On the "rights" of Nature

Discuss morality and ethics in this message board.
Featured Article: Philosophical Analysis of Abortion, The Right to Life, and Murder
Post Reply
User avatar
Sculptor1
Posts: 3342
Joined: May 16th, 2019, 5:35 am

Re: On the "rights" of Nature

Post by Sculptor1 » May 26th, 2019, 9:09 am

Steve3007 wrote:
May 26th, 2019, 7:23 am
I think this is one interesting passage from the article about emergence cited above:

"Robert Batterman (2002), who focuses on emergence in physics, also believes that emergent phenomena are common in our everyday experience of the physical world. According to Batterman, what is at the heart of the question of emergence is not downward causation or the distinctness of emergent properties, but rather inter-theoretic reduction and, specifically, the limits of the explanatory power of reducing theories. Thus, a property is emergent, according to this view, if it is a property of a complex system at limit values that cannot be derived from lower level, more fundamental theories. As examples of emergent phenomena Batterman cites phase transitions and transitions of magnetic materials from ferromagnetic states to paramagnetic states, phenomena in which novel behavior is exhibited that cannot be reductively explained by the more fundamental theories of statistical mechanics. However, Batterman wants to distinguish explanation from reduction and so claims that though emergent phenomena are irreducible they are not unexplainable per se because they can have non-reductive explanations."

It seems like a pretty good definition of emergence to tie it to the extent to which higher level theories can in practice be reduced to lower level theories. I emphasize "in practice" because, unless we depart from the principles of Science altogether, it's always possible to derive the higher from the lower in principle, or in theory. But, as the Chaos theorists emphasize, complexity and sensitive dependencies on small changes, and the barrier this places between the lower and higher level theories is a genuine physical phenomenon and not just a nuisance.

The unpredictability of long range weather forecasting (for example) is not just an annoying limitation of current measurement technology. It will always be there.
It seems to me that "emergence" is just an empty phrase used to divert attention from the fact that we do't know what exactly is happening.
There is no particular reason that every causality that contributes to an "emergent" phenomenon should be known. That does not mean that it would not be better understood if we had more information or a better understanding of the physics behind it. Calling it "emergence" is a way to pretend we can describe what it going on as if "emergence" were meaningful, when in actuality we are really just ignorant of what it going on.
"Emergence" is more like a post-modern bit of flim-flam and an excuse not to pursue the hard labour of thinking required to unpack the phenomena and derive new laws to describe the universe.
We used to do this before the enlightenment, except we used to say "god did it"

GE Morton
Posts: 2056
Joined: February 1st, 2017, 1:06 am

Re: On the "rights" of Nature

Post by GE Morton » May 26th, 2019, 10:21 am

Steve3007 wrote:
May 26th, 2019, 7:09 am

I don't agree with the part that says "other than statistical ones", if the implication is that statistical properties are not emergent properties.
"Other than statistical ones" only means that all groups have certain properties deriving from the fact that they are pluralities. E.g., "Utah has a population of 3 million;" "Utah is 62% Mormon." No person in Utah has a population of 3 million, or is 62% Mormon. Statistical properties apply to pluralities, but not to individuals. But they are not "emergent properties," as usually understood.
I don't think there is any hard dividing line on the scale of complexity at which point we can say: "below this level there can be no emergent properties and above this level there can."
There probably isn't. But the classic examples (living organisms, weather phenomena, the brain) are very large systems.
It seems reasonable to me to look at a complex system like a large corporation or a city or a country, consisting of many individual people, and talk of it having emergent properties.
It is reasonable if the property is truly novel, not possessed by the elements of the system individually, and not due to the mere fact that it is a plurality (the statistical properties). As far as I can see, large corporations have no properties lacked by smaller ones, or by individuals, though the properties they do have have more effect due to their size.

User avatar
Steve3007
Posts: 8721
Joined: June 15th, 2011, 5:53 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Eratosthenes of Cyrene
Location: UK

Re: On the "rights" of Nature

Post by Steve3007 » May 27th, 2019, 3:34 am

GE Morton wrote:"Other than statistical ones" only means that all groups have certain properties deriving from the fact that they are pluralities. E.g., "Utah has a population of 3 million;" "Utah is 62% Mormon." No person in Utah has a population of 3 million, or is 62% Mormon. Statistical properties apply to pluralities, but not to individuals. But they are not "emergent properties," as usually understood.
I would agree that statistical properties are not necessarily emergent properties, but as I said I think they can be. According to the possible definition of emergence by Robert Batterman, taken from the article that you cited, that I quoted in my previous post, the examples you gave above are statistical, but not emergent because they can be reduced to the underlying individuals on which they are based.

