Steven Pinker writes on "The Moral Instinct" in NYT
Jan 13, 2008
by Steven Pinker
"Which of the following people would you say is the most admirable:
Mother Teresa, Bill Gates
or Norman Borlaug? And which do you think is the least admirable? For
most people, it's an easy question. Mother Teresa, famous for
ministering to the poor in Calcutta, has been beatified by the Vatican,
awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and ranked in an American poll as the
most admired person of the 20th century. Bill Gates, infamous for
giving us the Microsoft dancing paper clip and the blue screen of
death, has been decapitated in effigy in "I Hate Gates" Web sites and hit with a pie in the face. As for Norman Borlaug . . . who the heck is Norman Borlaug?
Yet a deeper look might lead
you to rethink your answers. Borlaug, father of the "Green Revolution"
that used agricultural science to reduce world hunger, has been
credited with saving a billion lives, more than anyone else in history.
Gates, in deciding what to do with his fortune, crunched the numbers
and determined that he could alleviate the most misery by fighting
everyday scourges in the developing world like malaria, diarrhea
and parasites. Mother Teresa, for her part, extolled the virtue of
suffering and ran her well-financed missions accordingly: their sick
patrons were offered plenty of prayer but harsh conditions, few analgesics and dangerously primitive medical care..."
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