I hold a few core ethical ideas that are extremely unpopular: the idea that we should treat the natural suffering of animals as a grave moral catastrophe, the idea that old age and involuntary death is the number one enemy of humanity, the idea that we should treat so-called farm animals with an very high level of compassion.
Given the unpopularity of these ideas, you might be tempted to think that the reason they are unpopular is that they are exceptionally counterinuitive ones. But is that the case? Do you really need a modern education and philosphical training to understand them? Perhaps I shouldn't blame people for not taking things seriously that which they lack the background to understand.
Yet, I claim that these ideas are not actually counterintuitive: they are the type of things you would come up on your own if you had not been conditioned by society to treat them as abnormal. A thoughtful 15 year old who was somehow educated without human culture would find no issue taking these issues seriously. Do you disagree? Let's put my theory to the test.
In order to test my theory -- that caring about wild animal suffering, aging, animal mistreatment -- are the things that you would care about if you were uncorrupted by our culture, we need look no further than the bible.
It is known that the book of Genesis was written in ancient times, before anyone knew anything of modern philosophy, contemporary norms of debate, science, advanced mathematics. The writers of Genesis wrote of a perfect paradise, the one that we fell from after we were corrupted. They didn't know what really happened, of course, so they made stuff up. What is that perfect paradise that they made up?
From Anwers In Genesis, a creationist website,
Death is a sad reality that is ever present in our world, leaving behind tremendous pain and suffering. Tragically, many people shake a fist at God when faced with the loss of a loved one and are left without adequate answers from the church as to death’s existence. Unfortunately, an assumption has crept into the church which sees death as a natural part of our existence and as something that we have to put up with as opposed to it being an enemy
Since creationists believe that humans are responsible for all the evil in the world, they do not make the usual excuse for evil that it is natural and therefore necessary. They openly call death an enemy, that which to be destroyed.
Both humans and animals were originally vegetarian, then death could not have been a part of God’s Creation. Even after the Fall the diet of Adam and Eve was vegetarian (Genesis 3:17–19). It was not until after the Flood that man was permitted to eat animals for food (Genesis 9:3). The Fall in Genesis 3 would best explain the origin of carnivorous animal behavior.
So in the garden, animals did not hurt one another. Humans did not hurt animals. But this article even goes further, and debunks the infamous "plants tho" objection to vegetarianism,
Plants neither feel pain nor die in the sense that animals and humans do as “Plants are never the subject of חָיָה ” (Gerleman 1997, p. 414). Plants are not described as “living creatures” as humans, land animals, and sea creature are (Genesis 1:20–21, 24 and 30; Genesis 2:7; Genesis 6:19–20 and Genesis 9:10–17), and the words that are used to describe their termination are more descriptive such as “wither” or “fade” (Psalm 37:2; 102:11; Isaiah 64:6).
In God's perfect creation, the one invented by uneducated folks thousands of years ago, we can see that wild animal suffering did not exist, nor did death from old age, or mistreatment of animals.
In this article, I find something so close to my own morality, it strikes me a creationist of all people would write something so elegant,
Most animal rights groups start with an evolutionary view of mankind. They view us as the last to evolve (so far), as a blight on the earth, and the destroyers of pristine nature. Nature, they believe, is much better off without us, and we have no right to interfere with it. This is nature worship, which is a further fulfillment of the prophecy in Romans 1 in which the hearts of sinful man have traded worship of God for the worship of God’s creation.
But as people have noted for years, nature is “red in tooth and claw.”4 Nature is not some kind of perfect, pristine place.
Unfortunately, it continues
And why is this? Because mankind chose to sin against a holy God.
I contend it doesn't really take a modern education to invent these ethical notions. The truly hard step is accepting that evil is bad even if you aren't personally responsible.
I have now posted as a comment on Lesswrong my summary of some recent economic forecasts and whether they are underestimating the impact of the coronavirus. You can help me by critiquing my analysis.
A trip to Mars that brought back human passengers also has the chance of bringing back microbial Martian passengers. This could be an existential risk if microbes from Mars harm our biosphere in a severe and irreparable manner.
From Carl Sagan in 1973, "Precisely because Mars is an environment of great potential biological interest, it is possible that on Mars there are pathogens, organisms which, if transported to the terrestrial environment, might do enormous biological damage - a Martian plague, the twist in the plot of H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds, but in reverse."
Note that the microbes would not need to have independently arisen on Mars. It could be that they were transported to Mars from Earth billions of years ago (or the reverse occurred). While this issue has been studied by some, my impression is that effective altruists have not looked into this issue as a potential source of existential risk.
A line of inquiry to launch could be to determine whether there are any historical parallels on Earth that could give us insight into whether a Mars-to-Earth contamination would be harmful. The introduction of an invasive species into some region loosely mirrors this scenario, but much tighter parallels might still exist.
Since Mars missions are planned for the 2030s, this risk could arrive earlier than essentially all the other existential risks that EAs normally talk about.
See this Wikipedia page for more information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planetary_protection