On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I answered questions on evolution’s ethical implications, cultivating a healthy body image, the value of studying theology, and more. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading.

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Whole Podcast: 30 March 2014

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Podcast Segments: 30 March 2014

You can download or listen to my answers to individual questions from this episode below.


My News of the Week: I’ve been busy posting my early podcasts to Philosophy in Action’s podcast archive. Everything but the Explore Atlas Shrugged series is done!

Question 1: Evolution’s Ethical Implications

Question: Should ethics begin with facts about evolution, including altruism? The ethical egoism advocated by Ayn Rand doesn’t seem to incorporate genetics or evolution. Having evolved in tribal and family groups, we are creatures tuned to group behavior more than to individual behavior. Altruism wasn’t invented by religion. In a tribe, helping those around you helps you survive too. Helping your kin helps your genes survive. The fact is that feeling good when you help others is built into the core of being human. The fact is that much status seeking and other seemingly irrational actions are techniques to ensure the propagation of our genes. Objectivism starts with “A is A.” But, if reality is most important, shouldn’t people base their ethics on the facts about humans as they actually are – altruism and all?

My Answer, In Brief: This argument might seem sensible on the surface, but it suffers from three fatal defects: (1) biological altruism is very different from ethical altruism, (2) ethics has a biological foundation, but the principles of ethics are not derived from animal behavior, and (3) many actions to benefit others or a group are not altruistic but self-interested.

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To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Question 2: Cultivating a Healthy Body Image

Question: How does a person cultivate a healthy body image? Suppose that a woman realizes that she has been unconsciously influenced by unrealistic body images – as portrayed in movies, magazines, and so on? She is basically healthy, and so it would be good for her to feel good about how she looks. But a person can’t always change everything about herself: she can’t change her height, however much she dislikes it. Even if a person can make changes, most people need to accept that they will never look like movie stars. So how does a person cultivate a healthy body image? How might a person notice and combat an unhealthy obsession with appearance?

My Answer, In Brief: If you struggle with an unjustly negative view of your own body, (1) consciously reject the body ideals of our culture, (2) push yourself to look beyond superficials to the deeper values of your body, (3) recognize and accept your physical limits, and (4) make the most of what you have. If you do that, your view of your body will change.

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To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Question 3: The Value of Studying Theology

Question: Can a rational atheist extract any value from studying theology? Theology includes a mix of arguments for the existence of God, plus views on ethics, and more. It’s the earliest form of philosophy. Can a person benefit by cherry picking ideas from theological teachings or does the mysticism and other faults outweigh any benefits?

My Answer, In Brief: A rational atheist can extract quite a bit of value from studying the arguments for the existence of God, religious scriptures, and contemporary religious beliefs and practices. He can better his understanding of the culture, become more culturally literate, understand people better, and develop well-justified views on religion.

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To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Rapid Fire Questions


  • Does my inability to readily define terms mean that my concepts are unclear?
  • How should you respond to envious people who think that you’re ‘showing them up’ when you work harder than they do?

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  • Start Time: 1:02:01
  • Duration: 5:36
  • Download: MP3 Segment

To comment on these questions or my answers, visit its comment thread.


Be sure to check out the topics scheduled for upcoming episodes! Don’t forget to submit and vote on questions for future episodes too!

  • Start Time: 1:07:38

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Philosophy in Action Radio focuses on the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. It broadcasts live on most Sunday mornings and many Thursday evenings over the internet. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

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