Saturday, October 26, 2013

Idle Thoughts -- The Hand That Rocks The Cradle

Comment on H.T.Mills statement that the only reason woman have been ancillary (subordinate ) to men is that men like it: is that a fair statement with in the context of the nineteenth century, as far as you can tell? Would it be fair statement in the twenty- first century?

I'm afraid I have to disagree with Mills on this point. It isn't that men didn't like it. They did. It isn't that that this wasn't one of the main causes for women to be subordinate. It was. My problem is that she makes the absolute statement that this is the only reason.

Throughout history the teachers of, the guardians of, and sometimes even the enforcers of social roles have often been women.

In one of his poems William Ross Wallace declared that, "the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world." The point is that it is mothers who first and most powerfully convey social norms and expected behaviors to their children. In the efforts to eliminate the horrors of female genital mutilation, one of the groups hardest to convince that this practice must be stopped is the mothers of the girls who are going to be mutilated.

This is not because mothers do not care about their daughters, it is because they do. The mothers know that within their societies this is a socially necessary act. A girl who is not mutilated is considered to be unmarriageable and inherently sexually obsessed. Similarly, it was mothers in China who had their daughters' feet horrifically and painfully mutilated so that they could have the tiny little feet which were so prized in Chinese society, the golden lilies. The "lilies" were actually disgusting to look at, but men never had to look at them since they were always kept wrapped in the presence of males.

None of this excuses the role of men in these matters. After all, it was men who demanded these things be done, usually either to control their future wives or to keep them looking "beautiful". However, much of the enforcement of these rules and the passing of them down to the next generation was in the hands of women.

It is understandable why Mills would blame men for just about everything that was wrong with society. In her era, men completely dominated and controlled the world. However, they did so with the eager cooperation of many women.

Consider the women's rights movement, often confused with the women's liberation movement. The difference is as follows: you could be in favor of women's rights and not be in favor of women's liberation. On the other hand, you could not be in favor of women's liberation and not be in favor of women's rights. We also need to remember that both of these movements had and continue to have very many different types of individuals within them. There were always radicals who were positively anti male, and there were also always women were being completely reasonable and simply wanted to be treated fairly and equally. (Male babies are testosterone poisoned females! vs. We are not second class citizens!)

Both these groups worked very hard to get the ERA, the equal rights amendment passed. This was a constitutional amendment which would have enshrined in the constitution the right of gender equity. At first it looked as if this would have a good chance of success. Then a bitter opposition arose.

The opposition was a group of conservative women led by Phyllis Shafely. They were major contributors to the defeat of the ERA. Once again, let me point out that this was a movement of women, created by women and led by women.

I repeat that it is entirely understandable why Mills would put blame exclusively on men. Especially back in the time when she was struggling for women's rights, men were determined to keep women in a state which was at times little better than owned property. Nevertheless, the fact remains that social pressures are very great on both sexes. It is difficult to stand up and say that you wish to be different. Rights are a human problem, not a gender problem.

I feel compelled to add that in the issue of slavery a similar situation applies. Here in America slavery was rapidly turned into a White versus Black issue, that is, a racial issue. To this day when African-Americans visit formal former slavecenters on the coast of Africa, many of them are shocked to learn that many of the slaves were first taken by other Africans, then sold to the White traders. Some White Americans today misunderstand this and declare that, "The Blacks sold their own people".

The fact is that African society even to this day is a tribal society. They did not see themselves in this Americanized racial sense but rather as different tribes. So one tribe was willing to make a profit by raiding and enslaving members of other tribes, people they did not consider to be fully human since they were from a different tribe. People who were not "us". People who were not "our own people".

This demonstrates that rights are a human problem, not a race problem.

Idle Thoughts -- Women in Combat

Apply H.T. Mills arguments to the idea of a woman in combat. Do you see the same arguments supporting the idea? Or is there a difference? Explain.

The idea of women in combat has become a really hot button issue in many political discussions today. Women are already allowed to be in many positions which puts them at risk, but are generally not actually put in combat roles at this time. The Pentagon has announced plans to begin the process of integrating women fully into the Armed Forces, including combat roles.

Some questions remain, such as, will women be allowed to serve in elite forces such as the Navy SEALs?

My own attitude is that this is a necessary and inevitable adjustment. Women will be regarded as no different from men in the services in the future. This will not happen quickly, but I believe it is an inevitable result of changing attitudes towards sexual roles and human self-realization. This is not to say that there will not be many difficulties in accomplishing this. Societal attitudes will change of necessity as we continue to grow in tolerance.

One of the most critical questions is, can women be physically strong enough to perform the required duties? The answer to this potential problem is relatively simple. Make no modification to the services' requirements. Women can or cannot meet those standards. If they meet them, they are acceptable. If they do not meet them, they are not. This is the rule for men and should be the rule for women. Of course, the requirement should be reasonable for the job, not loaded so as to eliminate women.

It is very important to note here that this is not a mandatory issue. I have serious doubts about drafting women and forcing them into combat roles. However, if a woman wants such a placement, I believe that she should be able to volunteer. This is because I do not believe that boys and girls or men and women are essentially identical. Science has shown that there are subtle, but nevertheless distinct, differences in brain structure between the sexes. It is unrealistic to assume that everyone is suitable to serve in the combat role. This is true not only as an issue of men versus women, it is also true as a matter fact for different types of human personalities in both sexes.

Furthermore, as more and more combat is turned over to remotely operated vehicles, there is likely to be less and less necessity for "hand-to-hand combat" and much more need for individuals who function well in cyberspace. This minimizes sexual differences in terms of physical strength, aggressiveness, and other traditionally male attributes.

Among the problems which will eventually develop are very serious issues such as bathroom facilities. In camp this is not a difficult issue but what happens in a combat situation? Are we willing to allow women to serve only in sexually segregated combat teams? Even if they were, how that will affect the use of makeshift latrines that will mean a great deal exposure. In the past, this was common on the streets of every city in the world. But these days, we have developed the concept of modesty with the advent of indoor toilets.

Women of the Third World are fighting very hard for access even to outhouses so that they can have some privacy as men tend to stare at them when they perform the natural functions of elimination or urination. If this is such a critical issue for women in general, what happens in a combat situation in a mixed sex platoon?

There's also the problem that when a woman is captured by the enemy, we become much more concerned about abuse than we do when a man is captured. Perhaps this attitude will change in the future and we will come to regard prisoner of war abuse as an entirely human rather than partly sexual issue.

To address the three issues in order:

1.) Pregnancy. Obviously, adjustments will have to be made if a woman soldier becomes pregnant. But it is also obvious that they can be made. The real issue here is the matter of sexual harassment which is endemic in the military at this time. We must somehow adjust to the fact that the presence of women in a subordinate position leads many men to abuse their authority. We are attempting to engage and solve this problem now. I believe we can and will eventually succeed.

2.). Unfair competition in the workplace will not be a problem in the sense that Mills originally meant. An all volunteer army requires many volunteers. During our recent combat situations the US was forced to lower standards in order to get enough qualified Americans to volunteer for duty. A larger potential pool from which to draw would ease this problem. The more likely problem will be the same one women are currently facing in the workplace. That is, that they are less likely to receive appropriate raises and promotions.

3.). Since basic training is aimed at, among other things, toughening and hardening individuals to face the rigors of military service in general, women soldiers will indeed be hardened. However, if we accept that the traditional positions of women as subservient, meek, and gentle are not necessarily appropriate, this may not be a problem. Certainly women soldiers will become "Army strong".

Idle Thoughts -- Modern Woman in the Workplace

Might the three arguments (motherhood, unfair competition, and hardening of the character) be valid in any conceivable modern context? Explain why or why not.

I'll take a look at these one by one.

First how does motherhood relate to working in a modern world?

We no longer believe that pregnancy is inherently incompatible with working outside the home. However, there are certainly jobs which would require exposure to conditions or materials which are hazardous to health of the unborn or to pregnant women. Pregnant women should be restricted from engaging in such activities. Employers should be restricted from assigning pregnant women to such activities. Reasonable and appropriate modifications to working conditions should be required if a female employee who works under such conditions becomes pregnant.

