Quick links: Vegetarianism

Here’s a blog post containing a thought experiment about the ethics of vegetarianism that I found quite interesting. It was also written by a watcher of my blog; this blog is small enough that I do at least glance at each person who watches me. You are all important to me. I’d recommend reading the link but here’s a really condensed version of what it says.

If you were on one of two train tracks and were told continuing on your current would result in you hitting and killing a pig but you could change tracks to one where you would hit and kill a bean plant, most people would rather hit the plant. That’s an ethical decision where most people value animals more than plants. This is analogous to the situation in a shopping centre where you have the option of either buying ham or beans yet in that situation people do not go for the beans as often. This means at some point there is an inconsistency in the ethics of those people that would eat meat rather than plants but still avoid killing an animal when food is removed from the equation.

The other link I’ll share is a more practical one. Clean drinking water is a fairly rare commodity, particularly in Africa. A vegetarian diet can be produced with less water than a meat-based diet. This means become vegetarian (or at least reducing the amount of meat eaten) would have benefits with regard to water availability. This article shares that some water scientists are suggesting that mankind will be forced to follow a primarily vegetarian diet by 2050 in order for there to be sufficient water for everyone.

Move away from the culture of violence

There is a culture of violence in South Africa which is retarding any efforts to move the country forward. Violent protests end up causing more problems than there were originally and, even worse, those aggressive tendencies are manipulated by politicians in order to maintain power. We know there is a problem with violence when we look at crime but at times we become so used to it that we seem to forget to call it out when it happens.

The most notable recent violence has been the Marikana massacre where 34 striking miners were killed by police and around 80 injured. Obviously such an event is a tragedy and there will be an inquiry into the events to find out exactly what happened and what went wrong but one aspect of the problem is already obvious, the culture of violence in South Africa. Whether the police were wrong to respond the way they did I don’t think we can just dismiss what the workers themselves were doing. Professor Pierre de Vos seems quite happy to ignore their actions. Continue reading

Quick links: Dawkins, religious freedom, blasphemy

It’s been a bit too long since I last posted but I just haven’t been finding time to write, today for example my Japanese started again and I never got around to all the revision I wanted to do. I do have some posts in mind but they take some time to write so to prevent this blog from stagnating I’m posting a few links to some things that you might find interesting.

First up there’s an interview with Richard Dawkins over in Playboy. It’s not the usual place you go for interviews with a well-known scientist and atheist but it does quite a good job.

Then just when I was finishing my post on religious freedom I came upon a similar piece written by Peter Singer. I’ve heard a lot about him but I haven’t seen any of his books in the shops.

Lastly I’ll share a piece about the effects of blasphemy laws. An 11-year-old girl from Pakistan could face the death penalty for supposedly burning a Qur’an. You can read the story by The Guardian or ABC News (on Yahoo!).

Boundaries of religious freedom

Freedom of religion is important. No one should be forced to believe something as long as their beliefs do not impact other people, although that doesn’t mean that unfounded beliefs shouldn’t be challenged. Unfortunately some people don’t realise that their beliefs belong to them and cannot just be passed onto their children, who neither have the knowledge or capabilities to yet understand the arguments, weigh the evidence and come to their own conclusion. At times this imposition of a parent’s religion onto their offspring is relatively harmless but this is not always the case and there is a disturbing precedent where people feel that freedom of religion includes the freedom to impose their beliefs on others.

This can be seen in a recent article in The Telegraph concerning how parents religious beliefs are at times responsible for a child being put through unnecessary suffering when there is nothing more that can be done medically. Continue reading

DNA as a data storage medium

How big is an exabyte? One million terabytes. In 2007 the world’s total computer data was, compressed, 295 exabytes. How many hard-drives would it take to stores all that data? Assuming you get a large 2 tb hard-drive it would take 148 million! Now what if I told you you could store all that in less than one gram of DNA? Nature and Science both have reports of a paper, published in Science, that shows how DNA can be used to store data. Continue reading

How religious is South Africa?

Scarlet A from the Out Campaign (source: Wikimedia Commons)

I was hoping to give some good news for the weekend, good news from my point of view anyway, that the level of religiosity in South Africa was dropping as is currently being reported. Unfortunately the situation is not as clear as the article makes it out to be. Continue reading

Do non-human animals have culture and morality?

Dolphins (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Obviously if you’ve read some of earlier posts you’ll now I think some of them do. Not all animals of course but some of them. I tried to convince you with my post on animal intelligence, specifically focussed on intelligence in animals other than primates, but I’ve since heard some more stories which I think are useful for expanding on some of the points I made there. This time I will be using some primate examples, since hopefully you’re convinced there is intelligence in other animals, as well as expanding on dolphins. Continue reading