Sharing Beliefs: Star Trek, Disney & Animals

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:

Dear John:

Concerning animals: whatever opinions I hold about animals are colored by all the following:

  1. 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)
  2. 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.
  3. 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)
  4. 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.
  5. 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.



Filed under Philosophy & Religion

14 responses to “Sharing Beliefs: Star Trek, Disney & Animals

  1. DaCheese

    Apparently all the CSI shows have had a similar effect in the legal realm. Jurors expect extensive DNA analysis, etc., in every case, even for minor crimes. And when they don’t get the easy technological answers they’re looking for, they’re indignant and/or believe the prosecution has no case.

  2. @ DaCheese
    Fascinating, great example — I didn’t watch CSI, so I wouldn’t expect that. We all know that entertainment affects culture, be we are largely blind to its power, eh?

  3. DoOrDoNot

    I appreciate you highlighting the the complexity, incongruity, and ever shifting movement of our beliefs. I have been pondering this issue about the treatment of animals more ever since we got a dog a few weeks ago. I now understand more about the attachment to animals that people have. She nips our boys at times and I find myself struggling to balance my desire to protect my boys while also protecting her from their antics that can get her riled up. I also struggle a bit in teaching my boys to respect other forms of life. I like to be consistent, but I feel like a self-contradictory slippery blob of jello in this arena. My boys see me kill spiders in the house, but I make them leave spiders alone outside. I will, however, catch a moth in the house and free it in the backyard. I’ll also squash a fly outside that’s trying to land on my food. We keep gerbils for pets, but keep other rodents at bay. I’d rescue a child over an animal but I have already spent hundreds on our dog that could have gone to saving some starving children somewhere. I wonder what beliefs my boys have formed about the treatment of animals. I think I’ll ask them tonight about that!

  4. @ DoOrDoNot :
    Yeah! You understand the complexity that I am pointing to.
    One piece of advice for a new dog owner with small kids. My eldest dog (14 yo) snipped at my new baby (now 11 yo) and I reflexively grabbed him and threw him against the wall. I bragged about my father instincts after that, in fact. It took at least 6 months to repair my relations to that dog. In fact, I kept up bad habits of hitting when he was bad — I would strike him when he jumped up on tables to get food , etc…
    I am not totally against physical punishment for dogs, but with three dogs I have had since then, I have not had to strike ever. And I have a much better relationship with those dogs.

    But, back on topic: We are indeed a bundle of contradictions — but we only contradict our supposed philosophies — maybe our philosophies are wrong. Maybe forming philosophies has something inherently a bit off balance. Killing a fly, loving a gerbil.

    When I was in China and Japan I have eaten raw horse, bear, dog, cats, sparrows and live fish. What we call pet is arbitrary — my cchildren hear my talk this way and they tremble in fear of their lives! 🙂 (joking — well, not about eating dog).

    Anyway, I am hoping you will come back and give us a report of what your boys report about “how to treat animals”? But if you get my drift, I guess I am saying that the question may be mistaken — it is too broad. We don’t really live in such a broad world. Instead, our reality is full of particulars and not abstractions.

  5. Very nicely stated, Sabio. For months I have had interaction with folks online in an effort to find out why they believe what they believe. I realize my writing style may not come across as well as the spoken word, but I think that only emphasizes the flaws of interpreting the written word. I know I’m sarcastic, to say the least, but every question I have is asked to try to get a better understanding of someone’s position.

    As someone who has seen many leaps in medical progress, I’m sure you’re also amused as how the religious mind tries to integrate this progress into their belief system. Remember that it really wasn’t long ago that we treated serious ailments with “fresh air” or blood-letting. When you suggest that we humans are just another animal on the planet, the self-righteous religious community gets upset, even when you show them DNA evidence. They contort their beliefs to fit the new information or just reject the information outright.

    It’s just unfortunate that many think that belief is the same as knowledge.
    Visit for a great explanation of this.

  6. Sabio, I’ve changed some of my views, I think its just that many have been changed before I started writing. So what you find on my site is where I am now. Theologically I have come to accept 2 points of reformed theology. But prior, I have not always been a Christian, changing ones religious view if fairly significant, don’t you think? I am still open to whether assisted suicide and assisted death is morally permissible, I just don’t have a strong position either way.

    But more to your point, I hope you don’t find my frustration with Disney to mean animals have no value other than the utility they provide. I do think they should be reasonably cared for and not abused. Its almost funny, but I don’t even kill bugs unnecessarily. I leave spiders in the corners, I use cage traps for mice and release them, I don’t kill infects or step on ants just because they’re there. And I try to get my kids to do the same, even though they find the killing of bugs to be trivial.

    Its just that I can see the distinction between people and animals, and I don’t let cute fuzzy faces get in the way of proper perspective. As much as I really do love my dogs, I would never save them over any other human being if it must be one or the other, and I don’t think laws pertaining to humans applies to them.

