ATHEIST'S OMNIVORE DILEMMA !!



THE  ATHEIST  DILEMMA  - I call it - Keith Hunt



THE  OMNIVORE'S  DILEMMA


by  Michael  Pollan




GOOD TO EAT, GOOD TO THINK


My encounter with the chanterelle—or was it a false chanterelle?—put me in touch with one of the most elemental facts about human eating: It can be dangerous, and even when it isn't dangerous, it is fraught. The blessing of the omnivore is that he can eat a great many different things in nature. The curse of the omnivore is that when it comes to figuring out which of those things are safe to eat, he's pretty much on his own.

As noted at the beginning of this book, the omnivore's dilemma, or paradox, was first described in the 1976 paper, "The Selection of Foods by Rats, Humans, and Other Animals," by University of Pennsylvania psychologist Paul Rozin. Rozin studied food selection behavior in rats, which are omnivores, in the hopes of understanding something about food selection in people. Like us, rats daily confront the bounty of nature and its manifold perils—perils designed to protect plants, animals, and microbes from being eaten. To defend themselves from predation, plants and fungi produce a great many poisons, everything from cyanide and oxalic acid to a wide variety of toxic alkaloids and glycosides; similarly, bacteria colonizing dead plants and animals produce toxins to keep other potential eaters at bay. (Also similarly, we humans manufacture toxins to keep rats from eating our food.)

Among the more specialized eaters, natural selection takes care of the whole problem of food selection, hardwiring the monarch butterfly, say, to regard the milkweed as food and everything else in nature as not food. No thought or emotion need go into deciding whether to eat any given thing. This approach works for the monarch because its digestion can wring everything it needs for its survival from milkweed leaves (including a toxin that makes the butterfly itself unappetizing to birds). But rats and humans require a wider range of nutrients and so must eat a wider range of foods, some of them questionable. Whenever they encounter a potential new food they find themselves torn between two conflicting emotions unknown to the specialist eater, each with its own biological rationale: neophobia, a sensible fear of ingesting anything new, and neophilia, a risky but necessary openness to new tastes......


The omnivore's dilemma is replayed every time we decide whether or not to ingest a wild mushroom, but it also figures in our less primordial encounters with the putatively edible: when we're deliberating the nutritional claims on the boxes in the cereal aisle; when we're setding on a weight-loss regimen (low fat or low carb?); or deciding whether to sample McDonald's' newly reformulated chicken nugget; or weighing the costs and benefits of buying the organic strawberries over the conventional ones; or choosing to observe (or flout) kosher or halal rules; or determining whether or not it is ethically defensible to eat meat—that is, whether meat, or any other of these things, is not only good to eat, but good to think as well.


 HOMO OMNIVOROUS


The fact that we humans are. indeed omnivorous is deeply inscribed in our bodies, which natural selection has equipped to handle a remarkably wide-ranging diet. Our teeth are omnicompetent—designed for tearing animal flesh as well as grinding plants. So are our jaws, which we can move in the manner of a carnivore, a rodent, or an herbivore, depending on the dish. Our stomachs produce an enzyme specifically designed to break down elastin, a type of protein found in meat and nowhere else. Our metabolism requires specific chemical compounds that, in nature, can be gotten only from plants (like vitamin C) and others that can be gotten only from animals (like vitamin B-12). More than just the spice of human life, variety for us appears to be a biological necessity.

By comparison, nature's specialists can get everything they need from a small number of foods and, very often, a highly specialized digestive system, freeing them from the need to devote a lot of brain-power to the challenges of omnivorousness. The ruminant, for example, specializes in eating grass, even though the grasses by themselves don't supply all the nutrients the animal needs. What they do supply is food for the microbes living in the animal's rumen, which in turn supply the other nutrients the animal needs to survive. The ruminant's genius for keeping itself well fed resides in its gut rather than its brain.......


Eating might be simpler as a thimble-brained monophage, but it's also a lot more precarious, which pardy explains why there are so many more rats and humans in the world than koalas. Should a disease or drought strike the eucalyptus trees in your neck of the woods, that's it for you. But the rat and the human can live just about anywhere on earth, and when their familiar foods are in short supply, there's always another they can try. Indeed, there is probably not a nutrient source on earth that is not eaten by some human somewhere—bugs, worms, dirt, fungi, lichens, seaweed, rotten fish; the roots, shoots, stems, bark, buds, flowers, seeds, and fruits of plants; every imaginable part of every imaginable animal, not to mention haggis, granola, and Chicken McNuggets. (The deeper mystery, only partly explained by neophobia, is why any given human group will eat so few of the numberless nutrients available to it.).......


Anthropologists marvel at just how much cultural energy goes into managing the food problem. But as students of human nature have long suspected, the food problem is closely tied to . . . well, to several other big existential problems. Leon Kass, the ethicist, wrote a fascinating book called The Hangry Soul: Eating and the Perfection of Our Nature in which he teases out the many philosophical implications of human eating. In a chapter on omnivorousness Kass quotes at length from Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who in his Second Discourse on man draws a connection between our freedom from instinct in eating and the larger problem of free will. Rousseau is after somewhat bigger game in this passage, but along the way he offers as good a statement of the omnivore's dilemma as you're likely to find:

". . . nature does everything in the operations of a beast, whereas man contributes to his operations by being a free agent. The former chooses or rejects by instinct and the latter by an act of freedom, so that a beast cannot deviate from the rule that is prescribed to it even when it would be advantageous to do so, and a man deviates from it often to his detriment. Thus a pigeon would die of hunger near a basin filled with the best meats, and a cat upon heaps of fruits or grain, although each could very well nourish itself on the food it disdains if it made up its mind to try some. Thus dissolute men abandon themselves to the excesses which cause them fever and death, because the mind depraves the senses and because the will still speaks when nature is silent."

