Peter Singer wants me to eat people (One small man’s moral obligation to end the suffering of others may indeed be the tastiest solution yet)

I have nothing but bad experiences in Clairmont. Case in point: I was doing this whole philosophy thing. I had somehow been swindled it to it, and had been regretting it ever since. But, as I am as stupid as I am stubborn, I hadn’t chucked it in and gone on my merry way. Which, is as it (now) seems, would have been the better way to go. In addition to being stupid and stubborn, I have this tendency, from time to time, to slide into a severe case of assholism. I tend to do and say things that, in fact, belie my true intentions — which was how I had gotten myself in to the business of philosophy in the first place. I, for some reason, had decided to let other people think that I actually cared, or care, about what’s going on in the world outside of my neighborhood. Don’t get me wrong, I’m actually a very compassionate person — but in a very kind of abstract way. I care in the same way that a greeting card wishes that you recover from your cancer. Sure, the sentiment is there, but it lacks substance. Anyway, I was knee-deep in an assholic fit, meaning that I was really in for convincing people that I was one of those types who cared so compassionately about those who are less fortunate than I. And, it so happened that Peter Singer was to give a speech about moral obligations (or something like that) to the underdeveloped world. And, it was in Clairmont. Great. So… I go, along with a couple of friends, to see Singer speak. Truth be told, I was looking more for a reason to be out of the house than to see some philosopher drone on about why I should feel guilty about living in the best damn country in the whole world ( if you don’t get the sarcasm here, I feel sorry for you). So, we went, and settled down to hear Mr. Singer explain how we (and really, we are morally obligated to do so) can help others who are living in desperate poverty around the globe. Now, I’m no stranger to the occasional conspiracy theory, and Mr. Singer plays a role in them, particularly those dealing with concepts like population control and eugenics. And frankly, it’s not difficult, when you read Singer’s work, to see where someone might interpret his views as such. I’ll say that, after watching a few clips of Singer speak on YouTube, that it’s pretty easy to make a connection between Singer’s philosophy and the New World Order’s ultimate plan for humanity. During his talk, Singer said that our problems (hunger and severe poverty in the underdeveloped world) are not matters of politics or ethics, but technical. It’s a matter of figuring out the right solution. For Singer, it’s removing the incentive for greed. Greed, according to Singer, leads to hoarding, and hoarding leads to dependence of others for others to meet their needs. So, for example, if the guy who lives on the coast puts up a big fence around his property, which includes the shoreline, and because of that fact he is the only one who catches fish, and he choses not to share them, and the only food for miles is fish, then I will enevitably depend on him for my food. Singer’s solution is to get rid of the monetary system and religion. That, according to Singer, will be the trick to feeding the world. All we have to do is do it. (it’s so simple, right?). But, as I was listening, I began to hear the words of Johnathan Swift inside my noggin. What Singer was offering us was a proposal, correct? And if just removing religion and money will start the ethics ball rolling, why end there? I mean, if the solution isn’t moral or political but technical, wouldn’t getting rid of the have-not’s be an even better solution? Techincally speaking, of course. During the summer, my house is floodded with ants. Those nasty black ones that stink when you smash ’em. So, after having box after delicious box of Fruit Loops succumb to the black menace, we decided to nip the problem at the source. I can’t remember exactly what it was that we used (it was hazardous to humans and domestic animals, that much I remember), but the problem soon abated. Now I can eat Fruit Loops. We solved the problem by getting rid of what was taking something away from us — and more specifically– from me (something, I might add, that I had earned and bought with my own money). But, the ants served no purpose to me other than not being a pest. What if they weren’t so unuseful? What if, even in their demise, the ants could serve a purpose? And that is exactly what third world people can do! The way to get rid of greed (because getting rid of god is so much more difficult) is to lop it off at the source. But greed is only manifested at the expense of someone else. That is, it’s difficult to be really greedy if everyone is getting the exact same amount of stuff. If I got five lap dances and the guy next to me got five lap dances, then the other guy would be just as happy as I ( assuming that the quality of the talent was equal). And if we both got six, well, you can say that we were equally greedy, but neither would feel deprived of anything except for maybe a few bills. It’s only after I’m invited to the champange room that the situation becomes unequal and charges of not fairity are leveled against me. Why? Because I got more than I deserved to get. So, what about food? What about water, or money, or whatever natural or