Informed Hypocrisy

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Driving gives me the opportunity to do something I love doing: listening to NPR and the BBC on my Sirius satellite radio. They have got such great, thought-provoking shows! Today I listened to BBC's The Forum, which featured a discussion about "Hypocrisy, multiverses and artificial leather: mind-stretching thoughts about life." The show touched on something I think about a lot... Our relationship with food and ability to deem one thing fine while being outraged about another. As mentioned in my last post, I suffer from such hypocrisy in my relationship with bananas, coffee, and chocolate; steak, eggs and milk and the like (not to mention, I am sure, many other foods).

Oron Catts, a guest on the show, is an artist-scientist (scientist-artist?) who has been experimenting with art that evokes thought toward the ethical dilemmas and paradoxes that arise around growing flesh and living tissue. As he was talking about hypocrisy and the human brain (observations brought on by a discussion of the work of Robert Kurzban), Catts gave a great example. He spoke of talking to friends who lived in Spain that were outraged about and actively protesting bullfighting, but who spent their afternoon in a fast-food hamburger joint. When confronted with the paradox of their views, his friends were not even so much as able to grasp the hypocrisy of the situation. Catts' work of growing a "victimless leather" (which of course, was not victimless as it required fetal liquids to initiate) received some negative receptions - everything from resistance to outrage.

During the dialogue with the three men (Catts and Kurzban along with Brian Greene) and the show host Bridget Kendall, Catts brought forth another interesting concept - that of informed hypocrisy.

To arrive at the point, let me provide the context for the conversation: Kurzban's studies of human psychology indicate that humans are inherently comfortable with, if not inclined toward, multiple and often conflicting viewpoints. Greene's studies of theoretical physics indicate that our universe may simply be one in an infinite number of universes (in which we ourselves exist an infinite number of times). Catts' work brings forward the paradox of our comfort with some things via dissociation (leather coats) and relative extreme discomfort when viscerally confronted by the process (his work).

The conclusion provided by Catts is that perhaps the best we can strive for is informed hypocrisy - of at least being aware of the choices we each make. I'm still processing all of my thoughts on the show. In relation to my own conflicted views, on the whole, I think his observation may be the best conclusion I can wholeheartedly support. What do you think?


Julie Smith said...

It has struck me how primitive our thought process is. We demand an emotional encounter with any situation before we will care about it. Quote statistics about any problem and you won't move people to action, but you will if you show a child (or animal) suffering. We are such short-term thinkers and seem unable to process long-term consequences of our actions.

Julie Smith said...

BTW -- you are the most prolific blogger I'm following right now apart from NPR's health blog, which has a new post approximately every hour. Congratulations!

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