Recently, Dr. Richard Dawkins, the world famous evolutionary biologist and militant atheist, in response to a video and article on “clean meat” tweeted the following:
Before we focus on the Dawkin’s words, we should step back and better understand exactly what clean meat is. Rightly or wrong, clean meat proponents would argue that our farming procedures, in terms of keeping the meat supply consistent, is unsustainable and alternatives must be explored. What is suggested is to use genetic engineering technology to the benefit of meat eater in reproducing meat from, say, a chicken, in which the original bird does not have to surrender its life in order for its meat to be harvested. A single feather potentially provides us with all the genetic information we need to produce meat with little to no contaminates such as salmonella, botulism, swine flu, mad cow disease, and trichinosis.
Dawkins’ excitement, whether misguided or not, is understandable. Whatever this means, with a potential 2018 release date, it is certainly a big deal. What is jolting is not his excitement about the primary article, but his leap from animal meat to human meat. “What if human meat is grown?” he asks. The first question for Dawkins that comes to this author’s mind is “Why take such a morbid turn?”
Consequentialism Gone to Seed?
How does Dawkins jump from unlimited animal meat to cannibalism? We can speculate on a host of reasons, but several of note come to mind. First, there is his commitment to “consequentialist morality.” Consequentialism is an approach to justifying actions based on the supposed favorability of their outcome or consequences. So it would appear that Dawkins is favorable to the ‘clean meat’ proposal because its consequences (at least at first blush) would lead to the end of starvation and the reduction of numerous sicknesses related to the contaminants listed above. While making no commitment to consequentialism, we should acknowledge that those issues are at least worth discussing. But if we can produce a seemingly endless supply of animal meat, with no danger of food shortages, why would human meat even be considered? More digging is required.
Cannibalism and Iconoclasm
The truth is, there does not appear a straight logical line from clean animal meat to “why don’t we consider eating human meat?” My suspicion is that Dawkins is using this story as merely another avenue for his religious iconoclasm, his ongoing crusade against the remnants of Christian moral influence in Western culture. The story becomes an occasion to remind his followers that our moral aversion to cannibalism is strictly due to sentiments grounded in a worldview (Biblical religion) that has otherwise been long abandoned. For Dawkins it is a philosophical and ethical thought experiment. What appears at first to be a tweet promoting the progress of science is really a Trojan-horse attack on biblical ethics.
Dawkins despises Christianity. He has (im)famously written: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” Man is not created in the image of God, and so there is nothing about human beings that makes us distinct from animals (especially since at the genetic level we share so much with primates in particular). When we abandon the doctrine of humanity in the image of God, we are left with a worldview that cannot logically put the breaks on even something as abominable as endorsing a chimpanzee/ human hybrid. Dawkins is being brutally consistent in his own brand of naturalistic oneism. Meat is meat.
Turning Things Around
If we recoil in horror at the very notion of, if I can be allowed the indulgence of coining a term, such “clean cannibalism” we need to ask ourselves in what kind of world such a response makes sense. In what vision of humanity is such horror appropriate?
In biblically-formed Christianity we do not appraise man’s worth by the number of genetic markers than distinguish him from the beasts. Nor do we reduce human exceptionalism to the difference in the 3-pound organ between our ears. Instead we marvel that God crowned humanity with glory and honor (Ps. 8:5). Man is not food, because he is the image of God, the Creator’s deputy on earth. As Clines writes,
Man is created not in God’s image, since God has no image of His own, but as God’s image, or rather to be God’s image, that is to deputize in the created world for the transcendent God who remains outside the world order. That man is God’s image means that he is the visible corporeal representative of the invisible, bodiless God… The whole man is the image of God, without distinction of spirit and body. All mankind, without distinction, are the image of God…Mankind, which means both the human race and individual men, do not cease to be the image of God so long as they remain men; to be human and to be the image of God are not separable.
The differences between the grandeur of Scripture’s view of humanity on the one hand and that of the reductionistic worldview of Dawkins on the other are staggering. One tasks humanity with possessing meaningful dignity and eternal significance. The other legitimately asks whether we can be added to the dinner menu.
 Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Great Britain: Bantam Press, 2006), 31.
 Richard Dawkins, “Gaps in the Mind,” found at https://www.richarddawkins.net/1993/01/gaps-in-the-mind/
 D. J. A. Clines, “The Image of God in Man,” TynBul 19 (1968), 101. Emphasis added.