Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Quote for Today

"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." -Phillip K. Dick

Public Pontification

I did it. I pontificated in public about my little pet theory for a 21 century ethical morality in a public place. Admittedly forums are read by a very few true scholars, but I was curious to see how my proposed ethical guide would be received. I targeted a very specific debate on the page that seemed appropo and posted with 'all guns-a-blazin'. Read it at

I was pleasantly surprised by the reception it got. far should I carry this pet theory?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Friday, February 23, 2007

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Moral Ethic

In The End of Faith, Sam Harris purports that the bronze-age writings of religion fall short when expected to provide a moral guide for 21 century life. Citing specifically Leviticus and Deuteronomy as particularly inappropriate sources when taken as the whole, he then suggests that a group of intelligent people of the present could come up with a better guide to morality in as short a time as 5 minutes.

Really? Just 5 minutes? For a globally appropriate 21 century code of moral ethics?

Lets give it a try.

(Note: The words you are about to read are my opinion, not yours. They are not meant as a revolutionary manifesto, nor are they meant to spearhead an attack against any particular religion or philosophical creed. If, having read this, you choose to read on, and subsequently take offence at what is written, I hold you responsible for your own outrage. -Jefe)

Lets start with the Ethic of Reciprocity

Treat others the way you would like them to treat you.

This is a simple one. It covers a whole gamut of possibly in one simple sentence. No murder. No theft. No battery. No torture. No confidence schemes. No grifting. No cheating. No lying (*). Being nice to our Elders.

Be considerate of others feelings.

This one seems straightforward. If we all have an interest in other people being happy, or not being unhappy, then we'll all work toward a greater global happiness in life. How can that be a bad thing?

Be kind.

This may seem a bit redundant, but as a specific behavioral instruction, and as a slogan perhaps in the new 21 century age of ethical morality, perhaps it needs to be said. Besides which, it would make up the third instruction of our proposed moral compass for the modern world, and I'm personally fond of things that come in threes. (Don't go too crazy with the Freudian analysis of my penchant for trios.)

So now we need to see how this stacks up against the major religious Morality Sets:

Looking at the 10 Commandments, Sikh Principals, Buddhist Principals, and Islamic Instructions, we can see that this little sketch of 21 Century Morality shows considerable overlap to each of the 4 listed Religion/Philosophy Guides. The only places where we see a failure of overlap is where there are specifically dogmatic instructions pertaining to Religion, or personal guidelines for behavior and diet.

Otherwise, the three principals listed in our 21 Century Ethical Morality function just fine for all 4 listed Ideologies.


The three statements took far less than 5 minutes to accomplish (thanks, Sam Harris), but the comparison took almost 1/2 hour to format nicely to fit the blog.

I invite any comments re this sketch for 21 Century Ethical Morality.

Later I'll try to add Hinduism to the comparison, as I feel this is also a major belief system and begs comparison to this little sketch.


*Note: I believe there is a quandary between being honest and being kind. Consider the age old conundrum faced by a male who’s mate asks the question “Do these (garments) make me look fat?” Clearly the one asking about it is feeling insecure, and thus to say “No” would increase their self esteem. But in some cases the statement might not be the truth. Do we abandon diplomacy, esteem building and/or civility in the cause of unerring honesty, or is there such a thing as a “white lie” - Perhaps we’ll examine the white lie in another episode of “as the principal turns”. - Jefe

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Around the House...

Its been almost a year since we moved into our new house and we're currently working on finishing the basement. Our dream is to have a fully functional, ear-drum ripping 6.1 surround sound home theater, complete with wet bar and big screen

(we have a 55" TV right now....but there is room for larger, later)

We've been working up a storm on our home theater room. 2 weeks ago I got the prep work about 90% finished. The framing is done, the electrical is done, and I have some HVAC to modify - run a heating vent down to the floor. We're also about 1/2 way through the drywalling (Nic and I have been working on it together).

Here is a sketch of the details, a couch we like for the room and the colour scheme that we both like for the theater room.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Jumping in front of Bullets

"The human psyche has two great sicknesses: the urge to carry vendetta across generations, and the tendency to fast group labels on people rather than to see them as individuals"-Richard Dawkins

In any discourse of the human condition, generalizations are made. We generalize demographics of the human populace as a simplifying tool with which we handle sweeping concepts or descriptors. We refer to groups such as "The Religious", "Atheists", "Liberals", "Republicans", "Christians", "Jews", "Muslims", "Children", "Adults" and other broad descriptors that help us to clarify the targets of our statements of discourse. This categorization helps us to identify the topic of our discourse, and also work to contextualize the conversations we have within our discourse.

When we interact with each other, we do so through conversation and discourse. In any media, there is a conversation - between the message that the media is presenting to its audience, and the reactions, emotional responses and cultural associative myths of the members of that audience. When we converse face to face, we experience the same thing. One person says something, and based on their emotional responses, reactions, and cultural associative myths of their co-conversationist, a reactive response is generated.

Granted these emotional reactive responses can be a commonplace affair. The statement "Vanilla Ice Cream is awful." will generate different responses in different people. Some will agree and may experience a feeling of increased compatibility or empathy with the speaker of that statement. Some will disagree, and may experience a feeling of reduction of compatibility or reduced empathy with the speaker. Some may find the statement irrelevant to their opinion or non-impactful if they have never experienced Vanilla Ice Cream, and then they may experience an information crux. Will they seek first hand knowledge of Vanilla Ice Cream, or will they accept the statement that "Vanilla Ice Cream is awful." and add it to their pool of cultural associative myths?

In some cases the emotional reactive responses can be more moving or life changing. Statements about groups of people can function in this way. If a person says "Red Heads have hotter tempers.” this can generate a distinct emotive response in people. For Red Headed people it can signify an attack against them as a demographic whole - thus placing them in a defensive frame of mind for the remainder of any conversation of discourse with the person making the statement. For non-Red Headed people it can act as a catalyst for judgment of Red Headed people. Those of us who do not have red hair, can agree or disagree with this stereotypical statement, and indeed red heads also have the freedom to agree or disagree with this statement. However, agreeance or disagreeance does not change the fact that the statement is a definitive stereotype of a particular, distinct demographic of humanity.

Yet, when we have discourse about humanity, our language is full of these stereotyping statements that function as descriptors and as attempts to categorize demographics to which our discourse is relevant. Statements of classification or stereotype group like minded or similarly featured people together into a single generic classification of being. Any statement or question that uses a term like "The Religious", "Atheists", "Liberals", "Republicans", "Christians", "Jews", "Muslims", "Children", "Adults" and any other broad descriptors that act as a system of classification or stereotyping in our language experience a danger of being viewed as an attack against a subset of people. "Red Heads have hotter tempers" functions as an attack against red heads. "Republicans have hotter tempers" functions as an attack against any people who may be, or consider themselves to be, or are sympathetic to those who claim to be republican.

When our social discourse includes these descriptive labels, we can observe a subsidiary symptom of the labeling process described by Dawkins in our opening quotation. Some people will take on the trappings of a projected label and "catch" the figurative bullet that they perceived aimed at "red heads" and/or "republicans". Why do they do this? Why do people assume the identity of a demographic they perceive as on the receiving end of a verbal or literary attack, and then proceed to take personal umbrage and behave defensively about a verbal sling that was not, in origin, aimed in their direction?