Saturday, April 20, 2013

A morality that is "Beyond human life"

I was asked for ideas about encouraging energy companies to work together regarding attacks on their business by those who oppose energy production in the name of saving the world from global warming.  The Sierra Club has campaigns called "Beyond oil", "Beyond natural gas" and beyond coal".  My quick response was as follows.

Most fundamentally, what must be attacked is their morality, which boils down to "beyond human life", meaning what philosopher Ayn Rand called a morality of suffering and death.  It is the nature of humans, as opposed to all other living creatures, to use our faculty of reason to find ways to re-shape the environment to meet our needs instead of adapting ourselves to suit the environment.  Thus, the nature of human life is to discover resources we can use and ways to improve our lives by using them.  It is precisely this approach, recognized by the thinkers of the enlightenment and implemented by the scientists and productive businessmen since the industrial revolution, that has allowed human life to flourish in both quantity and quality beyond all previously imagined levels.

What we are fighting for, but most people do not recognize, is our MORAL right to survive by the means we discover and choose and that standing up for this right is the only way to disarm opponents who try to claim the moral high ground.  If we cede morality all we have left is pragmatic arguments about which form of energy might be better at a point in time.  One of the staunchest defenders of this morality is Alex Epstein, founder of the Center For Industrial Progress, who engaged the Sierra Club in a debate.

It is the strongest philosophical ideas that dominate minds and rule the day.  If people believe they are acting morally they will be prepared to create and endure suffering if the morality demands it.  To offer more powerful ideas we must identify a correct morality, speak about it loudly and consistently and oppose incorrect morality whenever possible.  A morality of life, of reason, of rational self-interest, of productivity is needed.

Companies that supply energy are acting morally to provide life-giving energy to people who need it to maintain and improve their lives.  We need to recognize them for their productive virtues, thank them for improving life, support them by speaking publicly of their value to society and educate them to speak out about their moral validity.  If they join together to speak with a louder and more consistent voice then success is more likely.

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