Richard did it again and forgot to say “oops”:
I love thought experiments. They seldom work, but I love them nevertheless. Let’s risk a few, with Richard himself as our main character. Applying decoupling to the decoupler reveals how self-serving it can be.
§1. A Muslim child is about to fall in a well. You are Richard Dawkins, and could save him without much effort. Do you (a) feel distressed or (b) tweet about Islam?
§2. Richard Dawkins has experienced all of human morality except decency. Would he be able to fill in the concept of decency using his own tweets?
§3. You are abducted and tied to Richard Dawkins so that he can stay alive. He may need your blood or your kidneys. The procedure does not hurt you. You just need to stay in that foreign location for a year. Do you think you are morally obliged to stay, free to go, or allowed to eat him?
§4. The Experience Machine can give you any experience you like or want. You could for instance make Richard Dawkins realize how silly his Gedankenexperiment usually sounds. Would you plug yourself to this machine forever and be free to imagine the rest of your life however you please?
§5. You are Richard Dawkins and take part in an experiment. Researchers put you to sleep with a drug. If you tweeted no bad takes during the weekend, you will wake up Monday, otherwise only Wednesday. What are your odds for seeing Monday?
§7. Richard Dawkins is not saying that mass extermination via virus infection is a Good Thing. But you got to admit it would work.
Thought experiments help illustrate claims but don’t replace making them explicit. In this post I would argue that decoupling can easily lead to dogwhistling as themes carry connotations. When a high-decoupler with a big following entertains ideas about eugenics that could work, distanciation cannot hide that the ideas entertained are not value neutral.
Besides, there’s no fact of the matter regarding Richard’s eugenic suggestion, hence why Richard relies on a counterfactual in the first place. Even if we grant him that what goes for cows and dogs goes for humans (which is far from being obvious), Richard needs a set of policies.
If you ever feel like decoupling, please mind your audience.
Addendum. I adapted many thought experiments from Helen’s post. It’s good. Go read it.