Once, pretty much everywhere, beating your wife and children was regarded as a father’s duty, homosexuality was a hanging offense, and waterboarding was approved — in fact, invented — by the Catholic Church. Through the middle of the 19th century, the United States and other nations in the Americas condoned plantation slavery. Many of our grandparents were born in states where women were forbidden to vote. And well into the 20th century, lynch mobs in this country stripped, tortured, hanged and burned human beings at picnics.
Looking back at such horrors, it is easy to ask: What were people thinking?
Yet, the chances are that our own descendants will ask the same question, with the same incomprehension, about some of our practices today.
Is there a way to guess which ones?
I thought this was going to be another just-doesn’t-get-it opinion piece in the Washington Post. After all, the answer to its headline question, “What will future generations condemn us for?” is painfully obvious to anybody who follows climate science (as I discussed here).
But the author, Kwame Anthony Appiah, has in fact written a very thoughtful piece on the “three signs that a particular practice is destined for future condemnation.” And the Post is running an online poll where “Our treatment of the environment” is already easily winning. Here are the three signs: