The Battle of Good and Evil…

Today I read (watched actually) the 666th post on the blog (or yolog) on the Blog of the Angry Aussie. For his 666th post, he decided to talk about the concepts of good and evil. Well worth listening to what he said if you have a few minutes, because he makes some excellent points.

If I understand what he is saying correctly, he feels that the ideas of Good and Evil are abstractions that have no real definable meaning, and that because of that, there is no such thing as absolute good, or absolute Evil. He raised some good points, with some compelling examples, such as the Nazis, and how none of them thought they were evil, and how evil actions are really a matter of perspective rather than any concrete idea.

But while I agree with a lot of what he said, I do disagree on some of the fundamental implications of his position. Hence this post. I do believe there is a universal definition of Good and a universal definition of Evil. And no, I’m not talking about universal good/evil in relation to, (for Instance) God, and the forces of good fighting against the devil and the forces of evil. I’m talking about how we define the basic earthbound humans daily battle with the moral and ethical questions that drive our actions.

There are a lot of things that are universal in this world. Laws of energy, nature, physics, etc. are inviolate. When we break one of those laws, it isn’t because we really broke it, but rather because we didn’t truly understand it to begin with. I think that universally applicable concepts of good and evil exist in the same way.

I believe that there must be some universally acceptable idea of good and evil, otherwise we would not be able to recognize the individual instances of one from the other, regardless of our individual beliefs. I think that this is a very important point. I think our problem is that we really do not understand the idea of what “Good” or “Evil” truly means at a universal level.

What this means to me, is that the biggest mistake people make with respect to defining good and evil is that they apply too specific a filter on what they consider good and what they consider evil. It is often a function of their cultural or religious belief system, or their cultural morals, or social normalcy, or any random thing they were brought up to believe.

None of these, from my perspective, are good ways to determine the benevolence or malevolence of a person or action, because they are all rooted in a human way of thinking that assumes the thinker understands the difference, or is the good guy. I believe that in order to truly define good and evil as universal concepts, we must learn to think outside of our petty differences, and in terms of a much, much broader picture, otherwise our definition of Good and Evil will, by definition, not be universal in any way, shape or form.

But then the question becomes, is it possible for a human to think in such broad terms? Well, I think so. After all, there are social laws that are universal. Laws that do exist, in one form or another, regardless of religion creed or belief system. A typical example is “The Golden Rule”. Do unto others and all that jazz.

Lets take Mr. A and the example of the Nazi’s. Sure, Nazi’s Germans never woke up every moring and said, “Today would be a great day to be evil.” No, they justified what they did using some altruistic sounding, though heinously misguided, rationalization.

Clearly, your average German walking the streets of Germany today would consider what the Nazis did evil. But why did the Germans of the time not think so? Was it because of a different perspective? And if it was, was that a reasonable perspective?

My answer to the first question is: because they were lying to themselves. And to the last two: No. No way in hell. Why? Because they violated the golden rule. Unless it makes sense to you that if another culture considers yours inferior, that they ought to take the initiative to wipe yours off the face of the earth, nobody can argue that it was a “good” thing.

It’s amazing how quickly peoples perspectives become irrelevant if you correctly apply the Golden Rule to the scenario. Things that people say makes sense suddenly contradict themselves under that paradigm, and the theoretical complications brought about by “differences in perspective” suddenly don’t mean much.

My point here is this. If a concept as simple, as straightforward and easy to apply (if you aren’t lying to yourself) as the Golden Rule, can be applied so universally, regardless of culture, creed and/or belief, then there must be some universal way to define actions that fall in line with the golden rule, and actions that violate it.

And if that exists, then, to my thinking, it follows that there must be some concrete definition to universal Good, and universal Evil… I think that most of us are usually just too egocentric to properly define it…

666-The nature of evil – [Angry Aussie]

You’d think God would have a better sense of humor…

Christian groups are up in arms here over a new children’s film starring Nicole Kidman and based on an award-winning novel by British author Philip Pullman, accusing it of being anti-religious.

