Monthly Archives: November 2013

68. What does it mean to be a good person? (proposed by Annette Faith Dexter)

 Have there been any out­stand­ing­ly good peo­ple in human his­to­ry, or have the life sto­ries of those held up as good (e.g. Gand­hi, Moth­er Tere­sa, the Dalai Lama, Mar­t­in Luther King) been “pho­to­shopped” to suit the pur­pos­es of oth­ers? Do our con­cepts of what is good pro­gress over time any­way, such that what once was moral­ly out­stand­ing (e.g. oppos­ing slav­ery) is now mere­ly nor­mal?

67. Eugenics is the only reasonable strategy available to us, given the fact of evolution (proposed by Dominicus)

Humans are not sta­t­ic. Evo­lu­tion is an ongo­ing process. Humans will inevitably change over time from var­i­ous selec­tive pres­sures on sur­vival and repro­duc­tion. That much is cer­tain. Equal­ly cer­tain is the fact that the indi­vid­u­al and col­lec­tive deci­sions of humans will have var­i­ous direct and indi­rect effects on this grad­u­al change. The only ques­tion that remains is to decide whether we wish for our influ­ence on our con­tin­ued evo­lu­tion to be ran­dom, dis­or­gan­ised and entire­ly unin­ten­tion­al (remain­ing in denial of the facts due to the stig­ma on eugen­ics), or to make our influ­ence very delib­er­ate, care­ful and cal­cu­lat­ed.
The fact is that (whether we like it or not) we are faced with the ques­tion of how we want to change our species, and denial of this will only mean that we leave the des­ti­na­tion of our species to pure chance, which doesn’t seem like a very respon­si­ble or intel­li­gent respon­se to me.

65. Creating Meaning in Life (discussed 30 Nov. 2013 — proposed by Annette)

Humans have a short phys­i­cal exis­tence on a plan­et that will even­tu­al­ly cease to sup­port life at all. In this con­text, what strate­gies should humans use to impart mean­ing to their own lives? Some pos­si­bil­i­ties are list­ed. Which of the­se have you used, and how effec­tive have they been? Are dif­fer­ent approach­es appro­pri­ate to dif­fer­ent stages of life? 

A. Com­pete with oth­er humans (e.g. for sta­tus)
B. Care for oth­er humans (e.g. as a human­i­tar­i­an)
C. Max­i­mize close con­nec­tions with oth­er humans (e.g. with a love part­ner)
D. Max­i­mize pos­i­tive sub­jec­tive expe­ri­ences (e.g. “be hap­py”)
E. Align your­self with what you believe to be a high­er pur­pose (e.g. pol­i­tics)
F. Adhere to a set of rules/standards (e.g. moral pre­cepts)
G. Attempt to cre­ate some­thing that will out­live you (e.g. art) 
H. Invest in the next gen­er­a­tion of humans (e.g. your bio­log­i­cal off­spring)
I. Oth­er approach­es?

64. How far should we go in raising an indifferent public’s awareness of important social, moral or political issues? (discussed 14 December 2013; proposed by Mehdi)

Some believe “igno­rance is bliss”, and the more they know the more they get wor­ried. On the oth­er hand we def­i­nite­ly can’t be indif­fer­ent about many things. From a social per­spec­tive, through which we try to man­age our rela­tion­ship with oth­ers in a friend­ly man­ner, what is the bor­der­line between legit­i­mate wor­ry (which leads to tak­ing action) and indif­fer­ence (which pre­serve peace of mind, at least in the short term)? Is it moral­ly per­mis­si­ble to encour­age oth­er peo­ple to wor­ry about cer­tain issues, say glob­al warm­ing, human rights, ani­mal rights, etc. to pre­cip­i­tate effec­tive action? Should we con­sid­er them self­ish if they are innate­ly not con­cerned about such issues, or mere­ly show token agree­ment?

61. Marriage laws–how broad should they be? (proposed by Annette)

Mar­riage laws–how broad should they be? Gay mar­riage is a cur­rent top­ic in many coun­tries around the world, and it is like­ly that it will even­tu­al­ly become the norm in most West­ern coun­tries. What oth­er forms of mar­riage might we be pre­pared to accept? Polygamy is a form of mar­riage that is tech­ni­cal­ly not legal in Aus­tralia, but is infor­mal­ly accept­ed. Should polyg­a­mous mar­riage be legal and if so, with­in which lim­its? How would the legal sys­tem need to change to accom­mo­date polyg­a­mous mar­riage?

60. Recreational drugs–should they be decriminalized? (proposed by Annette)

Recre­ation­al drugs–should they be decrim­i­nal­ized? In 2001, Por­tu­gal became the first Euro­pean coun­try to abol­ish crim­i­nal penalties for per­son­al pos­ses­sion of drugs, includ­ing mar­i­jua­na, cocaine, hero­in and metham­phet­a­mine. (This goes well beyond poli­cies adopt­ed in Hol­land, which has not legalised soft drugs, but does not enforce the exist­ing laws.) Is decrim­i­nal­is­ing drugs a good idea? What would be the effect if it were done in Aus­tralia?

59. Coal seam gas–a technology for a green future? (proposed by Annette)

Coal seam gas–a tech­nol­o­gy for a green future? Most pro­jec­tions of future ener­gy use include an increas­ing pro­por­tion of nat­u­ral gas as part of an effort to reduce green­house gas emis­sions. Nat­u­ral gas is increas­ing­ly pro­duced by “frack­ing”, and has already led to a decrease in US CO2 emis­sions, but it is a con­tro­ver­sial method. Should we allow frack­ing in order to mit­i­gate green­house gas emis­sions? Is it bet­ter for us to use coal seam gas, than direct­ly mine the coal?

57. Trust — Caution — Suspicion -> What is a healthy balance of these in personal relationships, a community, a workplace, between nations? (proposed by Thor)

Amer­i­ca has obvi­ous­ly just gone into sev­ere trust deficit with NSA inter­cept­ing everyone’s pri­vate com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Is this just about coun­tries though? Is the “trust index” drop­ping every­where, even at a per­son­al lev­el? How do cul­tures dif­fer in this?