The Instigator
OMGJustinBieber
Pro (for)
Losing
11 Points
The Contender
lddebater540
Con (against)
Winning
20 Points

Tim Spin's Debate Tournament R1: Vegetarianism

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 7 votes the winner is...
lddebater540
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/4/2011 Category: Entertainment
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,319 times Debate No: 17772
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (27)
Votes (7)

 

OMGJustinBieber

Pro

Resolution: Vegetarianism is a more ethical diet than an carnivorous (or omnivorous) one for healthy adults in modern civilization.

By "modern civilization" I'm essentially referring to the fact that alternatives exist. We are not referring to a hunter-gatherer society where food is constantly scarce and man and beast are frequently pitted against each other in an evolutionary show down.

I will be taking the PRO stance and the burden of proof is squarely on me. First round is only for acceptance and definitional qualms from Con.

Additionally, although we'll try to make the debate quick as I am on a deadline - August 13th through August 20th I will have no internet access. I have made this clear and in the event that the debate does go overtime it will not count as a forfeit, but rather be continued when I come home. Regardless, I will try to respond quickly but thoroughly to meet the deadline.

Good luck, Con.
lddebater540

Con

I accept the challenge and negate the resolution with one caveat: I do not agree with the Pro's decision to include the word "healthy adults" in the resolution for three reasons. First, there is no morally significant difference between healthy adults and unhealthy adults, so we should be debating this resolution as a general moral principle. Second, since children are also a major part of modern society, the term "adult" is too inclusive; children should also be a part of the debate. Finally, debating about the health-related impacts of an action is distinct from an action's moral rightness because one's choices about one's health only affects oneself and not others. Thus, all of the contentions in this round must center on the moral rightness or wrongness of vegetarian diets and omnivorous diets, and not on the health-related impacts.
Debate Round No. 1
OMGJustinBieber

Pro

Con and I have come to an agreement that the debate is primarily concerned with ethics rather than health. Nonetheless, health will still be part of my supporting arguments. Con and I agreed that in place of "heathy adults" we are substituting in those who are not in direct medical need of meat. It was crucial that I do this because it shielded me from the potentially devastating counter argument of the subject of an individual in extreme dietary need who would die unless fed meat. Since that hurdle has been leapt and Con and I have agreed that health is not to play a major part in this debate, but rather the crux of the debate being ethics. I readily accept this and present the basics of my argument starting with a set of premises:

1. Inflicting unnecessary suffering on conscious beings is morally wrong.

2. If a statement is morally wrong we ought not do it.

3. Butchering and eating non-human animals constitutes unnecessary suffering when there are clear dietary alternatives.

Conclusion: We ought not butcher and eat sentient non-human animals.

Premise 1: First, there is a clear difference between unnecessary and necessary suffering. If a patient freely receives a shot from a doctor, he receives pain (a little suffering) but the minimal suffering is consented to was intended to diminish suffering in the long run due to the probability of a disease that entails greater suffering. A doctor's shot obviously varies greatly from the torture of a child which can clearly be labeled as "unnecessary" in virtually every circumstance. The reason we have moral obligations to subjects is tied to their ability to experience a wide range of subjective phenomenon, including joy and pain. Obviously, a world with only rocks and dust would be an amoral world in that there are zero moral obligations.

Once the conscious states of beings are recognized as morally significant, the issue of suffering versus happiness becomes paramount. Noted ethicist Peter Singer writes "If a being suffers, there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration. No matter what the nature of the being, the principle of equality requires that its suffering be counted equally with the like suffering—in so far as rough comparisons can be made—of any other being" [1]. Additionally, Singer repeatedly brings up the issue of a human tendency towards "speciesism" in terms of disregarding the suffering of animals. Should the issue of animal suffering be placed on an equal pedestal with human suffering? This problem is contentious and would certainly hold dire implications, but it is not the point I am arguing. I am simply arguing that the suffering of animals matters intrinsically because suffering is bad. No one wants to suffer, and it is universally considered undesirable.

Premise 2: There should not be too much dispute on this one. Once we have recognized moral authority, it should follow that the authority is intrinsically action-guiding. Moral realists claim the existence of mind-independent moral facts [2] that in essence claim knowledge of the concept of "goodness." Acknowledging given acts as factually "good" is an inherent recognition of principles of moral worth, and in turn prescriptively relevant.

Premise 3: This third premise is probably the largest, but most important hurdle in the debate over the morality of vegetarianism. Although it has been cleared up that severe health issues are excluded from the realm of this debate, any talk concerning the morality of vegetarianism simply must concern its health impacts, despite Con's disagreement with this statement. I will promote the view that a modern society is capable of providing healthy, suitable alternatives to a omnivorous diet. A healthy diet should consist of a good balance of vitamins, proteins, calcium, carbohydrates, zinc, and iron [3]. Additionally, all of these nutrients are available in a wide variety of vegetarian dishes [3]. Despite the increasingly less frequent claim that vegetarians are actually unhealthy, a study of over 30,000 church members containing 29% vegetarians found that the vegetarians had half the high blood pressure, diabetes rates, colon cancer, and lower rates of other types of cancer than the general population [4]. In addition to being morally correct, the vegetarian diet may be significantly better health-wise for an individual! As specified in the premise, a modern society does allow for substitutes and finding other sources of nutrients outside traditional meat groups in perfectly healthy ways. Killing animals is hardly necessary for a food source, and boycotting meat provides direct economic damage to the meat industry which butchers fully conscious animals completely capable of horrendous suffering for the desires of its consumers.