Evil in Pullman’s books is represented by the church, called the Magisterium, whose acolytes kidnap orphans across England to subject them to horrible experiments in the frozen northern wastelands. – [Yahoo/AFP]

Seriously, why would anyone who believes in an all-powerful, almighty God, even trouble themselves with things like this? It’s not as if anyone is going to take the movie literally, and decide that the church is evil. Not to mention that there are a lot of other worse things to be complaining about besides a freakin’ movie.

I could point out that, historically, much treachery, killing and death has occurred in the name of Christianity, and religion in general. Numerous crusaders, jihadi, conquerers, terrorists, etc. and wars have often been perpetuated in “Gods” name, or with “Gods” support. But this shouldn’t worry any honest Christians because we are different, and people don’t do that anymore… Right? Oh… Wait… Nevermind.

But as I was saying, does anyone really think God honestly, really cares about this movie? How could it possibly offend Him? It’s a fairy tale for crying out loud! A work of fiction. Why, in the name of all that is holy, would the Almighty be offended by this? Seriously, given how the world works, you’d think God would have, at the very least, an epic sense of humor…

Christian groups slam new Kidman children’s movie – [Yahoo/AFP]

Laaaaaaaw, is a many splendored thiiiiiing… Not.

OK, forgive my musical refrain. I ran across an article today that kinda illustrated how important it is that the laws be objective, not morally motivated, and constantly revised to stay current with the changing times:

Dying in parliament is an offence and is also by far the most absurd law in Britain, according to a survey of nearly 4,000 people by a television channel showing a legal drama series.

And though the lords were clad in their red and white ermine cloaks and ambassadors from around the world wore colourful national costumes, at least nobody turned up in a suit of armour. Illegal. – [Yahoo/AFP]

Obviously many of these laws probably had some practical logic to them when they were made, and merely suffered from being too broad or too specific in scope. However the same is true of many of the laws on the books today. They are based on historical or social standards that are either obsolete or irrelevant today.

On the other side of the coin, there are laws placed on the books, that are simply poorly thought out. Most often emotional the result of knee-jerk reactions by over zealous lawmakers. For instance banning baggy pants? No tag in school? No hugs?!? Seriously, how is banning baggy pants supposed to reduce the crime rate of a city? (see <Dumb Laws.com> for a big list of really wacky laws… Fair warning, you may laugh yourself into oblivion :) )

But on a more serious note, the law has become a means for activists to push their own agendas, as opposed to protecting the society at large, and no, the two are not the same thing. An equitable legal system does not discriminate against anyone on the bases of race, color, creed, beliefs, etc, so it is absolutely ludicrous that any one should have to face prosecution simply because of their choice of clothes. What we are seeing is an abuse of the legal system. And it really needs to stop.

Die and you’re under arrest! Britain’s most stupid laws – [Yahoo/AFP]

Contrary to what the evidence might suggest…

You know, one of the things I find amazing about the current administration is how flexible their definition of events and scenarios are. And how they see whatever they want to see, and declare whatever they see fit, ratified by presidential decree. Even when it is obvious as the light of day that the truth is actually contradictory to the presidents view of things.

Like the President declaring “Mission Accomplished” without having achieved any of the stated mission goals. Or that the national outrage about the war in Iraq is little more than the opinions of a focus group. Or even that global warming is a natural phenomenon. Or that you can win a war with terrorists using conventional warfare. Or that you can introduce national stability into a country torn by civil war using the aforementioned conventional warfare. I could go on, but I think the picture is abundantly clear.

But then again I’ve never governed a country. But when former presidents of said country begin to speak out against the current administrations actions then, well, hey there has to be some merit to it right? Apparently not.

Former president Jimmy Carter, in a recent interview, called out the president on the issue of prisoner torture and the violation of human rights, in regard to:

… secret Justice Department memorandums supporting the use of “harsh interrogation techniques.” These include “head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures,” – [CNN Politics]

The Prez’s response?:

Responding to the newspaper report Friday, Bush defended the techniques used, saying, “This government does not torture people.” – [CNN Politics]

The white house response?:

After reading a transcript of Carter’s remarks, a senior White House official said, “Our position is clear. We don’t torture.” – [CNN Politics]

Well OK then. I am by no means an authority in torture, however slapping a person upside the head until they sing like a bird, sounds like torture to me. I mean, it ain’t exactly the same as a swedish massage now is it? But if the President and White house officials say it’s not torture, well then I stand corrected!