unnatural resource we have or can get? Well, technically speaking, there wouldn’t be a problem over lap dances if I were the only gentleman in the club. If the other people who would look at what I’ve got and get jealous were not there, there would be no greed. And if there is no greed, there is no problem. So… when it comes to the underdeveloped world, I say that we stop looking at Swift as satire and seriously take the Swift-Singer proposal as real, workable policy. We should get rid of the underdeveloped world. But you see, people are not ants. They actually can serve a purpose after you’ve ridded yourself of them. I was watching the miniseries “V” awhile back, and Marc Singer (hey! coincidence?) was in the mothership with “Martin” amid the bodies of thousands of people wrapped up and ready to ship to the visitors’ homeworld. The reason why they were doing so, Martin explains, is that their planet was in need of several precious resources. In addition to needing warriors for their great leader’s wars, they also needed water and food — which was where the people come in. They didn’t consider the political or moral implications if their problem, they simply went for the easiest technical solution, which was to head for the planet with six billion food packets ready to be crated up and shipped home. The real bonus is, is if we replace our food with people, we can save all that corn that we won’t be eating for biofuels! I had heard that Singer is a utilitarian, and that a problem with utilitarianism is the fact that sometimes the theory bears out wacky outcomes, like proposing that we eat those who are less fortunate. I say, that’s a problem only if we are looking at the problem morally. It’s the ethics that bind us to outcomes that we may not want. But Singer himself said that the solution isn’t ethical, but technical. And technics need not tie itself to morality. If we want to actually solve our problems, maybe we need to grow beyond our primitive need to check to see if everything we do is alright with some father in the sky. After all, Singer himself said that a way to solve the world’s problems is to get rid of religion. So, no sky father, no moral cop looking over our shoulders. (I know there’s a quote that goes something along the lines of without god, all things are permitted, or something like that). So, following Singer’s guidelines, it seems that really the way to solve the problem technically, is to 1) get rid of the problem, and 2) eat the problem, thus solving our own problems with factory farming and e-coli outbreaks as a result of animal waste run-off. I have a feeling that our animal friends at PETA will not object to this solution, as no animals will abused in the eating of people. So there. I can say, with absolutely no reservations or sense of irony, that Peter Singer wants me to eat the underdeveloped world. I’ll take mine with ranch dressing, if you don’t mind.

I have a bone to pick with you, Alvin Plantinga

Ok. So today I’m out for a walk, doing as I always do, which is relive old philosophy classes inside my head. Quite pathetic. Well, while on this particular outing, I started thinking first, about my general anger towards philosopy in general, and second, about my still fuming hostility towards a certain class that I sat in on last summer. Being that I am an atheist, I have a fondness towards those who believe in god (albeit foolishly) and, even more so, those who take all that believing in a supreme deity seriously enough to write about their belief. What’s even more amazing than that is the fact that they encourage others to believe, and others actually do so. So, as I walked down the street, I thought about last summer’s philosophy of religion class. Now, there are exactly two things that I have something of a dislike for — one, bees, and two, the city of Clairmont, Califorina. I can’t exactly explain what it is that unnerves me about the environs, but there’s something that makes me cringe whenever I’m there. Maybe it’s the fact that the people who attend the college(s) there look like “college people”. They look exactly like what college people would look like if someone were casting a TV show about a liberalesque college hamlet filled with people that you’d only meet in a TV show about a liberalesque college hamlet. As I am a natural-born cynic and anti-collegian, the whole scene unnerves me greatly. But, that’s where the class was held, and if I wanted to learn anything about god, that’s where I’d have to be. Wait — let me clear up this one thing first. I wasn’t there because I actually wanted to be there. I was there for a friend, who, so to not be taking an independent study class alone, wanted me to tag along. I did, but soon realized that I could have stayed home, since the class consisted not only of my friend and I but also of two other people, not including the professor. But, dispite my cynicism, I am a loyal friend, and I accompanied my buddy (albeit begrudgingly) to Clairmont for talk of God. Well, if anything, what the atheist hates more than belief in general, are those who write about why we should believe. Most atheists, fortunately for them, are only aware of those who tend to garner the spotlight, that is, the usual round of televangelists and religious “motivational speakers”. They don’t have to deal with those who, in addition to calling themselves intellectuals, also call themselves