the burden of proof is greater for the person making unlikely claims."

 

That may be so IF you are seeking to prove something objectively. However where personal ethics are concerned the individual will prioritise according to their personal ethical bent. 

 

Ie:

 

If there is an absence of proof that killing and consuming x causes x pain and suffering, the individual who does not care or cares little about the potential suffering of x, will consider that absence of evidence of suffering, sufficient to kill and consume x.

 

However, if there is an absence of proof that killing and consuming x, does not cause x pain and suffering, the individual who does care or cares significantly about the potential suffering of x, will consider that absence of evidence of suffering, not sufficient to kill and consume x.

 

Fruitarians would possibly represent the group who possess and exhibit the greatest concern for the potential suffering of food sources, while err sharks, zombies or psychopaths would possibly express the least.


The sky is purple and things are right every day

'IckenNoodleSoup is offline  
#191 Old 06-29-2012, 05:14 PM
Veggie Regular
 
ElaineV's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 4,026
It's worth noting that Cato prefers the scientific opinions of a philosopher over those of a biologist.
ElaineV is offline  
#192 Old 06-29-2012, 05:26 PM
Veggie Regular
 
ElaineV's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 4,026
A wisegeek article days shellfish likely feel pain: http://m.wisegeek.com/is-it-cruel-to-cook-shellfish-and-crustaceans-alive.htm
ElaineV is offline  
#193 Old 06-29-2012, 05:27 PM
Veggie Regular
 
'IckenNoodleSoup's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: not here
Posts: 1,468
Quote:
Originally Posted by ElaineV View Post

It's worth noting that Cato prefers the scientific opinions of a philosopher over those of a biologist.

 

Well, a philosophical argument which is predicated upon some supposed objectively verifiable scientific fact, is only as strong as that objectively verifiable scientific fact. Singer is a good philosopher I think (albeit it's some years since I read him) but as he is a philosopher and not a biologist, his philosophy, so far as it is reliant upon biology, is only as good as the biology upon which it relies. ie: bad biological premises = fundamentally flawed philosophical conclusions.

 

If Cato presumes that Singer's take on biology (from what year?) is automatically accurate, that's pure silliness. The rules of philosophical reasoning are pretty stable, but the factual premises underlying philosophical argument are ever changing (which could potentially account for Singer's changes in position, rather than any fuller philosophical shift )

 

ETA: I probably aught to apologise for diving into this discussion without fully absorbing the whole thread..


The sky is purple and things are right every day

'IckenNoodleSoup is offline  
#194 Old 06-29-2012, 06:28 PM
Veggie Regular
 
ElaineV's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 4,026
Quote:
Originally Posted by 'IckenNoodleSoup View Post

his philosophy, so far as it is reliant upon biology, is only as good as the biology upon which it relies. ie: bad biological premises = fundamentally flawed philosophical conclusions.

 

If Cato presumes that Singer's take on biology (from what year?) is automatically accurate, that's pure silliness. The rules of philosophical reasoning are pretty stable, but the factual premises underlying philosophical argument are ever changing (which would account for Singer's change in position)

Agreed.

 

And this is why I've questioned both the premises as well as the conclusion.

 

To the premises...

The premise that "oysters do not feel pain" is unproven. Cato asserts it ought to be taken for granted unless disproved. That is a position that has ben taken throughout history about many various species of animals and each time it turns out that the animals do feel pain.

 

The intuition of many VBers is that the premise that "all animals feel pain" is a better premise along with the alternative premises that "animals are more likely to feel pain than plants" or "living beings that have nerves are likely to feel pain". Cato just continues to argue that a brain is necessary for pain, much like how philosopher Descartes argued that no animals could feel pain, not even dogs or cows, because they didn't have the intelligence of humans.

 

To the conclusion...

Cato argues that the only valid reason to abstain from eating animals is that they feel pain. VBers in this thread have said that they believe the chances that oysters feel pain are great enough that the consequences of erring on this issue are an unacceptable risk to take, so it's better to simply abstain from eating oysters. They/we have also explained there are environmental and health benefits to avoiding eating ALL animals as well.

 

Personally, as a mostly pragmatist, I don't much care about humans' mental states. I care only about their actions and so any stated reason to avoid eating animals is, in my opinion, an acceptable reason. The analogies I made were these: it doesn't matter what someone's reason is for abstaining from setting forest fires or kidnapping babies. Any reason they give is acceptable. It's simply more important that they not do those things than how they think about those things. If they don't do those things because they think it would make them unpopular or because they simply have no desire to do those things, well that's fine with me. It doesn't matter if they have a complex ethical system that values forests or babies. That's not necessary.

 

Cato, on the other hand, has argued that anything someone abstains from doing requires a good reason. And he thinks that the reasons people give that don't line up with his way of thinking are "corrupt". Apparently, he'd rather that people do bad things for good reasons than good things for bad reasons.

ElaineV is offline  
#195 Old 06-30-2012, 03:26 PM
Banned
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 774

I was talking about burden of proof you are talking about how we may allow the preconceptions to affect our judgement in what constitutes sufficient doubt. Yes it often happens that people are willing to accept bad arguments (or weak arguments) if they agree with the conclusion. That is unfortunate.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by 'IckenNoodleSoup View Post

"I believe the burden of proof is greater for the person making unlikely claims."

 

That may be so IF you are seeking to prove something objectively. However where personal ethics are concerned the individual will prioritise according to their personal ethical bent. 

 

Ie:

 

If there is an absence of proof that killing and consuming x causes x pain and suffering, the individual who does not care or cares little about the potential suffering of x, will consider that absence of evidence of suffering, sufficient to kill and consume x.

 

However, if there is an absence of proof that killing and consuming x, does not cause x pain and suffering, the individual who does care or cares significantly about the potential suffering of x, will consider that absence of evidence of suffering, not sufficient to kill and consume x.

 

Fruitarians would possibly represent the group who possess and exhibit the greatest concern for the potential suffering of food sources, while err sharks, zombies or psychopaths would possibly express the least.

