Hannibal Dawkins?

Dawkins Wants to Eat Human ‘Meat’. We shouldn’t get carried away by our cinema-aided imagination and see him as a latter-day Hannibal Lecter or Albert Fish who ate children in the 1930’s and was dealt with by the law. At the same time, it is a matter of degree from the intention to the act.

To take the sensationalism out of what he actually said, he notes that manufactured meat (for want of a better term) from animal cells is already on the immediate horizon. He extrapolates from this and suggests using human genetic material. I could see a sarcastic reaction from his own revulsion in regard to “manufactured meat”, with a rhetorical question of whether we should start eating our own species to save the bother of breeding cattle, pigs, sheep, chickens, etc. A comparative approach with his writings and interviews would be necessary.

If we suppose he is arguing from a hypothetical vegan point of view that if we eat animal meat, we might as well overcome our taboo against cannibalism, it writes volumes about his extreme cynicism and denial of life and consciousness – not only the existence of God and metaphysics but also our own life.

He may not yet be kidnapping children or planning the first slaughterhouse production plants, but he is talking about the technology of breeding human cells outside the formation of an embryo. This technique was originally thought up for medical purposes, for example to graft genetically compatible skin onto someone who had been badly burned. I’m not well informed about the progress of these techniques, whether it is possible to “grow” a heart, liver or kidney for transplants. I think that this purpose could be justified if it is possible, rather than waiting for someone else to die and have their organs transplanted when our own fail.

But, from that to breeding flesh for food. Animals have been bred for food for millennia, and more species can be bred in captivity, including fish, marine invertebrates and edible insects. That moves on to intensive and inhumane breeding and then to genetic manipulation. That makes me very frightened – but the increasing world population has to be fed with something. The same is done to crops, and it is not impossible that plants may also be sentient beings and are aware of being killed and eaten. Where does all this go? It is simply a matter of us or them, us or what we have to eat to live. The food chain is a part of fallen nature, and we humans are not always at the top of it. Sometimes, a shark or a crocodile gets a tasty snack from someone who gets too near the water!

I surmise that had Dawkins talked of cultivating animal flesh, it would not agree with our culinary tastes and traditions, but it would not be so absolutely revolting as the idea of eating our own species, even if the meat was never a sentient human being. Taboos are necessary in our lives, because they are the outer limits of morality and humanity. In particular, we respect the dead and where they lie, and we don’t eat human flesh whatever the cause of death except in absolutely extreme circumstances like the football team in a plane crash. The furthest we go is dark humour like the above quip about sharks and crocodiles, or what we call in England gallows humour about executions. It is a way to relieve the taboo that prevents us from killing each other (unless we are criminals without a conscience).

We joke about cannibals, notably the theme of the missionary or explorer in the pots, and the native talking like a cook in a modern western kitchen about spices and cooking times. There is the old Irish joke about Paddy who goes to a TV quizz for 10 questions. “What do you call people who eat people?“. Paddy scratches his head, completely at sea, and shouts out “I canna! Balls!“. – “That’s right, Paddy, well done“. Back to serious things:

In the light of some of the ideas I have been reading about and expressing, the problem with Dawkins is his extreme materialism and “realism”. Like animals for Descartes, humans are no more than machines for Dawkins. Consciousness and life are a consequence of brute matter, taking billions of years to “evolve”. Independently of my Christian faith and penchant towards Romanticism and Idealism, I cannot give credibility to any idea so absurd that life came from randomness and chaos without the agency of the consciousness we believers call God and the Logos. Consciousness is seen in all matter, from crystals to tiny molecules of atoms and subatomic particles. Without consciousness, nothing would exist.

May Dawkins never get into a position of political power, preaching his diatribes in public houses and beer halls, befriending disillusioned Army officers, whipping up support for his party, writing a book of his “struggle” – – – and you know where this is going, even if he doesn’t grow a little moustache or start yelling in German that it is all the fault of the Jews! I joke about the Godwin’s Law bit, but human nature at its worst does not change. We have not learned from World War II – just to make the killing more clinical and justified by science. History will repeat itself, and God will die again…

I would have to read these outrageous ideas from Dawkins in their context. It would be very serious to accuse him of wanting to take Dr Mengele’s place, with modern technology but the same essential ideology. More than taboo, our fundamental instinct is empathy with other humans and also with animals, in such wise as that when we have to kill them (animals) for food, we do so using the least painful methods possible. We recognise in other humans the same degree of consciousness and life as ourselves. Without that consciousness, there is no reason to live at all. Every evil is committed in the world, from killing millions in the Holocaust to punching someone in the face (except in self-defence), is motivated by that refusal of the other’s humanity.

If Dawkins is advocating eating “dead” cultivated human flesh (to take the horror of slaughter out of the loop), it is either to be provocative in the extreme, or to say “Bugger you” to our entire Judeo-Christian culture. Either way, the slippery slope can go down a very long way. I cannot judge Dawkins without more objective information, but we all know about the Ideology!

Take this thing back to Baltimore!

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