  7. Love this post, mainly cause it points out why I’m not a Trekkie.

  8. George "Toad" Shope

    I’d like to add that I too believe that all animals have souls, even insects. What I’ve deduced is vegetation and single celled lifeforms, like the bacteria and viruses Sabio has to combat with his patients, dew kNot have a Soul, they are powered by the Collective of Souls but all other lifeforms have an individual Soul powering them, which includes the bacon, beef, chicken, and fish mentioned earlier by Sabio but what peeps don’t take into account, is what if that Pig or Cow or Chicken or Fish were here for the purpose of providing a food source? Doesn’t a Chicken Hawk need nourishment? The Chicken Hawk has a Soul so just because it may kNot kNow it has a Soul and the Chicken it’s about to eat has a Soul, does it make the end result any different? No!

    What about that Soccer Team stranded in the Andes when their plane crashed? They had to survive by eating their deceased friends and because of necessity, there was nothing wrong with what they did but everything boils down to perception. I have no problem with veggieheads nor meat eaters and I eat most everything and the only reason I don’t eat everything, is personal choice but given the right circumstances, I would eat what’s kNot on my day-to-day menu, which one of the things I have taken off that menu is Whale. I have met a Whale eye-to-eye and all I saw was pure love and I cannot eat one because of that meeting but given the right circumstances, I would.

    Awesome post, Sabio! 😀

    Ribbit 🙂

  9. I particularly like the way you worded your fifth point.

    It is a tricky, complicated topic for sure, one I’ve been thinking of recently but haven’t come to any significant revelations, other than animals certainly appear to share feelings with us, and they can be quite tasty.

  10. @ zqtx:
    Thanx, but this post is not about how religious folks twist stuff. We all twist stuff. It is ironic, because your comment seems to do that. You are beating your anti-religion drum and posting a proselytizing link. You might want to read my last paragraph again. Like the religious folks you accuse, it seems you came here to preach — “Damn the post”.

    @ John Barron:
    Yes, you made a big change in becoming Christian. Is you life now one of become more doctrinally secure?

    But to the point, I agreed with most of your post on animals. Your position on animals is very close to mind — well, except that you might be even nicer!!

    @ George Shope:
    In Japan I ate Whale several times — I could taste the love. They are amazing creatures.

    @ Wise Fool:
    Concerning our philosophy on these positions, I will re-state what I wrote in a comment above.

    We are indeed a bundle of contradictions — but we only contradict our supposed philosophies — maybe our philosophies are wrong. Maybe forming philosophies has something inherently a bit off balance. Killing a fly, loving a gerbil.

    I guess I am saying that the question [of how we should treat animals] may be mistaken — it is too broad. We don’t really live in such a broad world. Instead, our reality is full of particulars and not abstractions.

  11. @ Sabio:

    Guilty as charged. Sorry about that – I know I have a tendency to do that. It just really bothers me when I hear some of the excuses that theists use to support their actions sometimes. Christians can use the bible to justify any deed or prejudice, but when you point to any verse yourself, well, you must be taking it out of context.

    As for nature, it is certainly complex when we personally decide what lives and what dies. I don’t worship nature, but I do admire it. I’m a “live and let live” kind of person for the most part. I think about it whenever I try to rid the lawn of weeds or exterminate pests around the house. I guess the holy spirit just tells our conscience to eliminate god’s creations at our convenience.

    As someone who used to have a different religious philosophy, would you say that your attitude and perspective towards animals has changed at all?

    I would pose that question to John as well.

  12. Hi Sabio & Other Readers,

    I have a question to you – losely connected to the post.

    When I went back from vegetarian to meat eater at the first time (for about 3 months) I could not eat anything that looked like an animal (but no problem with minced meat, sausages etc.). I was very surprised because both becoming a vegetarian and switching back to meat were opportunistic choices of mine — not ideology of ‘not harming animals’ behind it at all.

    Is it familiar to anyone? Do you have any explanations for it?



  13. @ zqtx :
    (1) You confess and in the same paragraph repeat your offense — that was ironically humorous!

    (2) Your comment about “worshipping nature” and “holy spirit and conscience” are referring to comments I made over at John’s site so I won’t pursue them here since the are out of context. Talk to me about that over at John’s site if you would.

    (3) Yes, I use to be vegetarian — but my shifts in attitudes toward food were never linked with religion. I could have linked them but never did.

    @ roni:
    Great question. I just devoted a post to the reply.

  14. rautakyy

    @ Sabio, I really liked your observation about the Star Trek heroes applying socialistic ideals. Do you think the film makers were aware of the socialistic future they were painting?

    The Star Trek is closer to socialistic ideals than any attempts in the real life, but it does not seem as a bad future does it?

    About killing bugs, have you read the book by Robert Heinlein or seen the movie Starship Troopers by the director Paul Verhoeven? It sets a completely different view of the future, where humans fight a nother sentient species, that seem at first no more than mere bugs.

    I have written quite a many comments on the blog of John Barron Jr, and like him I do not kill spiders. I simply take them out. If killing is not necessary, why bother? Like you Sabio, I find Johns view of the world intriguing, propably just because it is so opposite to mine. On the issue of whales, my opinion is in my comment to John.

    I do not think it is so much the fault of Disney that people have lost their natural relationship with animals. Disney is just making money on the reality that so many people live in cities. Claiming someone is still on the emotional level of the targetted Disney movie audience of course is a clever way of undermining their ability
    to evaluate how the animals are treated.

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