 

This is nonsense. Philosophers are in the business of truth! They seek truth above all. They seek soundness for their arguments not validity. If they sought only valid arguments they would be logicians not philosophers. Validity is solely the concern of pure logic. Without true premises philosophy is useless. A philosopher who is willing to use untested scientific hypothesis as premises with great confidence is utterly reckless! I suppose I have gambled that Singer is not a reckless philosopher but I do not think it is unreasonable. Pain and consciousness in animals is explained by the functions of the brain. It seems reasonable that things without a brain are not conscious and not able to interpret nerve messages as pain! This seems to be the standard view in biology. To my knowledge biologists have not revised their view on this over the decades. The article I quoted is 2010. That is many decades after Singer first wrote Animal Liberation. That is not some obscure work, and had he said something scientifically questionable someone would have told him all this time. A serious philosopher would not continue to propagate the same factually incorrect view for decades even if he had been reckless at first. Someone who got science wrong countless times and still speaks with confidence after decades is a buffoon not a philosopher!

Unless you wish to cast doubt into science along with philosophy this adds very little to the debate. And if you do I ask for specific reasons.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by 'IckenNoodleSoup View Post

 

Well, a philosophical argument which is predicated upon some supposed objectively verifiable scientific fact, is only as strong as that objectively verifiable scientific fact. Singer is a good philosopher I think (albeit it's some years since I read him) but as he is a philosopher and not a biologist, his philosophy, so far as it is reliant upon biology, is only as good as the biology upon which it relies. ie: bad biological premises = fundamentally flawed philosophical conclusions.

 

If Cato presumes that Singer's take on biology (from what year?) is automatically accurate, that's pure silliness. The rules of philosophical reasoning are pretty stable, but the factual premises underlying philosophical argument are ever changing (which could potentially account for Singer's changes in position, rather than any fuller philosophical shift )

 

ETA: I probably aught to apologise for diving into this discussion without fully absorbing the whole thread..

Cato is offline  
#196 Old 06-30-2012, 03:49 PM
Banned
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 774

Beckoff has given no indication that he is an expert in the relevant field. The relevant field would be neuroscience not evolutionary biology or ecology. There are physics professors who know less general relativity than their undergraduate students. I would assume in biology too we would be better off hearing from a person in the relevant field and would expect something more than wild speculation as in Beccoff’s case. And it is worth mentioning that he and Singer are not necessarily making inconsistent claims. Singer is claiming that oysters are about as likely to feel pain as plants and it is unlikely that either feel pain. Beckoff is claiming oysters may have their “own pain”. For support he refers to scientists being wrong in the past about whether certain animals, like fish, feel pain. All those are animals with brains! He has completely neglected to state the accepted scientific view that you need a brain to feel pain and be conscious! Whereas for fish it was theoretically possible that they felt pain since they have a brain experimental scientists mistakenly drew the conclusion that they feel no pain. However it seems theoretically highly unlikely that oysters feel pain because they do not have the organ which allows animals to feel pain and be conscious. Beckoff has completely ignored this.

 

More importantly, the core beliefs of veg*nism come under fire if we claim that brainless animals might be conscious and feel pain. Quite frequently it happens that an omnivore will ask a veg*n why do you kill plants. It does not take long for a veg*n to point out that plants feel no pain and are not conscious as they lack a brain. If as you and some would like to claim (against accepted scientific views) that a brain is not necessary for pain and consciousness how are veg*ns to answer the omnivore?

 

Regardless, inconvenience to veg*nism does not make it more likely that a brain is necessary for pain and consciousness. It so happens that that is the accepted scientific view. I just asked an MD whether a brainless animal can feel pain and she said no. When an omnivore friend asked why I killed plants I answered “they feel no pain.” Another friend who is a biology graduate was quick to point out I was right because plants don’t have a brain when the first friend asked how I knew that.

 

Perhaps Beckoff wishes to base his speculation only on scepticism. But then why ignore the elephant in the room which is: what about plants? Why not be sceptical about whether plants feel pain and are conscious? You have taken away the only theoretical component which distinguishes plants from animals in ability to feel pain. With that gone what is to prevent us from thinking that plants are sentient? Why stop at plants? What about my right foot? It has nerves on it. Perhaps if I and the rest of my limbs carry out a plot to beat up my right foot when "he" does not suspect it I and my other three limbs ought to be thrown into jail rather than a mental institution. After all I may have hurt a sentient being and justice must be served. Perhaps we should show consideration to a headless animal or keep brain dead humans alive artificially for the sake of the body (possibly a sentient being). Why stop the speculation there? I recently read a paper called Can Computers Think? by Searle. He argues they can’t but mentions the foolish views of some that perhaps even a thermostat is capable of having thoughts. The two thoughts would be “it is too hot” and “it is too cold”. Maybe thermostats are also sentient and maybe my laptop is in love with me.

Pain and consciousness are explained by reference to the brain. Beckoff is thinking that there may be some other phenomenon which does not require a brain which he calls “their own pain.” Nothing substantial is given to support such an odd view. Fine then, plants also have their own pain and their own consciousness.  So long as non-experts are making selective wild speculations without giving anything substantial possibly for the wrong reasons (without even considering the consequences) we need not worry too much. Even Einstein’s intuitions in quantum mechanics were wrong.

 

Richard Dawkins writes this on a different but related subject:

Quote:

 

Plants cannot think, and you'd have to be pretty eccentric to believe they can suffer. Plausibly the same might be true of earthworms. But what about cows?

Plants have no nervous system capable of learning not to repeat damaging actions, which is why we cut live lettuces without compunction.

http://boingboing.net/2011/06/30/richard-dawkins-on-v.html

 

How can an animal like oysters learn or feel without a brain? Obviously what sets cows apart form lettuce is the abilities which come with the brain. Precisely what might I ask sets oysters apart?

 

Here is another article about fish and pain:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=underwater-suffering-do-fish-feel-pain

 

How can oysters show cognitive rather than instinctive behaviour without a brain? Can you see now that all scientific talk of pain and conscience comes back to the brain if it is serious rather than wild speculation?

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ElaineV View Post

It's worth noting that Cato prefers the scientific opinions of a philosopher over those of a biologist.

 

Irrelevant. I am completely on board with giving animals with a brain the benefit of the doubt (without further knowledge on the topic).

