Atheist Richard Dawkins’ Cannibalism Suggestion is Hard to Digest

Part of a high protein, low reason diet

By William M Briggs Published on March 14, 2018

Don’t accept any dinner invitations from Richard Dawkins. You might be asked to swallow more than his bizarre idea that God doesn’t exist.

If you do go, don’t be surprised to find the soup course followed by Roast Spleen of Graduate Student, or Ten Toe Casserole.

Why the warning? Dawkins noted that playful scientists managed to created meat-like goo in a test tube. And so he wondered in a tweet, “What if human meat is grown? Could we overcome our taboo against cannibalism? An interesting test case for consequentialist morality versus ‘yuck reaction’ absolutism.”

There are some kinds of indigestion even the strongest antacids can’t cure.

It’s What For Dinner

Before getting to the meat of this subject, it’s well to point out this isn’t the first time Dawkins was caught licking his lips while reminiscing about the Donner Party.

Fellow atheist David McAfee reminds us that in a 2010 video, Dawkins “raised the idea of cannibalism as the logical end to those who won’t eat animals because they can’t ‘consent’ to it. If a human being consents, he says, it would follow that you could eat that person under that logic.”

McAfee thinks Dawkins is not “a secret cannibal or that he ‘craves’ human meat.” Rather “he enjoys asking questions that many people shy away from.”

Childish impertinence may be the right explanation for Dawkins’s cannibalistic quips. But it’s just as well to ban Dawkins from manning the grill at the next atheist convention.

Face The Consequences

Let’s return to the big people’s table and contrast Dawkins’s “consequentialist morality” versus “absolutism.” Consequentialism says that the consequences of a person’s actions should be the sole basis to judge whether those actions are right or wrong. There is nothing inherently right or wrong in any act, but only what flows from an act.

Absolutism, contrast, does not deny consequences, but insists acts can be good or bad in themselves.

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Many who heard Dawkins’s dinner bell and jumped to his defense embraced consequentialism. They pointed out that human meat carries more diseases than animal meat. Therefore, unless these diseases can be screened from human meat, the consequence of bad health shows cannibalism is wrong.

One person compared cannibalism to incest, saying, “The ‘yuck reaction’ associated with cannibalism & incest have a far deeper purpose than a mere taboo avoidance. We know incest is bad since there’s lots of evidence for offspring turning out w[ith] terrible conditions.”

This conclusion is as consequentialist as it gets. Incest is bad only because of its health consequences.

Farmers’ Fertilizer

Another man looked to economics. “I doubt [artificial meat production] will succeed without massive resistance,” he said. “Millions of farmers will fight this development as it risks putting lots of farms out of business. Demand for grain will drop like a stone when millions of livestock don’t have to be fed anymore.”

This has the smack of conspiracy about it. But we can grant his conclusion for the sake of our discussion. Farmers saying we should not eat engineered flesh, human-like or not, because it will put them out of a job is consequentialist.

We read every so often of the work of researchers who “discover” the taboos and “disgust reactions” we have to things like fecal matter and garbage are not found in young children. They say that such behavior must be taught and learned.

They do not therefore say these taboos are wrong. They admit they’re good because these substances contain harmful bacteria and the like. These, too, are consequentialist conclusions.

Unacknowledged Assumptions

Consequentialism fails because it picks and chooses consequences arbitrarily while relying on hidden or unacknowledged absolutes. The examples above focus on human health and economic welfare as consequences. Human health and economic welfare are thus absolute goods.

What about other consequences? Like the degradation of the soul and the cheapening of human life by equating men with cattle? These are implicitly said not to count. Yet saying a consequence doesn’t count is also an absolute judgment.

The worst part of the theory is its subjectivism. Who gets to decide which consequences are good and which bad? Nobody ever says. Some will say the guiding scale ought to be “common sense.” But who’s common sense?

It always turns out to be the common sense of the person advocating consequentialism. That makes their opinions and judgments the absolutes to which everybody else must bow. We’d better pray that they get their common sense judgments right. Otherwise, who knows who will turn up on the menu?

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  • swordfish

    “Consequentialism fails because it picks and chooses consequences arbitrarily while relying on hidden or unacknowledged absolutes.”

    No, it doesn’t. Consequentialism fails or succeeds like any other moral system, i.e., by our asessement of how well it works.

    “Human health and economic welfare are thus absolute goods.”

    No, they aren’t absolutes, they’re just aims which most people agree are positive.

    “Who gets to decide which consequences are good and which bad?”

    Who gets to decide which interpretation of which theistic morality is right?

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      See Aristotle, “The Nichomachean Ethics,” for a primer. It’s not necessarily “theistic.”

