Ethics: Was Darwinism/Compassion

From: Adrian Teo (
Date: Thu Feb 28 2002 - 14:29:09 EST

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    Hello Lucy,

    Notice that I renamed the thread to be in line with Terry's guidelines.

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Lucy Masters []
    Sent: Wednesday, February 27, 2002 12:03 PM
    Subject: [Fwd: RE: [Fwd:RE: Darwinism/Compassion]]]]]

    <<<I cannot provide you with a B/W answer just as I do not live by B/W
    "laws." I think we should take each situation on a case by case basis and
    monitor it as we go along. What works well in one situation may not work
    well in another. You know, you could "help" one poor person who would
    respond well, engage in self-improvement, and use your Christian behavior in
    a positive way. You could provide the exact same "help" to another poor
    person who doesn't respond well, doesn't engage in self-improvement, and
    uses your Christian behavior in a negative way to enable himself to stay
    dependent upon you (i.e. "use" you). >>>

    AT: As a psychologist, I am confident that you are well aware of the
    irrationality and personal biases of human nature. This is well established
    in social, cognitive, and research psychology. It seems to me that it would
    be a sure way to lose objectivity if we allow these situations to be
    evaluated on a case by case basis. Imagine if a research scientist were to
    say that - let's do away with formal statistical procedures and guidelines
    like requireing statistical significance in order to conclude that there is
    a difference; let's just eye-ball the data on a case by case basis. It would
    turn science into a entirely subjective enterprise. We don't allow that
    because we, especially as scientists, are well aware of how irrational and
    bias we ourselves can be. It seems like you wish to do the same in the area
    of ethics. Then ultimately, the individual would become the final arbiter of
    what is right and wrong.

    Another concern that I have is that you seem to be consistently applying the
    principle of lesser evil. You take into account primarily the consequences,
    and don't pause to reflect on the object of the act itself (whether it is
    right or wrong). As long as the consequences leads to a lesser evil (or
    better yet, a greater good), one does not have to consider the means by
    which this would be accomplish. I would argue that such an approach puts one
    in a position of *increased vulnerability* to making decisions that would
    abuse human rights and disrespect human dignity. Many dictators and
    totalitarian regimes have applied the same principle to justify their human
    rights abuses. No, I'm not saying that you are a Hitler, but I am saying
    that you are applying an approach that could quite easily lead you to
    decisions that are dangerous, given the human tendency to think irrationally
    and biasly.

    For your consideration.


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