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ElaineV View Post

A wisegeek article days shellfish likely feel pain: http://m.wisegeek.com/is-it-cruel-to-cook-shellfish-and-crustaceans-alive.htm

 

I still am not certain but it does seem highly unlikely that oysters are worthy of more consideration than plants. The criteria we usually use to justify eating plants apparently do not exclude oysters. Unless we can see things differently or offer other reasons we are hypocrites and speciesists if we condemn the eating of oysters. In essence I have suspended judgement for now.

 

Your view seems most irrational. How is someone to choose which actions are right and which are wrong in the first place? If people have absurd principles and no good reason for doing something they can do anything! You make the unreasonable assumption that we always know what is right and what is wrong without reflection. But how do you make moral judgements? If individuals do not reflect on what they are doing or even if they do the right thing for the wrong reasons they can just as easily become morally corrupt. Only reflection and respectable principles can deliver us from moral corruption. Someone who does the right thing for the wrong reasons can just as easily do the wrong thing for the wrong reasons. And if we arbitrarily follow the popular version of ethics we would do despicable things in different cultures and different times and none of us would be vegan!

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ElaineV View Post

Agreed.

 

And this is why I've questioned both the premises as well as the conclusion.

 

To the premises...

The premise that "oysters do not feel pain" is unproven. Cato asserts it ought to be taken for granted unless disproved. That is a position that has ben taken throughout history about many various species of animals and each time it turns out that the animals do feel pain.

 

The intuition of many VBers is that the premise that "all animals feel pain" is a better premise along with the alternative premises that "animals are more likely to feel pain than plants" or "living beings that have nerves are likely to feel pain". Cato just continues to argue that a brain is necessary for pain, much like how philosopher Descartes argued that no animals could feel pain, not even dogs or cows, because they didn't have the intelligence of humans.

 

To the conclusion...

Cato argues that the only valid reason to abstain from eating animals is that they feel pain. VBers in this thread have said that they believe the chances that oysters feel pain are great enough that the consequences of erring on this issue are an unacceptable risk to take, so it's better to simply abstain from eating oysters. They/we have also explained there are environmental and health benefits to avoiding eating ALL animals as well.

 

Personally, as a mostly pragmatist, I don't much care about humans' mental states. I care only about their actions and so any stated reason to avoid eating animals is, in my opinion, an acceptable reason. The analogies I made were these: it doesn't matter what someone's reason is for abstaining from setting forest fires or kidnapping babies. Any reason they give is acceptable. It's simply more important that they not do those things than how they think about those things. If they don't do those things because they think it would make them unpopular or because they simply have no desire to do those things, well that's fine with me. It doesn't matter if they have a complex ethical system that values forests or babies. That's not necessary.

 

Cato, on the other hand, has argued that anything someone abstains from doing requires a good reason. And he thinks that the reasons people give that don't line up with his way of thinking are "corrupt". Apparently, he'd rather that people do bad things for good reasons than good things for bad reasons.

Cato is offline  
#197 Old 07-01-2012, 08:16 AM
Veggie Regular
 
ElaineV's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 4,026
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cato View Post

I was talking about burden of proof you are talking about how we may allow the preconceptions to affect our judgement in what constitutes sufficient doubt. Yes it often happens that people are willing to accept bad arguments (or weak arguments) if they agree with the conclusion. That is unfortunate.

 

As I said earlier, I disagree with your assumptions about who holds the burden of proof. You're just declaring that the person urging for abstaining from an action holds the bruden of proof. There's no good reason to assume that's a good method.

 

Carnism is the belief system that requires justification, not veganism.

 

You're approaching the entire problem from the perspective of a carnist or ex-carnist, not from the perspective of a vegan or a nonhuman animal. You're biased in favor of eating oysters and thus you simply declare that it's somehow reasonable to assume oysters don't feel pain until proved otherwise. That's an illogical perspective to take on this issue. If you begin with the assumption, as you've stated that you do, that it's wrong to cause pain to sentient cretaures, then work from there. If you're honest then I'm sure you'll find you're much more willing to lay the burdern of proof at the feet of the person who claims, without evidence, that oysters do not feel pain.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cato View Post

Beckoff has given no indication that he is an expert in the relevant field. The relevant field would be neuroscience not evolutionary biology or ecology.

Marc Bekoff has published more than 200 papers and 22 books. His books include the following:

  • Species of mind: The philosophy and biology of cognitive ethology
  • Nature's purposes: Analyses of function and design in biology
  • Animal play: Evolutionary, comparative, and ecological perspectives
  • Encyclopedia of animal rights and animal welfare
  • The cognitive animal: Empirical and theoretical perspectives on animal cognition
  • Minding animals: Awareness, emotions, and heart
  • The Ten Trusts: What we must do to care for the animals we love
  • Animals Matter: A Biologist Explains Why We Should Treat Animals with Compassion and Respect
  • The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy and Why They Matter
  • Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals
  • The Animal Manifesto: Six Reasons For Expanding Our Compassion Footprint

 

Marc Becoff is an expert on cognitive ethology (the study of animal minds).

ElaineV is offline  
#198 Old 07-01-2012, 08:34 AM
Veggie Regular
 
ElaineV's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 4,026
Quote:

Originally Posted by Cato View Post

 

I still am not certain but it does seem highly unlikely that oysters are worthy of more consideration than plants. The criteria we usually use to justify eating plants apparently do not exclude oysters.

While it is unlikely that plants feel pain, we needn't rely on that opinion in order to justify veganism. Here's why:

 

First, we don't need to eat animals to survive. But we do need to eat plants to survive.

 

Second, the total plant consumption of an average vegan is far lower than the total plant consumption of an average nonvegan. That's simply the result of the food chain/food web (eg it takes about 16 pounds of grain to produce just 1 pound of meat). Thus, even if plants feel pain, vegans still cause less overall suffering.

 

---

To test your intuitions on this, try the thought experiment I suggested earlier:

 

Tomorrow, mad scientists create a species of cow that reacts to pain in a manner that indicated to humans that they enjoyed the pain. Of course, we could never know for sure if they actually felt pain or joy, but they appeared to feel joy while being mutilated without anesthesia, beaten, confined, and killed. Would it be vegan to eat those animals?

