laugh. Hello all!
Interesting and rather diverse discussion. Many many points to address, eh?
First to ShanDB: Come back come back! You *seemed* to be in the right place. If we all agree with each other, then what's the point of discussing?
Let's see.. what else? God.
(Damn! This thing is so long I had to go back and insert headings!)GOD:
Well, I didn't vote 'cause none of the possibilities were true without caveats for me. I believe that there is no proving God. By definition. And therefore I find the question moot. Some believe, some don't. In any case, it's all the same because both believers and disbelievers use the same biological equipment to decide. Thus, what one person labels "God" and what another labels.. I dunno... "inner peace" is perforce a difference only in semantics... not in evidence or emotional responses. We cannot "know" anything that is not filtered through our perceptions and intellect. Therefore, what believers know (feel, perceive, sense, attribute to) as "God" or gods, unbelievers know as something else. Okay, yeah, there's some variation in experiences and awareness, but I'm talking, on average, if one person has experienced something...somewhere, sometime, another has experienced the same thing, and I guarantee (they've done studies actually) the *interpretations* have a lovely, multidimensional bell-curve distribution--just as for most things human.
That said, in my heart I don't see any need for gods to explain human existence or anything I've seen about the planet, the galaxy, or the universe. I highly recommend the work done in the late 60s and early 70s in psychology, measuring people's responses to randomly-generated, non-representational art (primarily graphic or dance, but some orchestral). No matter what arbitrary method you used to fabricate a design, a dance, a musical piece, people saw or heard a pattern and assigned meaning to the pattern ("I think the artist meant... [fill in the blank]
*Every* person surveyed found a pattern and meaning. When the design was randomly generated, the bell-curve of interpretations (they didn't really plot it on a bell-curve--I'm just using the image to illustrate) was wide and flat; when the design was human-generated, non-representational (that is, an artist sat down and produced an abstract work, thereby [presumably] having some point or purpose or design in mind), the curve was somewhat narrower; when it was representational (Degas ballerinas, say), the curve was much much narrower (presumably clustered around "it's a picture of ballerinas").
I don't remember if they did any cross-cultural surveys, but typically one would expect that the bell-curve for representational work would cluster around *different* average (most common) interpretations depending on the picture and the socio-cultural background of the viewers, e.g. the untouched Papua (sp?) tribe of 1970s New Guinea prolly would not understand a Degas in quite the same way as a European (not sure this is the right people--a sociologist and/or neuroscientist out there would remember the work done on cross-cultural recognition of emotions via facial expressions). For the abstract stuff you'd expect the bell-curves to look very similar across cultures (wide and flat).
Anyway, reading these results was enough to make me a believer that, as pattern-seekers, it is very easy for us to see "order" or "meaning" even in randomness. I guess that provided the last nail in the gods' coffin for me. (See studies using choreographer John Cage's work, for example... can't remember the researchers who did these studies... can find references if people would like.)
Okay, enough of God. GLOBAL WARMING....
Yeah, scientists still go round and round. At least in my milieu (Brown U.), I don't know of any scientists here who do NOT believe global warming is happening. I also don't know any who don't believe that it is directly proportional to the *billions* of tons of carbon we've been spewing into the atmosphere as the population burgeoned 150 years ago and as a result of the industrial revolution.
A physicist in my dept (some of whose research is in environmental and atmospheric physics) has a really interesting graph that shows the volume of carbon going into the atmosphere correlated with some obvious index of average temperature (glacier melt for example). I can't find it on his website and it's been awhile since I saw it, but for me the salient feature of it was the small but distinct dip in it that correlated precisely the decrease in annual carbon burning with a proportional decrease in the index. Understand that I'm omitting lots of details here (correlated, calculable delays between cause and effect most notably), the absence of which will allow you to shoot all kinds of holes in my evidence. The dip occurred during the war years when total manufacturing on the planet decreased (primarily because of events in Europe and Britain). The curve rises even more steeply after the war as the newly-mobilized war machine of the US was diverted to consumer manufacturing, and as reconstruction in Germany, England, France and, to a lesser degree, Japan, brought those countries' industrial complexes back online (he's got data for all that too). As you can tell I found his case to be pretty compelling (this data was not his however--it came from one of his collaborators--again will be very happy to find it for those interested).VEGETARIANISM...
I am vegetarian. I have been veg since I was 15 (I'm 33 now--so almost 19 years). I believe others should eat less meat (especially in the US--see reasons 1-4 below). For me, even though I believe I should eat *some* meat (according to my biology), I will continue to choose not to because I'm fortunate enough to live in a rich country where I don't have to. I can get adequate nutrition without killing other animals (see reason 5). So maybe I'm a bleeding-heart liberal... what can I say? Or maybe I'm extremely kind-hearted. Prolly both. My principle is until I am willing to kill it myself, I should not benefit from the sterilized way our meat industry presents packaged, prepared, aesthetically-pleasing, plastic wrapped slabs o' meat from which the violence of the process is kindly no longer apparent. (This is not as unfeasible as it seems since I've had many opportunities for killing personally [deer, sheep, fish, chickens, rabbits]. I come from a long line of hunters, fishermen, and ranchers. And for those who don't know: killing it and cleaning it yourself is bloody, strenuous, filthy work.)
I'm only going to sketch the reasons I found for vegetarianism, because all of them require substantiation and I guess people will be too bored to get it all here. Obviously none of this is my own research, but I myself found the sources to be reliable enough to believe them. Understand too that this is old data. Last time I was really nosing around for it was prolly ten years ago now. I'm also paraphrasing.
