Philosophy Hurts Your Head

The blog of a cranky Philosophy PhD Student from Newcastle, Australia.

Archive for September, 2007

I still laugh and other people still don’t

Posted by Sam D on September 28, 2007

I revisited some of the less subtle websites that I used to favor in years past Objective: Ministries and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

I have been told that I have an infantile sense of humour, so I still find these pages funny, especially Objective:Ministries. What I find disturbing is that (based on the comments and guestbook signings of both sites) many people still don’t get joke.

I have news for you people: Bobby Henderson does not really think that the universe was created by some divine pasta dish! And you should not be overly concerned if he does. Claiming to pray for him makes you look ridiculous, and heaping abuse on him because you are smart enough to recognise that he is poking fun at your religion or politics paints you in the worst possible light.

Similarly, I am almost 100% sure that Objective:Ministries is a parody site. Now in all fairness this took me a while to work out, but the project to capture a pterosaur in Africa to prove creationism should be a dead give-away. If you are getting upset because this site portrays Christianity inaccurately, then at least take comfort in the fact that no one will get your church and Objective:Ministries mixed up. If you think that this site mixes truth and falsity (like The Da Vinci Code did) in order to divert people from the Truth, then I think you need to re-evaluate what you believe and why you believe it.

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The Ethics of “If we don’t then someone else will”

Posted by Sam D on September 7, 2007

While everyone has been distracted by the sound and fury of APEC the the New South Wales state government approved a new major coal mine for the Hunter region. Without getting into the technical details the bare facts are that this mine will involve a lot of coal (10 million tonnes per year for up to 21 years) being dug out of the ground, sold, and then burnt. Presumably this will involve a lot of Carbon Dioxide ending up in the atmosphere. The Greens say the mine, near Mudgee, will increase Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 5.3 per cent per year. It’s plausible that this could contribute to climate change. For what it’s worth, I’m not a climate change sceptic, but I wanted to talk about something different here.

In response to criticism from green groups, NSW Planning Minister, Frank Sartor is reported to have argued that if the coal did not come from this mine it would come from a mine somewhere, and hence the development was ethically and morally acceptable. This claim is what I’m really interested in.

There might be other factors, but the “if we don’t then someone else will” argument, by itself, does not seem to provide much in the way of ethical justification. Assuming that burning coal is a bad thing, we can easily draw a parallel with the provision of other products that seem morally challenged.

Examples:

If we don’t provide the market with anti-personel land mines, then someone else will….

If that crack cocaine isn’t produced here it will be produced somewhere else….

Demand for hardcore child pornography is so high that if we don’t sell it to developing countries then some else will…..

etc, so it is morally and ethically justified for us to do so.

This seems to me to be a questionable inference. The only circumstances that anyone would use such a justification for action would be when they do not hold a strong moral belief that such an action was wrong, or that they believe that other factors outweigh the negative effects. In this case it seems that either Frank Sartor is a climate change sceptic, or he does not believe that it is wrong to contribute to Global Warming or that he believes that the positives ( in this case 320 jobs and coal exports worth $7.5 billion) outweigh the possible harm that burning the coal could cause.

Posted in Environment, Ethics, philosophy & politics | 1 Comment »