Episode 96 – 5th August 2011


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Flying Monsters 3D (1:36) by James O’Malley & Liz Lutgendorff (ft SIR DAVID ATTENBOROUGH)
Morrissey’s Comments (12:33) by Tom Williamson
Susan Greenfield’s Comments (17:46) by Martin Robbins
Madness Gone Politically Correct (23:50) by Philippa Willitts
Faith Schools (31:51) by Salim Fadhley (ft Richy Thompson)
Richard Dawkins Does Not Exist… And We Can Prove It by Liz & James (ft Charlotte Young & Mark Quinn)
Lawrence Leung Wants A Jetpack by Liz & James (ft Lawrence Leung)
The sketches at the end are by David Lovesy & Brian Two

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8 thoughts on “Episode 96 – 5th August 2011

  1. Philippa makes some good points, but she calls Anders Breivik a “bastard.” As someone who has a beloved, intelligent, and peaceful cousin whose parents were unmarried, I must object. I think Philippa should apologize to the maritally disabled. That, or admit that her arguments are bunk because she is guilty of special pleading. I patiently await her public response.

  2. What special pleading? She didn’t claim she had any more or less right to judge others by physical ability than anybody else. The real question is when you considered being unmarried to be “maritally disabled”? You equate marriage to an ability or disabillity?

  3. Hola

    I find I disagree passionately with Tom’s report this week.

    I don’t agree with Morrissey’s comments, but also I feel that Tom confuses a personal preference for humans with importance. I would save the baby from the burning house, not because I think its more important than the mice, but because I’m human, and have a stronger emotional connection to humans than mice.

    I feel the very idea of one species being more important than another species is extremely subjective and depends upon your measure of importance. The idea that humans are more important than other species simply because we’re more sentient sounds like a religious argument to me.

    Is is too late to do a counter piece for the podcast next week?

  4. Very true. “Importance” is an entirely subjective quality, and when talking about the importance of anything, with have to ask for importance to who or what?

  5. Ho,

    Completely agree with Dan S. 

    The argument that humans are more important can only be made by humans. Yes i’d save the baby, but a chimpanzee would save its baby rather than one of us, even though we are more intelligent. Tom must be able to see this for himself: what if he’s in room in a burning house with a relative and Einstein:  who should he save? Who will he save?

    The notion of extending moral laws to other animals can’t rest on intelligence for another reason: let’s say there was someone with a very low intelligence in the burning room? They might not be able to build a rocket or even a house, but stick them with a knife and they’ll cry out. All us animal rights people are saying is: that revulsion is what you SHOULD feel when an a non-human animals squeals in pain unnecessarily too.  If we’re not talking about suffering and morality in these questions then what are we talking about? Since, we’ve no idea how much suffering a whale or chimp experiences when their families are killed, or they undergo pain, we shouldn’t just assume that because we can build things we have a monopoly on suffering. That you care less about creatures you regard as lesser than yourself is a failure of imagination and empathy that we shouldn’t build laws around.

    Morrisey’s shoe-horning of this issue into the Norwegian tragedy is crude, but the point he’s making is a very valid one: we submit vast numbers of other sentient creatures to unimaginably horrible lives, early and unnecessary deaths and we scarcely care. Let’s imagine an alternative reality in which there were separate pockets of Homo this and Homo that alive still on the planet, and we weren’t able to communicate with them: should we keep them as slaves? Eat them? Regard their cries as humorous? Let’s imagine a different reality in which slave owners had successfully established that their African slaves were a separate species; that they weren’t Homo sapiens. Would that open the door to a world in which they shouldn’t have rights? Nope, didn’t think so. 

  6. Hi everyone,

    Looks like my report on Morrissey’s comments has caused a bit of stir, which I was expecting. I know issues around animal rights always invoke passionate debate, and I’ve written about why humans are more important than other animals on my blog.

    I must say, I do get a little frustrated when people keep saying “it’s all about sentience”. Why would you only take one view point of an extremely complicated issue and focus on only that? Isn’t that cherry picking? For example, Dan says “The idea that humans are more important than other species simply because we’re more sentient sounds like a religious argument to me”. That completely ignores all the other reasons I gave!

    Mark writes “The argument that humans are more important can only be made by humans”. Equally, the idea that all animals are equally important can only be made by humans. I believe that this sort of cognitive ability is only possessed by humans, and it’s one reason that makes us more important. Also, I don’t get this “all or nothing” approach to equality. I don’t believe that non-human animals are equal to other humans, but why does that mean that I would support deliberately inflicting pain on them? I’m aware that animals can feel pain (although most organisms, including plants can detect injury) but why does that make them equal to us? When judging importance, surely you look at the differences and not the similarities?

    As for the last paragraph of Mark’s reply, it’s addressing an issues that go further than the establishment of animal equality. Once again, establishing non-equality is not an excuse for abuse.

  7. Not to pick holes, the argument of sentience is not being used by those you are responding to as an excuse for abuse. Stating why you feel humanity is more or less important in your (subjective) opinion is different from stating if you believe people should be allowed to abuse animals or not. You really don’t want to spoil your argument by falling for the “Non existant middle fallacy”. This is not a binary logic situation The options are not “Animals are of Equal Importance” or “Abuse Animals”. People can think animals are their equal and abuse them (as they abuse equal humans), or believes humans are superior to animals and demand humane and kind treatment of animals.

    I for example am happy to indulge in my carniverous nature, but expect the animals I eat to be treated humanely and killed with a minimum of pain, certainly avoiding anything that might be termed abuse.

    Despite what Mark has said the point Morrisey makes does not excuse his comments. He is relying on the N-E-M by saying either you never harm a living organism in your life, or you are the same as a callous murderer. That is simply not a valid argument. It ignores any of the millions of shades of grey, inbetween, and assumes that there is a binary morality.

    The argument supposing there is a seperation in homo-this and homo-that becomes as flawed if we apply the N-E-M to it (to illustrate why the fallacy is wrong, not to insult your intelligence Mark). Why do you think only animals should be protected? Because they are aware of pain? What about plants? They are living beings. Why should we be allowed to destroy them for their nutrients? Or germs and single cell organisms. What moral right do I have to destroy millions of bacterium when I am ill? Surely if you ever produced anti-bodies you are as bad as… Ah, see?

    Falling on a logical fallacy can be more dangerous to your argument than the disagreement that sparks it. Unfortunately I think Morrissey was smart enough to know exactly what he ws doing, and doubt he intended to change the minds of anybody about the ethical treatment of animals.

  8. Hi Tom

    I didn’t mean to cherry pick when focusing on sentience, maybe I’ve misunderstood your argument, but isn’t it based on humans being more sentient/more intelligent/having more complex technology?

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