[1]http://www.animal-rights-library.com...;

[2]http://ndpr.nd.edu...;

[3]http://www.fitnesstipsforlife.com...

[4] http://nutrition-software-review.toptenreviews.com...

lddebater540

Con

Before I present the negative case, I would like to begin with a brief observation. The resolution mandates that the affirmative prove that vegetarianism is MORE ethical than omnivorism. This means that in order to prove the resolution false, I do not need to prove that an omnivorous diet is more ethical than a vegetarian one; I simply need to prove that there is no morally significant difference between the two choices.

The crux of the negative case is twofold.

First, recent studies have indicated that plants, in fact, do feel pain. Many advocates of animal rights contend that because plants do not have any form of a central nervous system, they do not feel pain, and it is thus justified to use them as a source of sustenance. According to recent studies, however, plants do possess rudimentary nervous systems that allow them to experience pain when exposed to the correct stimuli. In 2005, the First Symposium on Plant Neurobiology, which was sponsored by the University of Bonn, explained,

"Each root apex harbours a unit of nervous system of plants. The number of root apices in the plant body is high and all brain-units are interconnected via vascular strands (plant nerves) with their polarly-transported auxin (plant neurotransmitter), to form a serial (parallel) nervous system of plants. The computational and informational capacity of this nervous system based on interconnected parallel units is predicted to be higher than that of the diffuse nervous system of lower animals, or the central nervous system of higher animals/humans." (Source 1)

While the possession of a nervous system does not inherently prove that plants can suffer, studies have further shown that plants actually respond to pain stimuli. After studying the effects of microwaves, temperature, and cell inhibitors on the cell membrane potentials of plants, Dr. Jagadish Chandra Bose concluded that plants can feel pain. (Sources 2 and 3). Moreover, in 2008, other scientists began to confirm Bose's experiments when they discovered that in response to stress caused by local drought and other unfavorable conditions, plants create the pain killer methyl salicyclate for the purpose of "stimulating an immune response in animals that helps plants recover from diseases" and to release it into the atmosphere "warn neighbors of threats"; i.e. to communicate. (Source 4).

Since plants can also feel pain, and the ability to feel pain defines consciousness, we can assume that plants are also conscious beings that have the ability to respond to threatening external stimuli. This means that slaughtering plants for food is equally moral to slaughtering animals for food, so vegetarian diets are not more ethical than omnivorous diets.

Second, even if my opponent manages to defeat my contention that plants do feel pain, there is no reason to claim that some forms of life an inherently more valuable than others based on the fact that they may or may not be conscious of suffering. If we assume human life is not the only form of life that is inherently valuable, as many advocates of do, we must accept the fact that life is valuable regardless of the differences between the species. Animal activists, for example, contend that just because some animals are less intelligent and rational than humans does not mean that they should be forced to undergo suffering, because all life, regardless of intelligence, is valuable. Similarly, all life, regardless of the capacity to feel pain, is valuable.

For example, some humans with congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis, a rare genetic disorder, do not have the capacity to feel pain, yet this lack of ability to experience pain does not render them less valuable than other humans and does not mean that we should slaughter them and devour their carcasses. (Source 5) Rather, we cherish these humans as equally valuable as others because they are alive. Similarly, we should hold plants as having equal moral worth to animals because they are life forms and deserve the same respect that all life does.

Since all life is equally valuable, eating vegetarian meals is no more ethical than eating omnivorous meals.

Let's examine the flaws in the affirmative case.

Premise 1 is very important in this round because it actually flows to the negative side. She claims that we must not inflict unnecessary suffering on creatures if there is an alternative that requires no pain. Unfortunately, however, as I have proven in my first contention, plants also feel pain, so there is no alternative that minimizes suffering; in fact, because she advocates focusing on plants rather than animals, and because plants are less filling than animals, she maximizes suffering by forcing farmers to raise more plants for torture and slaughter. This means that her first contention is actually a reason to vote negative, because she is not achieving the same moral utilitarian standards that she contended were paramount in the round.

In addition, you can turn the Singer analysis because by claiming that human-like species are more important than other forms of life, she is actually falling prey to the same "specieism" that she condemns as morally blameworthy.

Premise 2, which states that moral actions ought to be carried out, is also flawed because it fails to account with the fact that decisions in the real world are excessively complex and cannot be defined in such oversimplified terms. For example, I would contend that if I were sheltering a Jewish child in Nazi Germany, and an SS officer demanded that I reveal the location of the child, that it would be repulsive to admit the child's location despite the fact that lying to the officer is morally wrong. (Revealing that I am sheltering the child cannot be considered morally wrong because I would not be directly participating in the murder of the child; however, I would directly be lying if I did not reveal the location, so that action would be morally blameworthy.)

