How can an evolutionist not be a vegan?

An evolutionist thinks that humans are just another rung in the evolutionary latter. We are no better than apes, or even bacteria. The atheists have all sorts of (faulty) explanations regarding where they get their morals (I would not want to be alone on an island with an atheist). If they do indeed have an morals, why do they not apply those morals to animals? Why is it OK to kill an animal but not a human. We are merely a more develped animal. Qualitatively no better than apes. Their answer will harp on the differences between humans and apes. Whatever they answer will then allow them to murder any retarted human, who is no smarter than an ape. Yet, few atheists are vegans. (I did not respond to your other comments because it is ultimately the reader who will decide who is more right).
Atheist Answer: 

Why only apply your idea of evolutionary logic to fellow animals? We're related to all living things on the planet. "Qualitatively", if we've got nothing on apes then we're no better than any of them, so we oughtn't to kill or harm anything at all. You know why we don't think like that? Because if we ever had, our ancestors would have starved and we wouldn't be here.

I must mention that in your first paragraph, you've made a very sweeping statement in a very small parenthesis. Just consider how much more obviously offensive it would be if you had said, "I would not want to be alone on an island with a black man," or, "I would not want to be alone on an island with a Jew."

I assume you subscribe to the school of thought that because atheists have no absolute authority on which to base their morals, their morals are effectively baseless. I parry, very simply, by saying that in the absence of any moral absolute which we (humans, not just atheists) actually know exists, there are many valid objective bases which serve us well, especially when used in concert. I counter by wondering out loud whether it is worse to be without a perceived absolute moral basis than to use a false moral basis, as in the case of followers of all but one religion (or, of course, all of them).

Back to your actual question: the psychological ability to kill animals and eat their meat has nothing to do with atheism, and little or nothing to do with personal concepts of evolution. Rather it is determined by an effect of evolution: empathy. The more we are able to identify with a creature, the more difficult it is to hurt or kill it. This served us well in the early days before concrete laws, when helping others usually resulted in reciprocation and made everyone happier.

The differences between us and apes are not as important as the similarities between us. In case you haven't noticed, orangutan isn't on the menu at your local restaurants. Neither is dog or cat, for that matter. The idea of killing these animals, or especially causing them pain, makes everybody uncomfortable. That's because we identify with them. Apes on television are eerily similar to humans, and while dogs and cats are more distantly related, in our culture we've come to see them as little friends.

After the most familiar creatures, there's a sliding scale of empathy. We're much more comfortable with the idea of eating sheep and other cattle, but we like to be assured that they were treated well on the farm and were killed humanely. (Contrast this with the religious concepts of "kosher" and "halal", which demand that these animals are killed in ways that cause them brief but terrible pain.)

At the far end of the scale are alien-looking creatures like mosquitoes, which we casually hunt down and brutally murder before they have a chance to feed on us. Once we leave the animal kingdom and consider plants, fungi and bacteria, we generally cannot identify with them at all (for example, we can't understand any mechanism whereby they might feel something like pain) and thus we slaughter and devour them without a second thought for their welfare (beyond working to prevent their extinction).

Those who are vegans for emotional reasons are in that small minority which empathises fully with all animal life, but they still kill their plant relatives. Those on the low end of the compassion meter, on the other hand, might not feel bad about killing even dogs or apes. I doubt very much that this group contains a disproportionate amount of atheists. Perhaps there is some research on the subject.

- SmartLX


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I would like to point out to the reader that SMARTLX eight-paragraph essay did not even try to answer my question. The only semi-relevant thing he said was: evolution created empathy.
My point is that if you are an atheist, there is no difference between killing an animal and a human. Some of us might retain some vestigal empathy for humans more than for animals, but that does not make it more right to kill an aniimal over a human.
Dear reader, please notice how by giving, yes, cutesy, answers he tries to ignore the truth.

Answer to the question, then the point

Your question, which you stated as your title, was, "How can an evolutionist not be a vegan?" As I tried to explain, the answer is the same way anybody else can avoid it: lack of a preventative level of empathy for certain nutritious animals.