But if I slap my next door neighbor cross-eyed while attempting to find out what he did with the lawn mower I lent him last year, I better not hear any lip about it from the peanut gallery. And I’ll sue whoever calls the police…

Astronauts: First drunk, now mentally unstable?

Given the frequency with which astronauts are being found to be in substandard mental condition lately, I am beginning to think we spend more money in the technology of space flight than we do in the well being of the astronauts in whom we entrust our billion dollar technological equipment:

Former astronaut Lisa Nowak is pursuing a temporary insanity defense on charges that she assaulted and tried to kidnap a romantic rival, according to a court document released Tuesday.

Nowak suffered from major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, insomnia and “brief psychotic disorder with marked stressors,” defense attorney Donald Lykkebak wrote. He said the already-petite woman had also recently lost 15 percent of her body weight and struggled with “marital separation.”

“This notice does not challenge competence to stand trial, but only raises insanity at the time of the offense,” he wrote. – [Yahoo/AP]

You know, I realize that astronauts are human beings, and have their ups and downs. I have no problem with them having a drink, or a mental breakdown, whatever. They’re human. Where I have a problem is that it seems like the people who administer our illustrious space program doesn’t seem to have the safety of the astronauts, or even the welfare of the equipment, at heart.

How can you let a person whose blood alcohol levels were so high they would not be allowed to operate a common motor vehicle, operate a multi billion dollar spacecraft? How do you let someone who is in the throes of a depression, and clearly mentally unstable, even remain an active member of the space program? I mean aren’t there periodical mental and physical evaluations done? How do these people pass?

Ex-astronaut planning insanity defense – [Yahoo/AP]

Here Come the Fashion Police. Literally.

Every time I see a law that is centered around the way a person dresses, I cringe. I cringe because, almost every law that gets passed in relation to clothing seems to be based on someones personal conviction of what they believe to be “decent”. Here’s a typical example:

Baggy trousers that hang way below the belt and expose what the wearer has on underneath could soon be banned in the southern US city of Atlanta, a city council spokesman said Friday.

“Many youngsters are walking around with their pants way, way below their waists, and you can see everything. Some people call it a fad or a fashion statement but it is simple indecency,” Dexter Chambers, the communications director at Atlanta City Council, told AFP by phone.

And by everything, you mean what exactly?

The trend of wearing oversized trousers that fall down and expose one’s smalls derives from the US prison system.

“It started in prison, where, as I understand it, belts are taken away from inmates. But it evolved into a situation where it was used by prisoners to let others know they were ‘available,’ and it still has that sexual connotation,” Chambers said. – [Yahoo/AFP]

And this is the basis of your objections? Why do people like to look at things and then infer a meaning from it without any logical frame of reference to do so? Even if wearing your pants low around your hips in prison might mean you are sexually available, that does not mean it means the same thing out here. How can you make that kind of leap?

Is he trying to say that all of the youth running around with low slung pants are basically advertising thier sexual availability? I’m no expert, but I seriously doubt that. Why does the idea of it being a fashion fad seem so unreasonable? They are quick to deny that any similar laws are aimed at exposed bra straps and athletic bras, but what exactly is the difference? They might as well.

Who decides what the dress code of the street is supposed to be? Why is it that you can have women walking around in thong bikinis, and men in naught but a pair of speedos, and that is considered “decent” but a fully clothed man whose only fashion faux pas is that his pants are so low that his underwear is showing is an abomination?

These things make no sense. The law should not be used to enforce any indidivuals personal moral code. If the teachers don’t like it, then the schools needs to implement and enforce a dress code. The law should be used to enforce serious public safety issues. Not social dress code.

