Christian B. Miller

Greetings! My name is Christian B. Miller, and I live in Winston-Salem, North Carolina with my lovely wife and three young children. I have been incredibly fortunate to spend the last fifteen years at Wake Forest University, where I am now the A. C. Reid Professor of Philosophy. My research primarily has to do with virtue and moral character, and for five years I was the leader of The Character Project, one of the large research projects in the world on these topics. In addition to my academic writings, I am very excited about the publication of my first book for a broader audience interested in questions of character, The Character Gap: How Good Are We?

The below is an excerpt from my interview at What is it Like to Be a Philosopher. You can read the entire interview here.

So, where did you grow up?

I was born on a large cattle farm on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. It was an amazing place to be a young boy. I got to ride tractors, feed the animals, and even help deliver a calf. My family lived there until I was seven, and then they moved to Florida where we would stay until I went off to college.

What was your family like?

I am an only child, and my parents have been married for close to 50 years. My father was very good at breeding cows on the farm, and then transitioned to investments in Florida. My mother is an amazingly talented wildlife artist (I'm biased of course). The covers of my two academic books on character feature her work. People usually think those are photographs of animals, but they are actually her acrylic paintings.

As a little kid, what were you into?

Reading, playing Nintendo, snorkeling, skimboarding, and boogie boarding. Can you tell that we lived near the ocean? Around second grade, I started helping my father rescue endangered baby sea turtles.

Favorite NES game?

I probably played Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda the most, but looking back my fondest memories are of Contra and Jackal.

Tell me more about the baby sea turtles!

One day when I was walking along the beach with my parents, I came across a dead sea turtle. I had never seen one before, and asked my parents about them. We discovered that sea turtles (in this case loggerhead sea turtles, which are the most common in Florida), are endangered species, due to a number of threats they face such as eating plastics in the water, being hunted for their oil, eggs, and shells, and being confused as babies by beach-side lighting which leads them away from the ocean and onto roads and yards.

To make a long story short, about a year later my father and I were trained and officially certified to help rescue baby sea turtle hatchlings. A given nest will have about 100 eggs, and the hatchlings emerge at night when it is cool. Our job was to come along the next day after a nest had hatched and rescue any babies that were still trapped inside and could not escape on their own. We would free them and take them to the ocean where they could swim off on their own.

We had a roughly three mile stretch of beach to monitor, which took about three hours to patrol every day. And the sea turtle nesting season lasts about 7 months a year.

For the next eight years, my father and I walked the beach looking for signs of nests that had hatched. I don't have the exact numbers anymore, but we ended up rescuing about 17,000 baby hatchlings that most likely would not have survived otherwise.

Towards the end of our time with the turtles, the media heard about what we were doing, which led to some completely unexpected opportunities, like speaking at the United Nations General Assembly. That's a story for another time, though, as I've gone on long enough already.

You’re not getting off that easy! Tell me about this United Nations thing, dude.

Well, thanks to appearing in a book called Kid Heroes of the Environment, someone at the United Nations got wind of what we were doing with the turtles and invited me to be a keynote speaker at the United Nations Environmental Programme’s conference which met in the General Assembly. There I was standing at the famous podium, talking about why we need to protect endangered species. I really had no clue at the time what I was doing. That’s probably a good thing, as I would have been a lot more nervous if I had.