As I said, I quite like that definition.
There probably isn't. But the classic examples (living organisms, weather phenomena, the brain) are very large systems.
True. They are. The brain: trillions of neurons. Weather systems: gazzillions of atmospheric molecules and photons of light from the sun.
It is reasonable if the property is truly novel, not possessed by the elements of the system individually, and not due to the mere fact that it is a plurality (the statistical properties). As far as I can see, large corporations have no properties lacked by smaller ones, or by individuals, though the properties they do have have more effect due to their size.
OK, so I guess you've now thrown down the gauntlet for somebody to name a property of a large corporation (maybe up to a million employees, but not trillions or gazzillions) that is genuinely not practically derivable from the properties of its individual employees; that is truly novel in that sense.

At this point I think I should read back through the conversation you had with Greta and others that led to this point.


Footnote: I know "gazzillions" isn't a proper number. It's just supposed to signify "unfathomably big".

User avatar
Steve3007
Posts: 8721
Joined: June 15th, 2011, 5:53 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Eratosthenes of Cyrene
Location: UK

Re: On the "rights" of Nature

Post by Steve3007 » May 27th, 2019, 4:20 am

My search back through the conversation took me back to the OP.

The core argument of the OP appears to be that it is inappropriate to confer the concept of "rights" on entities that are not moral agents and that changing the meaning of the word "rights" from its classical meaning in this way might lead to absurdities.

First thought on this: I agree. But I skimmed through the many posts that came afterwards to see why this argument seems to have provoked so much debate. The main reason seems to be that large parts of the argument are sometimes interpreted as a bit of a rant against "leftists" and are a statement of GE Morton's more general political view about minimal government, expounded in other topics previously. And it's possibly easy to believe that the OP is arguing more generally against political policies that seek to protect the environment, and not just against the specific problem of assigning rights to non-sentient objects.

The issue of environmental protection, and particularly climate change, almost always seems to divide down political lines when, theoretically, it should be an issue purely of scientific evidence. Those who advocate for legislation to curb greenhouse gas emissions, for example, regardless of whether they incorrectly use the concept of "rights", are frequently suspected of having the ulterior motive of inappropriately expanding the power of government for various sinister and possibly self-interested ends. And those who advocate the opposite are frequently similarly suspected of ideological or self-serving ulterior motives. This debate, then, usually divides down politically left and right lines. And that usually means heat.

I think this divide is so frequent that the OP is apt to trigger certain responses automatically, due to its talk of such things as "leftist idealogues". I read through it, and as far as I can see it's only in the short paragraph right at the end where it says:
Of course, none of this criticism is meant to disparage concern for environmental health. But the rights at risk are those of the humans who depend upon it, not contrived and fatuous "rights" of natural phenomena.

User avatar
Steve3007
Posts: 8721
Joined: June 15th, 2011, 5:53 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Eratosthenes of Cyrene
Location: UK

Re: On the "rights" of Nature

Post by Steve3007 » May 27th, 2019, 4:29 am

I guess GE Morton might say: "And why should I have to say even that? Why should I have to emphasize throughout my OP that I'm not suggesting we have no concern for environmental health? Why should I have to tell people what I'm not saying? They should clearly read the argument and focus on what I am saying!". He might say that.

Yes, we should. But I know from personal experience that it can be difficult to read an argument entirely literally, paying attention only to what is explicitly said, and not reading between the lines. People almost always make assumptions about what we are really saying or about what we really mean. I guess, if we want to get our point across and try to shut down what we might regard as distractions from the central topic, we have to try to account for that.

User avatar
Sy Borg
Site Admin
Posts: 10025
Joined: December 16th, 2013, 9:05 pm

Re: On the "rights" of Nature

Post by Sy Borg » May 27th, 2019, 5:14 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
May 27th, 2019, 4:29 am
I guess GE Morton might say: "And why should I have to say even that? Why should I have to emphasize throughout my OP that I'm not suggesting we have no concern for environmental health? Why should I have to tell people what I'm not saying? They should clearly read the argument and focus on what I am saying!". He might say that.

