Joe Rogan’s Anti-Vegan Remarks Are Ill-Informed, Hypocritical, and Irresponsible

In episode 477 of The Joe Rogan Experience, Rogan speaks with Dennis McKenna, brother of the late Terence McKenna, and Joshua Wickerham, co-founder and executive director of the Ethnobotanical Stewardship Council. About 42 minutes into the conversation, Wickerham says, “If you want to have a transformative experience with plants and you’re leery of psychedelics, try going on an all plant-based diet for a little while. Change your intestinal bacteria. In a way, you’ll have this sense of levity, of lightness. It will change the way you think about yourself – not as quickly as a psychedelic plant experience, and it takes discipline. Or try a fast. I mean, there are ways to have these transformative experiences without drugs.”

At this point, in what has otherwise been a thoughtful conversation, Joe Rogan gets defensive and overreacts. You can tell his blood is boiling; his breathing becomes audible even as Wickerham talks. He interrupts Wickerham midsentence and, fumbling over his words, says “The only transformative experience that I’ve ever experienced from, uh, dealing with people that have gone and completely trans… transforming their life in a completely plant-based diet is they can never shut the fuck up about the fact that they’re on a plant-based diet. God damn they want to beat you over the head with it!” (Never mind that Joe Rogan constantly beats his audience over the head with his macho fascination with hunting.)

This is not an isolated incident. Rogan has demonstrated repeatedly that he has a soft spot for veganism. This might not be surprising if you know Joe Rogan only as a mixed martial artist and UFC commentator with an antiquated concept of masculinity. But Rogan’s anti-veganism starts to seem bizarre when you take into account his advocacy of psychedelic drugs.

In a recent Rolling Stone interview, Rogan says that smoking DMT makes him “more compassionate, more aware, more vulnerable.” Yet he lacks the compassion to refrain from killing animals. He seems to lack the awareness, which usually comes with powerful psychedelic experiences, that all life is one, and that as human beings we should be stewards of the environment and protectors of other animals. Shortly after claiming to be compassionate and aware, he shows off the meat in his freezer: moose, pig, deer, bear. “And all this I killed myself,” he brags.

What’s particularly interesting about his reaction to Wickerham’s comments is that Wickerham simply suggested that a brief trial of a plant-based diet can produce a shift in consciousness. Terence McKenna and Robert Anton Wilson, two leading figures of the psychedelic movement, made similar suggestions. Given Rogan’s enthusiasm for altered states, you would expect him to be open to this idea. Instead, he exhibits narrow-mindedness by launching into an anti-vegan tirade with illogical justifications for his meat consumption.

I am not the only person to notice Rogan’s irrational, hypocritical attitude toward veganism. As one Redditor put it, “Funny thing is, [Rogan] sometimes talks about how factory farms are so gross and how great veggies are. And it seems like he appreciates scientifically factual information (and there’s a ton of good data supporting whole-foods veganism as the healthiest diet).“

Discussing episode 646, another Redditor notes that while Rogan talks “about deep introspection, using float tanks to tap into deeper realities, helping people recover from addiction and becoming the best version of yourself, and being authentic, yadda yadda,” he completely dismisses veganism. “It seems to me that people who aren’t open to the whole picture of animal suffering/environmentalism, despite their claims for being open-minded, simply won’t make room, mentally, for something they are complicit in. I find this to be fascinating, particularly for people who pride and market themselves as reasonable, sensitive, and compassionate people.”

The fact that Rogan likes to think of himself as open-minded and compassionate explains his irrational defense mechanisms on the subject of veganism. If he wants to be open-minded and compassionate, why doesn’t he just become a vegan? As Wickerham mentions, veganism takes discipline. Rogan might have the discipline to train for jiujitsu, but dietary changes require a higher level of discipline.

The aforementioned Rolling Stone article is titled How Joe Rogan Went From UFC Announcer to 21st-Century Timothy Leary. Joe Rogan is funny and lovable, and he plays an important role in making information on psychedelics accessible to people who might otherwise never consider it. But his irrational attitude toward veganism shows that the comparison to Timothy Leary is an insult to the good doctor’s memory. Rogan hasn’t evolved that much after all. He is little more than a curious lunk who gets stoned and rambles about shit he read on the Internet. He can ramble about DMT all he wants, but that doesn’t bring him close to the legendary status of Leary, a pioneer of psychedelic research and leader of the countercultural revolution of the Sixties.

Gender Transcendence

This post originally appeared on I Am The F-Bomb.

Discussions on gender are a verbal war zone, with battles raging both between and within sexes. Feminists blame the patriarchy. The men’s rights movement rallies against female privilege. Sex-positive feminists call anti-porn feminists prudes. Anti-porn feminists say that sex-positive feminists were brainwashed by the patriarchy. Women Against Feminism wonder what all the fuss is about, urging an acceptance of male superiority. Profeminist men call the men’s rights movement a bunch of “crying diaper man-babies.”

You’re probably wondering which side I’m on. I hate to disappoint, but I hesitate to identify with any of the aforementioned groups because if I do, others will think they already know my stance on a variety of complex issues. They won’t really listen to what I have to say. This contributes to an atmosphere of endless bickering that serves no one.

Neither a feminist nor a masculist, I promote “gender transcendence.” I believe that both feminism and the men’s rights movement are one-sided and divisive. Feminists say it is men who enjoy privilege; masculists say it is women who enjoy privilege; neither considers the possibility that men are privileged in some ways while women are privileged in others. In our admittedly patriarchal society, the obstacles faced by women are more substantial. Yet even when women are liberated from patriarchy, you may yet remain subject to the tyrrany of gender. The path to complete liberation, not only for women but for every individual, is the path to gender transcendence.

