Thursday, March 17, 2005

"Parts is parts"?

The title for this post comes from an old Wendy's advertisement poking fun at McDonald's. A man walks into fast-food restaurant and asks the kid behind the counter what is in the chicken nuggets.
Kid Parts.
Man What kind of parts?
Kid Parts is parts.
(Thanks to Orlando Sentinel)

We've been considering the modern misunderstanding of nature as the purely passive recipient of human molding. Nature in this conception is inherently chaotic and can develop only through an artificial order imposed from without.

In contrast, the older conception sees nature as possessing an inner organization. Natural things develop according to this inner organization. We as rational creatures can understand and work with this inner principle, but not entirely remake it. Moreover, this inner principle gives more complex creatures an inner unity or wholeness that the existence of the individual parts presuppose.

Touchstone featured an excellent article a while back called "Our Food from God: Factory Farms & the Culture of Death" by Christopher Killheffer. It's an excellent argument based on Scripture and Tradition against the modern industrial farm in which animals are treated as machines. More to the point of this blog is the argument from the nature of each creature.

The premise of the industrial system is that an animal is not an animal, but a “bio-machine” or a commodity, something whose needs are not defined by its created nature but by the standards of mass production efficiency. The problem with this system is not that it denies to animals the personal liberties and rights proper only to human beings. The problem with this system is that it denies to animals the necessities of proper animal existence, which of course are quite modest: some space in which to move, some earth to scratch or root around in, natural daylight, natural food, some straw or other bedding.

Chicken-bot The industrial system of raising animals is not disordered because it kills chickens; it is disordered because it first, from the very start of their lives, deprives chickens of their chicken-ness....

Rather than seeking to cooperate with the Creator in recognizing the distinctness of his creatures and stewarding them according to their specific natures, it seeks to transform their natures into a single pattern determined entirely by industrial efficiency. The warning of the Church echoes now as a condemnation: “Man must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things which would be in contempt of the Creator.” [CCC 339] The factory farm’s torment and distortion of animals is nothing less than contempt for the God who created them.

No creature is merely the plastic recipient of human desires, but has an integrity and inner dynamic given by its Creator. Despite our dominance of the planet, we humans have not created anything. We merely shape and reassemble what God has created. Even the animals we have domesticated express something of God, and demand respect, not in their own right, but as part of the created order.
What is the Meatrix?

Check out this animated short: The Meatrix

Many of the groups who advocate for "animal rights" are rather extreme. I can't vouch for the group that produced this short. Nevertheless I found it entertaining and informative.

Christopher Killheffer, "Our Food from God: Factory Farms & the Culture of Death" Touchstone (March, 2002).


Bonnie said...

ugh, I never feel comfortable watching my children eat McDonald's food (which happens way too often, I'm afraid...)

Anyway, MJ, would you email me? I stupidly lost your addy. thanks :-)

MC said...

Reading this reminded me of Orson Scott Card’s “Jane” from Ender’s Game and subsequent novels. In the last novels, Jane is able to transport 2 humans and a shuttle anywhere in the universe by holding them in memory (computer memory). I assume she is limited because the sheer volume of data that makes up a single human being. Jane, though a machine consciousness, is still just thinking like a human, in parts. If I know all the physical details then I know the thing and can manipulate it. That’s the idea.

But this is not how the Creator thinks about it. We don’t know how to think without parts so we find it hard to think like Him. IMO, the problem is not that we think too much but that we think or approach reality in the wrong way. Contemplation, natural or infused, is the way to approach the wholeness of reality. The contemplative is taught by God to hold the world in memory like he does… with integrity and wholeness. I am sure scientists won’t call it contemplation but the “whole package” view of nature seems to be an attempt to understand that part of us that grasps wholeness (intuition?).

Was Aquinas a great theologian because he was brilliant or because he was a contemplative? His brilliance was capable of breaking things down but it was his contemplative genius (supported by grace of course) that was able to see the whole. So maybe we need both.