      • swordfish

        What isn’t “necessarily theistic”?

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          The distinction between consequentialism and absolutism in ethics.

          • swordfish

            I didn’t claim it was, although it’s clear that Briggs’s article implies this is the case.

  • davidrev17

    AMEN Mr. Briggs!

    After all, “There is a way that seems right unto a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12)

    Tragically for Mr. Dawkins however, will be if he chooses to remain inflexibly enamored with his incoherent religion of atheistic scientism, and thus experiences the horrendous (or hellish?) “wake-up-of-a-lifetime” associated with one’s having been carefully placed in some sort of grave, or tomb. That’s when an eternity separated from our demonstrably Loving Creator begins!

    • swordfish

      A “demonstrably loving” creator who punishes people forever just because they don’t believe in him…

      • davidrev17

        Oh, but how wrong you are once again my friend – when it comes to sound biblical theology – because in the final analysis, one ultimately passes judgment upon one’s self (i.e., kinda’ like the concept of self-determination); thus placing God in the perfectly equitable, or “just” position, of simply honoring for eternity the “free-will choice” any-and-all individuals make, either for-or-against what the Lord Jesus has lovingly accomplished on their personal behalf.

        And if you can’t seem to find, or discern any LOVING characteristics in what our self-existent Creator most certainly does for His creatures throughout His planet, 24/7 – 365, then maybe you really don’t want to; kuz all you ever seem to do is go radically negative against Him & His ways, no matter the situation??

        • swordfish

          Forget about atheists for a minute, and consider a different example:

          Suppose you’re born in Iran to devout Muslim parents who raise you to follow Islam. You’re surrounded by Muslims, your friends are Muslims and the TV broadcasts Muslim programming. You have absolutely no realistic prospect of becoming a Christian in these circumstances – the very idea of doing so wouldn’t even occur to you. Do you think it’s still your esponsibility that you’re punished forever, just because you’ve (supposedly) got ‘free will’?

          • davidrev17

            Reaching all people on earth, with the singular “saving” message of the gospel of Yeshua/Jesus the Messiah, is God’s responsibility alone – and we children of His are supposed to be His foot-soldiers & mouthpieces “for the work.” (e.g., read what’s been called the “Great Commission,” in Matthew 28:18-20. God really does care about us!)

            Also, have you ever heard anything about all these “Christian” missionary reports re: all sorts of Middle Eastern folk (or even just regular Islamic adherents in many countries); including male & female, varying ages, and children too, that’ve been “receiving visions about Jesus of Nazareth” for many many years now?? I sure can’t imagine what such a vision would entail, but the proverbial “proof is in the pudding,” where the overall results are concerned!

            Now, having said that, maybe you should consider taking some valuable time for doing serious research, about the “Christian” ministries that’ve long-since been in place throughout the Middle East (just for starters); whose faithful, though highly dangerous “Christian” work on the internet, movies, social media, tv, radio, written literature, secretly-held Bible studies (and even the “ankle express”) has been taking place, in spite of constantly laboring under the clear threat of personal harm, imprisonment, or even execution – simply due to their religious “beliefs” not being acceptable to the fundamentalist wingnuts, of whom “control City Hall.”

            And this situation is especially challenging for Middle Easterner’s – ironically, you also might want to take a long, hard look at Iran’s horrendous track-record when it comes to mind-numbing religious intolerance too – particularly when one must realize that these people desiring to exercise their God-given “free-will” to perhaps “risk it all” by following another religion, just might happen to be languishing under one of those “peace-loving Islamic countries” oppressively dominated by “Sharia Law.”

          • Kevin Quillen

            see the above posts from Kevin Quillen

          • GLT

            “You have absolutely no realistic prospect of becoming a Christian in these circumstances,…”

            Muslims are converting to Christianity in record numbers.

            Want to try again?

          • Kevin Quillen

            Picture yourself as a missionary to the Muslim nation of Senegal, West Africa. The date? September 26, 2002. About a year prior, you befriended your neighbor, Abdou Ndieye, a Muslim merchant. Only a few weeks ago, he graciously accepted your invitation to study the Bible with you. You are thrilled. Abdou is the first Muslim with whom you have begun sharing the Good News. Today you prepare to explore another portion of God‘s Word with him, but something terrible has happened. You cannot believe what you are hearing and seeing on the news. The Joola, a Senegalese ferry, has capsized killing almost 2,000 people. You remember that Abdou‘s wife, Astou, and his 14 year-old daughter, Fatou, are on that ship. You are in shock and cannot believe what you are seeing—a ship‘s underside sticking up out of the sea with helicopters hovering overhead. You hurry next door. As you knock on the door, you hear deep groans and wailing. You slowly enter. Abdou is prostrate on the floor. He pleads before Yalla (Wolof for Allah), “Why? Why? How could you let this happen?” He goes into spasms of weeping, beating his hands against the floor. Feeling utterly helpless, you pray, “God help me comfort my friend.” Abdou lifts his eyes, hardly able to recognize you for the tears. “My wife and daughter have died a terrible death! Tell me I will see them again; tell me they are safe in God‘s arms! Has your Jesus taken them to His heaven?” You are lost for words. The silence is deafening. “Answer me, Christian, will I see them again? Are they in a better place? Tell me!” You remain speechless. What can you say? Where is the Good News when you need it most?