A few years ago, a Canadian couple created an international stir when they announced their decision to raise their child gender-neutral. No gender-specific pronouns. “The infant,” as they affectionally called their child, was not limited to pink clothes or blue clothes, dolls or toy guns. I was stoked when I came across this story, but (why was I surprised?) not everyone shared my enthusiasm. A heteronormative psychiatrist appeared as an “expert” witness, calling the parents misguided, essentially arguing that gender is hardwired in the brain and should not be tampered with. (Now you see why I put “expert” in scare quotes.)

Sex is biological, a distinction based on anatomical differences. Gender, on the other hand, is a culturally relative clusterfuck of social expectations. Depending on what kind of genitals you emerge from the womb with, you are forced into a particular psychological mold. Through a system of rewards and punishments, ranging from subtle to violent, society sends a clear message about what’s expected of you.

Gender roles are not genetically hardwired in the brain. If they were, then gender defenders wouldn’t get so worked up over gender-neutral parenting. They would be confident that the “correct” gender would emerge naturally, without the need for parents to teach it. But gender is in fact learned, and if it can be learned, then it can be unlearned, and we can refrain from teaching it to younger generations.

Gender may have served a purpose in our evolutionary past, but it has outlived its adaptive value. Almost nothing in human experience is immutable. If transhumanists can transcend human nature by hacking their biological hardware, then certainly we can transcend gender by reprogramming our psychological software.

In Greek mythology, humans are descended from a race of double-bodied beings. As punishment for an attempted revolt against Olympus, Zeus chopped these beings in half. That’s why you feel whole when you find that special someone, your “other half.”

Carl Jung saw this myth as symbolic of gender norms. Every individual experiences the full range of thoughts and emotions, but, depending on our sex, we are “chopped in half,” i.e., conditioned to repress any aspect of self that is incongruent with the gender role you’ve been assigned. The goal of Jungian psychology is individuation, to become a whole individual not by finding another half to complete you, but by integrating what you lost in the process of socialization. For men, this means integrating the anima, or feminine side. For women, it means integrating the animus, or masculine side.

“Women who seek to be equal to men lack ambition,” said Timothy Leary. To the extent that feminism seeks only to elevate femininity to the level of masculinity, it will fall short of liberating women. Not everyone woman is, or wants to be, “feminine.” Our goal should be a society in which a woman can be assertive without being called a butch, and a man can be passive without being called a sissy. Our goal should be a society in which one can be one’s self without interference or judgment from society. Our goal should not be limited to freedom for one gender or another, but expand to include freedom from gender for all.

Transhuman After All

Much of the tech world is buzzing about the Singularity. Futurist Ray Kurzweil calls it the point at which humans “transcend biology.” Although he never fails to appreciate the human body’s complexity, he doesn’t seem particularly attached to it. He refers to it as a substrate and believes that we will soon be able to transfer ourselves to more suitable substrates. Until that day comes, we will be modifying our bodies with nanotechnology. That’s already happening.

Many people strongly oppose the idea of tinkering with our own biology. Underlying this opposition is a false dichotomy between technology and nature, as discussed by Robert Pirsig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

To get away from technology out into the country in the fresh air and sunshine is why they are on the motorcycle in the first place… I just think that their flight from and hatred of technology is self-defeating. The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of a mountain or in the petals of a flower. To think otherwise is to demean the Buddha… which is to demean oneself.

What antitechnologists really hate is not technology but the misuse of technology. There is nothing inherently bad or evil about technology. Just as a blade can be used for murder or surgery, technology can be used in ways that support or destroy nature. We live in a society in which people use technology in a lot of ways that destroy nature; and this has the unfortunate consequence of causing some people to assume that technology itself is opposed to nature. Jacque Fresco of The Venus Project is actively developing a vision of society in which technology is used only in ways that support harmony between humans and nature.

Of course, “man vs. nature” is also a false dichotomy. Humans are part of nature. When ants build a mound or birds build a nest, we consider those structures to be natural. Yet, when humans construct a building or a computer, we consider these to be artificial. This is an arbitrary distinction based on the pre-Darwinian belief that humans are not part of the animal kingdom. In a sense, because humans are part of nature, everything that humans do is strictly natural. Then what do I mean when I speak of using technology to increase harmony between humans and nature? I mean that instead of polluting the environment, ourselves, and other species, we use technology to benefit the entire planet.

The antitechnologist’s concerns may be allayed by the following consideration. You are already using technology to modify yourself. Do you ride in automobiles? Or do you believe that such would rob you of the more human experience of walking? The antitechnologist Amish still ride around in horse-drawn carriages, but how is that any less a departure from “human nature” than riding in automobiles? Where do we draw the line? At what point does technology become too much? Is it when the technology becomes internalized? Then I guess we better do away with pacemakers and intrauterine devices.

What is “human nature” anyway? Too often has this term been used to justify and perpetuate systems of oppression and control. For example, governments tirelessly assure us of their necessity by arguing that humans are naturally selfish and violent. Homophobes tell us that humans are by nature exclusively heterosexual. It’s not human nature we’re moving beyond, but the very concept of human nature. Humans are extremely variable, versatile, and adaptable. We have the ability to mold ourselves. We can be whatever we want to be.

Transcending biology does not mean that we will become mindless machines. We won’t become less human; we’ll become more human. Enhancing ourselves with technology will enrich the human experience. It will allow us to do more of what makes us human.