 

Or might it make more sense to remember that we humans are not omnicient and cannot know whether or not these animals actually feel joy? Might it make sense to simply refrain from eating those cows because the possibility that they actually feel pain is greater than the possibility that plants feel pain? Wouldn't it be perfectly morally acceptable, for an average person, to simply decide not to eat those cows for any reason whatsoever, be it health, environmental, or pure disgust?

 

Another test:

If you open the door to oysters and your criteria for eating something is merely 'lack of proof of pain sensation' then you must consider...

There is more evidence that fishes feel pain than there is evidence that human neonates feel pain. Perhaps it would be vegan, in your opinion, to eat the pieces of human flesh that are discarded after an abortion. And what about the placentas or miscarriages of any mammal?

ElaineV is offline  
#199 Old 07-01-2012, 08:57 AM
Veggie Regular
 
nogardsram's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 6,032
Quote:
Originally Posted by das_nut View Post

 

It looks like he's erring on the side of caution.

 

Oysters, clams, mussels, scallops, and the like are mollusks, and mollusks are in general very simple organisms. (There is an exception: the octopus is a mollusk, but far more developed, and presumably more sentient, than its distant mollusk relatives.) With creatures like oysters, doubts about a capacity for pain are considerable; and in the first edition of this book I suggested that somewhere between shrimp and an oyster seems as good a place to draw the line as any. Accordingly, I continued occasionally to eat oysters, scallops, and mussels for some time after I became in every other respect, a vegetarian. But while one cannot with any confidence say that these creatures do feel pain, so one can equally have little confidence in saying that they do not feel pain. Moreover, if they do feel pain, a meal of oysters or mussels would inflict pain on a considerable number of creatures. Since it is so easy to avoid eating them, I now think it better to do so.

 

http://www.wesleyan.edu/wsa/warn/singer_fish.htm

 

Yeah, that was my take on it too.  I just don't understand Cato's comment that he assumes philosophers have 'done their homework.'  (whatever that means)

 

I suppose it's okay to use someone's opinion as a reference, as opposed to going to some kind of original, verifiable source.


I believe everything.
nogardsram is offline  
#200 Old 07-01-2012, 09:08 AM
Veggie Regular
 
nogardsram's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 6,032
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cato View Post

Philosophers practice reason above all. I do not believe it likely that a philosopher of Singer’s standing would blunder by making unjustified scientific claims. I would assume he consulted experts who worked in the field in addition to general Biology sources.

I do not know why he changed his mind but there may be many reasons for him to change his mind. Perhaps new research became available, or perhaps he changed his mind for philosophical reasons. Or perhaps he wishes to be consistent with other beliefs of his. Maybe his intuitions are simply unstable and he is unsure if the doubt is large enough to justify not eating them. Many factors come into play I do not know which ones are to be blamed for the instability in Singer’s position on this over the years.

 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cato View Post

I assume he has consulted the appropriate scientific sources otherwise it would be a very irrational thing to do. I would not think it likely that serious philosophers would be as irrational as to make such a mistake.

It is unlikely that modern philosophers would make relevant scientific claims in their work without consulting the appropriate sources. I have heard them make such claims while talking but there is much more effort that goes into writing a paper or a book than in talking. It might rarely happen but they tend to be refuted rather quickly and they change their mind and do not continue to make such claims for decades.

 

The bolding is mine.

 

I just want to point out your assumptions. Why use a philosopher as a reference, when perhaps someone more relevant to the topic might be appropriate?

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cato View Post

I believe the burden of proof is greater for the person making unlikely claims.

 

I don't know what you mean by 'unlikely.'

 

If you make a claim, you should provide proof.  Any claim.  You started the thread, you made the claim, you're arguing in favor of oyster consumption for some reason, it's that simple.


I believe everything.
nogardsram is offline  
#201 Old 07-01-2012, 09:03 PM
Veggie Regular
 
Move of Ten's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 3,157
Quote:

Originally Posted by Cato View Post

 

This is nonsense. Philosophers are in the business of truth! They seek truth above all.

 

I thought you had a pretty strong argument at first, but it's really gone downhill. If you personally want to trust Peter Singer's knowledge of the science that's fine, but "he must be right because he's a big name philosopher" strikes me as a terribly weak argument and counter-progressive argument. And I like Peter Singer.

 

Next will you be telling us that politicians are in the business of serving the public?

Move of Ten is offline  
#202 Old 07-01-2012, 10:31 PM
Banned
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 774

I was saying if someone is making a statement that is inconsistent with current science it would be rational for them to have a greater burden of proof than someone making a statement consistent with it. If you wish to challenge science you should have a good reason for doing so.

If someone claims he saw a unicorn and I dispute that the people will look to him to prove what he said rather than ask me to disprove he never saw a unicorn.

 

No I am not biased in favour of eating oysters! If someone can give good reason for even a small doubt that they might be sentient and the doubt is significantly higher than for plants I will not consider eating them. Even if someone does not do that I will not eat them unless the view of Singer can specifically be substantiated scientifically. I find it highly unlikely that a bioethicist of Singer’s standing would lie (it would be extremely irresponsible) but I am not willing to base action on it without scientific substantiation from him or via my own research. In any case I intend to suspend judgement for at least a couple of years on this.

 

However, I am not nearly as comfortable with my veganism now as when I did not know about oysters about a month ago. If an omnivore asks me why do you kill plants without care but show consideration to animals? I do not know how to answer the question! The brain argument is apparently no longer available. I am not comfortable with inconsistencies in my belief system.

 

Bekoff’s work is certainly relevant. But all he has done is speculate: For all we know, oysters might feel pain. Since he has speculated it would have been really nice of him to carry the argument to its logical conclusion and consider plants as well. That would solve a major headache for veganism. I suppose I will consider his speculation seriously in the absence of evidence to the contrary which may exist.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ElaineV View Post

 

As I said earlier, I disagree with your assumptions about who holds the burden of proof. You're just declaring that the person urging for abstaining from an action holds the bruden of proof. There's no good reason to assume that's a good method.

 

Carnism is the belief system that requires justification, not veganism.

