Instead of doing what is ethical, we figure out what we want to do and then come up with the rationalization for doing it.
Getting outside help when you’re emotionally involved in an issue is a key element to living a more ethical life.
By correcting even “minor” ethical lapses, we get constant practice at living more ethically. How lucky we are that life is constantly presenting us with opportunities to build up our ethical muscles.
Because ethical norms evolve, becoming an ethical person is a process or practice. Being open to seeing and correcting one’s current failings is essential to that process.
Technology has made it essential to accelerate the evolution of our ethical behaviour. Science and engineering have given us physical powers that traditionally were thought of as belonging only to the gods. Only God could destroy cities with thunderbolts. Today, we can do the same with nuclear weapons. Only God could cause a flood that would necessitate Noah building an ark, whereas human-induced global warming threatens similar devastation. Only God could create new life forms, whereas genetic engineering allows us to do so routinely.
Nuclear weapons, environmental crises, and genetic engineering are symptoms of a deeper, underlying problem: the chasm between our technological power on the one hand and our ethical development on the other.
Humanity is like a sixteen-year-old with a new driver’s license who somehow got his hands on a 500-horsepower Ferrari. We will either accelerate our ethical evolution or we will kill ourselves.
While we have made significant progress in all dimensions related to the survival of civilization, we still have far to go.
No one person can solve this problem. But if enough of us move things a little, together we can change the substrate of the world and create new possibilities. That’s how slavery ended, women got the vote, and more.
If enough of us work at accelerating humanity's ethical evolution, together we will not only triumph over the threats we face; we will also build a more peaceful, sustainable world that we can be proud to pass on to future generations.
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