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An Interview with Dr. Christopher DiCarlo (Part One)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/09/15


Dr. Christopher DiCarlo is an Author, Educator, and Philosopher of Science and Ethics. He discusses: family background; pivotal moments in early life; Dawkins and Krauss analogy; critical thinking’s influence on parenting; and Bentham, Mill, and the Harm Principle.

Keywords: author, Christopher DiCarlo, educator, philosopher.

An Interview with Dr. Christopher DiCarlo: Author, Educator, Philosopher of Science and Ethics (Part One)[1],[2]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: In terms of geography, culture, and language, where does your family background reside?

Dr. Christopher DiCarlo: My father, his parents were Italian immigrants. They came here. He was born in Canada. My mother was Alsatian.

So, it is a district in France and Germany, more Germany than France. My great-great grandfather got tired of the fighting between France and Germany. He changed his surname to Fox. I am a fifth generation Franco-Germanic on my mother’s side. That is my ancestry in Canada.

2. Jacobsen: Can you recall some pivotal moments and early influences in life? That is, the influence on the perspective of the world. The influence on directions taken in life.

DiCarlo: I remember talking to my mother once. I was born and baptized and raised a Catholic. I was an altar boy for five years. I thought, “Mom, what is heaven?” She said, “In heaven, you get everything that you want.”

I said, “You do?” She said, “Yea!” I was four. I said, “I don’t want to die until I’m 80. What will an 80-year-old man want with toys?” She said, “It doesn’t matter. If you want it, you will have them there.”

Later, in early high school, I said, “What do you think will happen to my friend, Danny Epstein, when he dies?” She said, “He will go to Hell.” I said, “He’s not Catholic. He is Jewish. He’s half-right.” She said, “That’s not enough.”


Early, I realized that things were not quite right in the ‘supernatural’ realm. I hear about atrocities in the world, with crime, or someone having a seizure. Anything like that. I never had an individual tell me, “That person is behaving that way because their brain is somewhat different. It is operating somewhat differently. Under certain conditions, it will behave in that particular way.”

No one would ever explain that to me. It was “when that bad man did that, he chose to do that. He was violating the law and God and will go to Hell.” When Krauss says, “it’s child abuse,” in a way, that indoctrination is child abuse. You are not giving your child the more objective picture of human behaviour.

Therefore, you are withholding information from the child. Whether that or not, when I look back in life, I wish one single mentor/person said, “Hey, this is cool. This is all right. Bad things will happen, but here’s why bad things will happen and here is what you can do to help others that suffer. Here are ways to avoid that suffering for you.”

When I look back on my life, I wish I had a mentor. It was not until late high school when a neighbor was taking philosophy courses. He would have these conversations with me. It would influence me. I considered other things people said about the world that were different than my parents.

3. Jacobsen: When I reflect on your statements, from Professor Lawrence Krauss, on that child abuse, he takes that from Dr. Richard Dawkins, in writing and conversations. There is a deep, simple argument.

Dawkins presents a context. I paraphrase the analogy. You have three children: A, B, and C. You see a slide from a projector with children A, B, and C. A is a “Muslim Child.” B is a “Christian child.” C is a “Hindu child.”

When, in fact, you have a child of Muslims parents (A), child of Christian parents (B), and a child of Hindu parents (C). The point becomes clear with political philosophies applied to A, B, and C. Same context and second slide of the hypothetical projector. A is a Conservative child. B is a Liberal child. C is a Green Party child.

DiCarlo: [Laughing].

Jacobsen: In a way, when Dawkins has presented this idea to people, he argues by analogy in the sense of consciousness-raising with respect to 60s and 70s feminism to look at the way language is used in describing people, things, and relationships. There is a valid argument.

DiCarlo: For sure, when we decided to have kids, the greatest gift to give a child is critical thinking skills. The ability to think about all things carefully and to use your sense of logic and reason. The ability to discern through different types of information. I never stopped kids from wanting to pursue any religious or supernatural belief system.