 

You're approaching the entire problem from the perspective of a carnist or ex-carnist, not from the perspective of a vegan or a nonhuman animal. You're biased in favor of eating oysters and thus you simply declare that it's somehow reasonable to assume oysters don't feel pain until proved otherwise. That's an illogical perspective to take on this issue. If you begin with the assumption, as you've stated that you do, that it's wrong to cause pain to sentient cretaures, then work from there. If you're honest then I'm sure you'll find you're much more willing to lay the burdern of proof at the feet of the person who claims, without evidence, that oysters do not feel pain.

 

Marc Bekoff has published more than 200 papers and 22 books. His books include the following:

  • Species of mind: The philosophy and biology of cognitive ethology
  • Nature's purposes: Analyses of function and design in biology
  • Animal play: Evolutionary, comparative, and ecological perspectives
  • Encyclopedia of animal rights and animal welfare
  • The cognitive animal: Empirical and theoretical perspectives on animal cognition
  • Minding animals: Awareness, emotions, and heart
  • The Ten Trusts: What we must do to care for the animals we love
  • Animals Matter: A Biologist Explains Why We Should Treat Animals with Compassion and Respect
  • The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy and Why They Matter
  • Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals
  • The Animal Manifesto: Six Reasons For Expanding Our Compassion Footprint

 

Marc Becoff is an expert on cognitive ethology (the study of animal minds).

 

Your first point is not ethics related.

I am not sure how the second one applies to oysters.

 

I am not sure what purpose your thought experiment is supposed to serve. Is there one? No it is not vegan to kill the cow as she is still sentient. This experiment should never have been allowed in the first place. If it was known that the cow felt pleasure in being stricken then it would not be immoral to strike the cow so long as no serious injury was done. Sentient beings should be treated with consideration non sentient ones need not be treated with consideration. The cows are known to be sentient while plants are extremely unlikely to be sentient. In your thought experiments try to isolate your variables and know which intuitions they are supposed to test. I am not sure if the point is not knowing whether the cow experiences pain or joy or that the things that usually cause pain cause joy in this case. Where are you going with this?

 

I am not familiar with embryo development but since both humans and fish have brains it is not moral to eat either. If they died for unrelated reasons it is not inherently wrong to eat either, in that there need not be a victim. I believe that in some East Asian cultures the aborted humans are eaten for superstitious/pseudoscientific reasons. While that creeps me out it is not inherently wrong. There appears to be no victim.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ElaineV View Post

While it is unlikely that plants feel pain, we needn't rely on that opinion in order to justify veganism. Here's why:

 

First, we don't need to eat animals to survive. But we do need to eat plants to survive.

 

Second, the total plant consumption of an average vegan is far lower than the total plant consumption of an average nonvegan. That's simply the result of the food chain/food web (eg it takes about 16 pounds of grain to produce just 1 pound of meat). Thus, even if plants feel pain, vegans still cause less overall suffering.

 

---

To test your intuitions on this, try the thought experiment I suggested earlier:

 

Tomorrow, mad scientists create a species of cow that reacts to pain in a manner that indicated to humans that they enjoyed the pain. Of course, we could never know for sure if they actually felt pain or joy, but they appeared to feel joy while being mutilated without anesthesia, beaten, confined, and killed. Would it be vegan to eat those animals?

 

Or might it make more sense to remember that we humans are not omnicient and cannot know whether or not these animals actually feel joy? Might it make sense to simply refrain from eating those cows because the possibility that they actually feel pain is greater than the possibility that plants feel pain? Wouldn't it be perfectly morally acceptable, for an average person, to simply decide not to eat those cows for any reason whatsoever, be it health, environmental, or pure disgust?

 

Another test:

If you open the door to oysters and your criteria for eating something is merely 'lack of proof of pain sensation' then you must consider...

There is more evidence that fishes feel pain than there is evidence that human neonates feel pain. Perhaps it would be vegan, in your opinion, to eat the pieces of human flesh that are discarded after an abortion. And what about the placentas or miscarriages of any mammal?

Cato is offline  
#203 Old 07-01-2012, 10:33 PM
Banned
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 774

If I am to base my action on it I have very high standards for knowledge (usually). As such I would not eat oysters without original scientific sources. However, I believe that it is extremely unlikely that Singer would make such a claim without first consulting the appropriate scientific sources. A bioethicist is dependant on biological knowledge for their work and a serious bioethicist would not base their philosophy on anything but the best knowledge in biology available. If there was a controversy they would not speak with as much confidence as Singer has spoken. 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by nogardsram View Post

 

Yeah, that was my take on it too.  I just don't understand Cato's comment that he assumes philosophers have 'done their homework.'  (whatever that means)

 

I suppose it's okay to use someone's opinion as a reference, as opposed to going to some kind of original, verifiable source.

 

I have been unable to find specific scientific sources dealing with oyster sentience. Possibly because no one takes it seriously but here are some sources with relevant information:

 

Quote:

The sedentary habits of the bivalves have led to the development of a nervous system that is less complex than in most other molluscs. The animals have no brain and the nervous system consists of a nerve network and a series of paired ganglia.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bivalvia

 

 

Quote:

When deciding whether animals are sentient, a first step is the analysis of the degree of complexity of living that is possible for the members of the species (D. M. Broom & K. E. Littin unpubl.). Without a level of brain functioning that makes some degree of awareness possible (Sommerville & Broom 1998), an animal could not normally be sentient.

 

A feeling is a brain construct involving at least perceptual awareness that is associated with a life-regulating system, is recognisable by the individual when it recurs, and may change behaviour or act as a reinforce in learning (Broom 1998).

 

Pain has a sensory component often related to injury, but also requires complex brain functioning of the kind associated with a feeling.

 

Broom (2007): Cognitive ability and sentience: Which aquatic animals should be protected?

 

 

Quote:

Although humans can only indirectly assess sentience in most nonhuman species, it appears clear that all vertebrate species meet the definition of sentience even though they have different levels of mental functioning resulting from differences in brain development.

The statements suggest, at least to this writer, that higher (more sentient) species include those animals with more highly evolved brains (such as the primates), whereas lower (less sentient) species are those with less evolved brains and are members of lower taxonomic orders than species such as primates.

