When I Was A Kid, We Didn’t Even Think Babies Felt Anything!

Sometimes I amazed there are any vegetarians given just how ludicrous some of the arguments advanced in favor of vegetarianism are.

Consider, for example, one Trevor Murdock who is affiliated with the Vancouver Island Vegetarian Association. Murdock is a peacenik — fair enough — and is convinced that anyone else who agrees with his political views about war would be naturally led to his views of vegetarianism. Except his argument boils down to: a) its simply obvious that animals haves souls, and b) until recently scientists thought human infants were unfeeling machines!

I’m not making this up. Murdock writes,

Anyone who has had a companion animal or stared into the eyes of a horse or cow in a petting zoo knows — deep down — that animals have souls just like humans do. Science is just now proving that animals feel pain, have personalities and emotions. These are things we all know but don’t like to admit ourselves. One generation ago science thought that animals were machines with no feelings — and in fact thought the same of human babies! With those beliefs, it’s understandable how “machines” would end up on our plates. But now that we know animals are every bit as much beings of this planet as we are, the first step to helping treat other cultures and nations with the same respect as their own is to start treating animals with the respect they deserve as living beings. This does not include “harvesting” animals in conditions of low-light, crowding, too little exercise, transporting them with methods in which a large percentage die, then slaughtering them in painful ways while they are conscious, and grinding up the bits that we don’t like for use in candy, make-up, and dog and cat food.

Though, apparently, giving animals deep soulful looks in a petting zoo is still okay.

The claim that the scientific community just a generation ago thought human infants were machines with no feelings is simply absurd. The idea that animals are just machines is an 18th century idea popularized by Descartes that was in steep decline by the end of the 19th century.

Murdock could be referring to the popularity of behaviorism in the 20th century, but behaviorism postulated that humans and animals are both feeling machines (and its a bit of a stretch to ascribe to all of science the views of behaviorists).

You’ll have to forgive me for not dwelling more on Murdock’s contentions about living machines — I’m off for a staring contest with my cat to resolve once and for all if it has a soul.


Vegetarianism and Peace. Trevor Murdock, January 24, 2005.