Monday, September 20, 2010

Worst NYT piece EVER?

Unfortunately the Times is not up to Jeff Lockwood's standard today, at least outside of their science pages. Last night Daniela sent me this essay by a philosophy professor at Rutgers who is also a visiting one at Princeton (which at least balances him and Peter Singer with Freeman Dyson, who outweighs them both together intellectually), suggesting that we must totally eliminate all carnivores in order to stop suffering on the planet. That anyone this immune to reason, or innocent of any knowledge of anything outside his abstract field, gets paid handsomely for using his brain at any college is a damning comment on our society, education, and of academia as a whole today. This should only have been printed in The Onion. I won't dignify it by quoting further, but am considering a letter to the paper-- think about writing one too (they have already closed comments).

And the other depressing fact is that, if you wade through those comments, the most common reaction after the sensible variants on "what a fool!" and "what was the Times THINKING?" is the one that humans should be eliminated, voluntarily or involuntarily. This hatred of humanity among our elite classes is almost as scary as Professor McMahan's hatred of reality and incomprehension of what life is. Both are utterly fascist, even beyond Naziism in their implications.

Matt exclaims: "What a troubling, sad piece---this man teaches!"

Lighter reaction-- Daniela accompanied the link with the following note: "Well, I'm just about to see whether I have any reasonable carne to indulge my heathen self in!"

And one last point-- what must excellent science writers like the Times' Nicholas Wade think about sharing space and money with such invincibly ignorant idiots?

Update: Daniela comments in an email: "I like Jeff Lockwood's take on ethics! That would make Prof. McMahan a philosophiopath, for being too ignorant to know how to pose a philosophical question. In the Hebrew Hagada the one who doesn't know what to ask is called "Tam" - "an innocent"...The text suggests you help him".

I am not sure I know how...

14 comments:

smartdogs said...

Just had to say that I love the "Incorrigible fucking idiots" label.

Mary Scriver said...

I agree that this article belongs in The Onion, but it is the direction that some people have been heading in for quite a while.

A good place I've found for posting ripostes is iNewp.com, which is a kind of citizen editorial and article aggregator. They format and add illustrations, or they have with mine. Nothing of mine or of a minister friend's has been turned down or edited.

Prairie Mary

Anonymous said...

I read the comments along the lines of "if you're going to extirpate something to prevent suffering, you should start with homo sapiens" NOT as an endorsement of killing homo sapiens but as a way of pointing out the incredible ignorance of this moron's drivel

Mary Scriver said...

As I think about it more, I think the jokers who want to eliminate meat eaters are thinking only in terms of climax predators: tigers and lions and bears, oh my. But if there are NO meat eaters, there go a lot of birds, rodents, bugs, and other stuff like mold and microbes. That means the landscape is going to be littered with carcasses !!!

Prairie Mary

Matt Mullenix said...

I'm almost more puzzled by my own need to comment than I am amazed by this piece.

It's tempting to lump this man's essay in with the tiresome mass of animal rights propaganda, but I think it's only superficially similar. This goes deeper, is arguably crazier, and may belong to another tradition entirely.

Professor McMahan's work is principally atheist, by my reading, secondarily misanthropic, and only for the sake of example concerned with the welfare of animals.

His ignorance of animals and "nature" is obvious (Does he know some deer eat baby birds? Does he know ducks rape and kill each other?) and his ignorance of the human animal (his own animal self!) can be inferred. But I think the misanthropic bent of his argument hints that maybe he knows just enough about himself to be scared and disgusted by what he sees.

This is a very old theme, indeed. Man's fear and loathing of himself long predates any "animal rights" movement (though it certainly seems to inform it.)

I can't help but, as a parent of two children, recognize in this line of thinking a child's deep-seated (and profoundly self-centered) sense of injustice.

Faced with the world's certain measures of pain, bewilderment and abandonment, reasonable children seek comfort---and if denied that comfort, predictably lash out in self defense. They give hell to their parents, to their siblings, teachers, and tragically often to themselves.

To such a child, it is better to be alone than in the company of fellow sufferers. It is better, some will conclude, even to be dead.

For all the professor's elaborate argument and educated language, he writes essentially from the perspective of a hurt child, ironically selfish in his lashing out against the "cruelty" of others.

This argument has been taken farther than the professor has yet come. Every religion and entire civilizations (spawning literatures and philosophies he must certainly know) have been created in the attempt to see past the problem of pain.

Although we still argue (obviously) and wonder about this problem, there is at least a shared understanding that the problem is sewn into the system and somehow essential to it.

Whether you chose to see this as life in a Fallen world or simply acknowledge, in the secular sense, that we're all fucked, every adult must advance from that basic understanding to whatever conclusions can be drawn.

Only a child will chose to sit in a corner, hungry and hurt, while everyone sits at the table and eats what's given.

Steve Bodio said...

I think that is so good it needs to be a post, Matt.

mdmnm said...

Mullenix for another win! (not to say that folks are competing in comments) Great analysis.

HTTrainer said...

I started to read the article, I will continue later after a few drinks. It won't make it any easier to read but I will feel better. With writing like this no wonder Sulzberger says the days of the paper version of the Times is limited, would that were so for the other versions, save the puzzles.
I did get as far as Isaiah's predicting that animals would lie down with one another and I remembered Woody Allen's comment that the lion would lie down with the lamb, but the lamb would not sleep very well.
Here's one on today's college educations:
"My education was dismal. I went to a series of schools for mentally disturbed teachers."

Matt Mullenix said...

mdm--not competing, just scratching my head! :-)

Jess said...

I tried twice and could not get through the whole thing. Maybe I'm not intellectually sophisticated enough, but it smacked of mental masturbation to me. Guy needs a hobby.

HTTrainer said...

okay, I tried to read this a 2nd time, but cannot comprehend how the suffering of animals has anything to do with evil.
I thought this was all laid out in Genesis, that man was placed over the animals and has nothing to do with suffering or evil. Maybe it is me but I do not think so.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I agree--the man really needs a hobby--preferably something OUTDOORS involving NATURE--only people who live their lives completely seperate from natural processes can ever come up with stuff like this! And it IS scary how disconnected people are becoming from nature--to the inevitable doom of the species, no doubt! I never have had any trouble believing both in a benevolent creator AND evolution--it is a perfectly fair deal, is survival-of-the-fittest--you couldn't come up with a more fair set-up for all the zillions of species out there! Perhaps a benevolent God DID originally create life without predators, and after the overpopulation and starvation and habitat degradation and viscous competition between individuals of the same species He/She/It said "DAMN!"(thus the origin of cussing....)"This just ain't gonna work!", and so invented the predator, and tried to evolve them as efficiently as possible to keep the process as humane as possible. As far as religious views go on the subject, this guy REALLY needs to EXPAND his narrow little view in that department as well, and maybe check out the Hindus, and Buddhists or some Native American beliefs, that cover things like this way better than Christianity/Judeaism/ Islam(which are all very basically the same anyway, even in the way they like to massacre one another....).....L.B.

Max Inclined said...

I have a friend who believes that eating meat causes people to be violent, and considers slaughtering animals for food an act of violence. He is otherwise jaw droppingly intelligent -- speaks 5 languages, PhD candidate. He also got the physical & mental crap beat out of him regularly by his dad.

Steve Bodio said...

Hitler thought the same about meat, loved animals, and was a strict vegetarian-- you can look it up!