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Chengiz Khan – Good guy or Bad ?

I just read about the a controversial research in Carnegie Melon .


Global warming trend began with advent of agriculture and this report claims that Chengiz Khan might have helped slow down this effect when he killed almost 40 million people, resulting in vast agricultural lands, especially in central Europe, being returned to forests. I read some other research somewhere long time back that talked about how the central European forests helped create temperate climate that gave rise to stable agriculture yield and thus further giving rise to European renaissance.

We all know the what happened in Europe revolutionized every aspect of human life on this planet. It has been more positive than negative for civilization, at least so far. It gave rise to many scientific discoveries. The invention of vaccination has saved millions of lives.

So I wonder if Chengiz khan did indirectly save more people than he killed? Over the course of one millennium, is a ruthless mas murderer more moral than a kind and gracious priest in a church?

And stretching this argument further. If the global warming kills the whole planet, then should we blame the doctors that invented vaccines for contributing to population growth and straining the environment?

This makes me wonder what role does morality really play in making this world better? The world seems to be far too complex to linearly think about cause and effects. There are so many dimensions of a particular action. What if every action we do, if accounted on all dimensions, is of neutral value when it comes to making a world a better or worse?

I know that no matter what my logic tells me about morality, I won’t be able to go outside and kill a cute puppy. That’s just not me. But what if i were? What is my ultimate destiny? For long I have stopped believing in heaven and hell. But I do believe in a ultimate fair outcome for every life form. How will that work?


5 Responses

  1. I think 40 million is an exaggeration. Maybe couple of millions. Cities in central Asia and Iran did not have more people than a few thousands with a few exceptions.

  2. You might not find an objective measurement that satisfies you when the argument is what should we do for our species or our planet. I suspect this is because morality is built up on what we would do for our neighbors.

    If we kill the planet prematurely, we lose all the potential people who haven’t been born. But if we kill people to prevent the loss of the planet, then we are saying something about this species. If the ratio is really crazy like killing one person saves the earth for 100 years or more, then that one person is going to die. Maybe we can give them a few weeks to party first though.

    Also, Genghis wasn’t working for environmentalists so any accidents for the environment are just nice to have consolation prizes for the communities he destroyed. If science indisputably puts us in a position to cull the herd, we have sterility options and we have a chance to inform people so that they understand what is being asked of them. If we can’t communicate that, maybe we should remain just skeptical enough of the data to avoid drastic payments for much needed cures.

    I don’t believe in a karma or final justice for any being. I happen to like most of the people I’ve met and I like to see people and animals treated as well as possible. And I eat meat. Go figure.

  3. Long before Jenner invented vaccination for smallpox, in India Vaidhs would go around collecting smallpox secetions from people afflicted with it and innoculating people with the same… read about in Dharampal’s books – Science & Technology & Educational system in India befroe the British systematically destroyed it…. even Calculus was taken from Kerala by Jesuits priests – any coincidence Newton was a Jesuit….

  4. Your article remind me of one of the postulates of Game Theory, which states that every game is part of a bigger game.
    Going on the same note, we may actually thank Hitler few centuries down the line.

  5. This reminds me of a book I read called crime and punishment. The protagonist is in dire condition in his life financially, cant continue his education and this has taken a toll on his morality. He decides to kill an old rich pawnbroker woman. While coming to this decision he always sways back and forth morally.

    In his delirium he compares himself with Napoleon and great people alike, thinking if Napoleon had wavered in wars by seeing so many deaths the great French empire would have not survived.

    Though finally he realizes the fallacy in his logic, it was that logic drove him through the crime. May be morality is dynamic and relative.

    By any standard Chengiz Khan’s killing can not be morally justified. Because his motive was not growing forest but to kill those people. Had the case been reverse and it was all plan of his great vision for future then it may be.

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