Boiling Lobsters and Other Things People Do

Is it OK to boil a lobster?

Short answer:
Yes, of course it is.

Long answer:
Let’s consider the life, or rather the death, of a lobster. In nature lobsters begin very small and die a million horrible deaths in a million horrible ways. As they get older the death rate drops. We have ample evidence that lobsters do not go gentle into that good night, dying peacefully in their sleep at a ripe old age. Instead, once mature, a lobster that doesn’t go into the pot might face off with cod, flounder, an eel or two, or one of many diseases.

Considering that one of the natural deaths a lobster may face is to be torn limb from limb by an eel, getting tossed into a pot of boiling water doesn’t seem quite so gruesome. But there is a big difference between death by eel and death by human, the eel is not human. And now we have hit upon the broader question that must be answered before we can understand the short answer given above: Are humans a part of nature, or apart from nature?

We have an enormous amount of evidence that humans are a part and product of the Earth. Humans are a naturally evolved species related to all other forms of life on Earth, physically shaped by the abiotic parameters of our planet, like gravity, temperature, humidity, partial pressure of atmospheric oxygen, etc., and physiologically dependant on other forms of life for essential amino acids. We are not travelers from a supernatural realm or from a distant star forced to bide our time in a foreign land before we can travel home again. We are home.

We are natural, and what we do is natural. This is our place. The cabin in the woods is just as natural as the trees that grow around it, and those trees are just as natural as cell phone towers. We human beings, you and me, are a natural species that evolved and lives on this Earth. We have as much right to use resources and alter the Earth as any other species. We are on an equal footing with other species, not above, below, or beside. We do not have dominion over the earth as the creationists want us to believe, we are not alien invaders that should cringe at every footfall as the hippie-vegans want us to believe, and, despite what the conservationists say, we are no more stewards of the Earth than dung beetles.

Only when we understand that will be we begin to realize that the environmental issues we face today have less to do with what is good for humans and more to do with balancing the rights of our species with the rights of the rest of life on Earth. (For what it’s worth I favor a future with taller buildings and vast swaths of the earth blessed with benign neglect.)

So yes, it is perfectly alright and natural to boil your lobster… but then again, we did naturally evolve the capacity to think that boiling lobsters might be wrong… so maybe you shouldn’t. What do I know?

Just don’t not do it for the wrong reasons.

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