          • Kevin Quillen

            the above piece is from hopebeyondhell(dot)net

          • GLT

            Christ never said life was going to be a bed of roses. In fact he taught it would be just the opposite. So, what’s your point?

          • Kevin Quillen

            the point is quite obvious. are you really that cold?

          • GPS Daddy

            >>the point is quite obvious. are you really that cold

            Whats the point of that comment? Nothing GLT has posted in this thread is “cold.” And your story above is out of place in this thread.

          • GLT

            I just want to be sure I understand what point you are trying to make. It can seem very obvious to you but not others.

          • swordfish

            The point is, how is it “loving” to make it very much more difficult for some people to convert than others? Becoming a Christian in many Middle eastern countries could result in your death.

          • The Earth is the province of Satan and his minions. The existence of Marxism and Islam are simple proofs of this. Even so, men are created with eyes to see, ears to hear, and reason to discern the truth. All men have choices to make. It seems clear from your words that you have made your decision to accept the lies and despair. This may be why you seem to feel some inner need to spread your contagion.. Ask yourself why you feel the need to come here, where you obviously disagree with the very base premises, to mock and deride people who have done you no harm.

            Behold: The Right simply wants to be left alone. The Left can not stand to leave anything alone. Whenever the Right fights back against these unprovoked, unwarranted assaults, the Leftist crybullies rend their garments, gnash their teeth, and cry out, “No fair!”

          • swordfish

            “Ask yourself why you feel the need to come here, where you obviously disagree with the very base premises, to mock and deride people who have done you no harm.”

            The article I’m responding to is “mocking and deriding” Richard Dawkins and others who share his atheist position. That’s what I’m responding to. It’s not my intention to attack individual people in any way. If you can find an example where I’ve done so, and I’m not simply responding in kind to provocation, I’d be surprised.

            It’s my belief that Christianity has harmed me, even though I was exposed to a relatively ‘soft’ version of it.

            Politically, I’m more right than left, if that’s of any help?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Actually, the article is mocking and deriding the consequentialist position on morality, which might be held by badly formed Christians as against the absolutist positions as might be held by Greek and Roman pagans.

            Consider that you may have been harmed by Christianity precisely because you were “exposed” to a merely ‘soft’ version of it, one too soft to inoculate you against disease.

          • swordfish

            The article is mocking and deriding Richard Dawkins AND consequentialist morality, and if you look at the comments, you can clearly see that many people have read it to mean: “Dawkins advocates cannibalism” (or some close derivative of that). I hope you’d agree that Dawkins acually posed an interesting hypothetical queston?

            As for my not being exposed to a tough enough version of Christianity, I suspect that if I’d have been exposed to a tougher version (Calvinism?!), someone would be suggesting a softer version would have been preferable.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Dawkins is a Calvinist. After all, he believes in predestination, even though he cites genes rather than the stars or the Elect. But there seems to be no struggle on (y)our part: you just are chosen or not. Done and done.

            Dawkins question was interesting in the sense that all adolescent efforts to shock their parents are interesting.

            That so many others here have also seemed to miss the point does not meant that they have not missed the point.

          • swordfish

            “Dawkins is a Calvinist. After all, he believes in predestination, […]”

            No.

            “Dawkins question was interesting in the sense that all adolescent efforts to shock their parents are interesting.”

            It wasn’t interesting, but you’re commenting on it anyway.

            “That so many others here have also seemed to miss the point does not meant that they have not missed the point.”

            Okay, I’ll reply more directly: I’ve considered and rejected your suggestion long ago. Simple reason: the ‘harder’ versions of Christianity are worse than the ‘softer’ ones.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            “Dawkins is a Calvinist. After all, he believes in predestination, […]”

            No.

            Read The Selfish Gene

            It [Dawkin’s question] wasn’t interesting

            Read swordfish: “I hope you’d agree that Dawkins acually posed an interesting hypothetical queston?”

