“Our Obsolete Moral/Legal Thinking Doom Us!”
An article donated by Alton C. Thompson
In 1907, Edward Alsworth Ross [1866 – 1961], began his " Sin and Society: A Study in Latter-Day Iniquity," by writing (p. vii):
"In its reactions against wrong-doing, the public is childishly naive and sentimental. It is content with the surface look of things. I lays emphasis where emphasis was laid centuries ago. It beholds sin in a false perspective, seeing peccadillos as crimes, and crimes as peccadillos."
In effect, Ross was saying that just as there has been a growing Discrepancy, since the Neolithic Revolution, between
(a) the way of life for which we had become “designed” 1 prior to that Revolution, and
(b) the new ways of life that have developed since that Revolution, in which Discrepancy has had important consequences. Our thinking about moral and legal matters has lagged behind societal
What I would add to Ross’s important insight is that the growing Discrepancy 2 in our moral and legal thinking is having deadly implications now, and is likely to be a contributing factor in our imminent extinction as a species!
To support this thesis I use two rather different examples that are, however, similar in that both are sins of omission. The two examples are:
1. The loss of life that can be attributed to the Trump Administration's failure to address the Covid-19 virus problem in a timely matter.
2. The likely extinction of our species likely to result from the failure of societies — ours in particular! — to address the problem of global warming — a problem that exists because of human activities.
The Covid-19 Case:
The World Health Organization (WHO) published its “first Disease Outbreak News on the new virus” on January 5, 2020.
On February 3 WHO issued “the international community's Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan to help protect states
with weaker health systems.” Germany’s response to the virus is depicted on this graph:
Graph 1 goes here
Note that the graph shows the number of coronavirus cases, has a jagged, rather than smooth, appearance; but that from roughly April 1 until present, the trend has been downward. This article lists three reasons that explain the German
The experience of those of us living in the United States has been rather different! As the graph below indicates, a peak in number of cases occurred in early April, but since then the trend—insofar as there has been one!—has been rather flat!
Graph 2 goes here
The reason why the graph for the United States differs so substantially from that of Germany is leadership. Or, rather, the lack of leadership evident in the United States. In fact, that lack caused Eugene Jarecki to create a Trump Death Clock! This “clock” gives the number of deaths that can be attributed to a late response by the Trump Administration.
As I write these words today (2020-JUN-25), that number stands at 73,348!
This article, posted just a few days ago, asks this question: “How many needless Covid-19 deaths [in the United States] were caused by delays in responding?” Its answer: “Most of them”!!
The article begins this way:
"More than 120,000 Americans have now perished from Covid-19, surpassing the total number of
U.S. dead during World War I. Had American leaders taken the decisive, early measures that
several other nations took when they had exactly the same information the U.S. did, at exactly the
same time in their experience of the novel coronavirus, how many of these Covid-19 deaths could
have been prevented?"
That isn’t a hypothetical question. And the answer that emerges from a direct comparison of the fatalities in and policies of the U.S. and other countries — South Korea, Australia, Germany, and Singapore — indicates that between 70% and 99% of the Americans who died from this pandemic might have been saved by measures demonstrated by others to have been feasible.
Given that the current death toll, in the United States , stands at 121,117; that means that between 84,800 and 96,900 of the deaths that have occurred so far can be attributed to inaction on the part of
the Trump Administration!
Can this problem be fixed? My answer: The likely extinction of our species “soon” means that it won’t get fixed!
Extinction From Global Warming:
Certain human activities have been the cause of the global warming now occurring: our burning of fossil fuels, deforestation activities, and reproduction -- with a conseqeunt huge world population. At present this is approaching 8 billion.
The world’s people face: “... untold suffering due to the climate crisis” unless there are major transformations to global society, according to a stark warning from more than 11,000 scientists:
“We declare clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency.”
“To secure a sustainable future, we must change how we live. [This] entails major transformations
in the ways our global society functions and interacts with natural ecosystems.”
Given that the likelihood that we humans — we USans, in particular? — will “change how we live” is
certainly close to zero (!). It’s likely that we humans:
- Will continue the activities that are causing global warming.
- Global warming will “soon” begin “feeding on itself.” 3
- It will then be impossible to halt the warming that’s occurring! Meaning that at some point, Earth will become uninhabitable for us, and we will go extinct!
Given that killing others is both immoral and illegal, our activities that are causing global warming are
clearly immoral, but not, at present, illegal. Because the obsolete nature of our thinking at present does
not enable us to recognize the “wrongness” of our behaviors, we don’t act to “save” ourselves. It must
be recognized, however, that the institutional structures that we have created virtually force us to continue to think and act as we do. The main “wrongness” that exists, relative to global warming, is that institutional structure, and its creation “just happened”! It was not consciously created. That fact means that the concepts of “right” and “wrong” don’t even have any relevance, so far as the problem of global warming is concerned! Perhaps that fact helps explain my utter lack of optimism regarding the human future! To say nothing of other species.
- THE BONDS THAT hold nature together may be at risk of unraveling from deforestation, overfishing, development, and other human activities, a landmark United Nations report warns. Thanks to human pressures, one million species may be pushed to extinction in the next few years, with serious consequences for human beings as well as the rest of life on Earth. Despite the gloomy prospects for life, I continue to have some hope, as expressed, e.g., in this: Viking
Villages for Today.
3 Given that global warming is now accelerating, this may be occurring now!
If racism has been a “blindspot” in the minds of many in our society, then of even more importance is “blindness” about the current occurrence of global warming. Certainly a major reason for that “blindness” is that our governments are not telling us the truth about how unbearable and how bad global warming is going to get. Many catastrophic global warming consequences are going to arrive far sooner than we are being told. Some of these coming catastrophic global warming consequences are already unavoidable!
It’s not just that governments have been remiss in not informing the public about the threat posed by global warming. “Media silence” about the threat is of even more importance:
At a time when civilization is accelerating toward disaster, climate silence continues to reign across the bulk of the US news media. Especially on television, where most Americans still get their news, the brutal demands of ratings and money work against adequate coverage of the biggest story of our time. Many newspapers, too, are failing the climate test.
During 2019-October, the scientists of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a landmark report, warning that humanity had a mere 12 years to radically slash greenhouse gas emissions or face a calamitous future in which hundreds of millions of people worldwide would go hungry or homeless or worse. Only 22 of the 50 biggest newspapers in the United States covered that report.
Commercial media rely on advertising for their support, thus must not alienate their advertisers. Firms that advertise, in turn, must not alienate customers, and that fact may very well explain their unwillingness to have the media give out information about global warming—even though they may know about global warming, and the threat that it poses!!
Their “blindness” may be understandable, given the “capitalistic” nature of our economy; however, that “blindness” does not bode well for the future of our species!!!
I apologize for concluding this essay on such a pessimistic note, but see no alternative!
I wish that this “blindness” could be healed, but don’t foresee that occurring.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
1: One based on hunting and gathering. See Alan Barnard, Hunters and Gatherers: What We Can Learn From
Them (2020), p.56.
2 The term “evolutionary discordance hypothesis” is a related concept; its focus, however, is on the belief that cultural evolution is outpacing genetic evolution and is a principal cause of disease today/
Original posting: 2020-JUN-
Author: Alton C. Thompson