Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ethical Foundations

There is such a thing as global ethics.

It should be incorporated into every culture to the extent that it is not. It should be accepted by every culture as a basis for critique of that culture.

Each of us is born as a being that experiences desires. In this we are equal. If God created us this way, then God created us as equals. If evolution leads to our existing this way, then evolution resulted in our being equal in this respect: we all experience desire.

Ethics has to do with pursuing good and being good. To understand ethics, one needs to understand how "goodness" is related to desire.

Desire provides us with cares and concerns. We have cares and concerns because we have desire.

Sometimes desire is experienced as unsatisfied. We call this suffering. Sometimes desire is satisfied. We call this enjoyment. Sometimes we experience desire as something that is in the process of being satisfied. Because we desire this process, its presence provides enjoyment and its absence provides suffering.

We give the names "good", "bad", and "evil" to certain aspects of things. The same thing can have (and usually does have) both good and bad aspects. We give the name "good" to the three kinds of aspects that things can have, all of which are related to desire: (1) the presence of things we desire, (2) usefulness for obtaining the things that we desire, and (3) the kind of consciousness that has desires. We give the names "bad" and "evil" to three aspects of things: (1) the absence of the things we desire, (2) hindrance to obtaining what we desire, and (3) the destruction or absence of the kind of consciousness that has desires.

Ethics has to do with being the kind of being that respects those conscious beings who have desires by making ourselves into tools for well distributed minimization of suffering and well distributed maximization of enjoyment. This is how we treat others the way we would want to be treated.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Love's Dream

Let us dream love’s dream

The song is flowing forth,
To wake and heal the hearing heart
To let Life’s rhythms work
And let the spirit
Its Wind.

A dream
The song would flow
more perfect in these veins. 
And move us fast to do the work
For children here and far away,
For generations not yet born,
 For millions,

To grow the healthy tree
To be a healthy tree
To give the fruit
to feed

A dream
To be the morning sun,
To find a way across the hues,
Providing food for forest growth,
Not refusing, but still diffusing down
To leaves that grow in darkness deep.
A dream of leaves still singing songs,
Dancing, and seeking strength
To stop
The bugs:
The bugs
That feast
 Upon our roots.

That Truth’s
Bud will bloom
Again and again
In you, and in me.
I am responsible.
I am.

A need 
 to sing,
To be clear as a mountain spring,
A light that runs upon the waves,
A gift to the river,
To be
A voice
Still singing.

I am
Most truly who I am
When I am my better spirits,
Whispering  winds upon my neck,
 A wish to ride on winds of better spirits,
Calling me out, again and again.
My purpose has come.
My lungs
are filled,
My voice, 
It is raised
To sing of love.

Real love. True love.
The love that fits
The Golden Rule,
The discipline
By love
To make
Love real and true.


Let it be our lamp,
An anthem for our age.
 Let us listen with our better spirit.
And then, with wings upon the winds
Let us sing.
Let us soar.
Let us flee the abyss.

By the Golden Rule,

Breaks the idols of our age,
With hammers in our hearts,
Love pounding out the beat
Behind the rhythm starts
To crack
Our fault:
Our fault
That lets
Us fall,
And fall,
And fall,
And fall.

Let there be light.
Divide the light from the dark.
Let the song go on.
And again.

Our purpose has come.
Our lungs are filled.
Our voices are raised.

Let us sing.
Let us be light.
Let us be bright.
Let us be clear as a mountain spring,
And sing the mind
 To reason’s height,
And find the way
From wrong
To right.


The children look to us.
Their children look to us.
And their children look to us.
The untold millions of generations
Will not see life if we should fail
To save their world… 
Us whole.

(The Hopeful one).
Standing strong,
A Lonely voice
Sings on
With hope.
Our hope.
Our song.

Let the chorus breathe and swell
To make us wake and dream
The disciplined spirit of love
That fits the Golden Rule.
Let our chorus swell,
To shatter
The shell,
That is
the spell,
Of the dark’ning dawn.

Let’s do love’s work
And sing hope’s song.
Let me be joined with thee
In spirit’s truest family:

The Unbounded We.

