Travis Rieder from NBC News recently published an article titled, “Science proves kids are bad for the Earth. Morality suggests we stop having them.” Within the article, Rieder uses a derivative of moral fifteen times. As the great master swordsman Inigo Montoya, in The Princess Bride, eloquently stated, “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Case in point, he states, “Humanity grew up in relatively small groups; Rules like “don’t harm others,” or “don’t steal and cheat” are easy to make sense of in a world of largely individual interactions.”
It is interesting that he uses the word “rules” and not morality to describe hurting, stealing or cheating. Why are these rules and not moral standards?
An illustration in explaining this might be helpful. I very much enjoy watching nature documentaries. My favorite ones are the ones produced by BBC Earth. I love the images and the videography and especially the British accent. I wish I had a lovely British accent. It’s so classy and makes you sound super smart, and the tone is captivating. But even with the countless number of documentaries I have seen with those intelligent sounding Brits, I have yet to hear the narrator condemn an animal for hurting, stealing, or cheating.
I have never heard the narrator say that the male bear that is trying to kill the female bear’s cubs so that he could then mate with her an immoral act. Why not? If we’re all just animals why can’t we do that? I mean, aren’t rules made to be broken. Why are you pushing your morals, I’m sorry rules on me. If rules are regulations or principles governing conduct within a particular activity or sphere, then by your own words hurting, stealing, and cheating are not immoral they are just rules to govern our activities in society.
Additionally, the fallacy of Rieder’s argument continues when he states that “Our moral psychology has not yet evolved to solve the problems of today.” Utilizing the logical conclusion of this statement, we would have to conclude that there are no such things as morals and morality. If morals are merely a byproduct of the collective social construct and not a set of unchangeable moral principles, then it is neither moral or immoral to destroy the planet. It’s entirely amoral; as it would be amoral to have as many children as you wanted. Morality is just rules based on what society at a particular time thinks is right or wrong.
Therefore, who are you, Travis Rieder, to tell us what is moral and immoral? If our collective psychology hasn’t yet evolved, then by logical conclusion, society has determined that having as many children as you want is moral and thus you are the immoral one telling us not to have children. It is you, that is going against the grain of society’s moral psychology.
Therefore, Mr. Rieder, you keep using the term morality, but I must say, “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.”