          • swordfish

            “Dawkins […]”

            Still, no.

            “swordfish said […]”

            Yes, I said “I hope you’d agree”, but expected you not to.

          • Chris Van Allsburg

            Ol’ Dicky needs a good mocking now and then. Keeps him humble. Wait, no.

          • GLT

            “It’s my belief that Christianity has harmed me,…”

            How did it harm you, exactly?

          • GLT

            “Becoming a Christian in many Middle eastern countries could result in your death.”

            You’re right, the consequences of becoming a Christian in North America are nothing compared to the consequences one may face in Saudi Arabia. But where is it written that life is always going to be fair? We live in a fallen world and must deal with the consequences of that fact. However, God does not ask us to endure more than we can bear. He will always give help for those who endure the inevitable trials which come upon everyone. We are all going to die at one time or another wherever we live. As Christians we should not fear death, for as Paul said, ‘to live is Christ, to die is gain’.

          • Richard A

            For many throughout history, that has been a selling-point.

          • Jackie

            Consider Jesus. Mercilessly persecuted , rejected, spat on, 39 blunt lashes on his back , clothes torn off, beard ripped off, crown of thorns brutally worn on his head, then if that were not enough, forcefully commanded by the very people he came to save, to walk with a heavy cross intended to nail him on it and hang him there naked as a mockery. So, it is without question that we as followers of Christ will be carrying our own daily cross as well and be persecuted for it. Satan is alive and well making it to look as if what you perfectly called the “loving” the culprit of all that is happening to the converted Christian.

          • GPS Daddy

            Father’s teach their children about life, good or bad. God allows this. We fathers have the responsibility, whether we want it or not, of representing God to our children and we are tasked with correctly instructing our children with the knowledge of God.

            Consider North Korea. Its current leader, Kim Jong-un was raised and training in the view of god that his father had. His actions are consistent with his fathers. Of all the “gods” that you like to throw at Christians as a debate point is that view of “god” acceptable?

          • Chris Van Allsburg

            Actually, the fastest growing church on earth is in Iran. So, your argument fails. Better move it to Japan, where Christianity is <1%. Ok, so now: You're assuming that because someone does not believe in the one, true, Creator God that they go to hell. Who knows? God is merciful. We can remain agnostic about this question. Moreover, the truthfulness of Christianity does not stand or fall on the answer to this question.

          • swordfish

            My argument is that it’s much more difficult for some people to become Christians than it is for others. It doesn’t fail due to your unsourced statistic.

          • davidrev17

            Wow! How interesting that your subjective opinion there, perfectly aligns with the absolute, universally-binding, thus objective truth declaration made by Yeshua of Nazareth – i.e., “our creator manifest in the flesh” (John 1:1-18).

            And please notice how Jesus’ statement below strongly indicates nothing BUT impending heartache and/or ultimate doom – for those living under this powerful type of self-deception, that not only Jesus describes – but you as well:

            “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14/ESV)

            Once again, how interesting indeed!

      • GPS Daddy

        Your really engaging in tolling behavior here.

        • John Connor

          Stating the truth isn’t trolling

          • GPS Daddy

            Then you do nothing but trolling.

  • Kaz

    He says something shocking to get attention. Pretty pathetic behavior for an elderly man.

    • swordfish

      Ageism.

      • Run along and play. The adults are talking.

  • Paul

    “The worst part of the theory is its subjectivism. Who gets to decide which consequences are good and which bad? Nobody ever says.”

    Indeed, this is the most important thing to watch for in this regards.

  • Patmos

    “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” -Jesus Christ

    What a sad sad state people like Richard Dawkins are in. Head too far up their rear end to even see the light of day.

  • swordfish

    You’re saying that God decides God’s morality, which is obvious, but it doesn’t answer my question, which is how humans are supposed to know what that morality is when there are many different interpretations of it?

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      See Aristotle, “The Nichomachean Ethics,” for pointers.

      • swordfish

        I just looked up the pretty comprehensive Wikipedia entry on this and it doesn’t even mention Christianity once. Perhaps you can explain why you think its relevant?

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Where did I say it was? Swordfish said, “Who gets to decide which interpretation of which theistic morality is right?”

          • swordfish

            If you agree that human beings have to subjectively interpret supposedly ‘absolute’ theistic morailty, I have no argument with you (except about almost everything ever!).

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I have said on several occasions that morality is not necessarily “theistic.” You have agreed; yet, you keep repeating the formula.

            In the context of this article, “absolute” morality means only that an act is moral in itself and not because of its consequences. Consequentialism means that an act’s morality depends on its consequences. But this is simply ethical kick-the-can, since the consequences must then be accounted as good or bad. So either at some point there is an ethical ground for it all or it is “turtles all the way down.”

