Monday, October 21, 2013

    Humanist Minute from the 10/20/13 meeting

    HSGP member Henry Geist offered the following for the Sunday Humanist Minute on October 20, 2013.  This bears thinking about for more than a minute.

    From:  Ethics for a Finite World   by   Herschel Elliott
    The Inability of Personal Ethics to Address the Physical Causes of Human Ills.
    Personal ethics errs in that its categorical moral laws incorporate incentives that only increase human need. Frequently cited examples, again, are apropos.
    The obligation of personal ethics to give philanthropic aid to all in need entails counterproductive incentives. The only thing that poor nations have to do in order to receive more aid is to generate more need. Thus, nations with dense populations, high birthrates, and ravaged environments can expect mankind to supply them with the foods and funds they need to relieve their plight.
    The pragmatic effect of such aid is to subsidize the status quo. It supports the continued growth of the needy population. It stimulates the further destructive exploitation of their degraded environments. Inevitably, the expanding human population and the increased exploitation of the damaged environment cause more people to suffer. Unconditional aid only exacerbates the woes it was intended to redress. The categorical commandments of personal ethics cannot be modified to take account of the fact that the behavior required by personal ethics affects what happens in the world: it can cause hardship and disaster rather than the expected benefit.