Hi- I got this question from Harvard Econ. Prof. Greg Mankiw's blog. He got it from Richard Rorty. Here it is:
"Aliens from another planet, with vastly superior intelligence to humans, land on earth in order to consume humans as food. What argument could you make to convince the aliens not to eat us that would not also apply to our consumption of beef?"
What's the answer!?!?! Thanks!
It's a fine question, isn't it. Short, sweet, and deeply provocative. In the interests of full disclosure, however, I should, at the outset, let you know that I don't think we should eat beef--in part because of the sort of reasons this question elicits. That being said, I don't think that the claim the question seems to advance is by itself decisive--namely that it's human's superior intelligence that provides grounds for eating beef. After all, if minimal intelligence itself justified eating an organism, then humans with minimal intelligence (including the aged, those with brain injuries, infants and fetuses, the mentallly retarded, public officials, etc.) would be candidates for consumption, and various computers would have moral standing. But establishing moral standing isn't simply a matter of determining intelligence. Rather, I'd say that what principally (not exclusively) marks an entity as one not to be consumed is its sharing or its capacity to share (or have shared) in certain projects and...