US city planning ban on low-slung baggy pants – [Yahoo/AFP]

Kids NEED discipline and guidance people…

I frequent a number of social help sites and message boards. I do it to help me understand people better. I do learn a lot, but I am constantly struck by how often people tend to confuse issues. Especially when it comes to raising kids. Like spanking. And discipline. Or never learn important life lessons for themselves.

I am all about letting kids learn to be their own person, but they need somewhere to start. A good framework to base their character on. If you want them to become positive, productive members of society, they need to be taught values/ethics and morals. They cannot learn these things on their own.

I have been quite vocal on this blog about the problems of society in general being the result of a lack of parental child raising discipline. Or, even worse, the parents teaching kids the wrong lessons. The results of this is all around us. And the evidence is equally salient. Here are a couple of examples:

A 12-year-old British boy appeared in court Wednesday charged with assault for throwing a sausage at a pensioner, police said.

Hmm. Odd… Let’s read on…

The youth, who can’t be named, was arrested after a 74-year-old man reported him to police for throwing a stone in Manchester, northern England.

The object turned out to be a cocktail sausage.

“Charging was the only option because the boy had previously been issued with three reprimands on separate occasions,” a Greater Manchester Police spokeswoman said.

OK, this kid obviously has issues. What was even more disturbing to me was the way this kids mother responded to all of this:

The boy’s mother described the decision to charge her son as “an absolute joke,”

The boy’s mother said her son was worried he might be sent to prison. – [Yahoo/Reuters]

Now it may just be me, but it sounds like this kids mother is more worried about the penalties her son may face, rather than the fact that on 4 separate occasions (including this latest instance), her son has acted in an undisciplined and inappropriate manner? Didn’t she feel the need to discipline her child for that behavior? How about making him apologize to the pensioner? How about being a parent?

This kid is in court because he is unruly and inconsiderate. Or more likely, his mom has let him become that way. He is NOT in court because he threw a cocktail wiener at an old guy. Perhaps it is extreme to have to go to court for being a rambunctious kid, but if you’ve had the police called on you 4 times already, then obviously something has to be done.

I realize that there are cases where discipline is difficult, and I can only speculate on what is happening in that household, but from what I’ve read, I think MOM should be in court. Much better motivation to discipline her kid. Or not. But at least that way, when she shows up in court, it will be because she made the conscious decision to let her son do whatever he wants, and is willing to bear the consequences of both of their actions.

If I had done that to my Mom, she would have been mortified! She probably would have handed me over to the police herself! The thing is, the very first time I did something like that, I would have been severely disciplined. Regardless of whether it was a spanking, being disallowed to go hang out with my friends, no pocket money that week, whatever, I would have been taught that what I had done was wrong. It doesn’t matter what specific method was used, I would have learned not to do it again.

Instead, this kids mom probably defends everything he does, and he is now in court. He probably still doesn’t truly realize that what he did was wrong. What’s even worse is that he may still get off because he is a juvenile. Saddest of all, is the possibility that he will never learn anything from the experience because his mom will probably tell him that none of this was justified, and that he has been victimized by the authorities.

His antisocial behavior will continue, now with an added hatred for the police, and any/all authority figures. And when he finally grows up and decides to join some criminal organization, and a pursue a life of crime his mom will spend many a sleepless night asking herself where she went wrong raising him… Or not. She may keep cheering him on regardless. And yet we wonder why our kids are so jacked up…

Here’s another example, a worse scenario, with a rather blatant display of parental ignorance:

A mother and father are facing charges they encouraged their 13-year-old daughter to fight another girl. Debra Sue Grubb, 33, is charged in Kanawha County Magistrate Court with misdemeanor battery after allegedly forcing her daughter Gabrielle to fight 14-year-old Megan Willis near the Grubbs’ home on Aug. 15, Trooper J.M. Comer said Wednesday.

Are you kidding me? I could understand a parent telling their kid to stand up for, or defend themselves against bullying, but this?

At one point, Grubb allegedly grabbed her daughter by the arm and used her daughter’s body as a weapon to knock Megan to the ground.

