Why does Richard Dawkins want to eat human meat?
Social media does not encourage thoughtful, reflective statements. There are many public figures who manage to make fools of themselves on mediums like Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter. Someone can dash off an ill-considered, half-formed statement and publish it to the entire world without even thinking about it. And if you happen to be a personality with millions of followers around the globe, those statements get more attention than they deserve.
However, Richard Dawkins left his March 3 tweet up for more than a week (at the time of the writing of this article), so it’s fair game to criticize it:
Tissue culture “clean meat” already in 2018? I’ve long been looking forward to this.https://t.co/p41NR3NEZn
What if human meat is grown? Could we overcome our taboo against cannibalism? An interesting test case for consequentialist morality versus “yuck reaction” absolutism.— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) March 3, 2018
Humans are friends, not food
Why would Dawkins want to overcome the taboo against cannibalism? There’s no evolutionary reason to do so, and there’s no utilitarian reason to do so (like Peter Singer, Dawkins claims to follow the philosophy of utilitarianism). It’s not enlightened, it’s not reasoned. Rather, the most likely explanation is that his religion of atheism tells him that humans are just animals. We eat animals, so why not human meat, especially if it can be procured in a way that doesn’t involve murder?
There are a number of reasons why we don’t eat human meat. First, humans are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). The only time Scripture mentions cannibalism is in the context of extreme famine or sieges as a result of severe judgment (Deuteronomy 28:53). Humans are permitted to eat other animals after the Flood (Genesis 9:3), but the Bible doesn’t even envision cannibalism in contexts other than extreme judgment.
Shocker: it might be a bad idea to eat people
Cannibalism today is limited to either very desperate circumstances, as faced by the Donner party,1 extreme criminal insanity, or pagan ritual cannibalism. There are very good reasons that sane people in normal circumstances don’t want to eat other people.
Besides the moral issue of denigrating the image of God, there is a health risk. Cannibalism can transfer all sorts of diseases from human to human, and culturing human meat in a lab does not remove this risk. According to biochemist Dr Ambrose Williams:
Growing human meat would be dangerous because of adventitious agents—ie: any viruses that infect a human cell culture could also infect the human. IE a bad batch of beef is disgusting, while a bad batch of human tissue is biohazardous.— Ambrose Williams PhD (@tricosane) March 3, 2018
In short, there are no good reasons to eat people unless you want to thumb your nose at some supposedly prudish Christians, while there are both moral and pragmatic reasons why it is a bad idea.
- The Donner Party is a tragic account in the pioneering days of the American west. George Donner (1784–March 1847) led a group of 87 people migrating to what they hoped was the pleasant climate and fertile valleys of California. But they arrived in winter in the Sierra Nevada mountains in November 1846, and were trapped by heavy snowfall near what is now called Lake Donner in Northeast California. During several months in these desperate mid-winter conditions, only 48 survived, and some of them had resorted to eating the flesh of their dead comrades. Return to text.
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