In a 2004 interview, a contrite President Clinton reflected thus upon his escapades with Monica in the White House:
I think I did something for the worst possible reason: just because I could. I think that’s the most, just about the most morally indefensible reason that anybody could have for doing anything.
And in his 2010 State of the Union address, President Obama took a dig at Republicans for voting no on every bill “just because they can,” i.e., for the most morally indefensible reason that anybody could have for doing anything.
Of all the flimsy justifications for the consumption of meat by humans in areas of the world where alternative sources of nutrition are available aplenty, the “nature” line of argumentation boggles the mind the most. In essence, its subscribers are saying that behaving like predators in the wild is OK because they can.
On the one hand, many people pride themselves on belonging to a more highly evolved and civilized category of beings than all others—religious folks, in fact, tend to view themselves as created in God’s likeness and hence belonging to an entirely distinct league from animals—but when it comes to selecting their dinner, all pretense of humanity, as distinct from being an animal, falls by the wayside and their moral code suddenly resembles that of a tiger in the Tundra more than that of a supposedly “human” being.
Yes, nature is a place of awesome beauty and perfect balance. Nature is also a place of unspeakable cruelty, where the strong vanquish the weak, where the sick and injured stand no chance, and where higher sentiments such as mercy or compassion—to the extent to which they may be present at all—do not figure too prominently in shaping the actions of its inhabitants.
In a word, nature is a state of affairs where the strong will take whatever they want with zero compunction and no consideration whatsoever for the suffering of the parties injured in the process, simply because they can. If I like your babe, I’m gonna hit you over the head with a club.
Therefore, to justify our behavior by pointing to “nature” as a guide seems awkwardly at odds with our notion of having attained to a more elevated stage in evolution relative to our cave-dwelling ancestors and to members of the animal kingdom.
Nature … is what we were put in this world to rise above. (from “African Queen”)
If nature were such a desirable state, why would we need laws or a constitution? Of course, we wouldn’t. Laws and a constitution are measures to establish a civilized society, as opposed to a natural society. By definition, “natural” conditions—i.e., the strong lording it over the weak as they please—are those conditions that automatically take over in the absence of a fairly sophisticated system specifically designed to counteract them.
Brutish behaviors such as rape, beatings, and enslavement—all merely variations on the theme of the strong doing whatever they want to the weak because they can—are extremely “natural” phenomena in a sense that they’ve been rampant throughout history all the way up to and including modern times. Yet few of us, I hope, would defend these behaviors on account of “naturalness” as a function of their recorded frequency. Any truly evolved human being will recoil at them, not happily join in because they’ve been going on all over they place.
Likewise, to defend the systematic slaughter of sentient creatures by invoking “nature” and to refer to humans residing at the top of the food chain is simply a way of banging our chests like troglodytes operating in reptilian mode and exclaiming Because we can!