The issue of unfair competition is generally today seen in the opposite terms as it has traditionally been understood. Today it is much more likely that a woman will feel that she is been denied a pay raise, employment, or a promotion because of her sex. Men are unlikely to feel that women are being favored over them, as they once feared that women would take their jobs away. However, an interesting problem seems to be arising in America's colleges and universities. Far more women are now enrolled in most undergraduate programs than men. While this is not true in areas such as engineering, math, and postdoctoral studies, it is a clear problem in undergraduate studies.

I believe that this is partly as result of efforts which began in the 1980s to adjust schools to serve girl's and women's needs better. In the process, schools began to serve the needs of boys and young men less well. Fairness cuts both ways, so we should now be working hard to ensure that the numbers of male and female students who succeed in school and go on to college are roughly equal.

As far as hardening of the character goes, social attitudes have greatly changed as to how women should conduct themselves. Little girls are no longer expected to be shy, retiring, and acutely domestic. This is because they are longer expected to grow up to be women who display the same characteristics.

In today's workplace and society, a woman who is forceful and able to command is often seen in a positive light. You need only consider the situation of Hillary Clinton to understand this attitude.

To sum up, my answer to all three questions is no, but with some modifications. These modifications are reflected in the need to make adaptations for pregnant women in the workplace under some conditions, and to insure equal treatment for both sexes.

Idle Thoughts -- Workplace, Pregnancy, or Harem?

What are Harriet Taylor Mills counter argument to the three standard arguments against woman in the work force? Are they convincing to you? Why or why not?

Mills identifies the three arguments against women in the workforce as:

1.) Pregnancy is incompatible with public life.

2.) Public life will harden women.

3.) If women work outside of the home, there will be increased competition for jobs.

Her first counter argument is quite simple, but quite effective. She states that women are not required to become pregnant. To us, this is an obvious fact, but it seems to have escaped the minds of the male-dominated society of her time. In fairness, most women had to marry in her day as a economic necessity. Furthermore, contraceptives were very unreliable until recent decades. She goes on to state that women are fully capable of deciding exactly how much pregnancy does or does not incapacitate them. Therefore, women are capable of deciding whether they should or should not do work.

Her second counterargument is that we longer live in a society in which we are likely to engage in which what she refers to as "hand-to-hand combat" is likely to occur in the workforce. She goes on to point out that if men are merely trying to protect women from disagreements or disputes the only way to succeed in accomplishing this would be to create a harem system in which women are isolated from all men except their husbands and, I add, are required to take a totally submissive posture toward him.

Again, this is an excellent criticism. I am surprised that she did not realize that women coming into the workplace could make the workplace a gentler place rather than hardening the women. This is what is happened in our world, in which matters such as sexual harassment and aggressive behavior on the part of male employees is now regarded as illegal activity.

It is interesting that she failed to note, perhaps because she was unaware of, the extreme stresses which existed in the harem system. The rivalries between concubines and wives is horrific. There are many stories from antiquity, including stories of Alexander the Great's harem, in which we find the supposedly sheltered women murdering each other's children so that their child has a better chance of finding favor with the master. I would think that, in reality, a harem system would do much more to harden women than would result from their merely appearing in the workplace. That a harem can turn into a place for hand-to-hand combat is a real possibility!

Her third counterargument suggests that if women create more competition for jobs, this will break the current monopoly on men holding jobs. Since free markets can only exist in the absence of monopolies, she argues this would be a positive. She adds that her worst case scenario would be that men and women would have reduced wages as result of increased competition, therefore requiring both of them to work to earn a paycheck. This, she argues, would result in women finding more equality in the relationships with their husbands.

These are valid arguments. However, she missed certain economic effects which have occurred partly as a result of women working. They include:

Increased numbers of individuals earning money can increase the amount of money in circulation and therefore the demand for goods. This is a powerful economic stimulus as described in Keynesian economic theory. So it is unlikely that women in the workplace would reduce the number of jobs available. On the contrary, the stimulus should create the need for new services to fulfill new demands which can now be adequately paid for, thus creating even more jobs.

The problem of childcare does arise. Of course, she was assuming women would enter the workforce only if they chose to do so, and therefore would not enter the workforce if they were busy raising children, having have made that choice instead. She did not imagine an economy so troubled that couples would both be forced to work even if they preferred not to do so.

Sociologists have noted a growing problem in America which I am certain was quite unimaginable in previous centuries. That is, women are now in increasing numbers making more money than their husbands. This makes them, at least theoretically, the breadwinners of the family. This is creating marital stresses, especially among families which take a more traditional approach to values in which the man is expected to be the provider.

Idle Thoughts -- Dating: Friendship or Business Deal?

Discuss the issue of dating: Is it a favor-debt or a friendship situation? Is there a way of resolving the problem of different expectations for dating partners in the twenty-first century ?

Jane English states that friendships should not be a favor debt situation in which we expect to do a favor and thus create a debt which we eventually expect to be repaid. Instead, she says we should have a mutual relationship in which we simply care about each other enough to take care of each other's needs.

Intellectually this is a very satisfying explanation, but little more careful thought makes you wonder if it's too simplistic. After all, we have all known friendships in which there's no doubt that both partners were actually friends, but in which one is regarded as a "taker" and the other is regarded as a "giver". Simple friendship isn't enough to eliminate this problem. There needs to be some sense of balance in giving and taking.

I think it is reasonable to apply the same rules to dating and other romantic situations. While friendship and mutual respect are essential, it is important that no one allow their romantic inclinations to permit themselves to be used as a source of favors by a party with no intention of ever returning them. Perhaps this would never occur in an ideal relationship, whether romantic or friendship, but it does happen in the real world.

Having said that, there also must not be a sense that I took you out to dinner tonight, so you owe me x amount of romantic physical responses. This would reduce every dating or romantic relationship to simple case of prostitution. That is clearly unacceptable.

Naturally each partner will have different ideas about what is a reasonable return for various flavors or benefits. It is an essential part of any relationship to work out these different understandings and reach one which is mutually agreed-upon. This is done consciously or simply through the daily act of living close to each other.

The issue of how to resolve differences may be a very different one in the future. Social media is giving us a whole new way of "checking out" an individual before we ever even meet them. The problem with this idea is that people often present a false image of themselves in order to impress others when posting on a social media site. However, if this could be overcome and a greater sense of honesty could permeate the system, it is possible that people could find ideal matches who share their sense of expectation in a relationship without the stress of having to actually take a risk by meeting the individual personally.

Considering the human desire to impress others, this may be an unrealistic hope. Still, it is an interesting topic for conversation.

Idle Thoughts -- Aging Parents, Friends or Obligations?

Contrast the conclusions of Jane English and Lin Yutang concerning the parent grown child relationship.

Lynn Yutang takes the basic Eastern position that since our parents gave us life, our character, our values, and our upbringing, we owe them literally everything that we have. He regards the American attitude which often leads to the neglect of the elderly as a cultural sickness. Even we find ourselves disturbed at this attitude. It's even a matter of endless jokes. You only need to look at how Homer treats his father in The Simpsons to see the potential problems.

Jane English acknowledges that we should not go to such extremes of neglect as abandoning our elderly in nursing homes, but says that the relationship between parent to adult child should be one of friendship. She believes that children should not feel that they owe their parents anything but instead should cultivate a friendship with them. The difference here is that in a friendship there is a sense of mutuality, which is to say each gives to the other what is needed. She differentiates this from reciprocity in which there is a sense of I gave to you and you must now give back to me.

I find the differentiation technical at best, not really very meaningful at worst. I may not give you back exactly what you gave me as in repaying a debt but reciprocity as a concept should include what English defines as mutuality. Whether debts are specifically paid or people simply reinforce the relationship by helping each other meet various needs, the relationship is still reciprocal.

Yutang's position is based on ancient Confucian beliefs. It is important to remember that all of ancient and modern Chinese history is rooted in the concept of stability. The function of the state is to provide stability. The function of the family is provide stability. Westerners acknowledge the importance of stability but they do not make it their primary focus, preferring instead to focus on such concepts as fulfilling the individual's potential and freedom.

