2021-08-05 Insect Politics

You never know what's going to come across the ol' news feed. There's usually lots of boardgames and videogames, quite a bit of the back and forth in Washington, the inevitable reports on the ongoing plague, and every once in a while something just a little different such as Wesley J. Smith's piece for The National Review, a conservative soapbox.

It says 'Crunchy.'

It might be difficult at first to catch the framing, but the focus is on the concept of a shift in livestock from mammals and fish to insects. More a thought experiment at the moment, at least in the West, because the majority of people on this part of the globe don’t seem quite ready to chow down on a roachburger and french flies. Even so, the time to consider the very real possibility of an alternative to the other white meat coming to the fore is now.

The author’s point-of-view is fully revealed in the summation. To paraphrase: "Think about what ideas were laughable 50 years ago but holding an opposing view today could cost you your job."

What an excellent question! Indeed, what ideas might have changed since 1970 that might hurt employment today? Is he bemoaning the idea that grabbing his secretary's butt might get him fired in the modern paradigm? Is it those pesky non-discrimination laws for groups other than straight old white dudes that are getting him down? Is it (Dare I say the name lest I summon the demon?) Wokeness?!

"It's Thinking"

Despite the disparaging and dismissive tone of this hit piece on academia in general and anti-human-exceptionalism a bit more specifically, the article in the crosshairs makes some good points.

Recent research into animal intelligence has lately managed to prove things that makes every pet owner ever go, “Well, thank you, Captain Obvious," like "Animals have feelings, too" and "Dogs get jealous".

In spite of all the high marks recently hit in the scorebooks of animal intelligence apologists, the fact is that—in spite even of the inroads made by visionaries like Seth Brundle—insects have no rights. They’re gross bugs, though, right? Who cares, right? But, just for a moment imagine watching people do to puppies and kittens what they do to cockroaches and wasps. Boil and bake them alive, poison gas them, sterilize them against their will, use them for forced labor (to make silk and honey), selectively breed them and experiment with their genetics...

That sounds like some real Nazi shit... Oh wait! It all was!

But this is different! These are just gross bugs! Lower life forms! Not like us ubermensch, right?

The Divine Right of Burger Kings

The problem here is the idea of divine providence. It’s been around, suffice to say, a long time. People own the world. The lion may be king of the jungle (though they live on the savannah) but Humans… kings of the world, right?

You can probably link some of this back to Genesis in which first God says, “Everybody’s vegan,” up until God who supposedly knew exactly everything that would transpire somehow became angered by people being generally shitty and decided to end the world.

Noah, who was God’s Woobie™, got a free pass and evidently proceeded to have all the incest because it was up to him and his sons to repopulate the entire planet. About this time God also decided that now would be a good time for some regularly occurring bloodshed and declared that all animals would thereafter live in mortal fear of humanity because humanity was now allowed to have them for lunch. Considering how many large animals have had humans for lunch even in the age of firearms, I think we could consider this myth busted by now, but whatever.

Wait, I know you...

Recent studies indicate that some species of wasps can recognize one another by facial markings. Go ahead and have that moment of racism in your own mind, nobody can hear you: “They all look the same to me.” We all probably look basically the same to them, too. Simply as a matter of scale, you would have to get awful close to a wasp to see any detail whatsoever and wasps don’t particularly care for gargantuan monsters blowing their damp, stinky breath all over them. Wasps can probably tell us apart far more readily than the we can them. Try to imagine a huge, sculptured head that defaces sacred indigenous lands. You can see all four dead white guys really well from a distance and easily differentiate between them.

If wasps can recognize each others’ faces they can almost certainly tell us apart as well as crows can. So, what does that mean? What does it mean that college students have to wear disguises while tormenting birds and, certainly, your dog knows the difference between the sound of your voice and that of a stranger? Is a bird as smart as a dog? Is a wasp? If animals are far more intelligent than historically portrayed, what does that mean?

“Hurr, hurr, hurr cow farts.” That’s what it evidently means to Wesley J. Smith. That and the following: “Human anti-exceptionalism must be opposed every time it rears its misanthropic head, no matter how seemingly fringe or unlikely. Failing to do so allows truly harmful ideas to germinate and grow.”

What are these harmful ideas? That maybe we shouldn’t be murdering things and eating them? Horrifying. We actually can produce vat grown meat at this point. The infrastructure and harm to the world inflicted by factory farming livestock of any sort isn’t actually even necessary and you don’t even have to give up bacon. Well... soon.

One harmful idea is, like my own violation of Godwin’s Law above, the point at which our friend Wesley conflates eating meat with abortion. It is an extremist point of view and is extraneous to the discussion. It’s a tu quoque fallacy, an appeal to hypocrisy, and an entirely separate conversation. The point Wesley is trying to make is to say these tree-hugging hippies care about living things except when they don’t… the hypocrites!

Educated people know that educated people with ready access to birth control tend to not use abortion as birth control and that’s before even treading into the muddy waters of rape, incest, complications in pregnancy…

Really, abortion a huge, huge subject with a lot of nuance and is easily its own discussion (many of them), but it’s also deeply emotional and prone to jerk those knees right up and that’s why such a tactic is employed by our good friend, Mr. Smith, here. "Don’t think," he seems to say, "react." It’s a cheap shot and the calling card of a huckster looking to score points with a target audience by mocking science and social evolution.

Boop a LOLcentipede

The next time you see a creepy crawly or airborne bad attitude in the form of a wasp, think “puppy”. Think “kitten”. Think, “This is an animal that can recognize its own people in the same way that I do.” Not even getting into the importance of insects and other arthropods in the environment, even more basic is the idea that these creatures are alive—just like you.

Try to treat them that way.