Brrr! We’re having some lovely sunny days right now, but the flipside of that is that the nights are very chilly. And so are the mornings!
I missed last week’s links, for which I’m very sorry — we had to put one of our cats down on Saturday, and it was upsetting for everyone. There were also a lot of discussions about death, which was rather exhausting. So I took the time to hang out with the Handsome Sidekick and our Offspring.
Now I’m dragging my feet posting these links, because once I’m done, I’ll no longer have the excuse to stay in the loungeroom with the heater…
I caught most of this discussion the other night while listening to the radio in bed. What is it that makes us human, and differentiates us from other beings? Do other animals have the capacity to make moral judgements — can they be moral agents? If not, does it make a difference to how we should be treating them, or should we be behaving morally towards other creatures, regardless of their intelligence or their sentience? I’m more inclined to think that our behaviour towards other living beings should be dictated by our own moral agency, rather than theirs, but I still find the debate interesting.
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Further to the discussion of speciesism, this article in the New Scientist about plant intelligence raises the question about what we as humans perceive as intelligence, and why we don’t extend that to plants. Humans tend to be quite arrogant in their definition of what it is to be intelligent, or even sentient, and it’s worth considering that there can be many different forms of intellect, some of which may look nothing like our own. Of course, this also raises the issue of those of us who are vegan for the sake of animal rights. If plants have an intelligence which leads them to communicate, and are attempting to do so for means of self preservation, then the ethical implications which apply to eating animals must surely, to some degree, also apply to eating plants.
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I’ve not really been following the Silk Road trial, but this report about a father who welcomes the long sentence for the founder of the website got me thinking about personal responsibility with regards to drugs and drug sellers. Ulbricht has been charged with drug-related deaths of several people. But is he really responsible for those deaths? No doubt, he was selling substances which are illegal due to the unpredictable reactions people can have to them, so there is definitely a case for punishment under the law for the drug crimes. But Ulbricht is now being punished for the deaths of others, when he didn’t plan that, nor did he force them to take the drugs. As much as I’m saddened by the loss of young lives, and by the kinds of family breakdown and disruption caused by drugs, I feel unsettled by the idea of directly linking the founder of a drugs website to the deaths of drug users. Certainly a prickly issue.
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A few years ago, reading In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, I was amazed by the idea that what is often reported about diets and food recommendations in the media is often based on vague science (or none at all). It’s more about popularity and what people might see as an easy-fix to health conditions and obesity (and also who’s paying for the study and what they hope the result will be). Listening to this podcast, however, there is a lot of confusion about what is really healthy. Personally, I’ve decided to stick with Pollan’s mantra: ‘Eat food, mostly plants, not too much.’ Otherwise, it’s simply too difficult to decide what to eat, given that the advice seems to change every few years.