to Bad Snaxx, regarding the Dillahunty letter

Vegan message board for support on vegan related issues and questions.
Topics include philosophy, activism, effective altruism, plant-based nutrition, and diet advice/discussion whether high carb, low carb (eco atkins/vegan keto) or anything in between.
Meat eater vs. Vegan debate welcome, but please keep it within debate topics.
Post Reply
User avatar
neither stone nor salad
Posts: 9494
Joined: Wed May 28, 2014 9:20 am
Religion: None (Atheist)
Diet: Vegan

to Bad Snaxx, regarding the Dillahunty letter

Post by brimstoneSalad » Wed May 13, 2015 2:42 pm

Bad Snaxx wrote:I agree with what Dawkins was saying, but was Dillahunty talking about omnivores having a better chance of survival than plant eaters, or the fact that meat eaters are more intelligent creatures than herbi's.
His "evolution" reply was with regard to nutrition. I think you misunderstood the context.

It is not a subject of debate that omnivores (capable of eating vegetable and animal) have better survival -- that's true compared to obligate carnivores.
I don't know of any animals absolutely incapable of eating any meat from a biological perspective (somebody may chime in and clue me in if there are). E.g. even deer, widely considered herbivores, can and will eat meat on occasion, as has often been witnessed. Cannibalism is observed in most species, whether primarily carnivore or herbivore in practice, in bizarre and rare situations (if not commonly, as in some species).
An 'herbivore', in a situation of survival, can eat meat to survive. An obligate carnivore can not survive on plants. In that sense, most animals on earth are Omnivores, with the exception of a very few who are obligate carnivores (like cats).

So, really, try to avoid this whole issue of herbivore, omnivore, carnivore. It's just not really relevant, or a coherent categorization of animals. Except for the few animals that must (in nature, since we can synthesize things now) eat meat to survive, It's more of a behavioral observation.
Bad Snaxx wrote:Being a carnivore needs intelligence, & I'm sure evolution had something to do with it.
You're vastly oversimplifying matters.
There are many evolutionary "strategies" to catching and killing prey.

Some primarily carnivorous animals use intelligence and real strategy as we would imagine it -- as you correctly described, with dogs and other animals that coordinate and hunt in packs.
In this case, the intelligence is actually arising from the social element, which involves communication and a certain measure of abstract thinking.

Some use the "I'm gonna run faster and then bite your neck off" strategy. A thing that does not require much intelligence.

Some use the "I'm going to sit here quietly for hours and hours until something bumbles by and then jump out and kill it reflexively". Also, not much intelligence involved.

Is it not the meat eating, but a particular evolutionary strategy of cooperative hunting that involves intelligence.

But here's another point you've missed:
There are also different strategies to eating plants. It may surprise you, but it's true.

You seem familiar with the "loaf around and eat everything in your path" strategy. And that doesn't require much intelligence.
But there's also the "Use complex spatial reasoning to find a way up a tree and to hard to reach food" strategy. This is part of why we see higher intelligence in primarily frugivorous primates.
And also the "I see this fruit isn't ripe yet, but I know it will be in a few days, so I'm going to remember this tree and come back in a few days to get it before anybody else does as soon as it's ripe" strategy. And even memory of fruit bearing tree locations, and the time of year they yield. Frugivores can be amazingly intelligent because of this.

Anyway, the point is, don't oversimplify things. Evolution, and the options and uses for intelligence are much more complicated than you assume.

But none of this was what Matt was arguing.
He was arguing that we evolved eating it, so therefore it must not be unhealthy. Or as Thulyblu correctly elaborated (on an incorrect argument):
Thulyblu wrote:I interpret Dillahunty's statement about evolution as saying that we evolved to be omnivores and evolved to really like the taste of meat (well, at least the majority) and therefore it is absurd to claim that eating meat is completely unhealthy.
It might be absurd to claim it's immediately poisonous, or anything to that extreme degree. But that was never the argument. It wasn't what the caller said, and it wasn't what we explained in the video. It's also not something that vegans claim (except the crazy ones).

It's unhealthy in a cumulative and random way (heart disease and cancer respectively), which doesn't immediately kill in most cases, but does so after decades. This late acting effect makes it largely irrelevant to evolution. Not enough so to evolve resistances to its effects (which is actually much more complicated than Matt assumes it is -- you can't just evolve resistance to the health effects of meat like that; even dogs are healthier in old age on a plant based diet).