Should one of them find joy or fellowship amongst others within a faith, we could talk about it. If it was more on the spectrum of cults including the Church of Scientology, I would press much harder in contrast to Buddhism.

It is a neat thing. I dabbled in it. I would not have much of an issue with it. If my son came home and said, “I’m a Scientologist,” we would probably have a serious discussion about this.”

4. Jacobsen: Regarding your own family history and personal life including having children, a related question: how does critical thinking influence parenting?

DiCarlo: It should be one of the cornerstones of parenting. You want to be compassionate, loving, and helpful. I want to guide in all those areas. If you do not have critical thinking to inform you in those areas, you are being misguided.

I am sure Jenny McCarthy loved her children. However, the irreparable damage done from her memes to others taking the false information is big. It is epistemically irresponsible.

Epistemic responsibility is the capacity to look at information and determine its reliability, sufficiency, consistency, and so on. These hallmarks of criteria that underlie the premise that support our conclusions.

When people do not do that, it can lead to damaging actions. They may have the best intentions for their children. The fact of the matter is “best intentions” are not enough. Critical thinking is what will allow parents with the best intentions to make more reliable decisions.

Now, with my critical thinking consulting business is a large outreach program, we are developing things. Instead of proselytizing about God or something, we teach educators critical thinking, which allows students to make their minds up.

It is how and not what to think. I do not have problems with different beliefs than mine. Unless, they create harm. That is a subjective, philosophically difficult, concept. One person’s benefit is another person’s harm.

However, telling people at ages things they cannot fathom or grasp the depths thereof, Jenny McCarthy’s pseudoscientific claim are harmful. In my book, I talk about the intersecting point.

Someone’s tolerance dims as another person’s harm increase in inverse proportion. Where they intersect, that is when someone is justified to say, “Time out here. Everything was fine. I have a high tolerance for your beliefs.”

You claim a God. To me, it is imaginary. It does not affect me. You pay your taxes. Your supernatural beliefs do not affect me. However, if I find out the supernatural beliefs harm, those lines intersect.

I do not have to tolerate that anymore, especially on behalf of those suffering under the belief system. I am tolerant of other belief systems different from mine. I can get along with any person of any faith, or non-faith. Let us face it, there are atheists out there that are assholes.

They can do horrible things for whatever reasons. They might not base it on faith. However, they might use different reasons. We are talking about the beliefs generating actions harmful to yourself, others, or another species.

5. Jacobsen: Jeremy Bentham founded Utilitarianism. John Stuart Mill developed it. He had the higher/lower pleasures, and The Harm Principle. Does this emphasis on the harm reflect aspects of Utilitarianism for you?

DiCarlo: For sure, the two most important ethical precepts for me: The Harm Principle and the Golden Rule. If you take them together, it is hard to get around it. If you take them separately, they do not always work well.

Paul Bernardo, serial killer, could say, “I am abiding by the Golden Rule. I want someone to stalk, drug, and murder me. I see nothing wrong with that!” However, if you put The Harm Principle in there, then you say, “You can’t get away with that loose-fitting approach.”

I am both a Consequentialist and a Deontologist. I am a mixed bag. I developed something called Relational Systemics, which goes further than Mill’s. It is looking at individuals as their systemic selves. Now, you are communicating through a means of a system of networking. It involves various systems, which need to function. You are living on the other side of the country

However, we need to interact with other systems. We are dependent on transportation, communication, legal, health, and so on. When I look at an individual, I see their systemic self.

There are natural and cultural systems. In terms of looking at human behaviour and trying to treat individuals fairly, if we are to value fairness as an aspect of ethical treatment, it behooves us to figure out an individual’s systemic self.

I use the natural and social sciences to the betterment of ethical systems. Many ethical philosophers sit at the desk. They think in abstruse and abstract terms. We need to marry ethics with science.