Yes, we should. But I know from personal experience that it can be difficult to read an argument entirely literally, paying attention only to what is explicitly said, and not reading between the lines. People almost always make assumptions about what we are really saying or about what we really mean. I guess, if we want to get our point across and try to shut down what we might regard as distractions from the central topic, we have to try to account for that.
Yes. It's a matter of patterns. GE has been highly vocal for years now in his strident opposition to political parties that show even the slightest interest in environmental preservation.

Not hard to read between the lines, made more clear by his keenness to confer rights to abstract legal entities like corporations (where the individuals already enjoy regular human rights) but not to living, breathing ecosystems.

Of course, nature cannot enforce any rights, which is why forests and arable land are being replaced by desert at record rates. Meanwhile, major corporations are not only capable of defending their rights, but expanding them to the the point where they significantly encroach on the rights of individuals, small businesses and "rightless" ecosystems.

User avatar
Sculptor1
Posts: 3342
Joined: May 16th, 2019, 5:35 am

Re: On the "rights" of Nature

Post by Sculptor1 » May 27th, 2019, 5:42 pm

Greta wrote:
May 27th, 2019, 5:14 pm
Yes. It's a matter of patterns. GE has been highly vocal for years now in his strident opposition to political parties that show even the slightest interest in environmental preservation.

Not hard to read between the lines, made more clear by his keenness to confer rights to abstract legal entities like corporations (where the individuals already enjoy regular human rights) but not to living, breathing ecosystems.
I like this a lot.

GE Morton
Posts: 2056
Joined: February 1st, 2017, 1:06 am

Re: On the "rights" of Nature

Post by GE Morton » May 27th, 2019, 8:36 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
May 27th, 2019, 4:20 am

The core argument of the OP appears to be that it is inappropriate to confer the concept of "rights" on entities that are not moral agents and that changing the meaning of the word "rights" from its classical meaning in this way might lead to absurdities.
Yes.
But I skimmed through the many posts that came afterwards to see why this argument seems to have provoked so much debate. The main reason seems to be that large parts of the argument are sometimes interpreted as a bit of a rant against "leftists" and are a statement of GE Morton's more general political view about minimal government, expounded in other topics previously.
The first half of that essay addresses contemporary efforts to re-define various morally-laden terms, such as "rights," "justice," "equality," etc. Its purpose is to show that the "rights of nature" thesis, which relies on that Newspeak definition of "rights," is part of a broader program of linguistic legerdemain. And, yes, the authors and promoters of this program are mainly "leftists" (though I concede that fact is immaterial to the argument).
And it's possibly easy to believe that the OP is arguing more generally against political policies that seek to protect the environment, and not just against the specific problem of assigning rights to non-sentient objects.
That belief would be entirely unjustified. As far as I can recall, I have never criticized any environmental policy on this forum (though there are some I would criticize if the topic arose). But in general, I believe, and have argued, that managing natural commons is one of the necessary and legitimate functions of government. See, e.g.,

https://www.onlinephilosophyclub.com/fo ... =5&t=15527

Environmental protection falls within that function --- indeed, it is identical with it.
The issue of environmental protection, and particularly climate change, almost always seems to divide down political lines when, theoretically, it should be an issue purely of scientific evidence. Those who advocate for legislation to curb greenhouse gas emissions, for example, regardless of whether they incorrectly use the concept of "rights", are frequently suspected of having the ulterior motive of inappropriately expanding the power of government for various sinister and possibly self-interested ends. And those who advocate the opposite are frequently similarly suspected of ideological or self-serving ulterior motives.
And both sides are right about that. :)

The problem with climate change is that the science is itself ambiguous. No one denies that adding CO2 to the atmosphere will raise mean temperatures; the important questions are, 1) By how much?, and 2) What will be the net effect of that increase on various ecosystems and human welfare? The projections are generated by models. To see how ambiguous the science is, you only need to look at the results of the 100 or so models considered by the IPCC:

http://www.drroyspencer.com/wp-content/ ... means1.png

The model runs look like a plate of spaghetti. So there is plenty of room for ideology and self-interest to overshadow the science.

Please! Let's not turn this thread into a climate change debate.

