FULL FOLLOWUP LETTER
most recent change is marked blue
From your response to our open letter it seems you have not taken it too well. This is a follow-up letter, in which we want to clarify some of our previous points and investigate why you responded in the way you did.
We had hoped your response would be more positive, since all of us consider you a great spokesman for atheism.
You were a Christian once, and were open-minded enough to set your irrational beliefs aside. That's all we expect here: we cannot stress enough that we are not trying to turn you vegetarian, we are only trying to correct your irrational beliefs about meat. Just as a new atheist can continue celebrating religious holidays, going to church, and saying grace, a person who recognizes that animal agriculture is an unethical practice and eating meat is not health promoting can nonetheless continue to support the practice and continue eating meat.
Not only have you seemed to completely write off the criticism of your irrational beliefs, worse, you deleted comments that called for a response or criticized your position.
Here are some of the comments you chose to delete:
As in the case of the criticisms circulating in the past, your knee jerk reaction is to accuse the other party of lying.
Flat out lying by implication? Really Matt?
I doubt anybody has ever accused you of being a linguist, but that makes no sense. Nobody can flat out do anything by implication.
Does that make YOU the liar, Matt? Are you so dead-set on accusing anybody who disagrees with you of being liars that you're happy to twist the truth yourself to do so? It really seems so.
But we're not going to accuse you of lying, because lying means conveying a deliberate untruth. Once you've stooped to calling somebody a liar, you've made quite a commitment to deny the possibility of an honest and rational discussion.
Giving you the benefit of the doubt, your fault is most likely Ignorance. And given your claims to be an open minded skeptic, we hope it's one you will be open to correcting.
It's not even clear if you watched the videos, or read the letter text, wherein we clearly stated WHY we used the old video -- because there's nothing else we could find. We Clearly stated that it may not be how you feel anymore.
https://theveganatheist.com/an-open-let ... illahunty/
If you were offended by a bit of honest criticism on a position you have refused to clarify, you need to suck it up. If you have such a problem with even discussing important and controversial issues like these in secular morality, or consider them so beneath you and not worth your time, then you have no business pretending to champion secular morality.
Really Matt? Really? You may not realize it, but you sound like William Lane Craig. Are we just not famous enough to debate you, is that it? Do we not have whatever unspoken qualifications are required for your attention, Mr. Dillahunty?
Richard Dawkins might be able to say that and get away with it -- he is a very big fish in the atheist movement indeed -- and it's why he doesn't debate creationists at all, because he doesn't want to give their view point any attention. But you DO debate creationists. You even host a call-in TV show, and debate random callers. Your bar isn't set that high, Matt, don't pretend it is. You're just afraid of this particular discussion because you don't have the winning argument and you don't want to admit it.
In terms of fame, you just aren't that big of a deal. You're a popular advocate for atheism on some parts of the internet, but virtually unheard of in the vegan community. Most of the people who commented about it on the forum didn't even know who you were, so you're probably getting as much publicity from this as anybody else.
But there's a key point here you need to realize: anybody who has any kind of public discourse is doing it for attention of some kind, you included, either for personal attention as some do, or to bring attention to the issues as others do. Since all of the writers of this letter are anonymous, you can hardly claim it's for the former.
Although obviously we write letters, and TheVeganAtheist makes videos, to promote these issues
, we're not picking on you just for personal attention as you seem to be suggesting -- that kind of claim is a pathetic and shameful way to dismiss criticism, and we suspect you know it to be so.
The real fact is that you've spent countless hours on criticizing other people's beliefs, but now it's the other way around, and you're less comfortable with the subject, so you make up absurd excuses to avoid the subject. Now it's not worth your time.
Somebody needs to be bringing up this discussion, and we're picking you precisely because you should be rational enough to engage on this topic. That is, if you would set aside whatever personal fears and insecurities are preventing you from doing so and instead causing you to lash out with accusations of lying and dismissing legitimate criticism.
For us it is hard to understand how someone such as yourself - a usually highly rational person - does not come to the same conclusions concerning secular ethics toward other sentient beings, or even toward our fellow human beings which the practice of animal agriculture also harms. You just have a huge blind spot.
In this, instead of being the reasonable and rational advocate for science based secular ethics you should be, when it comes to animal agriculture you are following the worst of those in the 'skeptic' community who buy into conspiracy theories against mainstream nutrition and the pseudoscience of paleo-nutrition peddled by quacks like Harriet Hall.
You're better than that, Matt, or at least you could be.
Our confusion with your inconsistency is similar to that you might feel wondering why intellectual X does not see the problems with the belief in a god, or why X buys into hard cultural moral relativism and considers the abominable practices of some Islamic fundamentalists no less ethical than progressive democratic society since 'it's all relative, and nobody is right'.
