"Nobody likes hypocrisy but we're all hypocrites" - Dr. Brian Earp - Sentientism Ep:84

Find our Sentientist Conversation on the Sentientism YouTube here or on the Sentientism podcast here.

Dr. Brian Earp (@briandavidearp) is Associate Director of the Yale-Hastings Program in Ethics & Health Policy & a Research Fellow at the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford. His work is cross-disciplinary, following training in philosophy, cognitive science, psychology, history & sociology of science and medicine, & ethics. He has written extensively on resisting traditional & religious justifications for causing harm – particularly to children through genital mutilation / circumcision. He wrote the book "Love Drugs" w/Julian Savulescu. Brian is also a professional actor and singer.

In Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?”

Sentientism is "evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings." The audio is on our Podcast here on Apple & here on all the other platforms.

We discuss:
00:00 Welcome

02:00 Brian's Intro - Academically trying to understand the world & lay out how it should be.

03:04 What's Real?

  • Growing up in Seattle in a Free Methodist Evangelical Christian society
  • Mum: Christianity & god. Dad: A more naturalist perspective
  • "Evolution was something that might tempt us away from the path of righteousness"
  • Unthinkingly accepting Christianity at first
  • Asking questions of the pastor at 12/13 yrs. Is it fair to send people to hell who have never even heard of Jesus?
  • The problem of evil… while being emotionally sensitive to the pain of others
  • Taking "a very serious concern with morality" from mum's Christian worldview even as a kid
  • Divine command theory: things are right/wrong because god says so
  • Agnostic re: metaphysics: "What do you mean by god?"
  • The burden of proof is on the claimant… "Wow - how are you confident about that?"
  • Bible college vs. secular Yale
  • Studying philosophy at college
  • The fundamental fact claims fell apart
  • Ethical concerns: religious homophobia etc. The tension between strict religious rules & personal compassionate intuitions "something has to go here!"
  • "Unless I have an independent reason to believe one view over another…"

15:37 What Matters?

  • Supernatural worldview risks to universal compassion
  • Can compassion go too far? Undermining justice/fairness?
  • Agnostic about the grounding of ethics / meta-ethics
  • Instead a Quinian web of beliefs & intuitions I'm pretty darn sure about: "Needless suffering of an innocent person"… "Treating people differently without reason"… "concern for the disadvantaged / those without power or representation" then reasoning about cases
  • "We should believe what we have best reason to believe"
  • Adding supernatural elements doesn't seem to explain anything
  • Personal experiences as evidence for the supernatural?
  • A "new atheist" phase - needing that unbridled anti-religious fervour?
  • "You can find dogmatism anywhere": Political progressive or conservative, religious or atheist…
  • Sentientism as ethically pluralistic
  • "Why wouldn't you grant moral standing to anything that can feel?"
  • "Are there seriously people who deny moral standing to animals?"
  • People agreeing with sentiocentrism in theory but not in practice
  • Giving up eating meat 10 years after deciding it was a bad thing to participate in the system
  • "It can't be that bad - everyone is doing it!"
  • "Some of the worst problems… things that are really bad but are widespread in social norms"
  • Weirdness as a constraint on personal/social change
  • The centrality of psychology
  • "Social isolation was a death sentence for much of our history & still is for some today"
  • "For a long time veganism was a freakish position - & nobody wants to be a freak"
  • Inconsistencies: Being against pet cruelty but for animal farming. Against FGM but for male circumcision
  • Culture drives most people's morality, not the other way around
  • Non-human animal ethics as kryptonite to otherwise careful thinkers (philosophers, humanists, atheists, rationalists)
  • "Nobody likes hypocrisy but we're all hypocrites"
  • "In my cultural milieu people take it for granted that, at birth boys should have part of their penis removed… there are strong reasons to profoundly object to this practice."
  • Snark & righteousness… "it just didn't work." "People who already agreed were cheering. Those who didn't completely dismissed my argument."
  • Persuading those who disagree: Shared ground. Respect.

51:50 How to Make a Better Future?

  • There's a role for righteous anger (vs. posturing on Twitter)
  • Bringing people on board. Treat people as collaborators
  • MDMA in the water supply?

Sentientism is “Evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” More at

Join our “I’m a Sentientist” wall using this simple form.

Everyone, Sentientist or not, is welcome in our groups. The biggest so far is here on Facebook.

Thanks Graham for the post-production.

Latest work

How to End Injustice Everywhere - Melanie Joy - Sentientism Ep:179

Melanie Joy is an award-winning author and psychologist. A Sentientism conversation about what's real, who matters and how to make a better world.

How to End Injustice Everywhere - Melanie Joy - Sentientism Ep:179

Melanie Joy is an award-winning author and psychologist. A Sentientism conversation about what's real, who matters and how to make a better world.

"Commitment to solidarity and a stubborn commitment to hope" - Defending Animals Author - Kendra Coulter - Sentientism Ep: 178

Dr Kendra Coulter is a professor at Huron University and a fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics. A Sentientism conversation about what's real, who matters and how to make a better world.

Animals and Systems - Vegan Reflections with Jordi Casamitjana - Sentientism Podcast Ep: 177

Sentientism podcast episode 177. A conversation between Jordi Casamitjana (Vegan FTA) and Jamie Woodhouse about the meaning of the word "animal" and systems engineering and change.

Join our mailing list and stay up to date


Handcrafted with ♥ by Cage Undefined