Meat was useful to our ancestors. Meat is still useful for people in third world countries who don't have reliable access to other food. This point was made in the video (if you finished watching it).
But, meat is not healthy for us, in the first world, who have other options.

As to the Chicken/Fish thing. Please see this response to Thulyblu: ... f=22&t=863

I would be glad to discuss that more if you're interested. But Matt's claims were flatly wrong. He does not understand nutritional science, and claiming that chicken and fish are "healthy" is more proof of that.
Health is relative. If you compare it to sucking on a car tail pipe, smoking is healthy. But not compared to not smoking.
Chicken and fish are healthier than red meat, of course, but not healthier than a low fat whole food vegan diet rich in leafy vegetables and other colorful and non-toxic plant products (as opposed to, say, poison berries, which are also not healthy).

I'd love to answer your Insect comments, and it's a really interesting discussion, but I don't want to get off topic here and make this post too long (it already is). Please feel free to start a new thread, and we can discuss it at length, there are a lot of economic nuances to the issue.
Bad Snaxx wrote:Why go after Dillahunty? are you trying to convert him, or just telling him off, it seems the latter.
Neither, actually. As atheists and skeptics, it's important for us to criticize each other and keep each other on our toes, particularly about important moral and environmental issues.

If we just wanted to tear somebody down, a creationist would be a low hanging fruit.
We're trying to start a dialogue with a generally intelligent (but sometimes defensive) fellow atheist about this issue, and his misconceptions on the matter.
Dillahunty has said some things that are flatly false. All we're doing is correcting him.

He doesn't have to go vegan, and the video explicitly said that was not the intent. We just want him to clarify his position, and take back any statements he may have said that were incorrect. Since he is a role model for many atheists (and even one of the main reasons TheVeganAtheist became an atheist to begin with, IIRC), it's particularly important to criticize him when he get something so wrong.

We all just want to be more rational and more consistent people, believing as many true things as possible, and as few false things as possible. If Matt lives by that, he should welcome correction on factual and logical errors.

The video also stated that Matt's comments were old. Some seven years old. We said his views might have changed, and if so, it was an argument against a straw Matt. There's nothing dishonest in that; we honestly could not find any updated views on the subject (and we looked).
Bad Snaxx wrote:I know a Nutritionist who say's exactly that, too much red meat bad, chicken & fish highly recommended.
This is anecdotal, I hope you realize. If you understood your nutritionist friend correctly (and you may have misunderstood), then he or she is breaking with professional consensus on that point. I have addressed this more toward the end of this post.

Are you familiar with abstinence-only education?
Do you agree it's bullshit?

Abstinence IS actually the most effective means of birth control, and most effective at preventing STDs. So what's wrong with it?
It's unrealistic.

Tell kids not to fuck? Are you kidding me?

Abstinence-only education is useless, because people won't follow it. That's why we educate on condoms.
Condoms aren't 100%, but it's still way better than nothing (both in preventing pregnancy and helping to prevent many STDs).
This is the same reason the AHA recommends Chicken and Fish.
Telling the American public to go vegan would be like telling teenagers not to fuck. It's the best thing, but it would also be largely useless.
Instead, the relevant health authorities tell people to eat less meat, and to eat fish and chicken instead. And we tell kids to maybe wait to have sex, but if they can't wait to use condoms and such, or even the pill.

I hope you can understand that. It's extremely important.

A low fat vegan diet is the best way to prevent heart disease and most forms of diet related cancer, just as abstinence is the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancy. But neither of those are very effective public health messages, because a message is only as useful as a person's willingness to follow it.

Unfortunately, the AHA encouraging people to eat fish and chicken instead of red meat seems to be confusing people.
It's as if people who were otherwise abstinent thought it was important to go out to have sex in order to use condoms, so they don't get pregnant from all the abstinence.
Yes, that is how much Matt is misunderstanding nutrition (Thulyblu too). And it's very unfortunate.

Bad Snaxx wrote:It's butthurt response to MD, Three vid's on why Matt's such a naughty boy, nothing else.
As I hope I explained above, it's nothing of the sort. It's about atheists holding each other to a higher standard. We wouldn't even bother writing a letter to a creationist, because we don't respect them enough to do so.
This isn't an act of disrespect, but exactly the opposite.
At least one of the writers is actually a pretty big Matt Dillahunty fan boy.
We're trying to correct Matt because we respect him enough to do so, and thought he might appreciate being corrected (so he can believe as few false things as possible).