Premise 3 contends that health can be achieved through vegetarianism. The flaw with this premise is that it presumes that plants are lesser beings and thus deserve to be killed. As I have proven, all forms of life are inherently valuable, so there is no reason that humans should slaughter animals instead of plants.

As a final general attack on the affirmative cause, I would like to point out that the premise of the affirmative case is that pain, not the slaughtering of animals, is evil. This means that if animals can be killed in a manner that does not cause them any suffering, then omnivorous diets are no more unethical than vegetarian diets. Since many techniques, including poison and tranquilization, can be used to induce death without causing harm to the animal, even if we disregard my entire case, modern societies should still be able to consume animals. Please do not accept any objections to this notion because my opponent would be contradicting herself; on one hand she would be claiming that slaughtering animals in a painless fashion is wrong, and on the other hand she would be advocating slaughtering plants because she believes that they do not feel pain.

Thus, I urge you to negate.

Source 1: http://ds9.botanik.uni-bonn.de...
Source 2: http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in...
Source 3: http://en.wikipedia.org...
Source 4: http://www.msnbc.msn.com...
Source 5: http://articles.cnn.com...
Debate Round No. 2
OMGJustinBieber

Pro

P1: "Plant Sentience"

Plants are not sentient beings. They lack a central nervous system or the pain receptors that would be processed in a central functioning area (i.e. brain). Con is making the argument that plants have feelings. The burden of proof is entirely on Con on this one, and if his argument rings true (and we are indeed causing immense suffering to plants) then we are horrible people for picking flowers or trimming bushes. The hypothalamus, for example - in the limbic system - regulates responses for pleasure, pain, sexual satisfaction, anger, and aggression [1]. No such structure exists in plants. Anyone can observe certain chemical processes in plants and label them "suffering" or "pleasure" but such a judgment is far removed from any resembling structure in animals.

Plants can, however, react to stimuli through nastic movements [2]. Like other organic substances, plants clearly have environments where they thrive and fail to thrive. Often, individuals will label certain environmental conditions as causing plants to “suffer” but this is more an emotional phrase than sound physiological statement. When examined critically, this statement becomes even less tenable. Consciousness arises out of suffering in that for a being to suffer, it must be acutely aware of its own existence. The notion that plants are conscious beings that can experience a wide range of emotional states falls well outside the range of science and into the realm of the paranormal.


Additionally, there would be one more reason against the notion of plant pain making sense: Evolution. Ironically, pain actually benefits humans and other animals as a survival mechanism, as one thinker explains “Pain is a response to a

negative environment, a way of telling us that something is wrong, and of forcing us to

go do something about it. It is a survival trait”. Plants, however, have a different line of evolutionary needs and pain serves no useful function “If they are harmed, they cannot do anything about it. So, again evolutionarily-speaking, there is no reason for them to have developed the ability to feel pain [3].”

TURN: Even if it is true that plants can feel “pain” in some sense highly detached from how animals would feel it and based on their own physiology (such a profession of pain on our part would be subjective given the physiological discrepancies) does it follow that causing unnecessary suffering is morally acceptable because we essentially can’t avoid it? I would argue no, and there is certainly a difference between picking fruit from a tree and slaughtering animals in terms of suffering elicited. Does wheat now have emotions under Con’s argument? Physiology, evolution, and common sense can all point in one direction, but as long as we insist to interpret innate responses to stimuli as “pain” or “suffering” from non-conscious plants Con will still have an argument.

P2: Value of life/Pain insensitivity

Con’s question is a little tricky here due to our tendency to evaluate humans as individuals rather than members of a species. I certainly do not agree that humans have the same moral worth as plants, as he does. I also disagree with the contention that there are no grounds for differentiating in terms of “intrinsic” moral worth, which is itself a very complex issue which is a side argument from the issue of vegetarianism. Vegetarianism simply holds that the suffering of other conscious beings has value. It never explicitly states or leads to the conclusion that humans are morally equivalent to rabbits, nor does my first premise. While very few humans may not be able to feel pain, it does not follow from my first premise that those who cannot feel pain are without value.

Con Criticisms

1. I have already addressed this point. I maintain that plant suffering in any way that resembles the suffering of animals does not exist. Another point here is that while it is absolutely necessary to kill the animal before eating it, it is not necessary to kill the trees that drop fruit or plants that grow vegetables to reap their nutrients.

2. Lying, in general, tends to be morally wrong – but that is not to say that it is always wrong. Instead of advancing a rule-based morality, I advance a contextually based one where lying in such a case would be morally demanded. I think that Con needs to re-evaluate his moral views on this one.

3. I am going to skip to Con’s perceived distinction between suffering and killing because it is a common one, and I have already answered the first criticism. While it is true that shot to the back of the head as a means for execution is not suffering in the traditional sense, what can be argued is that the population suffers from a broader angle. The innocuous “Do not cause unnecessary suffering to conscious beings” does not excuse every act that does not cause direct physical suffering to conscious beings. We have no moral obligations to rocks and other non-conscious beings, but this basic rule does not excuse actions that prima facie do not cause immediate physical suffering. Even still, it is only prima facie – can we ever really be sure if a human feels absolutely zero suffering when shot through the back of the head? Again, I contend that this proposition does not immediately excuse actions that fall outside of the direct scope of it. It would be like someone claiming that “Do not murder” entails the moral acceptability of burglary.

