So we’re atheists, sceptics, agnostics, freethinkers; thinkers free from religious dogma and, we hope, from its simple and inhumane morality. What, then, shall our new morality look like, and how shall we behave?
I suggest we answer this question by posing and answering two more:
Q1. What ethical theory accomplishes the most good?
Q2. How can we practically apply this theory to the real world?
First, let’s define “good” as: whatever is sympathetic to human flourishing; first and foremost, this entails the eradication of pain, which avails progress, and the amplification of pleasure, which enables it.
A1. Crudely, consequentialism does the most good, because, by definition, it’s focused on accruing as much good as possible. Utilitarianism in particular focuses on maximising pleasures and minimising pains, which, per above, form the bedrock of human ethics. (Note: Consequentialism does not permit reckless sedition nor Manichean simplifications between “good” and “bad”).
A2b. EAs apply consequentialism to the real world by lending their support to whatever does the most good most effectively. Arguably the two easiest ways to do the most good with minimal effort are to:
2. Donate to charities that are cost-effective. “Some charities are far more effective than others . . . A $10,000 donation to the Nurse-Family Partnership will help a child do better in school and avoid criminal behavior, while a $2,500 donation to the Against Malaria Foundation can save a child’s life.” “These worms are extremely inexpensive to treat — about $5 to protect a child for 10 years.” Brian Tomasik writes: “Each dollar that The Humane League spends on efficient Facebook veg ads conservatively prevents at least 100 days of suffering on a factory farm plus 20 fish deaths, and the actual value may be an order of magnitude higher.”
I believe these suggestions to be maximally optimal and becoming of all the irreligious who claim to be able to create goodly god-free worlds. Is there anything else we should focus on? If so, should we assign them greater or lesser importance than the above initiatives?