As far as we know, there is only one video on the internet where you express your views on animal ethics. The arguments you made in that segment are terrible, and blatantly irrational.
If we misunderstood you, you had the opportunity to correct yourself. That you did not correct yourself only suggests that you still hold these beliefs, and probably that you either didn't watch/read or didn't understand our letter.
Your first response to the letter was the following :
"Bizarely misrepresenting a 7-year-old video and accusing me of dismissing scientific consensus while YOU are misrepresenting what the AHA actually says about meat (already posted 2 quick links) is rather strange."
The last time you extensively addressed the subject publicly (that we can find) was 7 years ago. Your views may or may not have evolved since then (although based on your response, it seems reasonable to assume they have not). Again, we clearly acknowledged in the video that it was old. If your views have changed, we would be glad to hear it. Clarify your position, or stop complaining that people are referencing old material -- this is not difficult.
We don't believe we misrepresented your comments at all. If you're going to level that kind of accusation, would you at least explain why you think the letter is dishonest, or how you think you have been misunderstood?
It gets hard to have a decent discussion if we accuse each other of not being honest rather than addressing the arguments made (or are you taking a page out of Sye Ten Bruggencate's playbook now?).
We could easily accuse you of lying, but giving you the benefit of the doubt in assuming that you are merely honestly mistaken due to some ignorance at least leaves the possibility to have a real discussion.
As to the AHA's position, you posted two links that you believed conflict with our position (and the scientific consensus in nutrition) on the healthfulness of meat. Two links to pages that you probably didn't even read. If you had, you would know that the AHA is only recommending chicken and lean meats (aside from their recommendations on fish) to be used in place of
even less healthy meats, and still in limited amounts. They are the lesser
The AHA recommends limiting these meats, but also recommends plant based replacements such as beans (which are not limited).
"Cholesterol and saturated fat can raise your blood cholesterol and make heart disease worse. Chicken and fish have less saturated fat than most red meat."
"Beans don't contain cholesterol, only animal products do."
The article correctly points out that cholesterol is only found in animal products, and even explicitly states that you can get all the nutrients you need without eating meat, including protein.
Fish is another matter that we would be happy to discuss if you're interested in that, and is the ONLY animal product that the AHA actually recommends people eat other than as a less bad replacement for more harmful animal products.
"The unsaturated fats in fish, such as salmon, actually have health benefits. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and some plant sources, may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease."
The AHA prescribes a limited amount of fish twice a week, of certain types, if you will read the recommendations, because this is the easiest recommendation to make and the most practical for many Americans to follow, both providing EPA and DHA (which improve heart health; there are also vegan sources of these), and displacing
other meats in the diet (which a pill alone doesn't do).
If your position was "I believe eating certain kinds of fish in limited amounts twice a week is more healthful than not", you would have had a much stronger case. It would still be debatable, because there ARE vegetable sources of Omega-3 which are healthier than fish, but not a completely backwards position -- it ['pescatarian' nutrition] is closer to the degree of wrongness that is mere deism compared to the biblical literalist young earth creationism level of wrongness that your
beliefs and rejection of science are comparable to.
That, however, was not your position, and it obviously does not represent your diet. Fish is not all meat, and depending on your dialect, may not even be called "meat" at all (the AHA occasionally makes this distinction in its literature of "fish" and "meat"). Certain kinds of fish meat may be a grey area which deserve more discussion, but tetrapod meat is unquestionably unhealthy.
All of this talk about fish, however, is irrelevant to your pseudoscientific claim (which is what we were criticizing) that meat must be healthy because we 'evolved' to eat it, since not only are you completely wrong on the science, but empirically the kinds of meat our ancestors ate most in the hunter-gatherer scenario are also the kinds of meat that are the most
The lipid hypothesis is the scientific consensus which you (along with a few Quacks in the 'skeptic' community we mentioned) seem to ignorantly reject with your broad assertions about the healthfulness of meat as in this quote from the segment:
"And see, I feel the exact opposite: I feel the health benefits of eating meat far outweight the benefits of not eating meat"
source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mClv6S3BK60 [8:45m]
Nobody sensible or remotely educated on nutrition would agree with that assertion, because the benefits of eating or not eating meat are dependent on what you would replace meat with. As we explained in the first video, the "health benefits" of eating meat only certainly outweigh the "health benefits" of starvation and malnutrition.
There are anorexics, who remove meat and replace it with nothing, and there are "junk food vegans", who remove meat from the diet and just eat potato chips or other junk to replace it. For these people, eating meat might be the healthier option.
We are talking about properly balanced vegan diets, rich in vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, which are the reasonable alternatives to meat. The health benefits of eating more broccoli instead of meat are different from the health benefits of eating more potato chips instead of meat. You made nothing but a bald assertion praising meat as indiscriminately necessary for 'health benefits' regardless of context.