Conclusion: Con’s argument seems to boil down to “Omnivores might be doing wrong, but vegetarians are just as guilty!” Even if plants do feel some form of “pain,” it does not resemble the sort that animals feel due to vast physiological differences. One study echoes this statement

In theory, plants could possess a mental state like pain, but IF, AND ONLY IF there is a requisite complexity of organized plant tissue which could serve to INSTANTIATE the kinds of complex information processing that is prerequisite to such higher order mental states as that of consciousness and felt pain. A mammalian brain is not necessary but an immensely complex hierarchically organized central processor of some form would be [4].

Where is such a structure located in biological make up of plants? The same study concludes “A lot is required and plants just don't have it. This is not to say that they cannot exhibit complex reactions, but we are simply OVER- INTERPRETING such reactions when they are designated as "felt pain" [4]. Con has presented no more justification for eating meat than his two-wrongs approach and the occasional dispute of my propositions. We are still yet to see a strong justification for meat eating outside of “Well, I am not the only one sinning!”

[1]http://webspace.ship.edu...

[2]http://www.tiem.utk.edu...

[3]http://www.vegan3counties.org.uk...

[4]http://tabish.freeshell.org...

lddebater540

Con

Let's start with the attacks on the negative case and then move on to the affirmative case.

She responds to my first contention with the argument that "plants are not sentient beings because they lack central nervous system." There are several flaws with this argument. First, I provided you with a 2005 study by the University of Bonn in the First Plant Symposium on Neurobiology that explicitly states that not only do plants have their own version of a nervous system, or a serial nervous system, but that the "computational and informational capacity of this nervous system based on interconnected parallel units is predicted to be HIGHER THAN that of the diffuse nervous system of LOWER ANIMALS, OR THE CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM OF HIGHER ANIMALS/humans." This means that plants are, in fact, conscious and may even be MORE CONSCIOUS than many animals. If this is true, by her own standards, you would vote negative because slaughtering plants is morally blameworthy. She offers no response to this other than claiming that plants have no central nervous system and providing a study to back it up. Her source is technically true since plants do not have a central nervous system; rather, they possess a SERIAL nervous system that allows them to feel pain. (Source 1)

Additionally, she cannot base her justification on the basis of a CNS, since only bilateral animals have central nervous systems that allow their body cells to relay information to a central biological unit. Since she is claiming that harming all animals, regardless of CNS status is wrong, but then advocates the death of plants because they do not possess central nervous systems, she is contradicting her own analysis. This places the affirmative in a double bind: either harming organisms without a CNS is morally acceptable, meaning that some omnivorous diets are permissible under the affirmative moral standard, or CNS-status is immaterial to the intrinsic moral worth of any biological being, meaning that the crux of her position is undermined. Either way, she has destroyed her own case, so you can vote negative off of this issue. (Source 2).

Her next response is that according to evolution, there is no reason for plants to feel pain because they cannot respond to it. THE PROBLEM WITH THIS ANALYSIS IS THAT I PROVIDED PROOF THAT PLANTS DO RESPOND TO PAIN STIMULI ON A CHEMICAL LEVEL. The Jagadish Bose source and the source that revealed that plants create PAINKILLERS to communicate and to respond to distress signals in their own bodies proves that plants do have a reason to feel pain, namely that they require a means to initiate chemical action against stress. This response is not the same as human and animal responses to pain, but that does not mean that it is not a response. Just as she would claim that while different animals have separate means of defending themselves, each defense is morally equal, plant defenses are morally equivalent to animal defenses even if they differ from animal defenses biologically. So, her evolution analysis is flawed because she has failed to objectively evaluate responses to pain. (Sources 3 and 4).

She then turns my analysis by claiming that even if suffering occurs, there is more suffering in my world than in hers. This is empirically denied on multiple fronts, so you can turn this analysis back. First, as I explained earlier, the affirmative world would require more organisms to be slaughtered to satisfy human needs, so there is more net suffering on her side of the resolution than on mine. This means that by her own utilitarian standards, you should vote negative because my side promotes the greatest good for the greatest number of creatures. This was not refuted, so you can vote negative off of this turn. Second, since more plants would be consumed, animals would be denied food sources and their habitats (since more farms would be needed to grow plants) and thus would be forced to starve, meaning that NOT ONLY ARE MORE PLANTS DYING IN HER WORLD, BUT ANIMALS ARE CONTINUING TO BE SLAUGHTERED AS WELL. This means that even if you ignore the first turn, you still vote negative BECAUSE SHE IS MAGNIFYING THE AMOUNT OF DEATH AND SUFFERING FOR ALL TYPES OF ORGANISMS BY PROMOTING A VEGETARIAN DIET. That directly contradicts her moral standards, so you negate.

