Philosophy and Milk

October 7, 2009

I just noticed this label on my delicious Trader Joe’s milk today, and thought it was kind of funny:


So when I write the following, I hope it’s clear that I’m serious, and not just trying to score a political point:

A lot of people criticize parents who teach their children that the Bible contains literal truths for being “anti-science.” Or, a lot of people criticize various religions for believing things that seem absurd to outsiders. I’m thinking about how so many people say, “I loved that South Park about Mormons!” while missing the entire point of the episode, which was to say, “What is your problem? Mormons may have ‘weird’ beliefs but they’re not hurting anyone with them. Why can’t you just let these people believe what they want to believe?”

Well, should I see this label and call you an idiot, or accuse you of being “anti-science” because you insist on buying milk that is rBST-free? Or should I just say “Okay, that’s a belief that works for you. I disagree that this is worth paying for, but you’re not actually hurting me by buying Trader Joe’s milk. Furthermore, it’s possible that you’re not an idiot, but your belief that rBST is bad is part of a larger belief system that I don’t fully grasp.”?*

(*Since if you’re reading this you almost certainly know me personally, keep in mind that I’m asking what I should say, not what I actually am likely to say.)

I don’t know if I’m setting up a straw man but I really do think there is an asymmetry in how we treat the beliefs of people we identify with and those we see as below us in some way.

This post ended up being longer than I thought, so I’ll close by quoting another bloggingheads session with Bob Wright, that I thought was pretty dead-on:


I think being human is hard. A lot of people don’t have trouble with it. God bless them, they’re lucky. I think even harder is trying seriously to live a moral life and be human. That’s really hard. And a lot of people – some people don’t have trouble doing that. A lot of people don’t have trouble because they don’t worry about it. Okay, but anyway –
If somebody is really making an earnest effort to lead a moral life in the face of all the obstacles, and you know — really moral by our lights, they’re decent, gentle people – they’re trying to help people, they’re not going on jihads and killing people, it makes me just almost nauseous when someone walks up to them and says, “Don’t you understand the basis for this noble struggle is just not as intellectually sophisticated as I am?” That just makes me sick.

So that’s all I was inspired to say by looking at my milk carton today.


2 Responses to “Philosophy and Milk”

  1. Rrrobert! Says:

    A rare “right on” from me.

  2. tonyisnt Says:

    I don’t think it’s a belief about the rBST being “bad” so much as it’s, obviously, unnecessary. You could read that label a few different ways because it says a few different things.

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