Saturday, July 4, 2009

Environmental Philosophy

Bloggingheads has a diavlog today between Jay Odenbaugh and Craig Callender on Environmental Philosophy. A couple excerpts:

(6:30) How much consideration do animals deserve? Using a thought experiment, where you are the last human on earth and about to die, would there be something wrong with using all the world's nukes to blow up the planet? Assuming the answer is no because there are other living things on the planet, should non-humans be given moral standing?

IMHO, destroying the world would be unacceptable because it would be impossible to know for certain that you were the last living human. The world is too big. I find nothing objectionable to launching one nuke just for the explosion, as you could be certain no people would be harmed and the property would have no value (happy 4th of July).

Also, I think the experiment may show other sentient beings have value, but it leaves room for humans to be absolutely more valuable. In that case, animal rights would be irrelevant so long as human welfare was at stake. A more revealing experiment would be a man and his spouse in a bunker, who need to launch a nuclear arsenal to eradicate an infectious disease which has killed the rest of the human race but has not affected some other animals. Other humans may or may not be in other radiation proof bunkers. Is it ethical to launch the bombs?

(44:04)There is also a good discussion of what we owe future generations. Should there be a discount rate like we use with bank loans and credit card payments? If so, what should that rate be? Or should we use a Rawlsian veil of ignorance to claim that we have no right to leave the environment any worse than it was when we were born.

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Compared with the totality of knowledge which is continually utilized in the evolution of a dynamic civilization, the difference between the knowledge that the wisest and that which the most ignorant individual can deliberately employ is comparatively insignificant. ~Fredrich Hayek in The Constitution of Liberty