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mrentropy's avatar

Vegetarian in a Star Trek Universe: Okay to eat replicated beef?

Asked by mrentropy (17121 points ) January 2nd, 2010

So, you’re a vegetarian living on the Enterprise. Since the food replicators work by assembling molecules of any old thing laying around in the molecule pool would it be ethically all right to eat animal products?

For that matter, if we assume a Drexler/Feynman idea of a nanobot is possible and then toss a steak into a vat to have it disassembled and then mapped so that the nanobots can put it together exactly the same way it was before, but with different molecules, would that be okay?

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25 Answers

eponymoushipster's avatar

hopefully in the 24th century, people wont be so up their own asses and will just shut up and eat food.

jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities's avatar

Space… the Final Frontier. Where no meat has gone before.

mrentropy's avatar

@eponymoushipster I, uh, don’t see that happening.

I guess this may sound like a nonsense question but it is something I had thought about.

I had brought up the idea of nanobots taking apart a piece of meat and then re-assembling it from other component molecules but I had (at the time) a vegetarian friend say that he wouldn’t eat it because a) it was artificial and b) it was originally made from an animal that probably suffered because of it.

I guess the food replicator would be the same thing since the construction plans for the Beef Wellington had to come from somewhere at some point.

Pcrecords's avatar

At this very moment a meat substance exists which other than a few pin pricks hasn’t caused an animal pain. Unfortunately it’s a little spam like in it’s make up, and mostly people don’t want to eat it.

A lot of Vegetarians don’t eat meat because of it’s taste and texture.

AstroChuck's avatar

I all depends on why one is vegetarian. I, for example, do it for ethical reasons so I suppose it would be alright. But I’m not really sure I’d want to eat it anyway. The very thought of eating meat is revolting to me.

SABOTEUR's avatar

If replicate means “to duplicate or make an exact copy”, it would still be beef.

If the vegetarian has issues with beef, he would probably be better off replicating bean sprouts.

rep·li·cate (rpl-kt)
v. rep·li·cat·ed, rep·li·cat·ing, rep·li·cates
v.tr.
1. To duplicate, copy, reproduce, or repeat.
2. Biology To reproduce or make an exact copy or copies of (genetic material, a cell, or an organism).
3. To fold over or bend back.

mrentropy's avatar

@SABOTEUR It would still be beef, yes. However, it would be constructed from molecules that could have come from anything: grass clippings, garbage, whatever.

SABOTEUR's avatar

@mrentropy Is that beef or beef substitute?

mrentropy's avatar

@SABOTEUR Technically, it would be beef.

If you took a piece of beef apart, molecule by molecule, and then put it together again using the same type of molecule but from another source. As far as I know, there’s no “Cow” atom, so what makes beef would be a collection of atoms formed into molecules which are then connected in a certain order that would, some day, give you a slab of meat.

If those molecules came from.. whatever. Stuff. Anything but another piece of meat. You would then have a copy of a steak, but it would still be a steak.

So, it would be a real piece of beef but it would not have come from an animal (theoretically). I’m looking more for ethical reasons not to eat it rather than people who just don’t like the taste or texture of animal meat.

SABOTEUR's avatar

Technically, I don’t buy it.

Cow molecules and grass molecules and poop molecules are all different molecules.

What you’re really trying to feed me is beef flavored poop.

mrentropy's avatar

@SABOTEUR I’m sure someone’s marketed beef flavored poo already.

If it wasn’t midnight I’d try and find the chemical composition of beef and figure it out, but I’m too tired right now. I expect there’d be a lot of carbon molecules.

SABOTEUR's avatar

Fair enough.

Funny how it takes an poo eating question to get my participation in a forum.

SABOTEUR's avatar

Some additional thought on the subject helped me to clarify my objection a bit.

Simply stated, either the food I’m about to eat is beef ie. flesh of a slaughtered full-grown steer, bull, ox, or cow, or it’s not beef, meaning it’s something else.

You can’t have it both ways.

mrentropy's avatar

In terms of atoms and molecules, what makes beef beef?

SABOTEUR's avatar

I’m not going to pretend I know the answer to that question.

All I know is, we’re not eating just atoms and molecules. We’re eating something that supposed to be derived from a warm blooded animal. If it’s derived from something else then it’s not beef.

faye's avatar

Spock did not.

Pretty_Lilly's avatar

Meat by product ??? Sounds like what dog food is made of nowadays !!I
I would figure in the 24th century they would have meal capsules or better yet use a kitchen transporter to beam the food into your stomach,,,, then beam the turds from your colon to outerspace !!

Jeruba's avatar

Does this question strike anyone else as being very similar in principle to the question of whether comic book images can constitute child pornography?

mrentropy's avatar

@Jeruba Er. I guess. Although I do think there is a difference.

I just woke up, so bear with me for a moment.

A calf is made of meat. The bull and cow from whence it came were herbivores and never ate meat (unless they’re related to those wacky man eating horses in ancient Greece but that’s a not relevant here) so they never ingested meat. Somehow, all those protein strings and molecules and whatever else arranged themselves to become meat.

If you took all the base components and arranged them (through magic or super-high technology; take your pick) the same way, you’d have meat. But it never would have come from a living cow.

That’s the type of thing I’m talking about it.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@SABOTEUR Coprophagia can be a powerful incentive for participation. :)

mattbrowne's avatar

Vegetarians don’t have to wait for replicators. There’s also laboratory-grown meat and imitation meat. Enjoy your meal.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

There was a wonderful science fiction short story by Harry Turtledove that addressed a similar issue. It was called, “The R-Strain.” A company genetically engineered pigs to chew cud and have cloven hoofs. A rabbi was challenged to eat the meat because, theoretically, the pig was now Kosher.

(I’m not going to tell you whether he did or not. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone…) :-)

SundayKittens's avatar

Eat it !!!! It’s replicated and no longer contains the molecules that suffered in the slaughter. So dine with confidence.

That statement sounded like a death metal hit…copyright!!!!

mrentropy's avatar

@kikibirdjones That’s along the lines I was thinking of.

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