October 24, 2011

Vatican Seeks A Global Ethic And Universal Common Good - What Do They Mean By "Ethical" And "Good"?

Vatican Calls For Radical Economic Reform Of World's Financial Systems by Victor R. Simpson, Huffington Post, October 24, 2011

Let me see if I have this right. The headquarters of the world's most dominant bastion of supernaturalism is calling for a new world economic order based on "ethics and the 'achievement of a universal common good.'" The above report goes on to say: "The (Vatican) proposal acknowledges, however, that a 'long road still needs to be traveled before arriving at the creation of a public authority with universal jurisdiction' and suggests the reform process begin with the United Nations as a point of reference." Finally, Huffington says the Catholic pronouncement "also attacked 'utilitarian thinking,' saying what is useful to the individual does not always favor the common good."

What kind of global ethic, common good, and public authority would the leaders of Catholicism support? What kind of "utilitarian thinking" are they referring to as not good for the common good? Here's a stab at some answers: Behave ethically/morally because if you don't God will be angry at you and punish you and not let you have ever-lasting life. Humankind's "common good" is one where all of us are best served by believing in a supernatural father-deity that we can pray to to guide us individually and collectively. Finally, do not engage in "utilitarian" thinking, that is thinking that is practically useful, here and now, and based on reason and evidence, for this will undermine achieving an ethic and common good as defined above.

The Vatican's idea of the UN as a starting point for a process to develop a "public authority with a universal jurisdiction" is noble and one with which I agree with them. Pluralism is needed in this. However, let's keep a close eye on these folks and be careful in letting them get their nose under the metaphorical tent of Humankind’s on-going efforts at creating a secular global morality and civilization. They are as clever at manipulating language and ideas for their sole benefit as are the lawyers of the world's nationalist governments who monopolize power and the financiers who control the planet's wealth.

October 10, 2011

The US Social Welfare System – What Is Its Real Purpose? Is It Moral To Force Citizens To Fund It With Their Tax Payments?

I am not an economist, sociologist or political scientist.  I therefore do not know the past and current literature and statistics in these fields.  What follows is my opinion as it is informed by my understanding of culture, human nature, my general education, and my life experience in the US and elsewhere.

I am not aware that the American social welfare system has failed to fulfill its promise, as many claim.  The argument that the $16 trillion spent on this system between 1965 and 2008 has led to a society where 1 out of 6 currently live below the poverty line and that 1 in 4 children live in households that depend on the government for food is an indicator that social welfare has failed, is a misplacement of cause and effect.  The fact that we have poverty and hunger in the US is not causally connected to our national expenditure on the welfare system.  Many on the right seem to be saying that $16 trillion should have pretty much bought us out of poverty and filled most of the stomachs of the poor.

The real problem with this reasoning is that money spent on the welfare system is not spent with the intention of eradicating poverty, hunger and their causes.  It is intended to be a stopgap response to help avert the utter degradation and destruction of human lives and families, and forestall damage that such fearful and desperate citizens might do to the fabric and well-being of society.

Those who wish to abolish or reform welfare often assert that it diminishes the self-esteem of the recipient and makes him a ward of the state, and thereby strips him of his aspiration to be productive and independent.  Though this is an accurate description of too many individuals on US welfare roles, past and present, the fact that such conditions exist is far from a proven indictment of the entire social welfare system.

I do not believe the social welfare system of the US has failed and is in need of replacement as many Libertarians, Republicans and conservatives claim.  I agree with those who believe it needs, as a friend has said, to be “reformed gradually and with great care.”

October 7, 2011

Perilous Times For Science

"We live today in perilous times for science: conflicts of interest that taint research; pressures on scientists to cut corners to get fast results; a public culture that alternates between hostility to science and irrational expectations of what science can provide. If we as scientists want to preserve our freedom (and the welfare of others), now more than ever we have a responsibility.  And that responsibility is to bring our science to the public arena and to speak out as forcefully as we can against even the most cherished beliefs that reflect unsubstantiated myths." - Elizabeth Loftus

The Classsic, Beautiful and Controversial Books That Changed Science Forever by Tanya Lewis, Wired Science, July 5, 2012
Why We Don't Believe In Science by Jonah Lehrer, The New Yorker, Frontal Cortex, June 7, 2012
We Live in Perilous Times for Science by Elizabeth Loftus, The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, May/June 2011
Science by Think Tank: The Rise of Think Tanks and Decline of Public Intellectuals by Massimo Pigliucci, eSkeptic, October 19, 2011
Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science From Bunk by Massimo Pigliucci, 2010
Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science From Bunk by Massimo Pigliucci, 2010, an excerpt on eSkeptic, October 19, 2011
The Un-American War On Science by Shawn Lawrence Otto, Huffington Post, October 28, 2011

October 3, 2011

Secular Truth And Morality - New Kindle Book on Amazon.com

Now expanded and available as a Kindle book at Amazon.com.  You don't have to own a Kindle reader to purchase and read the book.  If you open an account with them, Amazon offers a free downloadable Kindle book reader software for PCs:  http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html/ref=kcp_pc_mkt_lnd?docId=1000426311

Click here or below for the book:

From the Amazon.com book description:

In this book, his first, American anthropologist James E Lassiter offers an alternative to the absolute truths of the Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – for understanding our place in Nature and how we might behave more humanely and responsibly toward each other and the planet.  He describes scientific truth, upon which secularism is founded, in comparison to religion, as a far more apt corollary to and explanation of the evolution of the Universe and Life itself.

Both, the practice of science and the evolution of Nature, he argues, are ever provisional, invested in objective realities and natural laws, yet undetermined and ultimately unpredictable.  Both are remarkable undertakings that occasionally bring into existence fortuitous opportunities and options, some of which have been favorable for Humankind.

On a more personal level, the book offers a secular path to a more humanistic and rationally moral way of life - a morality that, the author argues, arose from our mammalian evolutionary past yet must be continually re-created in the present by each of us based on personal experience and evidence.

This book should be of interest to secularists, believers as well as those who are searching for a more embraceable worldview.  In his chapter entitled “The Present and Future of Secular Morality” the author reviews the works of a selection of prominent contemporary thinkers who recommend various approaches to secular truth and morality as means of living well without God and religion.  The works reviewed also provide guidance for establishing an emergent global morality as an ethical basis for a global civilization.

Finally, in his concluding chapter the author offers a favorable outlook for the future of Humankind.  He foresees the successful emergence of a secular global morality based on pluralism, a global civilization based on transnational law and covenants; and the development of a pluralistic world organization for settling disputes, safeguarding human dignity and equality, and providing effective and sustainable human stewardship of Earth.

About the author:  James E. Lassiter is a privately practicing anthropologist who resides in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.  He received his PhD (1983) and MS (1975) degrees in anthropology at the University of Oregon, and his BA (1974) honors degree in anthropology and evolutionary biology at California State University, Sacramento.  James has over thirty years of experience studying African societies and cultures, implementing U.S. Government humanitarian foreign policy in Africa, and living and working on the continent.  He served as Peace Corps Volunteer science teacher in Swaziland, Southern Africa from 1980-1983.  He is currently writing his second book entitled From the Unknown Into Uncertainty:  The Past, Present and Future of Humankind.