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PETA, Kant, Toxoplasma, Moloch

December 18, 2014

This is a good read: The Toxoplasma of Rage by Scott Alexander.

It’s wide-ranging but ultimately about incentivisation of unhelpful behaviour. Why highly publicised examples of things we can often largely agree are bad are dubious, contentious, or false and how they can encourage behaviour and support to the contrary.

As I mentioned it covers a lot (including a vegan pledging to eat meat in a stand against PETA ) but this is a fave passage about signalling in moral decisions:

But in the more general case, people can use moral decisions to signal how moral they are. In this case, they choose a disastrous decision based on some moral principle. The more suffering and destruction they support, and the more obscure a principle it is, the more obviously it shows their commitment to following their moral principles absolutely. For example, Immanuel Kant claims that if an axe murderer asks you where your best friend is, obviously intending to murder her when he finds her, you should tell the axe murderer the full truth, because lying is wrong. This is effective at showing how moral a person you are – no one would ever doubt your commitment to honesty after that – but it’s sure not a very good result for your friend.

 

Belief

November 7, 2014

Jon Stewart was asked about BuzzFeed and Vice the other day, and had this to say:

“I scroll around, but when I look at the internet, I feel the same as when I’m walking through Coney Island,” Stewart told New York magazine. “It’s like carnival barkers, and they all sit out there and go, ‘Come on in here and see a three-legged man!’ So you walk in and it’s a guy with a crutch.”

Buzzfeed responded:

…it suggests that Stewart, like many people in the media industry, confuses what we do with true clickbait. We have admittedly (and at times deliberately) not done a great job of explaining why we have always avoided clickbait at BuzzFeed

The article goes on to talk about how the curiosity gap, the origins of clickbait in television cliffhangers (‘find out after the break’), and defends Buzzfeed’s titles as explanatory rather than the vague clickbait found elsewhere online.

The top comment on the article is a single link: a search of Buzzfeed’s articles looking for the phrase “you won’t believe”. And the list is marvellous.

You won’t believe Snowdonia is in Wales, you won’t believe that two recent pop songs can be mashed up, you won’t believe that fashion can date, that raccoons climb trees, that vader is the Dutch word for father, that Ireland is green, that people can be afraid of things, that food doesn’t require meat to taste nice, that wrestlers wear silly costumes, that bodies of water can freeze in winter, and that lots of people used to watch Friends.

You could probably title it: “You won’t believe the things Buzzfeed thinks you won’t believe“.

Meat.

October 8, 2014

Meat. Meat. Meat.

Every animal is made out of meat. I am meat, ya’ll asses meat.

Everything is part of the buffet of the universe.

– Beasts of the Southern Wild

I’ve been mostly vegan now for a little over 3 months now. Only mostly thanks to a few cups of tea at friends’ houses, a jar of Nutella I’ve been rationing (it was in the cupboard pre-veganism but I couldn’t bring myself to give it away) and a little honey (we need the bees!).

I’ve found it a lot easier than I thought I would. My meat intake (oo-er) has steadily reduced over the last year or two so vegetarianism wasn’t a massive step but I thought I’d find dropping dairy a lot harder. As a kid I would drink 4+ pints of milk a day and a summer job testing curdled soy milk didn’t leave me enamoured of substitutes but I’ve been drinking Alpro’s Simply Mild which tastes less like soy milk. It also tastes nothing like real milk, but the flavour’s grown on me.

I’ve lost a little weight though I wasn’t exactly heavy to begin with. I eat a lot more nuts and seeds than I used to, fruit too. Also more crisps which isn’t so great (they’ve become my go-to indulgence, though I have to stick to ready salted most of the time to avoid the milk powder). The biggest knock has probably been to my baking; I’ve played with some egg substitutes but had more misses than hits so far.

The hardest part I’ve found (so far at least) is eating out. Think about the last restaurant menu you looked at and what the veggie choices were, now cross off everything that involves cheese; there’s usually not much left. But cooking at home, taking lunches to work, all that has been a doddle.

I think the best advice I heard was to think of it as a continuous scale rather than discrete isms. Veganism can be a big ask. I think I’m doing pretty well but I’m still not 100% vegan. But that’s ok. I’m eating no meat which is great for the environment (and the aminals) but even when I was eating meat only twice a week that was better than eating it every day.

When that jar of Nutella is gone will I never buy another jar again? I can’t promise it. But either way my milk intake is way down. Maybe one day I will kick my Nutella habit, but just because I can’t right now doesn’t mean I should say, “Fuck it,” and chug a gallon of milk.

At some point in the last year I stopped eating meat but I couldn’t tell you when it was because it happened gradually, I didn’t wake up one day and proclaim myself a vegetarian, I just ate less and less meat until one day I noticed I’d stopped buying it altogether. Just have a bit less, you probably won’t miss it and it might make the world a little bit better.