Moral Evolution

Today seems to be the day that everyone is talking about Kwame Anthony Appiah’s op-ed on which of today’s practices the people of the future are likely to condemn. I basically agree with everything he says, though I’m least certain about the environment and most certain about meat. Mike Tomask’s uncertain that future people will all be vegetarians, but Ross Douthat has this right — technological improvement will lead to the creation of better alternatives to animal slaughter and that’ll be the end of it.

But I think the more interesting thing to think about is that practices will probably evolve in directions that present-day people would find bizarre or disgusting. Today “it will put us on a slippery slope to polygamy” is considered to be a form of knock-down argument against same-sex marriage, something that supporters of marriage equality are supposed to push back against vigorously. By the same token, I’m sure if you could have convinced members of congress that within 100 years of the 19th Amendment’s ratification we’d have men marrying other men it never would have passed but of course nobody was nutty enough to even try to advance that argument.

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So what does that mean for the future? Who knows? Who knows. The point is that in a century or two people are likely to be up to something so unspeakably awful by our standards that it sounds laughable to even speculate about it.