Thomas Leon Grubb, 35, is charged with misdemeanor assault. Comer said Grubb is accused of threatening to harm two boys who were with Megan if they tried to break up the fight.

“It turned into a mess,” Comer said. “The two parents allowed this to happen when it should have been handled by the parents.”
- [Yahoo/AP]

You know, I almost don’t even know what to say about this. Obviously these parents never learned that violence is not the solution for everything. In fact it sounds like the kids may have been better off without their involvement. Much like the irate cussing YouTube parent I talked about before, the problem here is that even the parents don’t know any better. The only thing that might save the kids is if they end up being more intelligent than their parents, and figure this out on their own.

Then I run across parents on the message boards I was taking about earlier asking how to get their kids to do things like chores, dishes, cleaning, homework, even their own freakin’ laundry… It amazes me… Parents, your kids need discipline. The whole spanking /non-spanking issue is stupid. It’s in your head. Spanking is only abuse if you use it to vent your frustration. When used correctly, it is a tool, just like any other. And there are many of them. Use your head. Use what you know will work. Try a bunch of different things.

Just use them correctly. You can still psychologically abuse a child if you misuse a non-physical punishment. Do not punish out of anger, or out of frustration, or out of weariness or fear. Use these tools for discipline. To teach important life lessons. To teach them to be considerate of others. To be good human beings. Kids need this in order to become healthy adults. Do not deny them that opportunity.

Boy in court for throwing sausage – [Yahoo/Reuters]

Parents accused of encouraging fight – [Yahoo/AP]

Only YOU can prevent Illegal Immigration…

Republican presidential candidate and former NY Mayor Rudy Giuliani made what i thought was a rather bold statement:

“We can end illegal immigration. I promise you, we can end illegal immigration,” the former New York mayor said at a community center — the first of the day’s two stops in this early voting state.

Giuliani said he would require a uniform identification card for foreign workers and students and create a central database to track the legal status of visitors to the country. He told the crowd of more than 300 that 12 million immigrants have entered the country illegally.

“That’s a lot of people to walk over your border without being identified,” he said. – [Yahoo/AP]

Ok so I have one question. Has he seen the size of our borders lately? It isn’t exactly a short stretch of barbed wire fencing. You know, anyone who has successfully been mayor of NY has to have something going for them. But his recent actions have cast a serious shadow on opinion of both his competency and honesty. If it were so easy to stop illegal immigration, it would have been done already.

Instead, it appears he will simply be one of those people who employ sweeping, indiscriminate, invasive and ultimately useless legislation that attack everything but the source of the problem, just like everyone else, especially the current administration.

I mean, the database idea is pointless because by definition, we don’t have any info on illegal immigrants. They don’t exactly register with the authorities after jumping the fence.
And as I pointed out earlier, America has a lot of border ground to cover, it’s not such an easy task to watch all of it. I don’t see where he has come forward with a good solution for anything…

The only way to stop illegal immigration is if we stop hiring illegal immigrants. Stop giving them jobs. Stop giving them benefits. Stop making it worth their while to cross the border. I don’t think that is going to happen. Nor do I necessarily think it should. They have become a significant part of our workforce. I think we need to figure out a way to integrate the ones that are here, and then provide some sort of incentive for new immigrants to do migrate legally. Because clearly, prohibition isn’t working…

And before you say “Grant them amnesty? Give them an incentive? Preposterous!” think about this. How much of your tax dollars is already currently going to giving illegal immigrants health care? Do you want them to be able to put their share of that cost back into the tax pool? Or do you want to just keep carrying their share of the economic burden for them?

Giuliani vows to stop illegal immigrants – [Yahoo/AP]

A nation of finger pointers…

In writing this blog, I learn things about people and life in general that I might not have had I sat blissfully ensconced in my own world behind this monitor. I find I think about things a lot more if I have to write about them.

