On meat eating
I am a meat-eater. Humans have been eating meat for hundreds of thousands of years. Our digestive tract is not only used to it, our whole metabolism needs meat. Yes, some of us can become vegetarians, but it is not an efficient nor healthy way of life for everyone.
The more we learn about animals, the more we come to the conclusion that we should be kind to them, very kind. In the first place this creates a problem for killing animals for their meat. We are developing better and better ways of doing it without causing pain or even stress. I am therefore against the traditional and ritual (religious) ways of slaughtering animals and never eat meat from animals killed in those ways.
However, I, and many others, will not become vegetarians. One future way of avoiding killing animals altogether is to grow meat artificially, i.e. let the desired tissues grow independent of whole animals with brains. This has become possible and will certainly be done. It also reduces greenhouse emissions, farmland taken for grazing etc.
One question though: if we can grow beef fillet steak in the lab, alongside lamb chops and chicken breast, we can also grow human meat. Should that be available for consumption? Would people who eat it be cannibals?
After the Paris attacks of 12 January, I had these thoughts about religions:
Let us accept that for some people there is an irrational need to believe in some super-natural entities. This just follows from anthropology: people need to give meaning to their lives, and many are simply not strong enough intellectually to build that meaning outside some organised religion.
So religions are going to be with us for a while yet. To keep the peace between them (and those who follow no religion) humans should probably agree on these points:
- no religion should explicitly claim that it is the only true one,
- anyone must be allowed to freely change religion or leave religion altogether: apostasy is a fundamental right,
- religion does not pass automatically from parents to children, children must not be affected until they come of age and can choose themselves what their spiritual lives will be,
- no government can force the rules of a religion upon its citizens,
- blasphemy is never a crime,
- religious texts can and must be changed to accommodate newer knowledge and more importantly to remove rules that are no longer useful or even harmful to civilised life,
- all clergy must communicate these rules to their believers.
Obviously I have little hope that these points will be adopted any time soon, but it seems that the last one is the most important: the active collaboration of the clergy of all religions in educating the masses into tolerance.
The second most important point is that some religious rules must be changed: for example, it is intolerable that the texts of the three main monotheistic religions still include the death penalty for apostasy. That the rule is no longer enforced in most countries is not enough: it must be explicitly removed.
2015-01-07 Freedom of Expression
Let me say up front that I do not like the style of “Charlie Hebdo”, so I don’t buy that magazine. But I am an adamant defender of freedom of expression. The attack and the killings at the magazine’s offices are nothing less than a crime against humanity.
As the extreme impact of the crime against human civilisation began to sink in, I began to think of what might be proposed as measures to protect humanity from senseless acts like this.
Ceremonies in the aftermath were attended by “religious leaders”. However, in separate events many of them declared that religion should not be ridiculed and that freedom of expression has its limits. Even pope Francis made a public statement in that sense.
I strongly disagree: where would the line be drawn if we let religion get away with an exception?
There are a few limits to freedom of expression: it cannot be used to incite to hatred or violence, it cannot be used to deny proven historical crimes (such as the holocaust), promote racial discrimination, slander. Those few restrictions are well understood. Note that there is no restriction on denying facts, so climate change and evolution can still be freely disputed (or should that be?).