Being a Westerner it's not surprising I think that Yutang goes too far. The idea that your duty is to your parents is above everything else ignores the importance of such matters as taking care of your children. On the other hand, English's idea that you owe your parents nothing except an attempt to cultivate friendship with them is obviously too far on the other extreme.

Family relationships are lifelong relationships. There's a necessity for mutual support throughout life. The duties grown children have for their parents are essentially the same as in any family relationship -- to provide as adequately as you can to meet their needs within the framework of meeting the needs of the entire family. To me that seems a simple and direct concept.

Both my brother and I were extremely alienated from my mother. I won't go into the reasons, but the fact is that there was no way either of us could have been friends with her. Nevertheless, because I lived in a town very close to hers, I felt it was my obligation to check in on her from time to time and see that her needs were being met, insofar as they could be. My brother was a further distance away, but whenever she had a need that required monetary assistance, I contacted him and he and I dealt with the matter together. This was not done out of friendship, but duty and obligation.

I see English's attitude as an ideal, but I see the question of family duty as an essential minimum.

Idle Thoughts -- Taylor on Morality

Evaluate Richard Taylor's view that morality is a matter not of rational principles but of having your heart in the right place. Explore the pros and cons of such a view.

Taylor's primary point in his discussions of morality is very similar to one of my most basic points. That is, man is not a rational animal. His secondary point is that if man were a rational animal they would be no need for any kind of morality. Without desires there is no urge to do anything that could be described as immoral.

Throughout Western philosophy there has been a powerful thread insisting that man is a rational animal. This idea so flies in the face of everyday reality that it helps explain the concept that philosophers are stuck in an ivory tower isolated from the real world. Taylor is entirely correct to point out this essential fallacy.

I think this obsession with an obviously false premise presents an interesting question. Why have even brilliant philosophers been so willing to delude themselves with this concept of man being essentially rational? The psychological foundations of this error interest me. Are they personal weaknesses of the philosophers? Is it some sort of inherent failure of Western philosophy itself? As Spock might say, "The human predilection for error is fascinating."

Back to topic. My argument on this particular issue is exactly the same as that contained in the post on moral intuition versus listening to reason. Still, I will explore the idea further.

You can't have one without the other. Our morality exists in the state of dynamic tension between these two seemingly opposing points. Think of the statement by Nietzsche that, “Man is a rope stretched between the animal and the Superman--a rope over an abyss.

A dangerous crossing, a dangerous wayfaring, a dangerous looking-back, a dangerous trembling and halting.

What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal..."

There are two essential elements to all of my personal philosophy. One is the absolute need for balance based largely on Aristotle's Golden Mean. The other is the sense that everything is in a state of dynamic tension and that it is the very tension which creates the reality of our spiritual and mental existence. This belief is well expressed by the above quote by Nietzsche.

Taylor believes that actions which are motivated by sympathy and compassion for others are good while behavior motivated by self-hatred or malice is evil.

His criticism of rational decisions leading to morality is valid, but we're back to the old problem of, if you only depend upon your feelings to decide what is moral, then all the prejudices you were taught as a child will misdirect your moral decisions. He does ask us to be aware that some of our emotions are negative and will lead us into bad behavior, but how are you to determine which is which?

As I pointed out in the previous post, we need to follow Ronald Reagan's lead in these moral issues and trust but verify. That is, it's good to have a basic willingness to trust in your own sense of morality, but at the same time you should verify it with objective realistic analysis.


The idea that everything is rational, even morality, might apply to computers, robots, or future cybernetic organisms but it does not apply to human beings.

Our emotions are evolution's way of making us do what is good for us and protecting ourselves. They are not always reliable, but they are essential.

Our emotional reactions to various moral situations is not only derived from our early childhood education, but is also a result of our lifelong experiences. In other words, to a large extent, they are learned. And we should trust the learning we have attained through our experiences.


We cannot entirely trust our emotions. It is good to have an alternative which we could call a reality check. Rationality provides an excellent such check.

Many of our emotions are derived from prejudices we inherited from our parents and society.

Even our experiences do not create a completely reliable method of determining morality as we may have had a limited set of experiences which may not accurately reflect reality.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Idle Thoughts -- Hallie's Do's and Don'ts

What does Philip Hallie mean by negative and positive commands? Explain. Do you agree with him that positive commands are harder to live up to than negative commands?

To Hallie negative commands are the do not's. The 10 Commandments of the most frequently used example. They tell you all the things that you should not do.

Even the two which could be seen as positive commands, keep the Sabbath holy and honor your parents, in context really come out more as don't do bad things on the Sabbath and don't do bad things to your parents. I think it is fair to say the entire Decalogue can be regarded as series of negative commandments.

According to Hallie, negative commandments are commandments that are aimed at keeping us away from moral pollution. If you obey negative commands, your hands, and theoretically your soul, will be clean. In this sense, it is rather like a command from a parent who says to his youngster, don't play in the dirt. By staying out of the dirt you will keep your clothes clean.

This is good as far as it goes, but while negative commands prevent you from doing any wrong, they do not lead you to do anything that is good either.

Positive commands on the other hand, are commands that tell you what you should do, not simply what you should avoid doing. does an excellent job of explaining them, so I will simply quote from their article below.

-- A POSITIVE ETHIC requires us to be more than decent; it is to be active, even risky in what we do to help others. It is to be, for example, "one's brother's keeper." Or as stated in Isaiah, "defend the fatherless," and "defend the widow." Consider also the story of the Good Samaritan in the Bible.
Positive—“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and Negative—“Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want them to do to you.” --

So now you have to do something more than just not get dirty, you have to actually go out and work hard to do that which is right. The negative command might tell you not to hurt your neighbor, but a positive command requires you to actually help your neighbor. As we mentioned before, all the prophets in the entire Bible, including Jesus himself, all declare that we must actively work to help the poor and the desperate. Failure to do so is failure to do enough good in this world.

Of course it is much harder to obey a positive command. For a negative command all you have to do is avoid something. This can be a very passive act. A positive command requires you to actually go out and work at something, to accomplish something. It's not enough just to avoid, you must actively seek out and do.

I can't help it be reminded of the story of Jack o'Lantern, which I used to tell the children at my school every Halloween. It is actually an old Irish folk tale. In the story there was a man named Jack. He never did anything bad. He never did anything good. He was just Jack.

In this context you could say that he obeyed all the negative commands, and payed no attention at all to the positive ones.

In the due course of time, Jack died. His soul ascended up to heaven where St. Peter greeted him. St. Peter carefully looked in the book of all those who had done good during their lives and were therefore entitled to enter heaven. He shook his head, looked up at Jack and said, "Sorry m'lad. You've never been good enough to come in here."

Jack was horrified, but there really wasn't any other choice, so he then descended down to hell. There Satan greeted him. Satan carefully looked in the book of all those who had done evil during their lives and were therefore doomed to enter hell. He shook his head, looked up at Jack and said, "Sorry m'lad. You've never been bad enough to come in here."

Jack was outraged. He insisted someone had to take him in somewhere! But St. Peter and Satan were absolutely determined. Jack wasn't listed in either book as having done either good or evil during his life, therefore he was not entitled either enter heaven or hell.

When Jack finally got tired of arguing, he didn't have anywhere else to go, so he returned back to earth. He really hated being a ghost, so he decided he would just have to take over someone else's body. Even as a ghost, Jack had trouble seeing things at night when he was able to be active, so like so many poor people in his day, he carved a lantern out of a huge turnip and put a candle inside. All night long, he wandered the hills flashing his lantern here and there, trying to find some fool who was out late at night so he could steal his body and live again.

Now when the Irish say "o'" they mean "of", so naturally people came to call him Jack o'Lantern. Jack of the lantern, who was doomed to spend all eternity wandering around hoping to catch someone foolish enough to be out at night so that he could steal his body. And all because Jack could never be either good nor bad when he was alive.

Idle Thoughts -- Emotional Morality or Rational Morality?

Should we trust our moral intuition, or should we listen to our voice of reason? Explain your position with concrete scenarios.

I'll set the tone by starting with a quote from one of my least favorite presidents, "Trust but verify." Ronald Reagan. I'm not against trusting your emotional reactions, but you should always verify them with rational thought.