Guided by no natural instinct, the prodigious and open-ended human appetite is liable to get us into all sorts of trouble, well beyond the stomachache. For if nature is silent what's to stop the human omnivore from eating anything—including, most alarmingly, other human omni-vores? A potential for savagery lurks in a creature capable of eating anything. If nature won't draw a line around human appetite, then human culture must step in, as indeed it has done, bringing the omnivore's eating habits under the government of all the various taboos (foremost the one against cannibalism), customs, rituals, table manners, and culinary conventions found in every culture. There is a short and direct path from the omnivore's dilemma to the astounding number of ethical rules with which people have sought to regulate eating for as long as they have been living in groups.

"Without virtue" to govern his appetites, Aristotle wrote, man of all the animals "is most unholy and savage, and worst in regard to sex and eating." Paul Rozin has suggested, only pardy in jest, that Freud would have done well to build his psychology around our appetite for food rather than our appetite for sex. Both are fundamental biological drives necessary to our survival as a species, and both must be carefully channeled and socialized for the good of society. ("You can't just grab any tasty-looking morsel," he points out.) But food is more important than sex, Rozin contends. Sex we can live without (at least as individuals), and it occurs with far less frequency than eating. Since we also do rather more of our eating in public there has been "a more elaborate cultural transformation of our relationship to food than there is to sex."


AMERICA'S NATIONAL EATING DISORDER


....... Is it any wonder Americans suffer from so many eating disorders? In the absence of any lasting consensus about what and how and where and when to eat, the omnivore's dilemma has returned to America with an almost atavistic force......


This situation suits the food industry just fine, of course. The more anxious we are about eating, the more vulnerable we are to the seductions of the marketer and the expert's advice. Food marketing in particular thrives on dietary instability and so tends to exacerbate it. Since it's difficult to sell more food to such a well-fed population (though not, as we're discovering, impossible), food companies put their efforts into grabbing market share by introducing new kinds of highly processed foods, which have the virtue of being both highly profitable and infinitely adaptable. Sold under the banner of "convenience," these processed foods are frequently designed to create whole new eating occasions, such as in the bus on the way to school (the protein bar or Pop-Tart) or in the car on the way to work (Campbell's recently introduced a one-handed microwaveable microchunked soup in a container designed to fit a car's cup holder).......


The success of food marketers in exploiting shifting eating patterns and nutritional fashions has a steep cost. Getting us to change how we eat over and over again tends to undermine the various social structures that surround and steady our eating, institutions like the family dinner, for example, or taboos on snacking between meals and eating alone. In their relentless pursuit of new markets, food companies (with some crucial help from the microwave oven, which made "cooking" something even small children could do) have broken Mom's hold over the American menu by marketing to every conceivable demographic—and especially to children......


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SO  IT  IS  FOR  THOSE  WHO  DO  NOT  BELIEVE  THERE  IS  A  GOD,  WHO  THEN  DO  NOT  BELIEVE  THAT  GOD  HAS  AN  INSPIRED  BOOK;  THAT  IN  THAT  BOOK  WE  CALL  THE  BIBLE,  THE  ETERNAL  GOD  HAS  GIVEN  US  THE  "FOOD  LAWS"  SO  THERE  IS  NO  DILEMMA  AS  TO  WHAT  TO  EAT,  TO  KEEP  OUR  BODIES  IN  A  STATE  OF  HEALTH,  TOGETHER  WITH  OTHER  LAWS  OF  HEALTH,  THAT  ARE  PRETTY  EASY  TO  FIGURE,  LIKE  ENOUGH  SLEEP  EACH  DAY,  REGULAR PHYSICAL  ACTIVITY  AND  EXERCISE;  AND  A  GOOD  POSITIVE  HAPPY  ATTITUDE  OF  MIND  WITH  LITTLE  STRESS.


BUT  THE  ATHEIST  OMNIVORE  HAS  NO  SUCH  INSPIRED  GUIDE  LINES, HENCE  A  REAL  DILEMMA,  WHICH  HAS  BROUGHT  ON  ALL  KINDS  OF  WRONG  IDEAS  ON  EATING.  WHICH  HAS  MADE  GREED  AND  "TAKE  ADVANTAGE  OF"  PEOPLE  AND  CHILDREN,  WITH  EVERY  WRONG  KIND  OF  SO-CALLED  "FOOD"  BEING  THROWN  AT  US.  AND  A  HUGE  CHUNK  OF  THE  ATHEIST  PEOPLE  OF  THE  WORLD  FALLING  FOR  THE  TRICKS  OF  MANUFACTURERS.  WHICH  IN  TURN  ARE  PART  OF  WHY  WE  HAVE  ALL  THE  SICKNESSES  WE  HAVE  IN  THE  WORLD.


THE  PHYSICAL  LAWS  OF  GOD  ARE  FULLY  GIVEN  TO  YOU  ON  MY  WEBSITE  UNDER  "HEALTH  AND  DIET."


Keith Hunt