Against my second contention, her only response is that "vegetarianism holds that suffering of other conscious beings has value . . . those who cannot feel pain are without value." THE FLAW WITH THIS IS THAT IT IS NONRESPONSIVE. Not only are the multiple species of animals, like sponges, that cannot feel pain, but MANY HUMANS, as demonstrated in the last speech, also cannot feel pain. However, we do not relegate these individuals to a subhuman status and gain the right to cannabalize them simply because they do not have the capacity to suffer; rather, we cherish them because they are alive. If this is true, then there is no moral distinction between life forms based on the ability to feel pain, so EVEN IF plants do not experience pain, slaughtering them is the moral equivalent of murdering animals, meaning an omnivorous diet is no more blameworthy than a vegetarian diet. SHE HAS NO DIRECT RESPONSE TO THIS, so you can extend this analysis and link-turn her entire case to vote negative. Please do not accept any objections to this because she explicitly stated that the reason that we should consume plants and not eat animals is because she believes that they cannot feel pain.

Let's go to the affirmative case.

Her response to my first rebuttal is that plant suffering does not resemble animal suffering. This is true, but not relevant since plant suffering still is a real phenomenon; just because it does not resemble human suffering does not mean that it is not suffering (see the turn on the Singer analysis; her own evidence relays this fact.)

Her other response was that it is absolutely necessary to kill animals before eating them, but it is not necessary to kill plants because we can just eat fruit. First, this contradicts her third contention because eating fruit alone cannot provide one with a healthy diet; fruit is simply a plant ovary that lacks all of the nutritional items necessary for humans to survive. This means that if her position is that we should only eat fruit, then her third contention falls because other plants are needed to supplement one's diet. Second, she mentions that we could eat vegetables, but those consist of entire plants, so we would have to kill them. Finally, this position is ridiculous, so I am going to turn it: eating animals does not necessitate their slaughter because we could simply find animal carcasses (like deer carcasses in the woods) and consume them instead of murdering animals for meat. This would cause no pain and no unnecessary suffering, so omnivorous diets would still be permissible under her standards.

I will concede the second premise because it provides no offense for either side of the debate; the other contentions are more important so you can vote negative based on the fact that I outweigh anything that she receives from this premise.

Her response to my third rebuttal, that we could simply use methods to do not cause suffering to animals, such as tranquilizing them/giving them painkillers before killing them, to avoid her utilitarian moral standard, was that it harms the population from a broader angle. First, this is not warranted, so there is no reason to accept it. Second, turn this because this "suffering" analysis can be applied to plants even if you accept my opponent's argument that plants cannot feel pain in the traditional sense; you can negate because this argument proves that plants still suffer on a population level when they are killed. Her other response about justifications is not relevant because it only claims that her ethics do not apply to humane forms of slaughter; it does not actually respond to the fact that suffering and death are not the same
Debate Round No. 3
OMGJustinBieber

Pro

Plant Suffering

Con and I have both provided scientific studies that led to opposite conclusions. Con claims plants can suffer, I claim they cannot but there is a bigger issue here. What is the nature of the "suffering?" The fact is, the only relatable experience we have from suffering ties back to our CNS. When Con cites a study that claims that plants have their own "version" of a CNS, he is acknowledging a subjective labeling because the plant CNS is not comparable to the animal CNS. Con opens a bit of a Pandora's box with his claim that "just because it does not resemble human suffering does not mean that it is not suffering." It is precisely that we are able to relate to the phenomenon that we are able to label it as immoral. We can directly relate to animal suffering, but Con acknowledges that plant "suffering" is physiologically different.

Rather than think of the release of painkillers as a way of validating the idea that plants as sentient, it has been proven that plants are capable of altering their physiology as a better way of dealing with the possibility of being devoured rather than to appease some psychological sense of fear, as one professor states:

"If one plant is damaged when nearby another, it will release a series of hormonal gases...These hormonal gases alter the physiology of the nearby plants and may even cause a depolarization of membranes which was observed on the lie-detector. The system is in place in order to signal to nearby plants that one is being eaten or damaged by predators. The nearby plants then alter their physiological makeup to better deal with the possibility of being damaged...Plants do not fear or have any other emotions. You must have a complex nervous system to feel emotions and plants DO NOT have that [1]. Of course this does not account for the "special version" of CNS that apparently exists in all plants and puts them on a state of consciousness equal to that of higher animals. I obviously do not have the time or effort to examine the methodology of every study he cites, but the notion that plants are conscious beings who experience a wide range of emotions such as fear, suffering and joy through a CNS is pseudo-science possibly supported by a few questionable studies but rejected by the mainstream scientific community [2].

Misquotes

I usually prefer to debate point by point, but Con just sort of “goes” here so I’m left to try to work things out as best I can. Con misquotes me as “those who cannot feel pain are without value” when the full quote is “it does not follow from my first premise that those who cannot feel pain are without value.” Additionally, anhidrosis does not mean that the individual cannot suffer. Con routinely has this habit of interpreting “suffering” as a purely physical phenomenon as evidenced by his idea that we can kill animals painlessly without moral repercussions.

