Home > Uncategorized > Will Polygamy be Morally Acceptable in 20 Years?

Will Polygamy be Morally Acceptable in 20 Years?

There has been a lot of online buzz around Kwame Anthony Appiah’s recent essay in the Washington Post, “What Will Future Generations Condemn Us For?” The thrust of the article is pretty simple, something I think we’ve all thought about at one time or another: since we look back with abhorrence on historical practices that were once considered normal (and even morally right), we can only assume that some of our current morals will be considered equally barbaric sometime in the future. Appiah points to 4 practices that will become morally abhorrent: industrial meat farms, prison conditions, current environmental degradation, and the way we isolate, ignore the elderly.

Interesting points: but as some commentators have pointed out, it is quite easy to simply hold up our personal moral positions and say “This will become the future standard,” thus putting us on the right side of history before it even happens. Plus, most of these already have enough public support that they are not too far off from a significant tipping point before they become fully accepted.

The more challenging (and I’d say interesting) mind game is to speculate what practices will become morally acceptable down the road that we currently find utterly repellent, or which regular, “normal” practices will become immoral? I’ve come up with three; you can read about them by clicking below.

Will become Accetable


This one, I feel, is a no-brainer. We’ve already seen a stunning turnaround of public opinion on homosexuality and same-sex marriage in a just a few short decades. People are more open to alternative sexual lifestyles than ever before. Feminism has evolved to the point that almost any woman’s choices about how to live her life–even if it appears to place her in a demeaning position like a polygamous relationship–is permitted. And if same-sex marriage becomes more common in the country, it’s possible that the legal restraints on polygamy could be challenged and reinterpreted. If all that weren’t enough, we are seeing an outpouring of “spectacle” polygamists: “Big Love,” Oprah’s visit to a polygamous compound, recent memoirs and novels like Udall’s “The Lonely Polygamist,” the recent “Sister Wives.” These shows and books haven’t freaked people out about polygamy as much as they have made it seem less alien.

Legally, this will take a while, but publicly, I think they will achieve at least 30% acceptance in the public by at least 2030. Maybe even 2025.

Will become Unaccetable


My concerns about my favorite childhood sport were sparked after reading Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker article last year about football and brain trauma. Basically, the research seems to indicate that not so much the big hits but the small yet constant blows to the head add up with a tremendous cost: the stories of dementia and other mental problems that ex-players suffer later in life is awful. Gladwell argues that this type of violence is inherent in the sport, that it cannot be regulated away with rules or prevented with better equipment.

So will we accept this type of collateral damage? Everyone in the article said that simply no longer having football wasn’t an option, and as America’s biggest sport, that doesn’t seem very likely. But I think as the effects of football become more undeniable, wealthy spectators will push their kids away from it, stop buying the increasingly-expensive tickets, or both, and that the sport’s cash cow will stop to dry up. This has already happened to boxing; it has gone from a huge American sport to a marginal event. I do think that college football will be the last to go though, with Notre Dame clinging on until the bitter end. Go Irish!

I’m curious what my class will say when we talk about the article on Friday.

Physical book buying, publishing

This is my wildcard. I know it sounds a bit crazy, but hear me out.

Book-buying and selling is going digital. E-readers, like the Kindle and the iPad will only get better; I imagine that someday soon you will be able to toggle between a regular computer screen and a “reading” screen on your device. I think as we become increasingly digital, it will also seem less reasonable to justify cutting down trees for printing paper. You might think the opposite would occur–less demand on paper, lower prices, right?–but I think instead, people will think printing excess paper will be just wasteful (especially with environmental and climate-change concerns). So printing and buying hardbound books (cheap paperbacks will be around much longer) will seem pointless or, possibly, elitist, like you think you are so special for wanting a hardboud book.

I know this sounds crazy, but I can’t help but think we’re headed in that direction. I can imagine that a small number of certain books would be printed, as a type of physical copy/record, but I not only think that the book industry is moving away from physical books, I think our morals will shift away from it too.

So what do you think will be acceptable/inacceptable?

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