I'm going to talk about these two issues separately because I think they are different sides of the coin. I don't believe it's possible to be fully moral by being coldly rational. On the other hand, I don't think that our emotional reactions are always correct. We need to blend the two together, or perhaps more accurately, we need to create a state of dynamic tension between the two. If we look at each one of these as one of the anchors on different sides of the shore, holding up a bridge we see a better picture of the way I see it.

Moral intuition. What is our moral intuition? Part of it is evolutionary. We do have reactions that have been built into us over millions of years of evolution. Remember the Westermark Effect that makes people who lived together either as adults or children in the first three years of life automatically feel disgusted at the idea of a romantic or sexual relationship? That feeling is based on evolutionary reality. People raised together, or in the case of one of the individuals being an adult, the person raising a child and that child are usually closely related. A relationship between them would lead to genetic deformities in their offspring.

However, it cannot be denied that a lot of what we find disgusting is what we've been taught is disgusting. To step away from the hot topic of morality, let's consider food. When Westerners first had regular contact with the East, many Orientals were disgusted at the idea eating rotten milk, which the Westerners called cheese. Westerners were equally disgusted at the idea of 1000 year eggs, seeing this as a delicacy of rotted food.

The AP reported: "U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia compared homosexuality and murder on Monday as he argued at a Princeton seminar that elected bodies should be allowed to regulate actions they see as immoral. "If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?" Scalia said, according to The Associated Press."

Obviously, one's simple moral feelings should not be a guide to justice. By comparing homosexuality, an inborn condition affected by both genetics and the number of older brothers you have among other factors, with deliberate murder, Scalia shows that feelings alone are a very poor guide to what is right or wrong. Almost identical complaints about interracial marriage and integration were made in the days when I was a youngster and those matters were being debated.

If our sole judgment of what is or is not moral is whether or not we are disgusted by it, then we should conclude that if a group of pure homosexuals are disgusted by the idea of heterosexual relationships, we should ban heterosexual marriage. I refer to pure homosexuals because most people fall in between a range of extremes. That is, there are those who are truly pure heterosexuals who have zero possible interest in the same sex, and those there are those who are pure homosexuals with absolutely no interest in the opposite sex. Most people fall in between these two extremes.

The racists down South were so full of hatred and disgust at the very thought of blacks being treated as equals that they literally screamed with rage right on television and radio. This is what they have been taught, this is how they have been raised. Does that mean it is a justifiable moral position? The answer is no.

On the other hand, it was the deep sense of moral outrage that drove so many in both the White and Black communities to struggle for civil rights. People risked imprisonment, bodily harm, and even death in order to advance this cause because it meant so much to them emotionally.

Now let me move on to rational thought. Rational thought is certainly a very important contributor to the concept of what is or is not moral. Even without the Westermark Effect, rational thought makes it clear that brothers and sisters should not marry, parents and children should not marry, and it is questionable as to whether first cousins should marry, although some states do allow that.

Rational thought would also indicate that it is easy to test whether Blacks and Whites are in fact truly separate races or simply slightly different versions of the same basic human race. Especially in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, science was often distorted in order to make it appear that they were not. However, it is clear that the "scientific" data were not collected objectively but were prejudiced before the so-called studies even began.

So let me conclude by suggesting that we take these two separate sides of the coin, our emotional and irrational responses, as to moral issues and blend them together.

If you feel a profound sense of moral disgust at a particular issue, then you should take the time to look at it rationally and see if your feelings are based on some actual potential problem or just the way you were raised.

It is very hard to overcome these personal issues of disgust, but it is possible if you truly and sincerely make the effort to think things through and decide before hand that you really will follow along the path laid out by the facts.

Let's call your emotional reaction your base reaction, your base morality. Your rational morality should then be used as a sort of check and balance. Test out those instinctive or carefully taught emotional reactions. Are they correct? Or are they exaggerated? Rationality will help you decide.

And since you suggested some examples from my life, here are a few issues where I had to overcome my disgust and change my beliefs based on the facts.

I commented before that I am an unusually stable personality, as indicated by psychological tests, not just my own opinion (he said smugly). But what does that mean? It does not mean that I never change my opinion or beliefs. On the contrary, I change them when I must.

This is not a contradiction, it is a confirmation. I have believed since I was very young that you need to face facts and where the facts lead you, there you must go. This is strange because I am also by nature a deep and true believer. The contradiction between these two aspects of my personality have made my life rather complicated but I have learned to be at peace with myself.

Like so many of us, I really loved the idea, especially popular in the 50s, that humanity was something particularly special. There was no other animal even vaguely like us. Even as I believed in evolution, I nevertheless believed that humanity was different. There was a vast gap between us and other animals which could not be bridged. Yes, we were animals, but we were the special animals, superior to all others in every way.

When I first learned about animals such as otters using tools, I was very troubled. I convinced myself that that wasn't really tool using. They weren't modifying the tools in any way and they didn't keep them for future use. A sea otter just picks up a rock, uses it to bash open a seashell and then throws the rock away.

Then there were Darwin finches that do modify twigs in order to pick bugs out of hollows in trees. But they didn't modify them much, and once again, they used a tool and then threw it away.

Then came the discoveries that chimps not only selected rocks to use for cracking nuts, they would select a rock and then carry it a long distance to where the nuts were waiting. In other words, they were planning ahead. Worse, different groups of chimps use different methods. Some used rocks, others used hard branches as clubs. This behavior was not varied between individuals, but between different troops. In other words, it was a kind of culture. Worse yet, young chimps learned how to do this from watching their parents, no instinct involved.

More and more examples exist. I was forced to conclude that we were not as different from our animal ancestors as I had believed. Frankly, the idea that we were merely bright animals was disgusting. Special animals? That's tolerable, but only animals?

In retrospect, I find this new belief more comforting. The horrible things we humans continue to do to each other, and the unbelievably horrible things we used to do to each other in the past are utterly inexplicable to me if we are actually this special animal above all other animals. On the other hand, if we are just glorified apes, that is to say apes plus a wonderful brain, then you know what? We're doing pretty well for apes!

We have a long way to go, but at least we're making progress.

That's my rational side. My emotional religious side is convinced that the purpose of religious belief, and the action which God takes in trying to assist us, is in the area of guidance. There is a science fiction series in which ancient, fully civilized beings find animals with potential and uplift them, that is raise them up to intelligence. They guide them and direct them, helping them to become intelligent, and civilized. I think God is trying to uplift us.

Since you seem interested in this area of personal experience, I will add one more brief story.

When I was a child we all knew that there were certain bad words. It was a different time, and even adults were careful about what they said in front of women and children. I know that's hard to believe, but it's true. I don't mean that women weren't as likely to curse on occasion as a man, but they were very careful about it because it was considered extremely unladylike. A woman heard cursing even if she had stubbed her toe or injured herself might be labeled brassy. There's not much worse than that in suburbia.

One of the worst terms was the word, "fag". None of us knew what it meant. We just knew it was bad, more than just bad, we knew it was something horrible and, yes, utterly disgusting. Sex was not supposed to be on children's minds. Boys were expected to be repelled at the very idea of kissing. Declaring that girls have cooties was actually encouraged, since it was natural for boys and girls to stay away from each other.

As I grew up, I learned what the words meant. To this day, as supportive of I am a gay rights, I still find the idea of men kissing is a very unpleasant feeling of revulsion. I can't help it. It's the way I was raised. It has been drilled into me so deeply that I cannot simply make it go away.

(This does not include male relatives kissing. My uncles would've been insulted if I had failed to give them a big hug and kiss. But that is obviously nonsexual.)

And, yet, in the past I have had gay friends. I know a few gay people now. I don't happen to be close to any of them, but that is not a barrier. I even recall sitting in a room with my arm around my wife's shoulders while a male couple sat in the same position across the way. That didn't upset me. They were nice people, although I as I said, I was not particularly close to them. But I could have been. On the other hand, they weren't kissing. That would have upset me.

If I did have gay friends who were close, I hope they would be able to laugh about the whole situation. That would make me more comfortable. A good dose of friendly teasing among friends is very beneficial. For example, I always expect my atheist friend to ask if I'm still talking to invisible people who aren't there. He doesn't. I think he thinks it would be disrespectful. But as long as he said it with a smile, I would laugh along with him.

