Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tx) was recording a live episode of his podcast “Verdict” at Yale with his co-host, conservative writer Michael Knowles. The topic was the confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson as the next member of the Supreme Court, but a student, “Evan”, asked Cruz a question that was juuust a bit off-topic.
“Assuming it would end global hunger, would you fellate another man?” Evan queried as the audience guffawed. Hahahaha, you’re an asshole, Evan. The question is rude, unserious, and designed to embarrass a U.S. Senator. It’s Golden Rule breach, of course, because the question is of the “when did you stop beating your wife?” variety. For a conservative like Cruz, any answer would get him into trouble.
I would have shut the student down, myself, and asked him to leave. A question like that is the live equivalent of trolling. Instead, Cruz threw the question to his co-host.
Knowles answered, “Like a typical left-wing undergraduate, you are engaging in consequentialist ethics…You are attempting to justify flagrantly immoral behavior to achieve a good end. And I tell you, my friend, the ends do not justify the means. Absolutely, absolutely not,”
The answer was, in some ways, worse than the question. First, the hypothetical wasn’t about “consequentialist” ethics. It was, to the extent that it was anything other than a way to get a cheap laugh, an example of utilitarian ethics, which Knowles clearly doesn’t understand at all. Second, he’s confusing morality with ethics. In his moral code, a religious one, fellatio is a moral breach, a sin. Ethically, mutually consensual sex between males isn’t ethical or unethical. It isn’t harming anyone.
Third, ethically Knowles’ answer is idiotic. Of course a man should give a man a man a blow job to end world hunger; it’s just too stupid a hypothetical to answer. And it would be ethical and mandatory to torture someone if it was the only way to stop a nuclear bomb from exploding in Los Angeles. And I would have sex with my sister (Ew!) if it would cure cancer. How hard is that to figure out? My father killed human beings during World War II to defeat Hitler, and killing someone is quite a bit more immoral than giving a man a blowjob. The ends sometimes do justify the means; that’s what Bentham, Mill and others, as well as human experience have taught us. That’s the importance of ethical balancing.
The student’s question was obnoxious, and didn’t deserve to be answered. However, to answer it as foolishly as Knowles did demonstrates how ethically obtuse so many of our “opinion leaders” are.