Some of the conclusions I end up with sometimes catch me off guard. Like I realized today that we are, by and large, a nation of hypocritical finger pointers. Conflicted blame shifters. Flip-flopping fault finders. Myself included. Well I’m a conflicted finger pointer, dunno about the rest ;)

Let me explain. I came across an article today about Americas opinions about texting and driving:

Ninety-one percent of Americans believe sending text messages while driving is as dangerous as driving after having a couple of drinks, but 57 percent admit to doing it, a poll released Tuesday said. – [Reuters]

Now my math is not exactly known for it’s infallibility, but by my calculations, that would mean that at least 48 percent of the population are texting while driving, all the while advocating that it should be banned. 48 percent. Forty-Eight.

Now doesn’t that seem strange to you? That almost half the population of the United States of America is engaged in a practice they believe should be illegal? And this occurs while completely sober? Here’s another example. I recently came across a message board where some unfortunate sap got caught for speeding in the wee hours of the morning on an open stretch of deserted road.

He came to the board asking for legal advice. He got his advice, but not before enduring some scathing remarks about breaking the law by a few other folks on the board and, apparently, an active law enforcement officer. To his credit, he tried to explain that he attempted to pick the safest optimal conditions for his “speed run” however one particularly vigorous poster immediately flamed him to death for “breaking the law”.

Now I ask you: how many of those people do you think have never broken a law before? How many have gone just that little bit over the speed limit because they were late? Hogged the passing lane doing 5mph under the speed limit, while a line of increasingly irate drivers grew behind them? Had a cellphone conversation while driving? Took a pen home from work? Put on makeup/did their hair on the road? Ate lunch on the road? With a burger in one hand, a shake in the other, and a knee on the steering wheel?

I could go on, but I think you get the point. Nobody is perfect, but everyone insists they are better than everyone else. Everyone likes to be able to point a finger at another and say “He/She broke the law! That Idiot! That imbecile!”. The guy who decided to speed in the safest environment he could think of, (and actually consciously thought about it before doing so) gets flamed, while people are talking on cellphones and texting in the middle of traffic on a busy highway (without a second thought for safety) is somehow culturally more acceptable?

Whose actions are more irresponsible? Do you think the law adequately addresses the more dangerous action? My opinion: (like I have to actually say it) No! The law isn’t perfect. You should see some of the silly laws that have passed (some are still on the books!). And more to the point, people aren’t perfect. The fact that I can effortlessly find enough ludicrous stuff to talk about here, on a daily basis, is testament to that.

We all want compassion, mercy, and tolerance and yet we are so reluctant to show anyone else the same. We blame everything for our problems, TV, video games, guns, sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll, frequently each other. But never ourselves. We are so quick to point a finger at everything/everyone else. But we always ignore the three pointing back at us. We suck. Big time. Epic Fail. I wish there was a reset button on this game…

Nine in 10 Americans say ban texting while driving – [Reuters]

The Fermi Paradox rears it’s ugly head…

The Fermi Paradox refers to the apparent lack of evidence of the existence of extraterrestrial life, when all other probabilistic scientific determinations would indicate that the alternative should be true, and there should be intelligent life out there.

In other words, if we assume that the way life developed on earth is stereotypical of the development of life in general, and that given the same conditions, life should developed again in the same way, then given the high probability of similar conditions existing on other planets in the universe, having existed far longer than the earth has, why have we not seen any evidence this extraterrestrial life?

At first people thought that we simply lacked the technology to detect the signs of this life, but recent scientific advancements have suggested that this may not be the case. It is an interesting dilemma. What I find equally interesting is that in spite of this paradox, the possibility that we were created, as opposed to simply springing out of some prehistoric primordial soup does not seem to have been honestly considered.

I’ve always thought this argument an interesting one, and being that I consider myself both a theist (of sorts) as well as a firm believer in science, I would offer this thought. Maybe we are still not advanced enough to detect extra terrestrial life. Or maybe theists are right, and we were all created. The absence of evidence can never be the evidence of absence, so as a scientist, in my own humble opinion, all I can honestly say is that we simply do not have enough data to rule anything out. Nor should we assume that the two are mutually exclusive…

Just a thought…

The Fermi Paradox is Back – [Slashdot]

The Fermi Paradox: Back with a vengeance – [Sentient Developments]