Sunday, May 6, 2012

Asparagus of the World, Unite! You Have Nothing to Lose But Your Hollandaise!!

I am not making this up:
"Professor: Vegetables, Plants Have a Right to Life"
Wesley J. Smith, (May 4, 2012)

"I decided to expand my thoughts, first expressed here, about the NYT column by Professor Michael Marder claiming that it is unethical to eat peas because pea plants can communicate chemically. I took to the Daily Caller, first describing the article in question, and then noting that others have pushed similar idiocy. From, 'Good Grief: Now It's Pea Personhood:'...
"If Marder's piece was just a bizarre outlier, his column might be dismissed with a chuckle and an eye roll. Alas, the plants-are-persons-too meme has been gaining traction in recent years. For example, back in 2009, Natalie Angier, a science columnist for The Times (yes, again) marveled like Marder about the sophistication of plant biology, and then jumped her own shark by claiming that plants are the most ethical life forms on the planet!"
"I give a few quotes from that article, and then point out that this isn't just talk or op/ed fodder. Switzerland has the 'dignity' of plants in its Federal Constitution:
"...No one knew exactly what 'plant dignity' meant, so the government asked the Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology to figure it out. The resulting report, 'The Dignity of Living Beings with Regard to Plants,' is enough to short circuit the brain:

"A 'clear majority” of the panel adopted what it called a 'biocentric' moral view, meaning that 'living organisms should be considered morally for their own sake because they are alive.' Thus, the panel determined that we cannot claim 'absolute ownership' over plants and, moreover, that 'individual plants have an inherent worth.' This means that 'we may not use them just as we please, even if the plant community is not in danger, or if our actions do not endanger the species, or if we are not acting arbitrarily.'

"The committee offered this illustration: A farmer mows his field - apparently an acceptable action, the report doesn't say why. But then, while walking home, he casually 'decapitates' some wildflowers with his scythe; a callous act the bioethicists 'condemned' as “immoral.' What should happen to the heinous plant decapitator, the report does not say
"Plant 'community!' Unbelievable. I conclude:..."
I put an excerpt from Michael Marder's piece, as published in The New York Times' online edition, at the end of this post.1

In a way, it's nice to know that there's a country whose legislature is crazier than the American Congress. Or nearly so.

Here We Go Again

I might be more upset about this sort of thing, if I hadn't seen it happen before. It's been about a half-century since 'those crazy kids' decided that they'd had enough of the "Gray Flannel Suit," and 'buying a house you can't afford, with money you don't have, to impress someone you don't like.'

Back in my 'good old days,' the establishment was almost entirely male; WASP, or trying desperately to seem sufficiently WASPish; and conservative. They'd also, I think, been in power for so long that they'd started believing their own propaganda. It's like the professor who's so brilliant that he'll only read books that he wrote.

Between McCarthyism, stern defenders of the status quo going ballistic over haircuts and music, and kids who had gotten fed up with absentee fathers - something was going to happen.

I think the '60s happened the way it did in part because 'the establishment' was out of touch with reality: and had lost contact a long time before.

That was then, this is now. We've got a new establishment: but they're acting much like the one I grew up with did.

Crazy, With Kernels of Truth

I see the same ideologically-driven abandonment of principles, like claiming support for freedom of speech while suppressing dissent. And I see the same sort of breaks with reality.

Back in my 'good old days,' there really was a 'communist threat.' But that was hard to see, behind hysterical claims that boiled down to 'everybody I don't like is a commie.' Today, we've got the nation's self-described best and brightest nobly standing up for the personhood of plants.

That, in my considered opinion, is crazy,

There is, however, deeply buried in the insanity, a few kernels of truth. Humanity doesn't own creation, and we can't do anything we want with the world. And that's another topic.

Change and Opportunity

I think America is changing: fast. This isn't 'just like the '60s:' But I think there are parallels. This era could see as massive a cultural shift as the one America had a half-century ago.

Like I've said before, change hurts. But change can be good. I think more folks will realize that what 'everybody knows' just ain't so: and will be looking for answers that make sense.

That's where the Catholic Church comes in. We've been passing along answers that make sense for two millennia now. Today's lunacy in high places gives us wonderful opportunities for letting folks know that faith can make sense: and that we don't need to choose between ethical treatment of creatures and Christianity

A tip of the hat to Steven Ertelt, on Google+, for the heads-up on that article.

Allegedly-related posts:

1 Excerpt:
"If Peas Can Talk, Should We Eat Them?"
Michael Marder, Opinionator, The New York Times (April 28, 2012)

"Imagine a being capable of processing, remembering and sharing information — a being with potentialities proper to it and inhabiting a world of its own. Given this brief description, most of us will think of a human person, some will associate it with an animal, and virtually no one’s imagination will conjure up a plant.

"Since Nov. 2, however, one possible answer to the riddle is Pisum sativum, a species colloquially known as the common pea. On that day, a team of scientists from the Blaustein Institute for Desert Research at Ben-Gurion University in Israel published the results of its peer-reviewed research, revealing that a pea plant subjected to drought conditions communicated its stress to other such plants, with which it shared its soil. In other words, through the roots, it relayed to its neighbors the biochemical message about the onset of drought, prompting them to react as though they, too, were in a similar predicament.

"Curiously, having received the signal, plants not directly affected by this particular environmental stress factor were better able to withstand adverse conditions when they actually occurred. This means that the recipients of biochemical communication could draw on their 'memories' - information stored at the cellular level - to activate appropriate defenses and adaptive responses when the need arose.

"In 1973, the publication of “The Secret Life of Plants,” by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird, which portrayed vegetal life as exquisitely sensitive, responsive and in some respects comparable to human life, was generally regarded as pseudoscience. The authors were not scientists, and clearly the results reported in that book, many of them outlandish, could not be reproduced. But today, new, hard scientific data appears to be buttressing the book’s fundamental idea that plants are more complex organisms than previously thought.

"The research findings of the team at the Blaustein Institute form yet another building block in the growing fields of plant intelligence studies and neurobotany that, at the very least, ought to prompt us to rethink our relation to plants. Is it morally permissible to submit to total instrumentalization living beings that, though they do not have a central nervous system, are capable of basic learning and communication? Should their swift response to stress leave us coldly indifferent, while animal suffering provokes intense feelings of pity and compassion?..."


Brigid said...

A tad redundant? "This era could see as massive a cultural shift as big as the one America had a half-century ago."

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian Gill said...


Right you are. The folks from repetitive redundancy struck again. ;)

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