This is actually a letter, though. TheVeganAtheist was just reading it, and he animated it (pretty well). He didn't write the words.
It was done in three parts because the letter had three sections, and he thought one would be too long.
Bad Snaxx wrote:Are we more intelligent than great apes?
No, we are a great ape. Humans, Gorillas, Chimps, Bonobos, Orangutans -- all great apes.
In terms of genetics, we're actually only marginally more intelligent than these cousins, most of that relates to improved language ability.
You should read Dennett on this point.
Bad Snaxx wrote:Could this be the reason we are more brainy than they. Meat eaters need to develop intelligence to survive, to be cunning, to strategise to catch their food. Carnivores have to be at a certain level of intelligence to do this. Do herbivores need to be at the same level? How much cunning does it take for a Cow to sneak up on a blade of grass? Evolution, species adapting to survive, it includes intelligence.
As I explained earlier, you're vastly oversimplifying, and you're generally wrong about your assumptions.

No, diet had little to nothing to do with it. It may have actually had more to do with our efficient gait (that is, how we walk, conserving energy), but also due to the rapidly changing environment, and the socialization pressures.
We can discuss this in more detail if you're interested in it.
Many survival strategies rely on intelligence, not just hunting.

That said, it's completely irrelevant to the discussion why or how we developed intelligence. It's not what Matt was arguing, and it wasn't addressed in the video. It's also irrelevant to the proven health and environmental elements to meat vs. a plant based diet, or the moral ones.
Bad Snaxx wrote:Sorry, but it doesn't take much intelligence to run from a creature that's going to eat you, learned behaviour? Fight or flight response is chemical. Instinct to survive. Put that up against a pack of lions, how they strategise & set traps for animals they predate on.
They have to set traps because their prey is intelligent. Running away from something involves much more thinking than you suppose. There's advanced spatial reasoning going on, evaluating the environment, looking at elevation, obstacles, figuring out where and when to turn to gain ground.
Predators are usually more massive than their prey (though there are exceptions), so they have poorer maneuverability, and the prey can outmaneuver them despite being sometimes slower in a straight line.
Predator and prey are in evolutionary arms races against each other. In terms of speed and intelligence. They make each other smarter and faster.

But that also depends on their evolutionary strategies. It's not always the case. A very unintelligent spider can sit around all day in a hole, and then jump out and grab a small bird with a hundred times the intelligence.

There are so many examples and counter-examples. You're just oversimplifying it all far too much.
Bad Snaxx wrote:Is there not a link between protein & brain function?
No, not really.
That was the expensive tissue hypothesis. Which actually wasn't even about protein (which is not particularly useful for brain function), but about calories.

Please see this article for an explanation: ... issue.html

The brain is primarily made out of essential fatty acids (they serve to build the insulating structures), of which Omega 3 is particularly important. Leaves are relatively rich in this.
Animal tissue is rich in protein and saturated fat primarily (not as much essential fatty acids).
Fish are more rich in EFAs, but unless you subscribe to the aquatic ape hypothesis, it's unlikely we ever ate much sea/lake/river food on our way to our current intelligence.

You need a certain amount of protein, around 50 grams a day. More than that is not particularly useful. Ever heard the phrase "diminishing returns"?
Leaves, if you eat 2,000 calories of them, contain more than enough protein.

Take Spinach for example. 100 grams of spinach has 2.9 grams of protein, and 23 calories.
If you eat 2,000 calories of spinach, you've gotten 86+ grams of protein.

Protein has never been the limiting factor in growth and development in the wild. It's much harder to get enough calories than it is to get enough protein. And that's where fruit came in (high calorie) for most of our arboreal ancestors.
Bad Snaxx wrote:I've been asking questions, & suggesting this may have been what MD was talking about.
I really don't understand why you think that.
He was responding to nutritional claims.
All of this is totally irrelevant to the topic. If you want to discuss it that's cool, but it doesn't seem to be at all what Matt was saying.
Bad Snaxx wrote:Dissapointed in this video, how facts have been misrepresented.
Facts have been misunderstood, not misrepresented. I'm sorry if they were not communicated clearly.
If you have suggestions for how we can communicate more clearly to Matt, it would be appreciated.