 

Silverman, Jerald. "Sentience and sensation." Lab Animal 37.10 (2008): 465+. Academic OneFile. Web. 1 July 2012.

 

 

Quote:
“No conscious experience of pain and suffering is possible without the integrated functioning of the brainstem and cerebral cortex. Pain and suffering are attributes of consciousness, and PVS patients like Brophy do not experience them” (Cranford 1988: 31).

 

 

 

Quote:
“Pain cannot be experienced by brains that no longer retain neural apparatus for suffering” (American Medical Association Councils 1990: 428).

 

 

 

As proof I pointed to the statement of Singer a respected bioethicist! I do not have much knowledge in biology and do not have nearly as many resources as Singer. I believe it is extremely likely that he consulted the appropriate sources before making the claim.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by nogardsram View Post

 

 

The bolding is mine.

 

I just want to point out your assumptions. Why use a philosopher as a reference, when perhaps someone more relevant to the topic might be appropriate?

 

 

 

I don't know what you mean by 'unlikely.'

 

If you make a claim, you should provide proof.  Any claim.  You started the thread, you made the claim, you're arguing in favor of oyster consumption for some reason, it's that simple.

Cato is offline  
#204 Old 07-01-2012, 10:49 PM
Banned
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 774

I respect your right to say that the argument has gone downhill but without details I will not take it seriously! If philosophers take scientifically verifiable propositions as premises it is their duty to check the appropriate scientific sources. I do not believe it likely that a respected bioethicist would make claims with a very high degree of confidence without first ensuring the premises are scientifically justified. He would be a fool not a philosopher to do that. And if he had been so foolish I do not believe it would take long for him to be exposed as such (which has not happened).

 

I assume you as everyone else use certain scientific premises in your ethics. How often do you actually check for original scientific research to ensure the truth of those premises? If not very often why do you assume they are consistent with current science?

 

 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by cornsail View Post

 

I thought you had a pretty strong argument at first, but it's really gone downhill. If you personally want to trust Peter Singer's knowledge of the science that's fine, but "he must be right because he's a big name philosopher" strikes me as a terribly weak argument and counter-progressive argument. And I like Peter Singer.

 

Next will you be telling us that politicians are in the business of serving the public?

Cato is offline  
#205 Old 07-02-2012, 02:29 AM
Veggie Regular
 
'IckenNoodleSoup's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: not here
Posts: 1,468
Quote:
Originally Posted by cornsail View Post

 

I thought you had a pretty strong argument at first, but it's really gone downhill. If you personally want to trust Peter Singer's knowledge of the science that's fine, but "he must be right because he's a big name philosopher" strikes me as a terribly weak argument and counter-progressive argument. And I like Peter Singer.

 

Next will you be telling us that politicians are in the business of serving the public?

 

I agree. I think Singer is a good philosopher too, but just because I think Singer is a good philosopher, I don't share Cato's faith that Singer's work is infallible and that his premises, where founded on his understanding of biology, must be necessarily true. Our scientific knowledge of the natural world is continually growing and changing. It's entirely reasonable and rational for Singer's argument to be challenged on this point. 


The sky is purple and things are right every day

'IckenNoodleSoup is offline  
#206 Old 07-02-2012, 05:00 AM
Veggie Regular
 
Move of Ten's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 3,157
Quote:

Originally Posted by Cato View Post

 

If philosophers take scientifically verifiable propositions as premises it is their duty to check the appropriate scientific sources. I do not believe it likely that a respected bioethicist would make claims with a very high degree of confidence without first ensuring the premises are scientifically justified. He would be a fool not a philosopher to do that. And if he had been so foolish I do not believe it would take long for him to be exposed as such (which has not happened).

 

Agreed, but the fact that it's "their duty" hardly guarantees that it's their behavior... I also believe that it's the duty of politicians and political commentators to fact check whenever possible and be honest in their speech. Should I therefore conclude that all politicians are honest and un-misleading and that if any of them had spread misinformation they would have been discredited as a charlatan and lost all credibility? And that if that hasn't happened as far as I can tell I should trust them? It seems this is how the world works according to your argument.

 

You also make the mistake of treating scientific questions as if they had definitive answers. On many scientific questions, two intelligent people could look at the research and come to different conclusions. The only two options are not "Peter Singer is right" and "Peter Singer is a fool".

 

As to whether he's been "exposed" for being wrong, how do you know? Have you read every criticism of Peter Singer? This argument also relies on the assumption described above that the science definitively proves one way or another that Singer is either right or wrong. It denies the possibility that someone could disagree with Singer on the science without it being absolutely conclusive who is correct. Such disagreements would not "expose him as a fool" as you put it and could very easily remain under the radar.

 

Quote:
I assume you as everyone else use certain scientific premises in your ethics. How often do you actually check for original scientific research to ensure the truth of those premises? If not very often why do you assume they are consistent with current science?

 

When it comes to debates/discussions regarding controversial claims, unknowns and/or areas of wide disagreement I check for scientific research very often. When global climate change debates have come up (not talking about veggieboards--I can't recall it coming up here) I've done it almost obsessively at times. I do it most of the time I hear a bold claim being made about health/nutrition. I do it if popular media is reporting some new supposed discovery of psychological research or polling results. I've done it for claims made on the basis of neuroscience.

 

I don't do it for most things that are scientifically non-controversial (or at least that I consider to be so) for the sake of my ethics. However, if I was debating someone and they challenged me on a point that I considered scientifically non-controversial I might be inclined to do so for the sake of debate. I also might reassess whether I should consider it non-controversial. Or I might decide that going to that much effort to convince someone isn't worth it. I wouldn't use the fact that a specific philosopher has concluded something to be true to be evidence, at any rate.

 

BTW, never did I say I think you should research the science behind everything relevant to your ethics. Personally I don't even consider the idea that pain and suffering are functions of the brain to be particularly controversial. I said that your argument is poor. That is all. I'm criticizing insofar as it is a means for convincing others to agree with you. To the respect that it's a basis for convincing yourself, that's different and I have no interest in convincing you of anything.

