Current Views that May be Seen as Unconscionable in the Future:

Co-blogger Orin Kerr asks: "What are the ideas or practices that are uncontroversial and widely accepted today — and that you personally find unobjectionable — that you think might be seen as barbaric or immoral one hundred years from now?"

As Orin correctly notes, we can all easily identify issues where we dissent from current majority opinion but hope to be vindicated in the future. Much more interesting is the attempt to consider whether posterity is likely to condemn widely held views that we agree with. I actually devoted a post to this very issue back in 2007, identifying three issues on which I think there is a significant chance that current majority views that I agree with will be repudiated by posterity: my support for the death penalty, my opposition to animal rights, and (somewhat less likely) my opposition to government-imposed forced labor relabeled as "national service." For interested readers, here are some of the implications I drew from my analysis, which I still think are largely correct:

I am unmoved in my opposition to forced labor. If this practice is legitimated in the future through the process I predict [clever demagoguery by activists and self-interested politicians], its increasing acceptance will say little about its rightness. I am less certain about the death penalty. On balance, I am still for it, but the fact that so many others are turning against it despite the lack of a clear self-interested or other biased reason for doing so does give me some pause. Finally, if I had to pick one of these issues where I am least confident in the validity of my present view, I would have to say animal rights. Even more so than with the death penalty, it is hard to provide an explanation for the increase in support for this moral view that is unrelated to its potential validity. Moreover, unlike in the other two cases, I have to acknowledge that my position is at least in part the result of a strong self-interested bias of my own: I like to eat meat, and I can't think of a logically consistent defense of animal rights that doesn't entail the conclusion that meat-eating is immoral . . . I'm not ready to endorse animal rights (at least not yet), but I have to acknowledge the possibility that my love of cheeseburgers is undermining my love of truth on this issue.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Current Views that May be Seen as Unconscionable in the Future:
  2. What Uncontroversial and Widely Accepted Ideas Today Will Seem Outrageous or Immoral 100 Years From Now?: