Evolutionary biologist and public atheist Richard Dawkins wants to know whether science is on the cusp of ending humanity’s “taboo against cannibalism.”
One of the world’s most famous anti-religion figures told his 2.7 million Twitter followers that lab-grown meat may be the cultural gateway to overcoming an aversion to cannibalism.
Mr. Dawkins posed the question over the weekend while sharing an article by the U.K. Independent titled “Lab-grown ‘clean’ meat could be on sale by end of 2018, says producer.”
“Tissue culture ‘clean meat’ already in 2018?” the British author of “The Selfish Gene” asked March 3. “I’ve long been looking forward to this. https://ind.pn/2F9xAwS What if human meat is grown? Could we overcome our taboo against cannibalism? An interesting test case for consequentialist morality versus ‘yuck reaction’ absolutism.”
The idea sparked a rigorous conversation and references to “Soylent Green,” the 1973 overpopulation film starring Charlton Heston. Green food products at the end of the movie are famously revealed to be human remains.
“I don’t think I could get past the cannibalism taboo, not because of absolutism but because of sheer visceral reaction, and I think a lot of other people would be the same way,” said one person. “I’d try it, but I would gag for sure.”
Another Twitter responder added references to Algonquin cannibal-beast myths.
“The main problem with eating human meat, no matter where it comes from is awakening the Wendigo in one’s self. Those things are scary as hell. The last thing we need is a bunch of flesh-eating monsters running around ruining people’s brunches and baseball games or bar mitzvahs,” added another.
The material that served as a catalyst for Mr. Dawkins’ ruminations did not actually mention cannibalism. Instead, the newspaper focused on harvesting stem cells from living livestock.
“My first reaction to this project was like, ‘What are these people doing? That’s kind of weird,” Caleb Barron from Fogline Farm said in video provided with the story. “But, in all honesty, people are going to eat meat — and one feather from one of my chickens could be a catalyst that feed the world.”