A friend of mine, who is severely allergic to pork products, recently asked whether it would be okay for him to order a Western Omelet (ingredients: eggs, cheese, ham, onions, peppers). Superficially, this might seem like a fairly easy question: the incompatibilities between Western omelets and pork allergies seem pretty obvious. But I was able to use a sophisticated philosophical argument to convince him that everything would be okay.
My inspiration was Stephen Jay Gould’s concept of NOMA, or Non-Overlapping Magisteria. This principle establishes the fundamental compatibility of science with religion, arguing that the two simply don’t address similar questions, and therefore cannot come into conflict. Science deals with the workings of the world (“is” questions), while religion deals with ethical behavior (“ought” questions), so there is way they can be incompatible.
In this spirit, I have developed what I like to call the principle of Non-Overlapping Food Groups, or NOFOG for short. The basic argument is as follows: throughout history, humans have divided our culinary products into a set of grand groupings. Among these are the Egg Group and the Pork Group. Clearly these are non-overlapping: eggs come from chickens, while pork comes from pigs. Q.E.D.
Now, I don’t know about you, but a Western Omelet falls squarely within the Egg Group where I am from. Growing up in our small house in the Pennsylvania suburbs, I would look forward to eggs every Sunday morning, most often in the form of a yummy Western Omelet. While the identification is not perfect, we won’t go far wrong by recognizing the Western Omelet as a crucial component of the Egg Group on which we all depend.
Clearly, since the Egg Group is non-overlapping with the Pork Group, and my friend’s allergies are only to pork, the NOFOG principle justified encouraging his interest in ordering the omelet. I’ll be visiting him in the hospital tomorrow, hopefully he’s feeling better.