The unhealthfulness of meat (particularly red meat, but even chicken) is multifaceted and includes increased cancer risk, but the strongest relationship (that of heart disease) is predicted by the lipid hypothesis (actually, a pretty robust theory), which in turn is proved by the fact that lowering blood cholesterol reduces the risk of heart attacks. Cries of 'it's only a theory' shouldn't go far for anybody who respects science. Even direct studies of populations and diets (where controls can be reasonably established) confirm this trend.
The scientific consensus which you seem to ignorantly reject, along with a few Quacks in the 'skeptic' community we mentioned, is the lipid hypothesis (actually, a pretty robust theory) proved by the fact that lowering blood cholesterol reduces the risk of heart attacks.
It has been established beyond a reasonable doubt that lowering definitely elevated blood cholesterol levels (specifically, blood levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol) will reduce the risk of heart attacks caused by coronary heart disease.
Cholesterol "skeptics" are no more rational skeptics than are climate change "skeptics" or "skeptics" of vaccines and other evidence based medicine.
The undeniable implication of this fact is, until or unless we find contradictory evidence (which we have not in over twenty years), that one should strive to lower the amount of cholesterol and saturated fat one consumes, as both of these substances are known to increase blood cholesterol (as well as change cholesterol profile in a harmful way). This is all clinically demonstrated.
The recommendations of the AHA are geared towards the standard american diet, which is rich in fat and red meat. In this diet, replacing red meat with 'lean' meat or fish achieves lower saturated fat intake compared to what it would be otherwise.
In the case of diet, the major things you need to look at when considering the impact of certain foods on health are both the opportunity cost (what could I eat instead of this that would be healthier?), and the displacement (by eating this, what less healthy foods might I be displacing?).
Chicken displaces red meat in the diet, and as such is healthier than red meat. Broccoli, if used to displace chicken, is far better still.
Under no reasonable circumstances in a modern developed country would replacing any part of a diverse diet of vegetables, beans, and whole grains with chicken be a good idea to make the diet more healthful. As we discussed at some length in the last letter, in third world countries where there may be reduced access to high quality plant food and supplements, this is a different matter.
If the AHA recommended people eat broccoli instead, how many people do you think would actually follow that advice?
The AHA recommends the most it thinks people will actually do. Again, if you read the article (or if you read the AHA's articles on plant based diets), you will see that they also recommend plant based substitutes, but they provide options since this is the best way to achieve compliance.
The AHA preaching vegan-only education would be about as effective as abstinence only education. Of course abstinence is better than condoms, it is hands-down the best method there is, just as is a properly planned and balanced vegan diet the best way to eat, but if people won't do it the advice is pointless, which is why educating people on condom use (or lean meat) as an option
is the only way to effect practical change in public behavior and reduce unwanted pregnancy (and dietary mortality),
Keep in mind that the AHA cautions people to limit even chicken, and doesn't prescribe it as they do fish (which is done for very specific reasons).
We have discussed fish briefly, but again, if you're really interested in that we can discuss that more.
Pescetarians (people who eat vegetables and fish only), have a much stronger argument than the absurdity that is blindly advocating tetrapod meat consumption. It's not a watertight argument, but again, we believe that's another issue unrelated to your pseudoscientific assertion in the segment we quoted.
One final point to clarify is that we did not quote Richard Dawkins as proof that speciecism is wrong, we were not making an appeal to authority.
We quoted Dawkins to show an example of someone who is not a vegan, or even a vegetarian, but acknowledges that he has no moral justification for consuming animal products. We quoted Dawkins to show that we are NOT trying to make you go vegan, and that (as Dawkins displays) we are only looking for intellectual honesty from you.
A smoker can recognize that smoking is harmful to health, and even that second hand smoke harms others and that it's a bad thing, without quitting smoking.
That's all we're looking for from you, and all we can expect from a rational person is intellectual honesty. Beyond that, the choices you make are up to you once you understand the facts of the matter.
You often say that you want to believe as many true things and as few false things as possible. Well Matt, your belief that meat is healthy is a false one that you need to shed if you want to be intellectually honest and avoid hypocrisy.
We would like to encourage you to watch the videos again, OR just read the letter itself (which the videos are based on). And do so, if you can, with an open mind, and a little skepticism of your own biases and preconceptions. No, we are not lying about anything.
https://theveganatheist.com/an-open-let ... illahunty/
Finally, to any readers or viewers, if you want to see a response by Matt, please Tweet him, e-mail him, or call in to the show.
For details, go to http://www.atheist-experience.com
If he knows there are more people who want to hear him clarify what he believes now, he's more likely to step down from his throne to grace us unworthy mortals with his reply.
And whether you want to see Matt reply or not, if you disagree with us or have any comments, feel free to debate with us on the Vegan Atheist forum.