Let's look at what turns out to be your actual point. You claim that without belief in a god or gods, there is no difference between killing an animal and killing a human. No difference to whom? To a god? Obviously, if there are none. To humans? That's for humans to decide amongst themselves.

Decide they have, in the same way all over the world. The self-evident fact is that humans, even disabled humans (or especially those humans) are more important to other humans than any non-human animal. Any system of law imposes harsher penalties for offences against humans than for equivalent offences against animals. You won't get life in prison for shooting a domestic hamster.

The reason for this is independent of religion, the nature and even presence of which varies wildly between cultures. It's something which is common to the vast majority of human beings, by nature of our development: again, it's empathy. We can justify it intellectually in many ways, mostly religious and/or philosophical, but ultimately there is an unspoken consensus between us all that human life is the most important. It's egotistical, it's selfish, but it's the way we're wired.

Indeed, I don't think there is an intrinsic difference in worth between humans and other forms of life. "Worth" is arbitrary and you need some absolute authority to determine that sort of thing, and there probably isn't one. My counter-point is that it doesn't matter. Humans are altruistic towards one another not simply because of hope of reward and fear of punishment, but because peer pressure and basic human nature compels us to. Those aberrant humans who lack this basic empathy need help.

Things are changing

Unless something drastic happens, we are forced to consume some sort of living thing (be it animal or plant) for energy to sustain life, so what are ya gonna do?

People's attitudes toward animals are evovling, however, and who knows where that will lead? Even pets such as dogs and cats are viewed, treated, and cared for quite differently now than when I grew up in the 60s and 70s. Children were viewed much differently in my parents' generation ... and we all know about the racial evolutionary process.

Not exactly sure where I'm going here, but I have a difficult time thinking of the suffering and loss of life of all creatures.

When I was chastising a friend for killing an earwig, he pointed out that I kill many bugs when driving my car. Sure, the intent to harm is not there, but the outcome is the same. Any living creature is going to inadvertanly harm another living creature (somehow) while in the process of living and functioning one's self.

I hate that fact. I am a vegatarian but not a vegan. Not so sure I could give up my ice cream. But I will say that I felt really bad one day when I was microwaving broccoli and it let out a high-pitched cry. Ohhh! Okay, so it was likey air escaping, but all I could think of was how people say lobersters do that when put in boiling water (talk about nasty!).

Much of our behavior is due to ignorance and lack of awareness (just not thinking it through). It continues to evolve though. When I was young many of us road in the back of pickups (no topper or anything) down the freeway ... even on fairly long trips! Now it is common knowledge not to let one's dog ride that way (though some still do). Really, it sounds stupid now, but we are just primitive life form still maturing.

Wrong to ignore empathy

In short, you are arguing that it is wrong to kill other humans becuase we feel empathy. Based on this logic, it would be wrong not to drink a glass of water (when thirsty), becuase we feel thirsty.(Meaning, it would be wrong to forgo any urge).
Furthermore, some societies do not feel empathy. For example, the Nazis did not, FOR WHATEVER REASON, feel empathy. Were they right or were they wrong.

Absolutism schmabsolutism

You're still trying to frame my views as an absolutist philosophy, despite my objection. As you have discovered, they don't fit. I haven't said that anything is wrong, without qualification, because that requires the sort of infallible arbitration which is just not available to us.

Murder is not simply wrong because we feel empathy. Empathy, among other more practical considerations like the instinct of self-preservation, has influenced us to declare it "wrong" and impose punishments for it. We don't want to be killed, and we realise that others don't want to be killed either, so we work to prevent killing.

Empathy isn't just an urge to be obeyed, it's an urge which we've found is highly conducive to altruism and therefore beneficial to the human race at large. Therefore we cultivate it, and feel comfortable yielding to it. This may not be "right", but it works. By way of contrast, we recognise the comparable power of the desire for vengeance and also its destructive potential, so we work against that.