At first the idea sounds plausible, but take this example. If I went to a village and shot every male in the back of the head and the women started crying, would it make sense to tell them “no one has suffered?” From a purely physical standpoint, yes, but when emotional suffering and the fitness of the population are taken into account the answer becomes obvious. I will agree that sea sponges are not entitled to moral rights because the entire population lacks a CNS. Sponges are obviously not edible either.

Con mistakenly states that I have made net suffering calculations concerning plant pain versus animal pain. Additionally, we have to wonder if Con actually holds himself to the standards that he professes: “we cherish [humans unable to feel physical pain] because they are alive. If this is true, then there is no moral distinction between life forms based on the ability to feel pain, so even if plants do not experience pain, slaughtering them is the moral equivalent of murdering animals.” I firmly believe the idea that all life from humans to sea sponges are morally equivalent is unbelievably irrational. Does Con believe he is an evil person when he washes his hands and kills bacteria?

Plant Physiology

Con draws much of his inspiration from Cleve Backster, the “granddaddy” of the plant sentience movement who conducted tests on plants with a polygraph and concluded that all living things possess emotion and an inherent interconnectedness [4]. Follow up studies on Backster’s experiments have repeatedly failed to validate his studies [3] and Mythbusters concluded that the idea that plants have feelings – after taking impeccable care to remove all possible stimuli and create a controlled environment using the more precise EEG machine concluded that plant sentience was a myth [5].

Con repeatedly presents the natural production of the painkiller methyl salicylate as apparent evidence for his case. It is also worth mentioning that opiates and cannabis are naturally produced, and one has to wonder if Con interprets this fact as insinuating that plants are constantly sedated. Nonetheless, scientists trace the production of the painkiller to two functions: a warning to other plants, and a response similar to the immune response in animals to fight off diseases [6]. This could easily be chalked up to stimulus-response and provides no evidence that plants are sentient beings capable of emotional feelings.

To conclude on the scientific portion of this discussion, one expert answers the question of plant sentience as such: “[Plant sentience] is a question outside the realm of science. Because a plant has nothing akin to the nervous system or brain of an animal, we have no way to even address the question of whether they feel pain or have any kind of consciousness. The observable evidence suggests that they do not feel pain or emotions, at least not in the way animals do” [7]. This echoes the idea that our knowledge of suffering is routed in the CNS of animals. Con has even acknowledged that if plants have some form of central nervous system, it is quite different from the one we have.

Affirmative Case

P1: Straw man – I never claimed vegetarians should only eat fruit. Con brings up the idea of previously dead animals, but these animals are often unclean having died from disease. It is very rare for humans to consume these animals. If it is a life or death situation exceptions can be made as pointed out in the premise. Nonetheless, Con is going really fringe here because virtually all the meat we consume is processed by the meat industries. Just as you would not eat a dead human being unless faced with a life or death decision, eating a previously dead animal would fall under a similar category. This is a different discussion and constitutes a vast minority of cases. My main contention: Even if it is true that plants suffer, does it follow that causing unnecessary suffering is right? Con never provides a straight answer.

P2: Dropped.

P3: I addressed Con’s narrow interpretation of suffering. Con misconstrues my “population argument.” While a population of weeds might suffer, this is hardly morally analogous to the suffering of a population of chimpanzees who mourn their dead, are capable of self-recognition, and practice complex social organization. The emotional attachment is key here, as are the cognitive abilities of the organisms. It could loosely be inferred from Con’s “plants suffer” argument that he is possibly arguing that there is no substantial dietary alternative. Nonetheless, Con barely mentioned the issue of nutrition and foods like tofu, wheat gluten, eggs, and fruits could be consumed even if we go by the “no (killing) animals, no (killing) plants” diet. Wheat gluten and tofu have long been staples in vegetarian diets in Asia, and much if not all of the fruit we eat is not derived from killing plants.

Sources are in comments. I wish Con good luck.

lddebater540

Con

I'll start with the negative case before moving on to the affirmative case and Key Voting Issues.

We both provide sources that lead to opposite conclusions on the issue of plant pain, but you are going to accept my sources because they are from objective individuals, such as MSNBC and the University of Bonn, while her sources are from animal rights websites and pro-vegetarian organizations, which are against the notion of plant pain because they want condemn omnivorous diets as morally blameworthy. (Ex. vegan3counties.org.uk, and animal-rights-library.com). Since my sources have no inherent stake in this debate, while her sources do, you prefer mine because the evidence is less likely to be fabricated and evaluated through a proper scientific lens.

In addition, her own Singer evidence contradicts her claim that morality is determined by an individual's ability to relate to the suffering of other beings.

Her only condemnation of the evidence is that "It is precisely that we are able to relate to the phenomenon that we are able to label it as immoral." According to her analysis, individuals can only deem actions immoral if they can relate to the suffering that another individual feels. That means that moral principles are derived on a subjective basis rather than an objective one. For example, if she saw a Sikh being harassed because he is wearing a turban, she would not feel that the harassment is immoral because she cannot relate to the stigma of sporting religious headwear in a Christian society. However, almost any moral standard would claim that the harassment is immoral because morality is an objective standard that is not merely derived from an individual's ability to relate to the suffering of another person. If we accept that morality is universal, then according to her concession, the suffering of animals would be deemed equal to the suffering of plants, and you would vote negative. However, she claims that morality is subjective. Unfortunately, you would vote negative even if you agree with her on this point because she would be permitting individuals to determine whether or not they can relate to animal suffering; if some decide that they cannot, then for them an omnivorous diet would be equally moral to a vegetarian one. Moreover, since the resolution asks us to prove a universal standard however, and she concedes that morality cannot be universal, she would be contending that the resolution is false. Again, as with most of her arguments, she is in a double bind.