Move of Ten is offline  
#207 Old 07-02-2012, 05:04 AM
Veggie Regular
 
Move of Ten's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 3,157

dbl p

Move of Ten is offline  
#208 Old 07-02-2012, 03:17 PM
Veggie Regular
 
das_nut's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 8,130

Veganism is commonly defined as not consuming animals or animal products, but that's a simplistic definition.

 

If tomorrow we found a plant that had a brain and could experience pain, according to the simplistic definition, it would be okay to eat.  But most vegans would have a problem with this.

 

It seems to me that a more accurate definition of veganism would be that vegans seek to minimize suffering by sentient beings.  So plants with a brain would still be wrong to eat.

 

But what of animals without brains?  It seems that most vegans don't have a problem with the countless deaths of non-sentient, single-celled animals that happens all the time in the modern, developed world.  (And quite frankly, I prefer to not have parasitic protozoa in my tap water, thank you very much.)  So there's already a precedent.  And even microscopic multi-celled animals appear to have no sympathy from vegans.

 

Then again, a microscopic organism is obviously not sentient in any way we could possibly be familiar with, even if a few of them (such as hydras) have a rudimentary nervous system called a "nervous net".   Due to how primitive these nervous nets are, and the size of the creatures, it's unlikely they are sentient.  Their nervous systems are strictly reactionary.

 

What about larger animals?

 

For macroscopic animals, sponges seem to be obviously lacking sentience.  They lack a nervous system.  (Hydras have a better nervous system than sponges.)  I'd argue that killing a sponge for personal use is obviously vegan, even though they are technically animals.  They just have no capability of being aware of pain.

 

In an increasing order of complexity, creatures like jellyfish come next.  This is overall biological complexity were talking about - jellyfish lack a digestive system or circulatory system.  But they do have a neural network.  It probably can't do much.  If I had to bet, I'd bet they aren't sentient either, but I'd like to do more research.

 

Bivalves also appear to fall into this group, although they evolved from more complex animals.  Bivalves are, after all, mollusks, which include such very intelligent non-vertebrates as squids.  But while squids were developing in an environment where evolving a large, complex brain mattered, bivalves were adapting to an environment where a brain was redundant.  Oysters, mussels and scallops lack a true brain, instead having clusters of nerve cells (ganglia) in various parts of their body to control various things.  Again, like jellyfish, they seem to lack sentience, but I'd like to do more research.

 

So as a vegan, I'd say sponges are a-ok, while jellyfish, comb jellies, mussels and oysters are more likely than not to be okay.  But considering that we don't need to eat jellyfish, comb jellies, mussels, or oysters, and there doesn't seem to be great research on their nervous systems, I'd avoid them until we know more.  Although I could see a strong argument being made that oysters *are* vegan.

 

While it would be pointless to avoid consuming sponges since they are no more capable of feeling pain than plants are.  (Then again, how often does the average person buy something made from a sea sponge?)

 

Admittedly, regardless of the species we use and consume, how that species is cultivated or harvested needs to come into play.  If how that species is collected greatly damages the environment, I'd argue it would be non-vegan, due to the indirect but predictable suffering that would happen to sentient animals.

 

Anyways, this was a fun post to write.  (I had to look up quite a few things that I haven't studied for probably close to two decades.  :))

 

I'll conclude by saying that we, as vegans, should avoid having our beliefs rigidify into dogma for dogma's sake.  Most of us are veg*n so that we may reduce the suffering of sentient creatures.  Lets remember that.  And lets be always willing to debate.  :)

das_nut is offline  
#209 Old 07-02-2012, 05:20 PM
Banned
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 774

No I do not have absolute faith on Singer’s assertion. However I believe it is very likely to be based on respectable scientific sources. More importantly, in this case the doubt need only be comparable to that for plants rather than be conclusively settled for it to cause headaches for veganism. As unlikely as it seems, it is still possible that future science may reveal that we have been wrong all along about the oyster. But the same may be said of plants if we wish to embrace extremely high standards for knowledge. If to our best knowledge so far the doubt is similar to that of plants what makes oysters worthy of greater moral consideration than plants?

 

I ask you the same question: how often do you engage in reading original research on science to base your premises on them? If you are like just about everyone else, never! In fact most people normally base their premises on less reputable sources than Singer which would reveal a serious hypocrisy if they ask others to look up original research in an alien field.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by 'IckenNoodleSoup View Post

 

I agree. I think Singer is a good philosopher too, but just because I think Singer is a good philosopher, I don't share Cato's faith that Singer's work is infallible and that his premises, where founded on his understanding of biology, must be necessarily true. Our scientific knowledge of the natural world is continually growing and changing. It's entirely reasonable and rational for Singer's argument to be challenged on this point. 

Cato is offline  
#210 Old 07-02-2012, 05:23 PM
Banned
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 774

Politicians are motivated by many things! Loyalty to their party, self interest, high motivation to hold on to certain ideals at all costs even if it is irrational, desire to please voters... There is much at stake and it is no wonder they are liars and cheaters. Philosophers on the other hand do not have anything of the sort at stake and are part of a subculture that strongly desires to arrive at the truth above all else and that currently have much more respect for science than metaphysics if science is relevant to the question. If science is relevant a philosopher who ignores it would be considered an idiot by her peers and it would not take long for others to stop reading everything she writes.

 

I do not believe it likely that a man who has devoted his academic career arguing for the rights of animals is likely to assert that a certain animal is quite unlikely to feel pain if he did not truly believe it. I also believe that such a man would not truly believe it if he had not first consulted the appropriate scientific sources. The consequences of him being wrong would be morally devastating. He would have played a role in killing, causing pain, and misleading countless people. As someone who has devoted his career to leading people away from causing suffering and death I do not believe he would make (potentially harmful) claims lightly.

As already stated a bioethicist relies on biology for premises. It is their duty to check the scientific sources to ensure the truth of their premises. They would be completely reckless not to! A bioethicist who takes his work seriously would not do that! A first year philosophy student would fail if he did that. Again, given Singer’s competence, experience, and seriousness in the matter it is highly unlikely that he is making scientifically unjustified claims! There are degrees of confidence in asserting something. Singer has made an assertion with a high degree of confidence. If he did so and there is still even a small controversy (but substantially higher than for plants) on the subject he would have been irrational to make the claim. It would be completely misleading. And plant sentience is a very major issue here!