The vast majority of Nazis felt empathy, they just weren't able to acknowledge it publicly until after the war. German ex-soldiers regularly express remorse in documentaries. The government's aims required mass murder, so it worked to suppress empathy for its enemies. Significantly, the main technique was to de-humanise them, for instance calling Jews sub-human or vermin.

This suppression combined with other forms of coercion allowed what are now deemed worldwide to be crimes against humanity. We condemn the perpetrators not because they did not have empathy, but because they did what we almost universally think empathy would have prevented us from doing.

Every soldier in the Wehrmacht (Nazi army, navy and air force) wore a belt buckle into battle which said "GOTT MIT UNS". That means "God with us" or "God is with us". It was just another way to combat empathy in the rank and file: make them believe God was on their side, and that whatever they did was "right". If there is a god then there's a possibility, however remote, that they were correct.

For Abele

Empathy is an instinct that animals appear to have to varying degrees as well. One example off the top of my head is the dog in Chile who went into traffic to pull another dog who had been struck by a car out of the street.

I have also read that many animal groups will slow down to accommodate wounded or ill members who cannot keep up.

I am losing site of your point, but people have eaten other people when necessary for survival. There may not be any right or wrong when it comes to anything other than what we have decided (for whatever reasons), but I think it is our nature to have some sort of order and, at this point, we still have to eat something.

The nazis were atheistic,

The nazis were atheistic, or, to be exact, paganistic. That there belts said "God is with us" does not display religiosity any more than our dollar's "In God we Trust" does. It is a mere custom.
The real reason why we are against murder, or vengeance is because we, including atheists, have retained the values contained in the bible. After generations of atheism, when the values of the bible will have been forgotten, I wonder whether they will have any morals.
Although I mentioned earlier that I would not want to be on an island with an atheist, this would not apply to contemporary atheists, who have still retained some of the biblical values.


Well, now I know where you're from.

"In God We Trust", while it is a custom, is also a glaring endorsement of a specific religion by the US government, contravening the separation of church and state. That's why evangelicals are fighting so hard to keep it there.

"Gott Mit Uns" was a custom too. It originated in the Thirty Years' War as a battle cry, then became the Prussian national motto. Germans had it on their helmets in WW1, then switched to belt buckles. If the Nazis had seen it as contradictory to their philosophy, it wouldn't have lasted until WW2. The Nazi propaganda machine wouldn't let something like that slide.

Atheists were in fact one of the countless groups persecuted by the Nazi regime. A few of Hitler's writings:

"We were convinced that the people needs and requires this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out."

"Secular schools can never be tolerated because such a school has no religious instruction and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith . . . We need believing people."

"Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow my self to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice… And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that daily grows . For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people."

"Even today I am not ashamed to say that, overpowered by stormy enthusiasm, I fell down on my knees and thanked Heaven from an overflowing heart for granting me the good fortune of being permitted to live at this time."

Perhaps North Korea has built what you could call a pagan religion around Kim Jong Il, but there's a difference. Setting up Hitler as a great man to be idolised doesn't make the Nazis pagans if they and their idol also maintained an existing faith, and they did. Perhaps according to today's Christians the Nazis weren't "true Christians", but they certainly thought they were.


Your morality argument has turned sharply from its former thrust. You impugned the morals of all atheists, and now you're just going for the ones without exposure to the Bible. You tried to pre-emptively discredit any moral guidance that does not come directly from a holy text, and now you're saying some external morality is valid because it's ultimately based on God's word, whether we know it or not.

Crediting God with all functional morality is like crediting God with all life and all of its diversity: how do you back it up? There's no positive evidence for it, in the former case partly because secular moralities are barely different in places with little or no exposure to Abrahamic religions. Therefore to give your position a chance, you have to eliminate any alternatives.

There is a workable alternative explanation in each case: empathy and social conventions in the former, evolution in the latter. If you still simply declare that God is responsible, there's no way to prove you wrong, but neither is there any reason for others to believe you.