I suppose I should mention that I have deeply loved three atheists in my life. One of them is still my best friend. Another is one of my best friends. And the last one was one of my wives.

Idle Thoughts -- A Soldier's Courage

Was American POW Jessica Lynch a courageous solider? Explain. Do you think John Mc Cain would call her courageous? Define McCain's concept of courage. Do you agree with him ?

First let's take a look at Jessica Lynch his own story as she told to glamour.

In April, I did something I never imagined I would need to do. I spoke before Congress about how the military creates myths exaggerating the heroics of its soldiers. It was a difficult choice—I knew I could be portrayed as unpatriotic, un-American or worse. But my reasons were personal, and profound. My capture and rescue in Iraq had been transformed into one of those myths.

There’s so much confusion about what happened to me. Here’s what I know: At the start of the war, in March 2003, my convoy was attacked in the city of An Nasiriyah. My Humvee crashed, and a few hours later I woke up behind enemy lines in an Iraqi hospital, badly injured and unable to move my legs. I was a prisoner of war.

Nobody likes to believe our military would mislead people—but they wanted a war hero so badly that they portrayed me as one. They didn’t get their facts straight before talking about what happened, and neither did the media. They said I went down guns blazing, like Rambo—but I never fired a shot, because my rifle had jammed. They later corrected the story, but I’m still paying the price. People write to me and say, “You don’t deserve all the attention.” I’ve received thousands of letters and calls like that. People think I lied or helped create the Rambo myth—that I wanted it.

But I’ve always told the truth. I could have chosen not to. It would have been so easy to say, “Yes, I did those things”— except I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself. Honesty has always been very important to me. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few years, it’s that this is my life and I have to stand up for myself.

1. Was she a courageous soldier? Consider this quote from her article, "I started basic training in South Carolina a week after the attacks, and I was petrified. But there was no backing out."

She knew she was putting herself in the front lines of danger, and she proceeded to do so. I'd call that courage.

Even more, she had the courage to stand up and say the US government had overstated its praise of her actions during the attack. That look even more courage. She herself pointed out, it would've been so easy to just say yes I was a hero just like the government said. But she didn't. She did the right moral thing even though she knew it would bring her criticism.

This is an extremely moral person. This is an extremely courageous person.

2. "We are taught to understand, correctly, that courage is not the absence of fear, but the capacity for action despite our fears." -- Source: Why Courage Matters, p. 8 Apr 1, 2004 by John McCain

By that definition she was brave when she finished her basic training and went to combat. She was even more brave when she stood up before Congress and said that the government had exaggerated her heroism.

Idle Thoughts -- Do Video Games Create Moral Zombies?

Do they harm ? Are they productive ? Do they help ? Again article write up and article ...facts facts facts he says.

Before I look up some articles to get some facts, let me state my opinion. I don't think video games are particularly harmful for adults. Let me say healthy adults.They might even be beneficial for the unhealthy adults. A realistic game lets them act out their aggressions and sadistic desires without actually harming anyone. On the hand, it is possible that a person with a mental health problem could be encouraged to actually perform some of these acts in real life.

I certainly oppose young children playing extreme games especially first-person shooters. It has been shown that young children have a difficult time discerning the difference between a television program, a game, and reality.

I suppose this will probably seem boring after it's been said so many times, but the question is too simplistic. Video games have good effects and bad effects. The important thing is for parents to be aware of what their children are playing and watch the effects the games are having on those children and then act accordingly. In an increasingly digital world, playing these games is an excellent way to prepare for future jobs which will involve the very skills children are using as they play. Most biologists agree that this the whole purpose of play in that group of animals called mammals. Class: mamalia.

Some facts:

This study says video games were found to have no harm. From the article:

Clinical psychologist Dr Ferguson studied 377 children, who had an average age of 13 and who were suffering some form of elevated attention deficit or depressive symptoms, to see if violent video games made them more angry or aggressive.

The study reflects a recent report that linked aggressiveness with youth violence rather than with video games
His team at Stetson University, Florida, found that there was 'no evidence that violent video games increase bullying or delinquent behaviour among vulnerable youth with clinically elevated mental health symptoms.'
Instead they found that in some cases playing the violent games was cathartic, helping to reduce their aggressive tendencies and bullying behaviour.
The results, published in Springer’s Journal of Youth and Adolescence, reflect a recent report by the American Secret Service which linked aggressiveness and stress with youth violence rather than playing violent video games.

Read more:
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This article says they cause a lot of harm:
Recent news highlights how playing violent video and action games can sharpen player’s visual skills and boost brain performance. For the first time, researchers show both the benefits and harm of violent video gaming.
In a series of new studies, psychologists find playing violent video games comes with a cost of losing impulse control.
Loss of impulsiveness can lead to anger and hostility and inability to control aggression, the researchers found.
Craig Anderson, Director of the Center for the Study of Violence at Iowa State University speculated in a press release any type of action video game that requires a rapid response could have the same effect.
“But what is not so speculative is the growing body of research that links violent video games -- and to a certain extent, total screen time -- to attention-related problems and, ultimately, to aggression,” Anderson added.
In three new unpublished studies scheduled for presentation at the American Psychological Association (APA) annual meeting in Honolulu, Anderson and his colleagues found violent video games boost cognition, but they also lead to loss of cognitive control and boost anger aggression and hostility.

Read more:


This article says there is some harm and some good, so parents should carefully monitor the games their children play.

Video games have changed tremendously over the past three decades. Current games are very sophisticated and require players’ undivided attention and involvement. Several studies have been done over the years to track the positive and negative effects of video games on children. Findings have been both positive and negative.
Positive impacts as a result of playing video games have been noted on a child’s eye hand coordination and an increase in computer skills. Improved graphics allow for a virtual experience, and this more real experience has a powerful influence on the lives of young people.
The downside of video games is that the more time children and teens spend playing violent video games the more likely they are to display aggressive behavior. Studies show "plugged-in" teens are more likely to be confrontational with adults, have fights at school and get poor grades. Even more startling is that these effects on aggressive behavior can be long lasting.
Parents can help by setting time limits for teens playing video games, not only on game systems, but on computers, smart phones, and tablets. Parents should educate themselves on video game content and video game ratings. The Entertainment Software Rating Board has established a rating system for video games, much like the movie and television industry. Ratings include: EC for children over 3, E for 6 and older, and T for teens. The video game ratings to be concerned about for children/teen usage would be: M for mature, AO for adults only, and RP which means rating pending. Parents can access the ESRB website to learn about rating definitions and to look up ratings for individual games.

This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit To contact an expert in your area, visit, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

Finally, here's a long long list of both good and bad effects.