 

I would not base action solely on Singer’s assertion (in this case) but I find it highly likely to be true and more than good enough justification to have a debate on the basis of it. Let’s not also ignore the biological facts which have been in the debate all along. That is, a brain is necessary for sentience!

 

You are a very unusual and gifted person for going to do such extensive research. I commend you behaviour. Very few people actually read any scientific sources to check whether their premises are justified. Most people have never even seen a research paper and will not even recognize the format in which papers are written. For most people the premises come from a variety of sources almost none as good as the assertions of a bioethicist on bioethics. Such sources could include their mom, their friend, an article by reporter with minimal knowledge, a teacher, an activist, if they are lucky a bioethicist...

 

I believe you well know that as a matter of fact the vast majority of people would not look for original scientific research to justify their premises. Most would not have the ability or knowledge, and even if they did it would take a huge amount of their time to check different sources and different sides. So according to your view the vast majority of people would be quite irrational to base their premises on sources far less reputable than a highly competent, highly respected, highly experienced and knowledgeable bioethicist.

 

But still I am impressed with your aptitude. It is not easy to read original scientific research in all the disciplines and subdisciplines of science. I mean I finished my physics major and if I read a paper from a field of physics I have never seen before I would be completely lost. There is a great amount of knowledge that comes with each field and it would take years to be competent in any one of them even within one discipline. Even if someone is a talented scientist and she wishes to read a paper outside her discipline she would be delusional to hope for anything more than a very superficial understanding if that! If there are moral implications with the discipline outside her expertise she would normally look at the writings of people who concern themselves with such moral considerations. Quite often they are philosophers and they are generally much better than the alternatives. Again I am highly impressed with your ability to do what no other human seems to be able to do!

 

Given the sources where people generally base their premises I would say a philosopher speaking on the subject is one of the strongest after a scientist (and it is rare that people get the knowledge directly from the scientist). How many people have become veg*n and involved in AR due to Singer’s books? How many of those actually went and looked for original scientific research to assure his premises are justified? Not many! According to your view all those people are irrational! And let’s not forget that we may have internet now and with the access to certain online libraries we may find it easier than in the past to find such research. However should we think that two decades ago morality was very different in practice? At any rate to look for scientific research in order to check the premises of a book like Animal Liberation would probably take many years.

 

As a matter of fact when people read what Singer has written they would find it highly likely to be true. You are saying that may not be irrational (unless everyone is irrational) but the fact that I pointed them to such sources rather than them finding it by themselves somehow makes the claim less likely to be true! If someone thinks a bioethical assertion good enough for Singer should not be taken seriously he has probably deluded himself somewhere along the line! In any case I believe that a statement by Singer should be taken seriously especially when the scientific reasons have been provided all along. If someone asks me personally to do my research on a field I have never studied before, I view that as downright hypocrisy! I am willing to bet the majority who would make that claim have never laid eyes on a scientific paper and recognized what it is! And no I do not believe claims that someone can go into any field and seriously hope to establish the justification of their premises without first having studied that field seriously at the university level! Completely unreasonable double standards! Especially for those who would condemn an act.

 

So while you mighty Olympians might not be satisfied with anything but studying with your very eyes the justification for all scientific premises (in all scientific disciplines), us mere mortals, would be lucky to get the opinion of a respected bioethicist tongue3.gif

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by cornsail View Post

 

Agreed, but the fact that it's "their duty" hardly guarantees that it's their behavior... I also believe that it's the duty of politicians and political commentators to fact check whenever possible and be honest in their speech. Should I therefore conclude that all politicians are honest and un-misleading and that if any of them had spread misinformation they would have been discredited as a charlatan and lost all credibility? And that if that hasn't happened as far as I can tell I should trust them? It seems this is how the world works according to your argument.

 

You also make the mistake of treating scientific questions as if they had definitive answers. On many scientific questions, two intelligent people could look at the research and come to different conclusions. The only two options are not "Peter Singer is right" and "Peter Singer is a fool".

 

As to whether he's been "exposed" for being wrong, how do you know? Have you read every criticism of Peter Singer? This argument also relies on the assumption described above that the science definitively proves one way or another that Singer is either right or wrong. It denies the possibility that someone could disagree with Singer on the science without it being absolutely conclusive who is correct. Such disagreements would not "expose him as a fool" as you put it and could very easily remain under the radar.

 

 

When it comes to debates/discussions regarding controversial claims, unknowns and/or areas of wide disagreement I check for scientific research very often. When global climate change debates have come up (not talking about veggieboards--I can't recall it coming up here) I've done it almost obsessively at times. I do it most of the time I hear a bold claim being made about health/nutrition. I do it if popular media is reporting some new supposed discovery of psychological research or polling results. I've done it for claims made on the basis of neuroscience.

 

I don't do it for most things that are scientifically non-controversial (or at least that I consider to be so) for the sake of my ethics. However, if I was debating someone and they challenged me on a point that I considered scientifically non-controversial I might be inclined to do so for the sake of debate. I also might reassess whether I should consider it non-controversial. Or I might decide that going to that much effort to convince someone isn't worth it. I wouldn't use the fact that a specific philosopher has concluded something to be true to be evidence, at any rate.

 

BTW, never did I say I think you should research the science behind everything relevant to your ethics. Personally I don't even consider the idea that pain and suffering are functions of the brain to be particularly controversial. I said that your argument is poor. That is all. I'm criticizing insofar as it is a means for convincing others to agree with you. To the respect that it's a basis for convincing yourself, that's different and I have no interest in convincing you of anything.

Cato is offline  
Closed Thread

Quick Reply
Message:
Options

Register Now

In order to be able to post messages on the VeggieBoards forums, you must first register.
Please enter your desired user name, your email address and other required details in the form below.
User Name:
If you do not want to register, fill this field only and the name will be used as user name for your post.
Password
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.
Password:
Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid email address for yourself.
Email Address:

Log-in


Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page


Forum Jump: 

Posting Rules  
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are Off