believers. Unfortunately, I was one of those unfortunate lot who had made the mistake of thinking that philsophy was a have for the fallen like myself. How wrong I was. The philosopher on the summer’s agenda: Alvin Plantinga. I had been exposed to Plantinga the previous spring, during another philosophy of religion class. Try as one might, I was never swayed by Plantinga’s position on the problem of evil. And, I spent a lot of time being made to feel like disagreeing with Plantinga was some sort of philosophic blasphemy — which is kind of funny when you think of it considering the fact that the man writes about god. At least I found it slightly amusing. Anyway, there I was again, reading Plantinga in Clarmont — seething. I know that from time to time we encounter an idea, be it philosophical or not, that we just have to yell ‘that’s complete crap!’ even if we can offer no better position to the one to which we object. Well, I encountered one such idea: sensus divinitatis or divine sense. This, in my nutshell, is the idea that we somehow have warranted belief in god because god somehow afflicts our brains directly. Whatever. I didn’t believe it then, and I don’t now. You see, I learned several things during that class. One thing I learned is that it is useless to argue against an agnostic philosophy professor. I mentioned on several occasions, that we could just as easily explain our god experiences by pointing to a physiological cause. That is, if we could prove that we can create the divine sense by way of artificallly stimulating specific areas of the brain, then we can say that perhaps it is not god that touches our brain, but a particular sensation caused by particular chemical and/or electronic reactions going on inside of our brains. I wasn’t claiming to have come up with some sort of Plantinga-busting argument, or at the very least coming up with anything original. My idea truly was not — I had fully copped it from an article that I read in Time magazine. Still, I had the feeling that no matter what I said, even if that included god himself explaining how he wasn’t touching our brains, but that what we experienced as “Him” was in fact a mere chemical process, I wasn’t going to get far with pushing my point of view into the realm of equal consideration. Which brings me to today’s walk outside. I was thinking: maybe I was going about what I thought all wrong. I was focusing on causes and effects and not on the beliefs themselves. Here’s what I mean: I was confusing what I thought because I wasn’t thinking clearly about what I was thinking. (And as a fan of Orwell and Wittgenstein, this is the wrong thing to do). I was casually using words interchangably when I shoud have been focusing on them for precision. What I was doing was using the words “belief” and “hope” as the same. They are not. I can hope for a great many things, but every hope isn’t, and indeed shouldn’t be necessarily tied to any particular belief. Such is the case when I think about god. I was about 23 when I “outed” myself as an atheist. (I believe that there are Three Closets: One: outing oneself as a homosexual. Two: outing oneself as a “bear”. And, Three: Coming out as an atheist. I can only imagine the torment of atheist gay bears out there). And it took even more years before I really felt any comfortability saying it to people other than friends and family. I had said that I didn’t believe in god while somehow secretly smuggling the hope that there is. So, whenever I would think about what I “believed”, I always ended up in some dreadful agnostic position, which was exactly where I didn’t want to be. I even started qualifying my statements, like saying that I lived “atheistically” meaning that I reserved the right to claim that god exists, while simultaneously verbally denying his existence and living as if he did not exist. My spiritual life became a weird celestial contradiction: I believed and yet did not believe in god. But the contradiction wasn’t real, as much as it was a product of sloppy thinking. My backdoor hope was muddying up the waters because I had mislabeled it as a belief. Now, I suppose that I could ask if sentiments (that is some sort of emotional feeling) qualify as beliefs. I’m not sure whether I want to venture a guess on that subject. But, what is clear to me now is that what I felt in my head (and I am using the word ‘felt’ intentionally), was not the hand of god rapping at my brain, it was the hope that, when I die, I’m not wrong after all. I want there to be a god. I sincerely do. But, all that I believe tells me that he does not exist. ( I am fond of saying that I had a long conversation with god during which he revealed to me that he does not exist). I don’t know where exactly my thoughts fit in to what I was reading during the summer, or whether some philsopher much brighter than I has already trotted this one out, and it’s already been rendered to the philosophic dustbin. All I do know is that I now know that what I thought was my feeling of god was neither a simple firing of a dendrite nor was it god himself letting me, for a split second, experience the awsomeness of what he is. It was … well, I’m not sure exactly what to say that it was. It is my hope, (there it goes again) however, that whatever it is that is actually going on in my brain, that it does not ever lead me to sit in on another philosophy of religion class in Clairmont again. Cheers!