User avatar
Sy Borg
Site Admin
Posts: 10025
Joined: December 16th, 2013, 9:05 pm

Re: On the "rights" of Nature

Post by Sy Borg » May 28th, 2019, 5:27 pm

GE Morton wrote:
May 27th, 2019, 8:36 pm
And it's possibly easy to believe that the OP is arguing more generally against political policies that seek to protect the environment, and not just against the specific problem of assigning rights to non-sentient objects.
That belief would be entirely unjustified. As far as I can recall, I have never criticized any environmental policy on this forum (though there are some I would criticize if the topic arose). But in general, I believe, and have argued, that managing natural commons is one of the necessary and legitimate functions of government. See, e.g.,

https://www.onlinephilosophyclub.com/fo ... =5&t=15527

Environmental protection falls within that function --- indeed, it is identical with it.
Weak lip service, that is all. Yet you do not take environmental issues seriously - not even a bit.

And this is why ...
GE Morton wrote:
May 27th, 2019, 8:36 pm
The problem with climate change is that the science is itself ambiguous. No one denies that adding CO2 to the atmosphere will raise mean temperatures; the important questions are, 1) By how much?, and 2) What will be the net effect of that increase on various ecosystems and human welfare? The projections are generated by models. To see how ambiguous the science is, you only need to look at the results of the 100 or so models considered by the IPCC
The gold standard of evidence for carbon emissions and climate change was achieved some time ago.

You are toting that ridiculous "skeptic" line again. The science was in and settled long ago yet blinkered ideologues continue to prevaricate. You cannot reasonably ask others not to respond when you dump blatantly wrong opinions on critical subjects.

User avatar
Felix
Posts: 3117
Joined: February 9th, 2009, 5:45 am

Re: On the "rights" of Nature

Post by Felix » May 29th, 2019, 8:20 pm

Yes indeed, Greta. And scientists now know that along with the polar ice caps melting, tens of thousands of acres of permafrost are also thawing at a rapid rate, which can exponentially increase the volume of carbon emissions.

In the near term, thawing permafrost can cause serious local problems – such as damaging or buildings and other infrastructure – but the larger concern around permafrost thaw relates to greenhouse gas emissions.

Permafrost soils are extremely rich in organic carbon. According to one estimate they contain about 1700 billion tonnes of it – about twice the total amount of carbon currently in the atmosphere. When the soil remains deep-frozen, the carbon is largely inert, but when the permafrost thaws, the decomposition of organic matter through microbial activity increases sharply – with the consequence that large amounts of carbon will eventually get respired into the atmosphere as CO2 and (to a lesser extent) methane.

This is an example of a positive feedback loop, because the greenhouse gases released by the thawing permafrost will exacerbate the warming, leading to more permafrost thawing, more warming, and so on. One recent study estimated that about one-tenth of the permafrost carbon pool might get released by 2100 under a scenario with strong future warming – equivalent to around twenty years of man-made CO2 emissions at current rates. More still would be released over subsequent centuries, and the process would not be readily reversible.
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

User avatar
Sy Borg
Site Admin
Posts: 10025
Joined: December 16th, 2013, 9:05 pm

Re: On the "rights" of Nature

Post by Sy Borg » May 30th, 2019, 9:13 pm

I agree, Felix. It appears that too many don't take the imbalances seriously.

Alas, nature has precious little ability to gain or fight for rights against people, hence our increasing replacement of it with ourselves and our stuff. Only humans can confer rights but now the prevailing attitude today is "do what you can get away with" rather than "do what you think is right".

It's another tragedy of the commons, where the attitude towards nature is "if I don't take it, someone else will". Attempts to preserve natural spaces are doomed. Look at how simply Trump overturned all of Obama's protections - with the unwavering support of the Koch and Murdoch dynasties, and they can't ever be voted out.

The problem is the same as that of life itself - potential is not always fulfilled. If you leave important parts of ecosystems alone there is always the option of future generations exploiting it in unforeseen ways, if desperately needed1. Leaving ecosystems is a gift to our children and grandchildren. Exploiting it without care is a big FU to the next generations.

Once you destroy an ecosystem it's game over. It's not renewable. Who knows what possible secrets of materials, medicines or conduits within systems are being destroyed before their function and potentials are understood? And they are destroyed for maximum utilisation or sustainability, just easy profit. Then the "caterpillar" corporation moves on to the next quick and dirty exploitation.

Deserts on both land and sea are rapidly spreading around what are increasingly complex and dense human colonies. This is a standard dynamic of nature. Take a homogeneous field with some energy input and the most dense zones will aggregate at expense of the more diffuse regions, either sucking it in or excluding it. This is how our star formed from relatively homogeneous molecular clouds. This is how the protoplanatary disc became the planets and moons. This is how multicellular life formed, and now human cities are following this dynamic.