1) People in the US consume on average 10-20 times the amount of protein required by the human body per week (even athletes trying to put on muscle need less than double the amount of a typical couch-potato's protein requirement apparently).
2) Meat is an incredibly inefficient source of nutrition. The amount of grain used to fatten livestock per year in the US could feed the population of at least several nations in Africa for an entire year. (The statistic was actually in caloric content of the grain and number of people whose average daily caloric intake for a year [2000 kcal?] could be satisfied by it--I remember the reference saying something like "this number of people constitutes the entire population of Africa [back then]" but I'd rather be conservative than exaggerate.) The same reference also quoted (metabolically) usable kilojoules of energy gotten out of the grain vs. usable kilojoules remaining in the livestock after slaughter, but I don't remember the numbers. The efficiency (work out/work in [work=energy]), needless to say, was not very high.
3) Over-consuming meat is unhealthy. I think the continuing reporting on heart disease, cardiovascular disease, cholesterol, etc is well-accepted enough to substantiate this. Atkins dieters have to be careful to get proper nutrition as well (not enough vitamins and minerals in an all-meat diet--all or almost all the amino acids however!). Humans are omnivores and if we adapted properly to our environment before agriculture, then our bodies should still be equipped best to gorge on meat only a few times a month in a good year (based on diets and hunting patterns [frequency and volume of meat consumed] of still extant nomadic tribes in Africa and Australia etc, and what historical evidence remains regarding the Native Americans of especially the Great Plains and some Californian tribes of the central valley).
Okay, I'm going on too much. I'll try to do better on the rest...
4) we use TONS (literally thousands of tons per year) of steroids and antibiotics in the meat industry which:
a) is creating more resistant strains of bacteria even faster than overprescription for humans and anti-bacterial handsoap can do; and
b) leaves most of these chemicals still remaining in the tissue after slaughter (depends on the chemical of course). (e.g. Bovine Growth Hormone is probably not good for humans in the quantities consumed by them, especially for small children--this is still under debate though as far as I know.)
Studies have been made of all this--studies which of course the meat industry contests--but which looked pretty well-done to me. The scientists were certainly not charlatans and as far as I could tell were not personally biased in any obvious ways. To me, metabolically it kinda stands to reason, eh? It'd be tough to design a drug specifically so it didn't remain in the body of the animal at or after slaughter--if not in its original molecular form, at least in secondary and tertiary forms. Also, there's been so far no incentive for the pharmaceutical industry to design such things. Vet medicine uses human medication, so if it stays in us with a metabolic half-life of n
, you'd expect it to stay in them too in comparable quantities, adjusted for different metabolisms as far as we are able. I believe there is some effort by meat producers (and some gov regulation) to limit the quantities of chemicals fed to animals before they are to be killed (to allow the chemicals time to be metabolized and destroyed or to be passed out of the body for those that are not stored in fat cells), but my understanding is these efforts are pretty insufficient and limited primarily to BGH (because of popular awareness of the partially documented problems in humans associated with it) and to some anti-biotics.
Hmmm.. can't seem to stop myself... Maybe I'll just add one more, to spare everyone who doesn't really care (fortunately they stopped reading a long time ago), and if anyone wants the full list or any references they can just ask.
5) The treatment of the animals is unnecessarily excessively cruel. The killing has gradually gotten somewhat better in the past 2 decades (because apparently they found less stressful killing improves the flavor of the meat), but I don't think cheaper meat is a good reason to cause SOOO much suffering before the killing. As higher beings we should know better. Some people claim the stress of the inhumane living conditions also noticeably affects the flavor of the meat, but I'll wait to see hard evidence before I believe that. Homegrown meat does taste better, in my experience, but there are too many possible factors to attribute it to the animal's peace of mind during its lifetime!
Visiting chicken farms is the worst in inhumanity (worst SMELL too!
), which I *have* done since there were several poultry farms in our area. Pig farms are apparently a close second, but I have not seen one first-hand. Cattle and ruminants tend to be much better off since they still are mainly kept on open ranges and pasture-land. For them it's getting them to the slaughter house (train or truck), and the holding pens once there, which are pretty horrendous. Graphic descriptions and photos are easily found online from credible organizations (as well as from not-so-credible).
The argument that animals don't "feel" holds no water with me. Anyone who's grown up on a farm minimally knows the difference between "content", "playful", "I'm lost!!!" (separated from mom or the herd/flock), "ow!", and "stop it!" for the vocalizations of typical farm animals (see new research on baa's of sheep--no kidding!--NPR website/program a few months ago--haven't read the research myself). If you've got facial cues you can be more refined. Furthermore, any animal would need these feelings in order to have survived in nature, so it makes no sense to me that they wouldn't have them. (Buddhists believe all creatures seek happiness--that seems evolutionarily more likely to me. Seeking anxiety, unhappiness or pain, or the incapacity to differentiate would be really reproductively unsuccessful!)
So there ya go, for a chunk of what *I* know. Holy cow
(says the non-Hindu), this thing is huge!
Don't blame me this dratted thing's so long though.... It's all your own fault for posting so many interesting topics in one string!
For anyone who read this far: Kudos! I guess trying to present data credibly takes alot longer than just opinions. Presenting both is clearly ten times worse.
I'll try to restrain myself in the future.... heheheh!