We're still waiting for Matt's reply though. So far, all he has done is denied that meat is unhealthy. In particular, kinds of meat we didn't even eat while we were evolving which are completely irrelevant to his argument of "evolution".
Bad Snaxx wrote:Did he need to do this?
Did he need to attack MD in this way, because MD uses science, fallacy to support his Atheism. I'm not arguing for MD, or meat eaters, I'm pointing out that these Vid's are fucking childish & stupid. He's patronising MD, & that's pathetic.
I hope I have explained clearly why it was done, and why it needed to be done.
Nobody is immune from criticism, and those of us who aspire to be rational should welcome it most of all.
This was not an attack on Matt, but on the incorrect claims and arguments he made (arguments which were hypocritical, and we want him to understand why).
We only hope he corrects those arguments and updates his position. Like Dawkins, that doesn't mean going vegan. It just means acknowledging the facts of the situation as they are. That's all we want to hear from Matt.

If he went vegan, that would be great too, but that's totally up to him, and I'd be really surprised if he did. It's his choice, and nobody here is trying to force it on him (or anybody).
Bad Snaxx wrote:I do think the meat trade is cruel, & agree with Richard Dawkins. But, on the other hand a Nutritionist I know won't commit to a veg/vegan diet for growing children, possibly because he feels the evidence isn't in it's favour, & you have to be careful with children. I think he is just being extra safe by being cautious. He was saying that all foods, veg & meat, can cause problems in the body that aren't good, including inflammation & we need to balance our diet accordingly to prevent this. I can't remember the other two, one includes oxidation & they can cause a lot of damage. It would be a nicer & I believe a happier world if we didn't make animals suffer for our benefit & hopefully we will arrive their soon,
OK, this is very important.
A 'nutritionist' is not necessarily a registered dietitian. Anybody can call his or herself a nutritionist. Only dietitians are registered and licensed.

Your nutritionist friend, if he said this and you didn't misunderstand him, is breaking from consensus in the scientific field of nutrition (which is upheld by licensed dietitians).
It is the position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada that appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. [...] A vegetarian, including vegan, diet can meet current recommendations for all of these nutrients. In some cases, use of fortified foods or supplements can be helpful in meeting recommendations for individual nutrients. Well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life-cycle including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence. Vegetarian diets offer a number of nutritional benefits including lower levels of saturated fat, cholesterol, and animal protein as well as higher levels of carbohydrates, fibre, magnesium, potassium, folate, antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, and phytochemicals. Vegetarians have been reported to have lower body mass indices than non-vegetarians, as well as lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease, lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer. [...] Dietetics professionals have a responsibility to support and encourage those who express an interest in consuming a vegetarian diet. [...]
You can read the whole statement at that link. If he says anything other than that, your quack alert should be going off.

Based on what you said, he actually sounds like a macrobiotic, which is a kind of woo (it's similar to homeopathy, but with yin and yang and all about "balance").
Be very cautious of 'experts' who do not follow the consensus in their respective scientific fields, particularly when they're not licensed (as nutritionists are not).

I'm going to assume you're paraphrasing here, and so there may be something lost in translation, and give this guy the benefit of the doubt (maybe he is actually a dietitian).
But, this is an unreasonable precaution. Like anti-vaxxers who insist vaccines are harmful, despite lack of evidence, and mountains of evidence for their efficacy.
Bad Snaxx wrote:How do you define intelligence? How do you gauge it? The ability to use tools, adapt to language. Self awareness, maybe, the ability to recognise yourself in a mirror.
This is a complicated topic as well (like evolution), and if you're interested can be discussed more.
1. The mirror test is not a good test of self-awareness. All sentient beings are inherently self aware. I have discussed this elsewhere and would be glad to discuss it more if you're interested.
2. Gorillas actually can pass the mirror test, it's a myth that they can't, or that they aren't self aware (it's just not always successful because they don't make eye contact, and they react to a threat -- it's part of their social conditioning)
3. Intelligence is multifaceted, but can be generalized. However, a very large portion of intelligence is social and linguistic conditioning. See the Flynn effect, for the mere difference between modern human society and that of a couple hundred years ago. Humans raised without socialization and language are primitive and stupid, in the same sense we would think of wild chimps. Chimps and gorillas raised with language in a human social context are calmer, more intelligent, and more rational. Again, you should read Dennett on the role of language in intelligence. We are what we are not just because of genetics, but because of the vast wealth of social and linguistic infrastructure in our societies.

We can discuss this more, as I said, if you're interested in the topic.

All of that said, I'm glad you're open to the ethical side of it and basically agree with Dawkins on the subject. I hope you will re-watch the video, or read the letter itself to understand where it's coming from.
For the letter, scroll down past the videos to see it formatted here: ... illahunty/

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 30 guests