She completely dropped the first double bind that I put on her with her CNS analysis. Remember that not all animals have CNS, so according to her own analysis, either some omnivorous diets would be morally acceptable, meaning that she is conceding, or CNS-status is immaterial to the intrinsic moral worth of a living being, meaning that plants can also be proper moral agents. This was cold dropped; she did not even attempt to respond to it. This means that you vote negative because either way the resolution is false.

She then addresses the painkiller analysis by claiming that the painkillers are used to communicate with other plants. While this is true, note that the article also mentions that they were used to RESPOND TO STRESS. Her next argument about cannibis is ludicrous because she is applying the effect that cannibis has on humans to the plant. This is equivalent to claiming that the HIV virus is infected with AIDS because it causes AIDS in humans. While ingesting some plants have a sedative effect on humans, they are not sedating themselves, so her analogy is ridiculous and should not be accepted.

Her only response to the University of Bonn analysis is that it is "pseudoscience." Note that she did not even bother to look at the study, so she cannot claim that this is true. It is unfair for her make such claims without evaluating the evidence that I provided, especially since the study was backed by a major German university.

You can next extend the utilitarian analysis because she does not even attempt to respond to the fact that more organisms are suffering and dying in the affirmative world than in the negative world, so she maximizes suffering for the greatest number of creatures. Then extend the fact that even if only plants are eaten, animals lose their habitats to the expansion of farmland and thus are killed in her world as well. THIS WAS COLD DROPPED: ANIMALS AND PLANTS ARE SUFFERING ON HER SIDE, but there is less suffering on my side. So, you can vote negative off of either of these issues because they fulfill her moral utilitarian standards.

Next extend the analysis that demonstrates that life forms cannot be distinguished by their ability to feel pain. THIS WAS COMPLETELY DROPPED. Even if you accept that plants have no emotions and cannot feel pain, you still vote negative because I have proven, and she has failed to refute, that we cannot distinguish between organisms based on the ability to feel pain; it is an arbitrary standard that has no place in a set of universal principles. Since this is true, both omnivorous diets and vegetarian ones are morally equivalent.

I did not draw any inspiration from Cleve Backster, so her evidence is nonresponsive. My evidence is from Jagadish Bose, whose works she has conveniently ignored throughout the round. Don't accept any of her analysis about Backster because I never even mentioned him or his works once.

Go to her "misquote" analysis. First, you can turn the psychological pain analysis because it proves that pain does not necessarily have to be on a physical level; it can be experienced on a population or species level as well. If this is true, then even if you do not accept the serial nervous system evidence, you still vote negative because the pain of plant loss is felt on a species level when some organisms are not able to pass on their genes to their offspring and the population's genes become more uniform. In addition, not all animals have emotions because some, like spiders, consume members of the same species. (http://en.wikipedia.org...). That means that emotional pain is not sufficient to vote affirmative.

Also, extend the argument that we can kill animals painlessly with tranquilizers and thus avoid animal pain. This is key because it allows modern civilizations to avoid her "ethical objections."

I did not straw man her first contention because she literally said that "it is not necessary to kill the trees that drop fruit". She tried to avoid plant pain by claiming that we can eat parts of the plant that are not technically alive, meaning the ovary/fruit. Extend all of the turns on the fruit analysis.

Against my analysis about "finding animals in the woods" she claims that modern societies do not do this. Sure, but that does not mean that they CANNOT do this. The fact that animals are currently slaughtered a certain way is immaterial because it does not mean that society cannot change. If we accept this part of her analysis, then she still loses because society currently eats meat but she is demanding a change.

She then argues that I never answer the question of causing unnecessary suffering. This is false because I proved that more suffering is on her side of the resolution through the utilitarianism analysis, which was entirely unanswered. That means that unnecessary suffering is on her side of the resolution because more organisms suffer in the affirmative world than in the negative one. I don't have to answer the question, but she does, and she clearly never did.

Finally, there is no evidence that chimps mourn their dead and suffer emotional pain; indeed, I have provided evidence of animal cannibalism that runs contrary to any such notion of emotional damage to animals. In addition, even if chimps do feel pain, note that they are the second most intelligent species in the world. Chimp characteristics do not apply to all animals, so this response is nonsensical.
Debate Round No. 4
27 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by lddebater540 5 years ago
lddebater540
I think you should because you want to argue Pro.
Posted by seraine 5 years ago
seraine
Do you want to instigate?
Posted by RoyLatham 5 years ago
RoyLatham
It is better to have lived than not lived. Most animals raised for consumption would not have lived without meat eaters. Moreover, life in the wild is shorter and has considerably more suffering than animals raised for food. Vegetarians are denying the pleasure of life to animals, and therefore vegetarianism is immoral. Be sure to include this argument in future debates with those cruel unfeeling vegetarians.