The biosphere is made from beings that are all striving, however blindly, to grow and expand their influence. Thus, with all of its constituents pulling in one direction it's hardly surprising to see the biosphere as a whole doing the same thing. After all, what else is it going to do? Corporations and governments (and the functional lines are blurring) are the the entities capable of only way of effectively transferring Earth material to other worlds.

Trouble is, progress appears to be lagging behind destruction. Just because the biosphere has the potential to continue the story of Earth on other worlds after its own inevitable death, does not mean it will. Just as we have the potential to lead a full adult life, not everyone makes it. With climate change - and our apparent inability to adapt to changing circumstances - there is a growing risk that we won't make it, that the system will simply die leaving only space junk in its wake.

The above is, of course, supposition. It's also logical. Given how quickly a zeitgeist can change with sudden extreme circumstances, obviously none of this is locked in. For all we know, an upcoming event may be so jarring that there will be a "green revolution". A "green revolution" taken to the nth degree results in primitivism, just as the current "development revolution" results in increased fascism. The former is the stated fear of those against conferring rights to nature - a retreat to primitive living, becoming martyred saints for nature.

That fear, given the utter dominance of the right today, is completely unfounded, a paranoid hangover from days when humans were less secure on top of the food chain. The greater risk is a failure to maintain infrastructure because governments fail to properly tax major corps and billionaires. Then again, financial behemoths are probably the future of Earth because individual humans are no more likely to reach into space than any other animal, any other part of nature.

Unlike GE's typically partisan political supposition, I see corporations as the future rather than as a "leftist" bogey. However, there is balanced growth and unsustainable growth. I suspect that at present we are pushing too hard, which means there's some intense rebalancing to come. The much anticipated "hard landing". Effectively, we have created a "nature bubble" - making fortunes with rapidly diminishing resources.

Where do the fortunes come from when the systems break down? The largest will effectively do a Stephen Bradbury, and remain standing while others fall. As natural systems fail, so increasingly do individuals not aligned with major institutions. First the animals and plants, then the poor. Increasingly there will be cities - wealthy in the centre, destitute at the fringes, surrounded by desert, sustained on synthetically generated foods. If this happens too quickly it will likely bring much misery to people that have not been given enough time to adapt to a more synthetic life, especially for westerners and those from developing countries.

So we must balance conservatism and progressivism - deciding what to conserve and what to progress, and at a rate we hope to be efficacious. To do that, we need to embrace hi tech solutions rather than continuing to rip resources from the ground without thought to the future. To some extent this is an intellectual failure. Large populations have the advantage of greater brainpower, but those benefits are lost if the education system is not properly maintained. So now there are huge rumps of reactionary ignoramuses from both sides of politics whose lack of education is hammering more nails in democracy's coffin.

There have been many mistakes made with our stewardship of the natural environment but unfortunately the beneficiaries of those mistakes, like the Kochs, Putins, Murdochs, Trumps and Xis of this world, consider their own short and medium term needs over the longer term wellbeing of the societies they largely control - thanks to their control over the undereducated rump of their societies.

Still, I'm an optimist and have enough faith in planet Earth to reorganise itself towards equilibrium and ultimately produce entities that will make humans seem like chimps by comparison. Apologies to Eric Burdon, individual humans appear destined to become The New Animals - just chattel to the powerful entities emerging from human colonies (if we aren't already).

The issue for me is simply implementing enough steering controls to make our inevitable "hard landing" a little softer. It's a risk because it may be akin to peeing in the Pacific Ocean, but if humans want to believe they are worth preserving, they should be showing more depth and decency in their attitudes towards nature than is currently being displayed. After all, our attitudes towards other animals will be the attitudes displayed towards human individuals by corporations/governments.



1. This does not take into account the many dividends provided to humans by ecosystems, many not known and even more not widely acknowledged.

