PhD Student studying how the immune system interacts with specific microorganisms


The Conflicted Omnivore

I think this described me for a while, I gradually cut down on meat until I'm now a lacto-vegetarian (at least when I'm buying the food, I'll admit I just visited my parents and enjoyed having an excuse to eat huge amounts of ham and turkey).

I think it's similar to other ethical objections people have but ignore, most supply chains degrade human dignity or destroy the environment in ways we know are wrong, but ethical alternatives are either unavailable or inconvenient, which outweighs the vague guilt we feel if we ever accidently  think think about it too long. 

As you point out,  making alternatives readily available definitely seems more effective than criticising the constant hypocrisy!  

Thoughts on being mortal

I really liked this post, at some point I'd like to read some of the books you referenced.

Ultimately, this is why I worry about the Life-Extension crowd, clinging to life as long as possible causes a lot of misery in our current medical system. I feel like we'd all be happier if we all just accept that our days  are numbered and try to make them count. 

The obvious counter-argument is that the transhumanists plan on staying young and healthy forever thanks to technology (medical or digital), but that's a lot harder than just prolonging how long it takes to die.

My mistakes on the path to impact

I'd say that "Intelligent people disagree with this" is a good reason to look into what those people think and why - I agree that it should make you less certain of your current position, but you might actually end up more certain of your original opinion after you've understood those disagreements.

Nuclear war is unlikely to cause human extinction

This all seems very plausible to me, I've always been sceptical of the idea that nuclear war (or climate change, or a pandemic) could kill all humans on the planet. There's a lot of us, we're very widely distributed and we're very adaptable, we'd probably just end up with a new world order dominated by Australia, New Zealand, Africa and Latin America. It would be great to have more research on nuclear winter, especially since it would overlap with climate modelling and potentially with geoengineering projects designed to deliberately cool the planet, so understanding this better would be great for the future.

Nuclear war would still be very bad, and  I think we should probably be concerned with non-existential risks, since after a near miss it would take a very long time for things to return to where they are today.

The idea that we should lobby the military to be selective in its nuclear targeting is interesting, I'm not sure how tractable that is but the pessimist in me does suspect that militaries are the only branch of government incentivised to think long term.

Why I think the EA Community should write more fiction

In terms of Effective Altruist Fiction, I think Unsong ( ) is a great example.  Despite the premise being rather strange (The Bible and Talmud are literally true), Peter Singer and EA get explicitly mentioned in Cantors and Singers, and the Comet King is a great example of a utilitarian protagonist who genuinely tries to do as much good as possible (by trying to literally destroy Hell).

The idea of communicating Long-termism through fiction is discussed in an episode of the 80000 hours podcast (, although Rob suggests an Office-style sitcom, whereas I think a science fiction thriller would be more interesting and potentially more effective.

Why Research into Wild Animal Suffering Concerns me

It probably makes more sense in context, but the context is an entire book of Christian apologetics (sequel to a book on  early 20th century philosophy called "Heretics") so I doubt you have time for that right now.

I guess what I really meant was "regardless of how convincing it is to people other than me". By definition if I found something convincing it would change my mind, but in the hypothetical example it's more of a difference in values rather than facts.

I too think it makes the most sense to care about groups only as collections of individuals, but  reasonable people could think the reverse is true.

Why Research into Wild Animal Suffering Concerns me

I just wanted to thank everyone for their replies, it's addressed most of my concerns. 

Based on my initial exposure to the field I was assuming that Wild Animal Welfare's long term goal would be to convince people of a worldview directly opposed to my own, i.e.  some form of negative utilitarianism, which I reject for both philosophical and mental health reasons. Regardless of how likely this project was to succeed, it seemed like the kind of thing I should be against, since arguments in favour of destroying the natural world could be very useful to people who planned on doing that anyway.  Nature seems pretty useful, I'd hate to lose it without good reason.

I mentioned negative utilitarianism, and so inevitably world destruction came up. I'll make it clear that I'm totally on board with destroying the world in order to replace it with something better, but for practical reasons we're going to have to do that incrementally. I'm opposed to destroying the world in order to prevent anyone from suffering, which was what I assumed the field would lead to before hearing more about it. I now feel that this will probably be the first kind of destruction, which I'm fine with.

Why Research into Wild Animal Suffering Concerns me

To address the first point, it's definitely not something I see as happening any time soon, and I'm much less concerned about the future of the field now that I've read the replies to my post. 

But since you ask, I can only conceive of being convinced that any of my deeply held beliefs are wrong through appeal to an even more deeply held belief, and a lot of my beliefs (and interest in EA) rest on the idea that "Life is Worth Living". At some point, surely there has to be something that isn't up for debate? 

As for why I'd be opposed to human extinction on principle and even against my better judgement, G. K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy, Chapter 5 puts it best: "A man belongs to this world before he begins to ask if it is nice to belong to it. He has fought for the flag, and often won heroic victories for the flag long before he has ever enlisted. To put shortly what seems the essential matter, he has a loyalty long before he has any admiration."

(This is the basis for his argument against optimism, jingoism, pessimism and suicide)

Why Research into Wild Animal Suffering Concerns me

I believe we're  already replacing the rainforest with many things of more (economic) value, like palm oil and cows. I guess in future we'll just have the palm oil, at least until we discover plants can suffer and they have to go too.

If being a consequentialist implies I should, under certain circumstances, destroy the world, I think I'm going to prioritise the world over consequentialism. 

Why Research into Wild Animal Suffering Concerns me

I think the entire space of dramatically intervening in natural ecosystems in order to align them with our own moral preferences should make anyone nervous (including fertility control , that could go horribly wrong), especially when the space includes "wiping out animals".

I'm not sure I'd call it one thing exactly, that covers everything from total extinction of all life to specific extinction of some species to merely human management of existing populations. The last option is something we already do to some extent, deer aren't going to hunt themselves and we already wiped out most of the wolves.

The fact that I consider some plausible solutions repellent is not a reason not to look into the space, I'm just trying to explain why I'm averse to it.

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