Some see that as the naturalistic fallacy. No, it is not. Hume said it is not the naturalistic fallacy if you fill in the is/ought with a lot of premises. That is what I am doing with these systems. Science must inform ethics.

If it does not, and if we exist in a vacuum, and if people get that we should not act ways and if they have their heads up an orifice, it is because they have not realized that for people to act according to specific rules, then they must be able to.

As Immanuel Kant said, “ does not imply ought, but is implies can.” If somebody ought to do something, that means “can they do that?” If I ought not to murder, and if I have a grapefruit-sized tumor unbeknownst to me pressing against my amygdaloid system, limbic system, and if I murder that day, you say, “You ought not to murder.”

You have not determined the “is”. You have determined the systemic facts about me. I realize at the individual level. I do not want to murder. I do not want others to murder. The fact of the matter is life is not that simple.

We need to look at that as a complexity. We are an agglomeration of systems in this world whether we like it or not. Let us figure out the best way to think about systems interacting with themselves. So, when people cannot meet the rules within an ethical system of conduct or the law, what do we do with the rule breakers?

Dostoyevsky, right? Enter a societies’ prisons and that is how you judge them. How did they treat the rule breakers of that society? To be just and to be fair, we need to look at all the systems or at least the important nodes of those various systems to be fair to that person.

And to be fair to the next person. We need to set a precedent for that. So, the law I find, I am teaching a course in philosophy and punishment, and I am trying to get my students to think in terms of, what should we do with pedophiles? “Oh, pedophiles are horrible, they do horrible things to children.”

Yes, nobody is denying the consequences of their actions. Nobody denies that should not happen. Do you think they just sit around and say, “Jeez, I think I should have sex with kids? I’ve tried everything else, let us move on to kids.” It is not just a graduating perversion that a person has, of copulating with different persons and things and inanimate objects and then ending up with kids.

No, pedophiles are a product of their systemic selves. What are we going to do with them? If they cannot abide by the rules of society that we have put up, should we just take them out of the gene pool? Two behind the ear, right? Let us just take them out and try to eliminate their genes from the pool.

But now it is your brother, or your son, or your father. They were in all aspect’s good human beings before whatever neurochemistry in their brain caused them to favour those types of desires with those types of people where society says do not do that.

So, to be compassionate and fair to the polis at large, which we believe we have mandated ourselves to do, but we are not doing a very good job, what do we do for those people? We need to protect possible victims, no question about it. And this is what bothers some of my students. Was Burgess, right?

Was Anthony Burgess, right? Are we headed for a Clockwork Orange scenario? Where we are just going to fix the machinery. We are going to go in. First, we will ask the person, “Do you want to be a pedophile?” And if they say, “No, I hate causing pain to these children.”

Fine, “Do you wish to undergo a new therapy?” That we know will be developed; it is just a matter of decades. Where whatever “normal brains” are that do not desire to have sex with children and their brains that do desire to have sex with children, if we can fix the mechanisms within the neural transmission that causes the behaviours and the desires, then we take away the urges and we take away the crimes. Then we do not have victims.

We give the person their life back, and they no longer must hide from breaking these rules all the time. Of course, personal autonomy, if they do not wish to have this done, we still must let them know, we cannot have you running around society potentially harming children, so we are going to have to put you somewhere else.

We are going to have to keep an eye on you. We are going to have to institutionalize you. And that is the best treatment we can do. I know that is a perfect case scenario, perfect world case scenario. In some parts of the world, they are not going to have the finances to be able to do this.

Even in developed nations, we may not have the finances to do it. I am talking about a purely ideological level, what would the best-case scenario be in terms of treating people as just as possible, according to the golden rule and the no harm principles. That is one example.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Author; Educator; Philosopher; Fellow, Society of Ontario Freethinkers; Board Advisor, Freethought TV; Advisory Fellow Center for Inquiry Canada.

[2] Individual Publication Date: September 15, 2018:; Full Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2019:


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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