Positive Effects of Video Games

When your child plays video games, it gives his brain a real workout. In many video games, the skills required to win involve abstract and high level thinking. These skills are not even taught at school. Some of the mental skills enhanced by video games include:
o Following instructions
o Problem solving and logic - When kids play games such as The Incredible Machine, Angry Birds or Cut The Rope, they train their brain to come up with creative ways to solve puzzles and other problems in short bursts
o Hand-eye coordination, fine motor and spatial skills. In shooting games, the character may be running and shooting at the same time. This requires the real-world player to keep track of the position of the character, where he/she is heading, their speed, where the gun is aiming, if the gunfire is hitting the enemy, and so on. All these factors need to be taken into account, and then the player must then coordinate the brain's interpretation and reaction with the movement in their hands and fingertips. This process requires a great deal of eye-hand coordination and visual-spatial ability to be successful. Research also suggests that people can learn iconic, spatial, and visual attention skills from video games. There have been even studies with adults showing that experience with video games is related to better surgical skills. Also, a reason given by experts as to why fighter pilots of today are more skillful is that this generation’s pilots are being weaned on video games.
o Planning, resource management and logistics. The player learns to manage resources that are limited, and decide the best use of resources, the same way as in real life. This skill is honed in strategy games such as SimCity, Age of Empires, and Railroad Tycoon. Notably, The American Planning Association, the trade association of urban planners and Maxis, the game creator, have claimed that SimCity has inspired a lot of its players to take a career in urban planning and architecture.
o Multitasking, simultaneous tracking of many shifting variables and managing multiple objectives. In strategy games, for instance, while developing a city, an unexpected surprise like an enemy might emerge. This forces the player to be flexible and quickly change tactics.
o Quick thinking, making fast analysis and decisions. Sometimes the player does this almost every second of the game giving the brain a real workout. According to researchers at the University of Rochester, led by Daphne Bavelier, a cognitive scientist, games simulating stressful events such as those found in battle or action games could be a training tool for real-world situations. The study suggests that playing action video games primes the brain to make quick decisions. Video games can be used to train soldiers and surgeons, according to the study. Importantly, decisions made by action-packed video game players are no less accurate. According to Bavelier, "Action game players make more correct decisions per unit time. If you are a surgeon or you are in the middle of a battlefield, that can make all the difference."
o Accuracy - Action games, according to a study by the University of Rochester, train the brains of players to make faster decisions without losing accuracy. In today’s world, it is important to move quickly without sacrificing accuracy.
o Strategy and anticipation - Steven Johnson, author of Everything Bad is Good For You: How Today's Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter, calls this "telescoping." Gamers must deal with immediate problems while keeping their long-term goals on their horizon.
o Situational awareness - – Defense News reported that the Army include video games to train soldiers improve their situational awareness in combat. Many strategy games also require players to become mindful of sudden situational changes in the game and adapt accordingly.
o Developing reading and math skills – Young gamers force themselves to read to get instructions, follow storylines of games, and get information from the game texts. Also, using math skills is important to win in many games that involves quantitative analysis like managing resources.
o Perseverance – In higher levels of a game, players usually fail the first time around, but they keep on trying until they succeed and move on to the next level.
o Pattern recognition – Games have internal logic in them, and players figure it out by recognizing patterns.
o Estimating skills
o Inductive reasoning and hypothesis testing - James Paul Gee, professor of education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says that playing a video game is similar to working through a science problem. Like students in a laboratory, gamers must come up with a hypothesis. For example, players in some games constantly try out combinations of weapons and powers to use to defeat an enemy. If one does not work, they change hypothesis and try the next one. Video games are goal-driven experiences, says Gee, which are fundamental to learning.
o Mapping – Gamers use in-game maps or build maps on their heads to navigate around virtual worlds.
o Memory - Playing first person shooter games such as Call of Duty and Battlefield series enables players to effectively judge what information should be stored in their working memory and what can be discarded considering the task at hand, according to a study published in the Psychological Research.
o Concentration - A study conducted by the Appalachia Educational Laboratory reveal that children with attention-deficit disorder who played Dance Dance Revolution improve their reading scores by helping them concentrate.
o Improved ability to rapidly and accurately recognize visual information - A study from Beth Israel Medical Center NY, found a direct link between skill at video gaming and skill at keyhole, or laparoscopic, surgery.
o Reasoned judgments
o Taking risks - Winning in any game involves a player's courage to take risks. Most games do not reward players who play safely.
o How to respond to challenges
o How to respond to frustrations
o How to explore and rethink goals
o Teamwork and cooperation when played with others – Many multiplayer games such as Team Fortress 2 involve cooperation with other online players in order to win. These games encourage players to make the most of their individual skills to contribute to the team. According to a survey by Joan Ganz Cooney Center, teachers report that their students become better collaborators after using digital games in the classroom.
o Management – Management simulation games such as Rollercoaster Tycoon and Zoo tycoon teach players to make management decisions and manage the effective use of finite resources. Other games such as Age of Empires and Civilization even simulate managing the course of a civilization.
o Simulation, real world skills. The most well known simulations are flight simulators, which attempt to mimic the reality of flying a plane. All of the controls, including airspeed, wing angles, altimeter, and so on, are displayed for the player, as well as a visual representation of the world, and are updated in real time.

Video games introduce your kid to computer technology and the online world. You should recognize that we are now living in a high-tech, sophisticated world. Video games make your kid adapt and be comfortable with the concepts of computing. This is particularly important for girls who typically are not as interested in high technology as much as boys.
Video games allow you and your kid to play together and can be a good bonding activity. Some games are attractive to kids as well as adults, and they could be something that they share in common. When your child knows more than you, he can teach you how to play and this allows you to understand your child’s skills and talents.
Video games make learning fun. Your kid likes games because of the colors, the animation, the eye candy, as well as the interactivity and the challenge and the rewards of winning. The best way to learn is when the learner is having fun at the same time. That’s why video games are natural teachers. Having fun gives your kid motivation to keep on practicing, which is the only way to learn skills. Video games is also capable of making difficult subjects such as math fun.
Video games can make your kid creative. A study by the Michigan State University's Children and Technology Project found a relation between video game playing and greater creativity, regardless of gender, race or type of video game played. (In contrast, use of cell phones, the Internet and computers other than video games was unrelated to creativity, the study found).
Video games can improve your kid’s decision making speed. People who played action-based video and computer games made decisions 25% faster than others without sacrificing accuracy, according to a study from the University of Rochester. Other studies suggests that most expert gamers can make choices and act on them up to six times a second—four times faster than most people, and can pay attention to more than six things at once without getting confused, compared to only four by the average person. Surprisingly, the violent action games that often worry parents most had the strongest beneficial effect on the brain, according to cognitive neuroscientist Daphne Bavelier, who studies the effect of action games at Switzerland's University of Geneva and the University of Rochester in New York.
Video games increase your kid’s self-confidence and self-esteem as he masters games. In many games, the levels of difficulty are adjustable. As a beginner, your kid begins at the easy level and by constant practicing and slowly building skills, he becomes confident in handling more difficult challenges. Since the cost of failure is lower, he does not fear making mistakes. He takes more risks and explores more. Your kid can transfer this attitude to real life.
Games that involve multiple players encourage your child to work cooperatively to achieve his goals. Your kid learns to listen to the ideas of others, formulate plans with other kids, and distribute tasks based on skills. Some online games are even played internationally, and this can introduce your kid to players of different nationalities and cultures. This fosters friendships among different people.
Video games that require your kid to be active, such as Dance Dance Revolution and Nintendo Wii Boxing give your kid a good workout. When playing these active games for 10 minutes, your kid spends energy equal to or exceeding that produced by spending the same amount of time on a three miles an hour treadmill walk.
Video games make players’ visions become more sensitive to slightly different shades of color, according to a University of Rochester study. This is called contrast sensitivity, and observed particularly in first person shooter games players. "When people play action games, they're changing the brain's pathway responsible for visual processing," according to lead researcher Daphne Bavelier. The training might be helping the visual system to make better use of the information it receives.
Video games helped children with dyslexia read faster and with better accuracy, according to a study by the journal Current Biology. In addition, Spatial and temporal attention also improved during action video game training. Attentional improvement can directly translate into better reading abilities.
Kids are not necessarily drawn to video games because of their violence. The attraction lies in their being rewarded by awesome displays of explosions, fireworks, and yes, blood splattering. Also, violent games have the most emotional appeal for kids. But these factors are only secondary to what kids actually enjoy in these games - the opportunity to develop and master skills and have the freedom to make choices in the game universe.
Violent video games may act as a release of pent-up aggression and frustration of your kid. When your kid vents his frustration and anger in his game, this diffuses his stress. Games can provide a positive aggression outlet the same way as football and other violent sports.
Playing video games is safer than having your teens do drugs, alcohol and street racing in the real world.

