“Sentientism captures everything – it’s future proof” – My interview on the Sentientism podcast

Recently I had a great chat with Jamie Woodhouse on the Sentientism podcast where we talked about a lot of different topics (listed below). This interview was unique for me as Jamie asked a lot of questions I had never thought about the answer to before, in particular relating to my transition from Catholic to atheist. I hope you’ll enjoy the discussion.

We discuss (from the show notes):

Michael’s PhD (pending) in space mining, terraforming, colonisation and asteroid deflection

Effective Altruism. Earning to give to do good vs. doing good directly

Peter Singer’s TED talk

Leaving industry for a full time PhD and becoming an Animal Justice Party politician

Michael’s Morality is Hard podcast, blog and Vegan Space Scientist YouTube

Growing up Catholic and attending a very religious school

Taking the Christian god, hell and heaven for granted. Being told every day it was true

Struggling with the fear of death without an afterlife. The comforting fiction of heaven

The painful realisation at 19 yrs that “not any of it was true” and becoming an atheist

The centrality of our own experience and the difficulty of conceiving of not existing

Searching for meaning after religion. Exploring and identifying with utilitarianism and consequentialism

“The only things sentient minds can value are suffering and wellbeing”. Everything else we think we value is a means to an end or we’re tricking ourselves

Our common evolutionary history with other sentient beings

Panpsychism and whether atoms are sentient/conscious

If electrons are “conscious” it must be very boring and they’re still not sentient

Caring for companion animals but eating other animals as a child

Going vegetarian for environmental reasons, becoming more open to ethical veganism, then switching

Insect, digital mind and alien sentience

“Sentientism just captures everything and its future proof”

CosmicSkeptic grudgingly identifying as Sentientist: “The term has absolutely no wit about it”

Is Sentientism the only moral discrimination?

It’s a solid bet to focus on spreading good values, naturalism and expanding our moral circle, when we’re in a world of moral uncertainty and epistemological complexity

Are all human-caused problems due to poorly founded beliefs and/or moral consideration exclusions?

Veganism is becoming more mainstream, but more farmed animals and fish are suffering & dying

Plant-based & clean-meat animal product alternatives

Sentientist Politics. Representing non-humans in politics & law

Resisting animal agriculture industry resistance

Shifting incentives (subsidies, regulation, transparency)

Latent public support for ending factory farming & even slaughterhouses

Just Transitions for impacted communities – Iain M. Banks’ “The Culture” as a potential sci-fi post scarcity future

Does sci-fi help us re-focus on our core values and future potential

Longtermism & existential risk

If we can’t improve our values, let’s at least work to improve our policies, laws, regulations and behaviours.


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