Star Trek has caused a whole generation of nerds to falsely idealize socialism and expect far too much from medicine. For instance, often some of my patients are indignant when I tell them we can’t find the cause of their ailments. After all, certainly McCoy could have diagnosed their problem in a mere matter of seconds with his trusty tricorder.
Don’t get me wrong — I love Star Trek but I regret how it has “trekified” part of the US population. John Barron shares a fun post over at “Sifting Reality”, lamenting how he feels Disney has Disnified America’s animal culture. But before visiting John’s site, be forewarned that John is a politically and religiously conservative Christian who loves arguing with Skeptics. His thread is littered with heated debates. John is a careful, intelligent debater but not a highly skilled listener or facilitator though I am sure his lack of care in conversation is not intentional. I have not read much of John, but to date I haven’t see him conceding points or looking for commonalities with his opponents. John is a black-and-white kind of guy. He is rock steady in his views and he is going to show you why you are wrong and how he has it all figured out. So go there at your own risk. But I like reading John — he is interesting and writes well. And I find that people with opinions different than mine stimulate my thinking and effect me in pleasant unexpected ways. So go take a look.
What follows is a response to John’s most recent post: “Animals are people too … maybe” where he tells us that Disney makes us too sentimental about animals and encourage us to poorly blur the line between humans and animal. So without further ado:
Concerning animals: whatever opinions I hold about animals are colored by all the following:
- In China, I saw animals treated as objects without feelings or sensation of pain. Horrible, horrible treatment — even in public. At least we have the dignity to hide the abuse of our food animals. (sarcasm)
- My family raises animals for meat and eggs. We are consumate carnivores. But we have 3 dogs, gerbils, fish as pets and we love our pets. And even our freezer animals live a very good life before their slaughter.
- I laugh at how hard humans struggle to set themselves off to be superior to animals. Sure, we are unique, but then all animals are unique — that is a boring truism. (see here & here)
- I use to be a fervent vegetarian, I was very intolerant of non-vegetarians at first and would not even go in kitchens that cooked meat. I transitioned slowly out of vegetarianism: started eating eggs, then fish and chickens (afterall, they don’t have lips) and finally, mammal-meat again touched my tongue. With this, of course, I became much more tolerant until today when I am a full-blown vegetarian apostate. My Christianity was similar — substitute “Christian” for vegetarian in the above and you will see what I mean. The underlying common principles should be obvious. I begrudge no one their silly ideas, all I ask is that you keep them out of my face and out of my politics.
- If a person thinks animals have rights and feelings or even souls, they should, for consistency’s sake, fight for them. Many people do the same for fetuses. Everyone draws the line differently — so what do we do with each other?
So, for those not familiar with my writing style, this post is distractingly not really discussing animals, vegetarianism, Christianity, politics, or medicine. Instead, I am most interested in the complex way we form opinions and beliefs — and even more interested on how we go about discussing these with each other. I feel that listing the many feelings and experiences that feed our beliefs is often more instructive than just giving an abstract propositional declaration of a rarified belief. As an example, I discussed what feeds my views about animals. This approach allows the belief to be more honest; it allows in humor, humility, fuzziness and vulnerability; it does things that rarified philosophy often does not invite.