Posts Tagged ‘language’

Sabbath rest, 600 lb. gorillas, and absent referents

October 9th, 2010 No comments

So there’s a new NAS paper out about climate change, greenhouse gasses, and animal agriculture, here.  The claims of that particular paper are not what this post is about though.  I’ll need you to check out this short (less than 2 min.) video, based on that paper.  Notice the tag line at the end?  “Your heart and the earth will love you for it.”  That’s what this is about.

The idea of not just being the recipient of gratitude and affection, but earning gratitude and affection, is appealing and motivating to people. Generally speaking, it’s part of who we are as social creatures.  But that’s where this focus lies.  Neither the earth nor an internal organ can be said to actually ‘love’ you for anything.   I know it’s metaphor but  it’s the use of metaphor in this situation that I want you to take a closer look at.

Someone might say that we can surely speak of  things going better or worse for the earth and for our internal organs.  They can be subjects of sentences but they’re not actually subjects; they don’t, they can’t actually love you.  They can be effected, or merely changed, but not affectively changed by our behavior.  The only way in which we can say that is purely self-referential.  If things go better or worse for our environment or for our biological organs it is going better or worse, existentially, for ourselves.  What we really seem to mean when we say ‘the earth will love you’ or your ‘heart will love you’ is simply that it is in our own self-interest to do these things.  Saying the earth or your heart will love you is synonymous with saying your own behavior towards them isn’t somehow, in the end, detrimental to yourself.  It’s simply saying *you* will love you for it.   So to say something can go better or worse for the earth or for bits of our biology is to deal strictly in self-reflective metaphor.

To say those same things about the cow, a sentient being, is to speak literally and truthfully.

But we don’t speak of the real cow that could really suffer.  She is completely  erased.  Cows are subjects of their own lives and could actually appreciate differences in our behavior toward them.  But we don’t speak about them.  We talk around them.  I find that telling. We don’t speak of the only other part of the equation that could literally appreciate something going better or worse for itself.

By analogy, imagine overhearing Fred and Linda talking about whether or not it’s ok to burn children with hot irons.  Imagine if the conversation went like this …

Linda:  You know, scorched flesh really mucks up the soleplate.  And then, with the steam, yuck – that awful smell.

Fred:  I know.  Sometimes it can damage the iron so much that you have to get a new one, and that’s what $50?  By not burning your child with your iron you could use that $50 for something else.

Linda:  Right. That settles it.  Stop burning your children with hot irons because the iron, and your pocket book will love you for it.

That’s what we’re doing when we frame our behavior towards animals strictly in terms of ourselves.   Cows are not humans but neither are they “earth” or “mere biology.”

There’s a difference.  That difference matters.

How to Kill and the Denigration of Difference

November 17th, 2009 No comments

Richard Beck, in a series on Christians and Torture, recently posted some thoughts about the cognitive conditions necessary for or at least correlated with killing and or torturing other human beings.  In it, he noted that “Violence requires dehumanization.”   I agree completely.  However, I suggest that with a broader focus we begin to see that there is a larger mechanism at work and that mechanism can be seen to control not only our violent behavior towards other humans but our behavior towards other species as well.  “It is not difference per se, but rather the denigration of difference” is the significant point that Andrew Linzey makes at the beginning of this article, ‘The Powers That Be’: Mechanisms that Prevent us Recognising Animal Sentience“.  Here’s an excerpt from the introduction:

Read more…

Self-indulgence and the Love of Death

August 27th, 2009 No comments

It’s a peculiar state of affairs when a food magazine can speak more truth about a thing than theology generally does, notable exceptions excluded of course.   Here’s Mark Morton in the winter ’09 edition of Gastronomica, in an article titled “Joie de Mort”, which translates “Love of Death”. Read more…

She (oops) They Wanted It

May 19th, 2009 No comments

Ah, my peeps.  For those who have eyes to see … one of my new favorite blogs.  Suicide Food. (h/t sociological images)

What is Suicide Food? Suicide Food is any depiction of animals that act as though they wish to be consumed. Suicide Food actively participates in or celebrates its own demise.

I especially love the 1-5 nooses psych evaluations.  While you’re there … be sure to check out the “sexy” tag for some she/it wants to be “taken”, “consumed” symbolism in action.  In case you’re just tuning in … consider this an addendum to this post.

What Does Evangelical Mean?

May 2nd, 2009 No comments

“Evangelicals” have some particularly interesting perceptual correlates … blindness to violence towards animals and people.  And we’re the ones taking the good news to the rest of the world.  I love it.  But seriously, how is that Good News?  In response to a poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Andrew Sullivan comments …

So Christian devotion correlates with approval for absolute evil in America. And people wonder why atheism is gaining in this country. Notice the poll does not even use a euphemism like “coercive interrogation” – forcing Allahpundit to substitute it. (Even HotAir, it seems, finds it difficult to write the sentence: “Evangelicals are more likely to be conservative and conservatives are more likely to support torture.”) But it remains a fact that white evangelicals are the most pro-torture of any grouping.  ~ via The Daily Dish

Imago Dei or Imago Diabolus?   If Evangelical means wanting to get more people to know the love of Jesus, the light of the world, then I’m Evangelical.  If it means knowingly and openly supporting, condoning, and ignoring violence when there are other options then, not so much.

N.T. Wright on the Authority of Scripture

November 4th, 2008 No comments

Such a staggering point from a tiny phrase …

…did we ever imagine that the application of biblical authority ought to be something that could be done by a well-programmed computer?

The full article is here.

For further reading, Wright expounds on this article in his subsequent book, “The Last Word: Scripture and the Authority of God–Getting Beyond the Bible Wars“.