The evidence is clear that strict vegetarianism is about the same in health as hamburger eaters. The problem is that vegans need to keep spreadsheets on consumption of iron, iodine, B12, and protein and they don't do that. The healthiest diets are low-meat diets or semi-vegetarian with fish and eggs.
Posted by lddebater540 5 years ago
lddebater540
Also, if you have been reading the RVI, most of the judges decided based on other factors as well, such as the moral relativism double bind and the conceded utilitarianism turn.
Posted by lddebater540 5 years ago
lddebater540
Sure, seraine, I'd be happy to take the debate. Why don't we start after you get back from vacation?
Posted by seraine 5 years ago
seraine
Also, I am going to be gone from August 15-17.
Posted by seraine 5 years ago
seraine
Iddebater, would you want to take a debate similar to "A vegetarian diet is more moral than a an omnivorous one"? I would take Pro.
Posted by seraine 5 years ago
seraine
I kinda think Pro should be winning. Reacting to environmental stimuli =/= feelings of animals. I don't think plants have anything close to feelings, and even if they do I certainly don't think they are comparable to that of a mammals and/or chickens.
Posted by OMGJustinBieber 5 years ago
OMGJustinBieber
As I mentioned, it's possible you found one rare exception in the jellyfish out of all the animals humans eat but the debate is over. Jellyfish were never discussed, and I have no interest in continuing it in the comments and I'll be away on the 13th regardless.
Posted by lddebater540 5 years ago
lddebater540
It was not directly mentioned, but it was implied.

"Additionally, she cannot base her justification on the basis of a CNS, since only bilateral animals have central nervous systems that allow their body cells to relay information to a central biological unit. Since she is claiming that harming all animals, regardless of CNS status is wrong, but then advocates the death of plants because they do not possess central nervous systems, she is contradicting her own analysis. This places the affirmative in a double bind: either harming organisms without a CNS is morally acceptable, meaning that some omnivorous diets are permissible under the affirmative moral standard, or CNS-status is immaterial to the intrinsic moral worth of any biological being, meaning that the crux of her position is undermined. Either way, she has destroyed her own case, so you can vote negative off of this issue. (Source 2)."

Jellyfish have radial symmetry; they do not belong to the phylum bilateria.
7 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Vote Placed by PartamRuhem 5 years ago
PartamRuhem
OMGJustinBieberlddebater540Tied
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Total points awarded:42 
Reasons for voting decision: This was close, and well done by both debaters, but I felt that Con's main argument wasn't working out and that there was too much back and forth on suffering, which took away from the actual topic. I give pro the edge because I feel that Con's argument of plants having feelings was too shaky, and Pro showed multiple alternatives to actually having suffering as opposed to yielding a staple diet.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 5 years ago
RoyLatham
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Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro's case was built on opposition to animal suffering, not death. Con's argument that animals can be killed without the animal suffering was not adequate answered. Pro would have to prove that animals suffered from knowing their fate, but that was unproven. Sources in comments by Pro is a conduct violation for exceeding character limits without a prior agreement.
Vote Placed by Kinesis 5 years ago
Kinesis
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Reasons for voting decision: This was a bizarre debate for me to judge. Though I don't think Pro adequately refuted Con's contentions, I just never found Con's arguments that eating plants causes them significant suffering convincing. He never demonstrated his inherent value contention as far as I could tell. Con had better sources.
Vote Placed by quarterexchange 5 years ago
quarterexchange
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Reasons for voting decision: Con showed that plants suffer as well as animals and have nervous systems that feel and react to pain. The notion that it is wrong to eat animals but okay to eat plants on the basis of inflicting unnecessary pain was torn apart. Additionally Con gave examples of where humans can eat meat and not inflict any suffering whatsoever.
Vote Placed by larztheloser 5 years ago
larztheloser
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Total points awarded:15 
Reasons for voting decision: Close but clear. Con's sources were generally newer, more reliable and not listed in comments. Con did not have very good structure making his argument harder to follow. Additionally, some strong rebuttal, such as moral relativism, came out far too late. However, he did show that suffering was necessary either way, thus suffering is not a good ethical basis for choosing food. Good luck for whoever wins in the tournament.
Vote Placed by seraine 5 years ago
seraine
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Reasons for voting decision: Con's argument essentially boiled down to "plants have feelings too". Bieber did a excellent job refuting that, and I feel that Con did not adequately answer that However, Con did make a few good points, and Pro should have had addressed the fact that some animals have little to no pain and feelings. 3:1 Pro
Vote Placed by BlackVoid 5 years ago
BlackVoid
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Reasons for voting decision: So a debate about animals was all about plants. Well there's 2 issues Con wins on. First is Nervous system complexity. While Pro is correct that plants do not have the same NS as humans, Con proves that it doesn't matter because the plant NS is even more complex than many animals as well as humans in some cases. Also, the fact that some animals dont have CNS at all, as indicated by Con, would contradict Pro's claim that omnivorous diets are wrong because the animals can feel pain.