Negative Effects of Video Games

Most of the bad effects of video games are blamed on the violence they contain. Children who play more violent video games are more likely to have increased aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and decreased prosocial helping, according to a scientific study (Anderson & Bushman, 2001). The effect of video game violence in kids is worsened by the games’ interactive nature. In many games, kids are rewarded for being more violent. The act of violence is done repeatedly. The child is in control of the violence and experiences the violence in his own eyes (killings, kicking, stabbing and shooting). This active participation, repetition and reward are effective tools for learning behavior. Indeed, many studies seem to indicate that violent video games may be related to aggressive behavior (such as Anderson & Dill, 2000; Gentile, Lynch & Walsh, 2004). However, the evidence is not consistent and this issue is far from settled. Many experts including Henry Jenkins of Massachusetts Institute of Technology have noted that there is a decreased rate of juvenile crime whch coincides with the popularity of games such as Death Race, Mortal Kombat, Doom and Grand Theft auto. He concludes that teenage players are able to leave the emotional effects of the game behind when the game is over. Indeed there are cases of teenagers who commit violent crimes who also spend great amount of time playing video games such as those involved in the Columbine and Newport cases. It appears that there will always be violent people, and it just so happen that many of them also enjoy playing violent video games.
Too much video game playing makes your kid socially isolated. Also, he may spend less time in other activities such as doing homework, reading, sports, and interacting with the family and friends.
Some video games teach kids the wrong values. Violent behavior, vengeance and aggression are rewarded. Negotiating and other nonviolent solutions are often not options. Women are often portrayed as weaker characters that are helpless or sexually provocative.
Games can confuse reality and fantasy.
Academic achievement may be negatively related to over-all time spent playing video games. Studies have shown that the more time a kid spends playing video games, the poorer is his performance in school. (Anderson & Dill, 2000; Gentile, Lynch & Walsh, 2004). A study by Argosy University's Minnesota School on Professional Psychology found that video game addicts argue a lot with their teachers, fight a lot with their friends, and score lower grades than others who play video games less often. Other studies show that many game players routinely skip their homework to play games, and many students admitted that their video game habits are often responsible for poor school grades.
Although some studies suggest that playing video games enhances a child’s concentration, other studies, such as a 2012 paper published in Psychology of Popular Media Culture, have found that games can hurt and help children's attention issues — improving the ability to concentrate in short bursts but damaging long-term concentration.
Video games may also have bad effects on some children’s health, including obesity, video-induced seizures. and postural, muscular and skeletal disorders, such as tendonitis, nerve compression, carpal tunnel syndrome.
When playing online, your kid can pick up bad language and behavior from other people, and may make your kid vulnerable to online dangers.
A study by the Minneapolis-based National Institute for Media and the Family suggests that video games can be addictive for kids, and that the kids' addiction to video games increases their depression and anxiety levels. Addicted kids also exhibit social phobias. Not surprisingly, kids addicted to video games see their school performance suffer.
Kids spending too much time playing video games may exhibit impulsive behavior and have attention problems. This is according to a new study published in the February 2012 issue of the Journal of Psychology and Popular Media Culture. For the study, attention problems were defined as difficulty engaging in or sustaining behavior to reach a goal.

Idle Thoughts -- Same Sex Marriage Debate Pro

Idle Thoughts --

Debate gay marriage. We are for. He wants facts. This site gives you a good list of pro and con arguments. It's good to have an idea of what the other side is going to say in the debate. From the site, with my comments in parentheses and those from the site listed without parentheses:

(Same-sex couples are people too and shouldn't be punished because of their sexual orientation.)

Same-sex couples should have access to the same benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples. Many benefits are only available to married couples, such as hospital visitation during an illness, taxation and inheritance rights, access to family health coverage, and protection in the event of the relationship ending. [6] An Oct. 2, 2009 analysis by the New York Times estimates that a same-sex couple denied marriage benefits will incur an additional $41,196 to $467,562 in expenses over their lifetime compared to a married heterosexual couple. [7]

(Opponents of same-sex marriage often say that this is redefining traditional marriage. They say traditional marriages have always been between one man and one woman. This is not true.)

The concept of "traditional marriage" being defined as one man and one woman is historically inaccurate. Given the prevalence of modern and ancient examples of family arrangements based on polygamy, communal child-rearing, the use of concubines and mistresses and the commonality of prostitution, heterosexual monogamy can be considered "unnatural” in evolutionary terms. [3]

(Traditional marriage has been redefined in America's past. Women were once considered virtually the property of their husbands and having no rights whatsoever. Also, the majority of Americans now support gay marriage.)

Marriage is redefined as society's attitudes evolve, and the majority of Americans now support gay marriage. Interracial marriage was illegal in many US states until a 1967 Supreme Court decision. Coverture, where a woman's legal rights and economic identity were subsumed by her husband upon marriage, was commonplace in 19th century America. No-fault divorce has changed the institution of marriage since its introduction in California on Jan. 1, 1970. With a May 2013 Gallup poll showing 53% of Americans supporting gay marriage, it is time for the definition of marriage to evolve once again. [72]

(The Supreme Court has ruled that personal choice is an important freedom in matters of marriage and family.)

Gay marriage is protected by the Constitution's commitments to liberty and equality. The US Supreme Court ruled in 1974’s Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur that the "freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage and family life is one of the liberties protected by the Due Process Clause.” US District Judge Vaughn Walker wrote on Aug. 4, 2010 that Prop. 8 in California banning gay marriage was "unconstitutional under both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses." [41]

(Denying gay couples the right to marry sends a message if they are not full citizens but second-class citizens.)

Denying same-sex couples the right to marry stigmatizes gay and lesbian families as inferior and sends the message that it is acceptable to discriminate against them. The Massachusetts Supreme Court wrote in an opinion to the state Senate on Feb. 3, 2004 that offering civil unions was not an acceptable alternative to gay marriage because " is a considered choice of language that reflects a demonstrable assigning of same-sex, largely homosexual, couples to second-class status." [42]

(In these times when governments are struggling to make enough money, legalizing gay marriage increases the money available to local governments.)

Gay marriages can bring financial gain to state and local governments. Revenue from gay marriage comes from marriage licenses, higher income taxes (the so-called "marriage penalty"), and decreases in costs for state benefit programs. [4] The Comptroller for New York City found that legalizing gay marriage would bring $142 million to the city’s economy and $184 million to the state’s economy over three years. [43]

(Study show that gay parents make as good parents as heterosexual parents. This means the children currently in foster care or orphanages can now be placed in good loving homes.)

Gay marriage would make it easier for same-sex couples to adopt, providing stable homes for children who would otherwise be left in foster care. [68] In the US, 100,000 children are waiting to be adopted. [44] A longitudinal study published in Pediatrics on June 7, 2010 found that children of lesbian mothers were rated higher than children of heterosexual parents in social and academic competence and had fewer social problems. [45] A July 2010 study found that children of gay fathers were "as well-adjusted as those adopted by heterosexual parents." [46] As Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein argues, "We should be begging gay couples to adopt children. We should see this as a great boon that gay marriage could bring to kids who need nothing more than two loving parents." [68]

(Banning gay marriage causes mental health problems and depression. These are negative in and of themselves but they also have an impact upon the economy as people in these states of mind do not function effectively.)

Marriage provides both physical and psychological health benefits, and banning gay marriage increases rates of psychological disorders. [5] The American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, and others wrote in a Sep. 2007 amicus brief, "...allowing same-sex couples to marry would give them access to the social support that already facilitates and strengthens heterosexual marriages, with all of the psychological and physical health benefits associated with that support.” [47] A 2010 analysis published in the American Journal of Public Health found that after their states had banned gay marriage, gay, lesbian and bisexual people suffered a 37% increase in mood disorders, a 42% increase in alcohol-use disorders, and a 248% increase in generalized anxiety disorders. [69]

(Opponents of gay marriage say that it will weaken marriage. This is not true.)

Legalizing gay marriage will not harm heterosexual marriages or "family values," and society will continue to function successfully. A study published on Apr. 13, 2009 in Social Science Quarterly found that "[l]aws permitting same-sex marriage or civil unions have no adverse effect on marriage, divorce, and abortion rates, [or] the percent of children born out of wedlock..." [48] The Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association found that more than a century of research has shown "no support whatsoever for the view that either civilization or viable social orders depend upon marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. Rather, anthropological research supports the conclusion that a vast array of family types, including families built upon same-sex partnerships, can contribute to stable and humane societies." [8]

(Opponents say that marriage is a religious event. Marriage can be a religious event. However, marriage has always been, from the point of view of governments, a secular matter. The government decides who was married and how they get married. Religions are allowed to participate by governments. Not the other way around.)

Marriage is a secular institution which should not be limited by religious objections to gay marriage. Nancy Cott, PhD, testified in Perry v. Schwarzenegger that "[c]ivil law has always been supreme in defining and regulating marriage” and that religious leaders are accustomed to performing marriages only because the state has given them that authority. [41]

(States that allow gay marriage have found their divorce rates have gone down. Allowing gay marriage supports traditional marriage and makes it better.)

