Sustainability, Lies to Kids, Revealing Atheism, and More
Webcast Q&A: 4 December 2011
I answered questions on the principle of sustainability, convincing kids that Ewoks are real, donating sperm or eggs anonymously, revealing atheism to inquisitive strangers, and more on 4 December 2011. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers was my co-host. Listen to or download this episode of Philosophy in Action Radio below.
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Segments: 4 December 2011
Question: What's wrong with the principle of sustainability? In the discussion of "sustainable agriculture" in your October 9th webcast, you didn't explain the problem with the basic principle of the "sustainability movement," namely "that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Doesn't that just mean respecting rights? If not, what does it mean and why is it wrong?
Answer, In Brief: The principle of sustainability must be understood in its proper ideological context of collectivism, egalitarianism, and environmentalism. Understood that way, it's clearly demanding that people not exploit finite resources for their own benefit, as they ought.
Question: Should parents convince their kids that fictional creatures, such as Ewoks, are real for the sake of fun? As recounted in Wired, a father told his kids that Ewoks from Star Wars lived in the Sequoia National Forest. On their recent family vacation, they made a game of looking for these imaginary Ewoks. Afterwards, the father photoshopped a few Ewoks into the family vacation pictures. Are these kinds of deceptions harmless or are they bad parenting? The father said: "Maybe I'm a little wrong for lying to her and falsifying the pictures, but I don't care. She'll never forget the time she spent in the big woods with Ewoks."
Answer, In Brief: Lying to your kids, even if for fun, has pernicious consequences, including on your kids' trust in you and confidence in themselves. Instead, play a game of pretend! Everyone will have fun, without the dishonesty hangover.
Question: Is it moral to anonymously donate sperm or eggs, not knowing how the resulting children will be raised? Is the answer the same for donating fertilized embryos left over from an in vitro fertilization procedure, where the DNA is both yours and your spouse's?
Answer, In Brief: Given that (1) DNA does not have any magic power to carry moral responsibility, (2) that sperm, eggs, and embryos are not actual persons, and (3) that most people in our culture will raise a child in a loving and decent way, it's perfectly moral to donate sperm, eggs, or embryos without knowing anything about the parents who will use them.
Question: Should I reveal my atheism to strangers when asked? I work at a hospital. One night a patient asked me if I'm religious. I answered yes. He then asked me if I believed that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins. I answered yes. Then he took my hand and prayed for me. Immediately, I felt guilty, because I lied in answering these questions. In fact, I'm an atheist. The next day, I told the patient the truth, and he thanked me for my honesty. What should I have done in answering his original questions?
Answer, In Brief: Honesty is a virtue, and fully applicable here. So when asked personal questions by strangers, the proper response is to either answer the question honestly or decline to answer it.
Rapid Fire Questions (58:36)
- What do you think of Newt Gingrich for president?
- How can you read Atlas Shrugged in today's political climate and not totally freak out? I'm waiting for Obama to announce the implementation of Directive 10-289 any day now.
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About Philosophy in Action
I'm Dr. Diana Brickell (formerly Diana Hsieh). I'm a philosopher, and I've long specialized in the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. I completed my Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2009. I retired from work as a public intellectual in 2015.
From September 2009 to September 2015, I produced a radio show and podcast, Philosophy in Action Radio. In the primary show, my co-host Greg Perkins and I answered questions applying rational principles to the challenges of real life. We broadcast live over the internet on Sunday mornings.
My first book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame, can be purchased in paperback and Kindle. The book defends the justice of moral praise and blame of persons using an Aristotelian theory of moral responsibility, thereby refuting Thomas Nagel's "problem of moral luck." My second book (and online course), Explore Atlas Shrugged, is a fantastic resource for anyone wishing to study Ayn Rand's epic novel in depth.
I can be reached via e-mail to email@example.com.