            You say “subjectively interpret” as if all such interpretations are equally acceptable. But they are not. When we say that someone is a good archer, we mean that he consistently hits the target. He is a good doctor if he consistently cures his patient. He is a good strategos if he consistently wins his battles. (All of this assumes these are within his control, of course.) A bad archer, doctor, or strategos is one who frequently misses, kills, or loses, as the case may be. So it is clear that the difference between good and bad is not especially a subjective thing.

            The abandonment of reason in the Late Modern/Post Modern Ages may obscure the issue, since we now live in a time when “I feel that…” has replaced “I think that…” in common discourse and “sexy” has replaced “scientific” as the approval word in advertising.

          • swordfish

            The absolute morality referred to in Brigg’s article is morality derived from God. Y/N?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            It may be, but need not be. If one accepts the arguments for God’s being as “existence itself,” then anything that does exist, such as “laws of nature” or “morality” must take its existence ultimately from Existence Itself. But sec. arg. this is secondary to the current discussion whether an act is moral in itself or because of its consequences.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      If I may butt in, my understanding of the natural law is that we use our human powers of reason to “read” human nature, which reveals to us what is good or bad for us. You could say this is theistic on the assumption that God is ultimately the author of human nature. Or you could skip the author and just concentrate on human nature.

  • Trilemma

    I’ll have a liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.

    • davidrev17

      I see you do have a sense of humor, though maybe a little warped – but it seems like we all do to a certain extent!

  • norn

    “I want to see ALL of  […] (back and front!).”
    “SO SEXY!!!!!  And CUTE!  A great victory!
    (Oh no! Looking at these has effected me, as boys get
    effected…painful…I may have to sign off for a while.)”
    “What a pretty smile, too!
    (Ohhhhhh…)”
    “I want to touch you…”
    “No, not wordply. Flirting is saying that you like somebody, even that you want them, but in a happy way.”
    “Then we’d have to be really really quiet!
    Or are you noisy when you are kissed?”
    “Then you’d beter jump off a roof.”
    “You’re still here? I was hoping to here you were dead.”
    “No! No harassment. Not ever. No no no no.
    It was only because I liked you.
    But I am reformed! I will be goo.”
    “Flirt = I can tell you that you are pretty and that I would like to see you come out of the shower, and you can say I am cute.
    Ha ha! That’s it.”
    “Again, you do not have to every worry. I will never tell anybody anything you tell me.
    I am your doctor and doctors are not allowed to talk!”
    William M. Briggs said.

  • Paul

    What a meat head

  • That was so idiotic. I can’t believe a semi-intelligent man would even think it.

  • Albion

    Atheism is a luxury choice of those who find themselves, in worldly terms, riding on the crest of the wave. They should be warned that this same wave could dash them to pieces against the bluff.

    • Nick Burgoyne

      Nonsense.

      • Albion

        If atheists are so sure that God does not exist, why do they need to shout about it so loud, especially in this part of the world where the majority of people are functional atheists? It is because they want to appear “cool” and clever. Atheism is rarely a conviction that’s been arrived at by some rational process: it is rather an intellectual pose that one wears like a fashion accessory.

        • Mike Ozanne

          “If atheists are so sure that God does not exist, why do they need to shout about it so loud”

          well mostly we don’t, we reserve to you the right to believe any old nonsense that takes your fancy, and protect your right to talk crap about in in the public square. What we will resist, not always successfully, is the attempts to use myths, legends and nonsense to inform public policy.

          • Albion

            What we will resist, not always successfully, is the attempts to use myths, legends and nonsense to inform public policy.
            Rest assured that you will not have to resist Christianity as it is, at least in Europe and North America, fading over the horizon. We shall wait until our Muslim population gets bigger and begin to throw its weight around: I bet you won’t be as rude to them as you are to Christians because their reputation for striking against non-Muslims is legendary. I bet you will flatter them with their “religion of peace and tolerance.”

  • Nick Burgoyne

    This article makes very little sense – it is full of hyperbole and outrage but is devoid of substance.
    It is also full of grammatical errors and seems to have missed proofreading.

  • Mike Ozanne

    But in the end the *only* way to judge the morality of an action is it’s consequences… The commandments say “do no murder”. Was it right to murder Reinhard Heydrich? Area bomb Germany(USAAF did this too, fantasies about the Norden bombsight not withstanding…) Nuke two Japanese cities and firebomb a bunch of others?. Support the Afghan Resistance against the Soviets? Torture people in Guantanamo….

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