User avatar
Steve3007
Posts: 8721
Joined: June 15th, 2011, 5:53 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Eratosthenes of Cyrene
Location: UK

Re: On the "rights" of Nature

Post by Steve3007 » May 31st, 2019, 8:03 am

I broadly agree with Felix and Greta about the seriousness of the environmental problems we face and the unwillingness of some current government administrations to tackle them. But I'll respect the topic instigator's desire for this not to be a debate just about the empirical evidence for climate change. I do agree with G E Morton on the fairly narrow point that the concept of "Rights" is not applicable to non-sentient beings and that it's probably not helpful to try to make it so. But I regard that as a relatively unimportant distraction. I don't care about the linguistic mechanisms used to make the arguments for much needed environmental protections as much as I care about the results. But if it helps the cause to stop misusing this concept of "right" then, great, I'll lobby for people to stop doing that.

Unfortunately, whether we like it or not, global environmental problems require large scale government led solutions over long periods of time. If these kinds of large scale actions are ideologically distasteful to some people, and if those people are in positions of political power, then that is, to understate it massively, a great pity. Unyielding devotion to abstract ideological concepts has had some terrible results in the past. It's a shame to see that continuing.

Karpel Tunnel
Posts: 944
Joined: February 16th, 2018, 11:28 am

Re: On the "rights" of Nature

Post by Karpel Tunnel » May 31st, 2019, 12:19 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
May 27th, 2019, 4:20 am
My search back through the conversation took me back to the OP.

The core argument of the OP appears to be that it is inappropriate to confer the concept of "rights" on entities that are not moral agents and that changing the meaning of the word "rights" from its classical meaning in this way might lead to absurdities.

First thought on this: I agree.
Rights have been expanding in scope since the early historical uses of the term. In the past different humans had different rights, even in single families. Some groups of humans did not have rights. There were also hierarchical differences between rights, with those at the top having rights those lower down did not. Neither sentience nor moral capabilities were the criteria for distinguishing between those who had rights or more rights than others. At some point rights got more equally distributed amongst humans and were extended even to humans who are not moral creatures - children, fetuses, people with severe dementia, etc. I see no reason not to allow us - humans, the creators and developers of the term rights - to extend the concept to include other species. Let's set aside the issue of higher mammals that can also be argued to have morals and are certainly socially aware animals who have expectations of various kinds regarding fair behavior and relations, since that is another discussion.

The OP writer does not believe objective morals exist. So when we create rights we are making something up. We are saying something about how we would like to behave and treat others.

How did we lose the ability to extend this concept to creatures other than homo sapiens?
We made this idea up. We have developed it over time and changed in many fundamental ways how this idea will be used, and obviously large numbers of humans now use the term in relation to non-humans. Since it is a moral act to do this, how can someone who does not believe morals are objective say that this extension of the concept to non-humans is wrong. OK, he can't say it is morally wrong, but could argue that it is a poor idea, as he does on use grounds.
Classically, to say that someone had a "right" to possess and use some tangible thing (a property right) or to do something (a liberty right) meant that the person had acquired that thing righteously, i.e., without inflicting loss or injury on anyone else, or that his doing that act would inflict no loss or injury on anyone else. I.e., that his act or property claim was innocent, and thus morally permissible and defensible. Per the Newspeak definition adopted by leftist ideologues, to say that someone has a "right" to something means he needs it, or wants it, or that it is required in order to live the "good life" as envisioned by the ideologue. The moral character of the claimant's actions are not considered or deemed relevant.
I think this is a distortion or at best a partial conception of rights...

Women and children were often not granted rights per se where men were. Not because they had been immoral. Sometimes fetuses were granted rights - or at least abortion was considered immoral in some societies, sometimes they were not. These rules were not governed by lack of harm to others, since the parents would be punished, or based on the morality of the fetus. If we want to argue that the village or the society would be injured by the loss of the child, this is, in times of famine, at least directly not always the case. The extra likely to die mouth to feed does not benefit the group. It was a right granted due to the transcendent value of the fetus, its soul, at least in certain groups.

Both the right and the left have extended the scope of the term, which is one created by humans and which has no objective correlate. Rights are not made of anything. We cannot examine them physically. Working from the set of beliefs of the OP writer, I don't understand when we lost the ability and right as humans to extend and develop the term.

certainly someone can argue that it is a bad idea. That in this case we should not extend the term to others.

But to claim that it is per se wrong as if this extension makes no sense and we do not need to even discuss why it would be a bad idea is to act like rights are objective qualities, not something we have created and used and can change and have changed. IOW if one believes in democracy, then extending rights via democratic processes is not conceptually incorrect, but an expression of our creative use of a concept. Changing it as we have before. For example Granting rights to the free practice of religion. Not because it does no harm or because a Jewish child who is born has earned the right by being moral. Christians may have argued at times that allowing others to practice their religions can give a mixed message about the true faith - iow injury. I think modern conceptions of this right are not simply weighing in and saying that it causes less injury to allow minority faiths, but something more fundamental about how we want people to be free without trying to calculate the pluses and minuses. And certainly the brain damaged children have been granted rights even if they never will be able to be moral agents and certainly before they are.