Gay marriage legalization is correlated with lower divorce rates, while gay marriage bans are correlated with higher divorce rates. Massachusetts, which became the first state to legalize gay marriage in 2004, had the lowest divorce rate in the country in 2008. Its divorce rate declined 21% between 2003 and 2008. Alaska, which altered its constitution to prohibit gay marriage in 1998, saw a 17.2% increase in its divorce rate. The seven states with the highest divorce rates between 2003 and 2008 all had constitutional prohibitions to gay marriage. [2]

(Opponents to gay marriage say that marriage is for the purpose of having children. Since gay couples cannot have children, they should not be be allowed to be married. This is silly for two reasons. One. Gay couples can adopt. And two. Many couples are infertile and yet they are allowed to get married. If this argument were true, as soon as one partner becomes infertile due to old age, the couple should be required to divorce. Also, couples who are infertile due to disease or injury would not be allowed to get married at all. Obviously, this does not happen.)

If the reason for marriage is strictly reproduction, infertile couples would not be allowed to marry. Ability or desire to create offspring has never been a qualification for marriage. George Washington, often referred to as "the Father of Our Country,” did not have children with his wife Martha Custis, and neither did four other married US presidents have children with their wives. [9]

(In a case regarding bi racial marriages, the Supreme Court is already ruled that marriage is one of the basic rights of man. This is a legal precedent from the US Supreme Court.)

Same-sex marriage is a civil right. The 1967 Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia confirmed that marriage is "one of the basic civil rights of man," [60] and same-sex marriages shouldy receive the same protections given to interracial marriages by that ruling. The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), on May 19, 2012, named same-sex marriage as "one of the key civil rights struggles of our time." [61]

Idle Thoughts -- Robot Morality?

Technology...what is good what is evil ? Does it help or harm ..... This is due Tuesday

Quite a few years ago there was a contest for high school students. Their assignment was to take a position and defend it on the issue of which was more dangerous, religion or science. I was already a college graduate so I couldn't participate, but I wished that the contest had taken place when I was still in high school because I much wished that I could.

The answer of course is that things are dangerous (or in the case of your debate, evil) depending on how they are used. The religious person is not in and of himself dangerous, contrary to the endless near hysterical declarations of the New Atheists. And neither is science, contrary to the declarations of some religious extremists.

Facts are simply facts. Objects are merely objects. Machines and other devices are only machines and other devices. What matters is not the thing in and of itself, but what you do with it.

The point I would have made had I been able to participate in the essay contest, is that there is no inherent danger or evil in any particular human belief whether religious or scientific. The danger or evil lies in extremism. Carry religion to an extreme and you become a fanatic, perhaps even a murderer in the name of your god. Carry science to an extreme, then you begin to see the world only as a series of experiments or data sets, losing all your sense of human balance and morality.

Let's take one example. It is easy to be frightened of the concept of cybernetic organisms. From the Arnold Schwarzenegger robot from the future here to destroy humanity, to the Borg in Star Trek, this is a long-standing human fear. Even back in the 1930s Issac Asimov wrote a science fiction series about robots in the far future and the resistance they would meet from the human population terrified by the Frankenstein complex, as he called it. This, of course, was the fear that we would create a creature or being which would then turn on us and destroy us.

In fact the very word robot comes from a Czechoslovakian short story called Rossum's Universal Robots. This translates to Rossum's Universal Workers, but since the workers were mechanical men, the term robot came to be applied to all such creations. As I'm sure you guessed, in the story the robots turned on their creators and destroyed them.

Technology has always aroused fears that it would be evil. I read in an article on the first telephones that many people were bitterly troubled by this new device. The attitude of many was why would I put this thing in my house? If I do, people can just pick up the phone and call me. They thought, if it's so important to talk to me you can get up and ride or walk across town and talk to me after you knock on my door. The idea was that the telephones would reduce human contact to a mere voice coming out of a box and this would dehumanize us all. They were right to some extent.

Today many people are disturbed by the amazing cybernetic devices which are being developed. These almost become a part of a disabled person's body and allow him more access to the world than he previously had. Today, even a synthetic skin has been developed which can transmit a sense of touch to a person's nerves. (It's purely experimental, but it is being improved.)

While we well may wonder where will it end, we can be pleased at the success of this way of making disabled individuals much freer. It makes their lives much more livable and enjoyable. Surely, we can't deny them that benefit.

So technology is neither good nor evil. There's no morality in a rock either. But if I pick that rock up and I use it to build a home or a fireplace you could argue that the rock is good. On the other hand, if I pick up the same rock and beat someone over the head with it, you could argue that the rock is bad. However, it's really clear that the rock is just an object, what's good or bad is my actions.

This is not to say that we can't design technology whose purpose can be interpreted as purely evil. Again, that's not the technology's fault. We are the designers. We are the creators. Here's an example:

A few years ago I noted an article in the LA Times which said that at nearby China Lake, the Navy was attempting to develop a system by which a computer could recognize morality and make moral decisions. This was intended so that the Navy could create a drone or robot which could choose when or when not to kill human beings on the battleground. It would decide this on its own without any direct human supervision.

I discussed this with your little sister, my prodigal daughter, because I found the idea very disturbing. She agreed and I thought that was the end of the conversation.

A few days later she told me that she had shared that information with a friend who works at China Lake. Her friend was very interested and wanted to know where I had gotten that information. However, she refused to discuss the subject any further. Obviously, she was aware of the project and obviously it was considered highly secret. How the article got into the LA Times, I'm not sure.

Now the terminator robot as conceived in that Schwarzenegger movie cannot be identified as evil in and of itself. It is only a machine doing what it was designed to do. The evil comes not from the device but from the human beings who created it. But what about what's being tried out at China lake? The attempt to put morality into a machine, to make it able to make moral judgments is a very disturbing. What if they were successful? Would the machine then be morally responsible for his own decisions? Or would it merely be a computer program seeming to make moral decisions when it's actually just playing around with numbers?

Would such a robot have consciousness? The implications are disturbing and unclear.

One more real-life example of how things including technology and scientific facts are just neutral: A physician was studying World War II era medical reports in an attempt to find a treatment for a rare condition for a dying child. He was surprised to actually find one. He was looking out of desperation and hadn't expected to actually find any useful information.

Now he knew a way to treat and save the child using a rare form of surgery. As he was preparing to perform the operation someone pointed out to him that the doctor who reported that information was a Nazi. Not just someone who joined the Nazi party because it was thing to do, but a really, truly, believing, mass murder loving Nazi.

Worse, it appeared that the knowledge of how to perform the surgery was gained through horrible Nazi medical experiments on helpless prisoners. Obviously, the knowledge was gained through despicably evil and immoral acts, among the worst human beings have ever committed.

The doctor, in a television interview, then reported that he was was no longer certain that he should use this tainted information in order to save the child's life. He said it was the worst moral dilemma of his life. In the end, he decided that the child was innocent and should be saved even at the expense of using this evilly tainted knowledge.

I have no sympathy for the doctor whatsoever. Yes, the information was gained in a horrifically evil way. But that did not make the knowledge evil. As far as I'm concerned, the doctor was taking an airy fairy prissy position sitting on a moral high horse while deciding whether or not to let an innocent child die because he, the doctor, would not stain himself with evilly acquired knowledge.

The methods used to gain knowledge were certainly evil. How could that possibly make the technology evil? Knowledge is knowledge. It is not a moral or immoral. It is simply factual.

This is true of everything we humans create or utilize. It is not evil in of itself, but it can be used for evil. Of course, it can also be used for good. That is up to us

Once again I can't help adding something that is not relevant to your needs but which interests me. When Galileo first pointed his telescope at the skies, some people were horrified. What upset them so much? They decided that what he was doing was acting like a peeping Tom. Peeping at God!

They thought that God gave us eyes that could see just so much and that's how much God wanted us to see. Using a telescope to look at the heavens was like peeking into somebody's windows. Like peeking in through God's windows.

This was reason enough for them to decide that this new technology, the telescope, was evil.