Sunday, 18 November 2012

Daughter's Questions: Eating Meat

Around her birthday, our daughter asked us whether it's cruel to eat meat.

I think a lot of children at some point ask this one, and it's a difficult question. Partly because it is so morally unsettling and makes we non-vegetarians question ourselves. What is the best answer we can provide? Or perhaps we should all go vegetarian?

Daughter's Questions: Why is the sky blue (or red)?

A few months ago my daughter asked another of her perceptive questions. After asking why the sky is blue, and recieving an explanation, she quickly followed up with a questions about why sunrises and sunsets are red.

I'd been ready with an answer for the first, but not the second and then it quickly turned out that my answer to the first wasn't sufficiently thorough. The answers related to the wavelengths of red and blue light being at opposite ends of the visible spectrum, and the way that light of shorter wavelengths gets more easily diffused as it travels through the atmosphere.

However, blue isn't at the end of the spectrum, violet is. So that should be diffused more in the sky. The sky shouldn't be blue during the day ... it should be violet. Why isn't it?

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Daughter's Questions: Frankenstein's Monster?

Our daughter continues to ask difficult questions. One recent query was whether (in principle) if you assembled all the atoms and molecules correctly, you could make a person. Would they be a real person? Would they be alive?

I think this is an awkward question for those of us who, like me, don't believe that we are merely material machines. Does my view commit me to saying that such a thing wouldn't be alive? That if it was alive, it wouldn't be a person? Or are there other ways for non-materialists to go here? I think so, but I'd be keen to hear your thoughts.

For the record, my basic answer was "I don't know ... and I'm not sure anyone else knows for sure either."

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Daughter's Questions: Creation Ex Nihilo

In our experience, everything that is made, is made from something, or by some means. This leads quickly to a difficult question which my daughter asked recently: when God made the universe, how did He make it? what did He make it from?

An interesting but (due to my daughter's age) difficult discussion followed about the distinction between "made from nothing" and "not made out of anything".

How would you answer this one?

Friday, 21 September 2012

Daughter's Questions: On Eyes

Philosophers are aware that "emergent" properties are philosophically puzzling. Similar puzzlement seems to have prompted something like the following from my daughter:

Atoms can't see, but if you bung a whole load together to make an eye, how can that eye see ?

How would you approach this question? I think whatever I said, I'd want to begin by saying that eyes can't see. People see, using their eyes. In many ways this may be mere pedantry, but I think it's fairly clear that as remarkable as eyes are, the wonder of sight happens somewhere "behind the eyes".

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Daughter's Questions: How does lightning make thunder?

The heading of this one says it all. It's a good question. Intuitively, it's very hard to see how a bright flash can cause a loud noise.

I had to confirm my hunch on this via the magic of the internet. You might like to look it up yourself and/or post your own answer in the comments.

Two "Liberal" Stances: Abortion and Obligations to Future Generations

I've recently been musing about the relationship between the ethics of abortion and our obligations to future generations.

It's often supposed that our responsibility to look after the environment comes from our duties towards future generations. However, according to liberal stances on abortion, we don't have obligations to a fetus that (who) is not yet a person; the person simply doesn't exist at that stage, so there is no question of them having a right to life or any such thing.

So, can we have duties towards people who don't exist (yet)? If not, is there some other way to understand environmental ethics? If so, can we really justify abortion on the grounds that the relevant person simply doesn't (yet) exist?

I can see various ways in which the tension here can be reduced, but I'm not convinced it can be eliminated without serious revision of one of the two stances.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Daughter's Questions: Other Religions

Here's another of my daughters recent questions. As you may have gathered from other material on this blog and the associated website, my wife and I are Christians, and are raising our daughter accordingly, but with complete freedom to ask any awkward questions she cares to raise.

The words here aren't hers, but the question very much is:

People in other countries believe in different religions, and think we're wrong. Do we know we aren't wrong? If we do, how do we know?

Monday, 3 September 2012

Daughter's Questions: Rainbows

This is the first post in a series.

Our young daughter asks lots of difficult questions, and while I think we do quite well answering them, I'd be interested to know how others would have answered the same questions. To stop answers getting muddled up together, I'll just put one question in each post.

Our daughter is currently six years old, and recently asked something along the following lines:

If a raindrop is like a prism and can make a mini-rainbow all on its own, how come we see one big rainbow in the sky and not lots of little ones?