Monday, March 8, 2010

Selective Belief?

I was doing some research for school when I came upon this immensely interesting observation in the first comment of Dr. Eades blog post Framingham Follies: "It is amusing that so many people will accuse the government and businesses of lying about this and that but when it comes to cholesterol (and radon, Splenda ..other pet peeves of mine), suddenly the news they get is accurate." Dr. Eades responded: "It is amusing that people assume the government is either wrong or is out and out lying about virtually everything except for nutritional issues. On nutritional issues they say that it must be so because the government says it’s so."

Intensely interesting insight on the how people respond to the government. If you pick up the newspaper you will certainly come across here and there and everywhere criticisms of the government: politicians are lying about this, politicians are lying about that, and politicians are lying about everything. But, except for perhaps some scattered individual sources, how often is it that you come across pieces that criticize the government for adhering to a specific scientific theory?

The theory that the consumption of fat leads to increases in blood cholesterol which leads to the development of heart disease is false and without justification, and yet there is no popular skepticism against the government for advocating this theory. Why?

Dr. Eades presents his theory in the bottom of the fourth comment of the same entry: "In my opinion, the reason the push was (and still is) on to show a correlation with cholesterol is because cholesterol is found only in foods of animal origin. With the strong vegetarian bias behind many low-fat, low-cholesterol proponents, it’s easy to see that they would love to come upon evidence that showed cholesterol to somehow be dangerous."

One variant of vegetarianism is a result of a certain theory of ethics: that it is not only wrong to initiate physical force against other human beings, but against all other animal life. It is probable that this code of ethics holds that the standard of rights is whether or not a living being can feel pain, so they extend rights to animals since they have pain sensory nerves.

This view of rights, however, is false. The basis of rights is not whether or not something can feel pain, but whether or not something is a conceptual being. Humans have rights because it is necessary for their survival in a social context. They do not have feelings (i.e. instincts) that automatically influence them into doing what sustains their life; humans can come to erogenous conclusions, act on them, and die. Explicit rights, therefore, are needed so that man knows how to act properly within a social context. More information here.

Non-rational animals, on the other hand, do have instincts that influence them into automatically doing certain things. If their instincts are not sufficient to sustain their life, then they perish and that's that. Animals do not need and cannot have rights since they cannot conceive of or utilize them, and it would not serve them in the least if rights were legally granted to them except to hinder man. Imagine deploying a police squad in Africa to break down on the violent crimes of lions against zebras. In short, non-rational animals cannot be reasoned with, so physical force is the only option in dealing with them. Since they have no rights and carry within them vital nutrients, it is moral to eat animals to sustain oneself.

Given this mistaken view of ethics, that animals have rights, I could see why some vegetarians would be pleased to hear and utilize the notion that animal products are unhealthy, but I haven't studied the issue enough to be able to be qualified to make a proper judgment and so would love to hear other thoughts on this issue. I think more than vegetarianism is at work here, but I cannot identify what.

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