I think the question should actually be: why can we as humans NOT continue to change and develop this concept if we want to.

User avatar
Sculptor1
Posts: 3342
Joined: May 16th, 2019, 5:35 am

Re: On the "rights" of Nature

Post by Sculptor1 » May 31st, 2019, 2:40 pm

In general, rights are empty words. Without the power to enforce, to protect and to punish transgression, rights are no help to anyone.
The invention of such wooly ideas enable do-gooders to bash nasties over the head, but words do not hurt. They are just so much hot air.

User avatar
Sy Borg
Site Admin
Posts: 10025
Joined: December 16th, 2013, 9:05 pm

Re: On the "rights" of Nature

Post by Sy Borg » May 31st, 2019, 8:43 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
May 31st, 2019, 8:03 am
I broadly agree with Felix and Greta about the seriousness of the environmental problems we face and the unwillingness of some current government administrations to tackle them. But I'll respect the topic instigator's desire for this not to be a debate just about the empirical evidence for climate change.
Then he should not have made such controversial comments about it. Not all requests are worthy of respect, and this one was simply for the chance for a free hit without challenge against climate change action. I usually try to be obliging, but that was not playing with a straight bat.
Steve3007 wrote:
May 31st, 2019, 8:03 am
I do agree with G E Morton on the fairly narrow point that the concept of "Rights" is not applicable to non-sentient beings and that it's probably not helpful to try to make it so. But I regard that as a relatively unimportant distraction. I don't care about the linguistic mechanisms used to make the arguments for much needed environmental protections as much as I care about the results. But if it helps the cause to stop misusing this concept of "right" then, great, I'll lobby for people to stop doing that.
The thread was largely a partisan political play by conflating the importance of trivial aspects of legal structures designed to protect ecosystems and slow desertification. Basically a biased sample.
Steve3007 wrote:
May 31st, 2019, 8:03 am
Unfortunately, whether we like it or not, global environmental problems require large scale government led solutions over long periods of time. If these kinds of large scale actions are ideologically distasteful to some people, and if those people are in positions of political power, then that is, to understate it massively, a great pity. Unyielding devotion to abstract ideological concepts has had some terrible results in the past. It's a shame to see that continuing.
We are not evolved to comprehend latency. We are accustomed to rapid feedback so natural dynamics that take decades to unfold were traditionally left to "the wise", and later to scientists. However, with 25% of Americans not knowing that the Earth orbits the Sun, we can see how much traction science and scientists now have on large voting swathes of the general population - half a century after the first Moon landing. It's impossible to imagine such people showing interest in preserving nature for future generations.

Post Reply

Philosophy Books of the Month

The Biblical Clock: The Untold Secrets Linking the Universe and Humanity with God's Plan

The Biblical Clock
by Daniel Friedmann
March 2021

Wilderness Cry: A Scientific and Philosophical Approach to Understanding God and the Universe

Wilderness Cry
by Dr. Hilary L Hunt M.D.
April 2021

Fear Not, Dream Big, & Execute: Tools To Spark Your Dream And Ignite Your Follow-Through

Fear Not, Dream Big, & Execute
by Jeff Meyer
May 2021

Surviving the Business of Healthcare: Knowledge is Power

Surviving the Business of Healthcare
by Barbara Galutia Regis M.S. PA-C
June 2021

Winning the War on Cancer: The Epic Journey Towards a Natural Cure

Winning the War on Cancer
by Sylvie Beljanski
July 2021

Defining Moments of a Free Man from a Black Stream

Defining Moments of a Free Man from a Black Stream
by Dr Frank L Douglas
August 2021

The Preppers Medical Handbook

The Preppers Medical Handbook
by Dr. William W Forgey M.D.
October 2021

Natural Relief for Anxiety and Stress: A Practical Guide

Natural Relief for Anxiety and Stress
by Dr. Gustavo Kinrys, MD
November 2021

Dream For Peace: An Ambassador Memoir

Dream For Peace
by Dr. Ghoulem Berrah
December 2021