The Three Cups


 Today’s the Day of Dark’ning Dawn
When terrors grow as powers grow,
 Our powerful faults threaten all we know.
And so, it is today the Day of Dark’ning Dawn
When famine awaits the end of combustion,
When all is exhausted by our consumption,
When we await a war of mass destruction,
When species die in mass extinction,
When the weather grows weird,
When the world avoids fear,
And denies all evidence
That horror is clear,
That horror is near,
By invoking
The unreason
Of darker times
And the blind consensus of selfish minds.


There’s toxic stew thats brewed within that cup of lead,
The acid of despair or sweet denial’s poisoned air,
A draught for those who’d let the world be dead.
Drink not from lead, but try the golden cup instead.
Beneath the cloud of growing power,
Life is frail.
But we can hope
To save it all
By drinking of the spirit found within the golden grail.


Let us sing the call
To build it here:
The Holy Grail
In spirit near.
Become the love,
That brick by brick
Becomes the Holy Home,
The Temple of the Light of Truth,
The Temple of the Truest Love,
The Love
That fits
The Golden Rule.
The Narrow Path that travels to
And through the sunlit gardens beyond our cave.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Moral Responsibility in the Age of Increasing Power

       One dictionary defines “power” as the “ability to act or produce an effect.”[1]  Under this definition, the word “power” includes many abilities.  Some examples include the ability to build something like a bridge, the ability to achieve happiness, the ability to warm your feet on a cold day, the ability to cure sickness, the ability to experience beauty, the ability to obtain knowledge, the ability to control or influence people, the ability to save a species from extinction, the ability to eliminate crime or the ability to perpetrate a crime, and the ability to make a nutritious or tasty meal.  This list of what could count as “power” could go on and on. 
          In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, humanity has undertaken the pursuit of power on a scale that has never previously been achieved.  At any given moment, there are great numbers of people at work around the world developing new ways of controlling things, new ways of controlling or influencing people, and new ways of organizing ourselves into more powerful groups of people.  It is the proud accomplishment of humanity that we have unleashed this great engine of innovation.
The expansion of our power does not continue at the same constant rate.  The purpose and effect of many of our innovations is to increase our ability to generate innovations more quickly.  As a result, we are constantly increasing the rate at which we gain new powers.
While the growth of our power has many benefits, it also has a dark side.  Our malevolence, our carelessness, and our ignorance become increasingly more destructive. Our own imperfections increasingly threaten to destroy us entirely. 
We are eager to obtain each new benefit that each new innovation offers.  As a consequence, we have become generally committed to the pursuit of beneficial powers.  But, we find that the beneficial powers we seek are accompanied with destructive powers. 
As a consequence, our destructive powers are growing at an increasingly rapid rate.  We now have the power to intentionally, or unintentionally destroy ourselves and much, if not all, life on our planet.  We have already unintentionally caused the extinction of a large number of species of plants and animals.
Thus, we live in the shadow of a growing threat: the threat from our own growing destructive powers.  The most significant question of our time has become the question of how to prevent the horrors which become possible, and more probable, because of our ever increasing extraordinary power.  Thus, it has become appropriate to think of our period in history as “the age of the problem of extraordinary power”. 
The problem of extraordinary power became increasingly apparent as some people began to understand and fear the possibility that countries had the ability to destroy our world by building and using nuclear weapons.  Scientists warned us of the possibility of a “nuclear winter” if we should ever use a significant number of nuclear weapons. 
Now, we threaten to cause our own extinction by causing other significant changes in our environment. 
When humanity first discovered it could make and use fire, the amount of fire used was small in comparison with our use of fire today.  In ancient times, the use of fire had relatively negligible effects on the world’s atmosphere.  But over time, population increased and, especially in recent centuries, more and more uses of fire have been discovered.  We now use fire to power our cars and other methods of transportation, to generate vast amounts of electricity, to heat our buildings, and to perform various functions in factories. 
Fire is a chemical reaction.  Every fire brings about some small change in our atmosphere.  Scientists warn us that our greatly increased use of fire, when combined with certain other things we are doing, is significantly changing our atmosphere resulting in significant climate change.  As a consequence, our world may become a place where we cannot survive. 
It appears quite likely that we will fail to fully respond to such warnings.  The political will to respond, and respond wisely, appears to be very difficult to generate, since a wise response will place extraordinary demands upon us.    
We sometimes feel that it is unfair and unreasonable that we should now be subject to such revolutionary and extraordinarily difficult demands.  We feel we should be able to be quite satisfied if we can succeed at living in accordance with the more limited demands that morality has traditionally placed upon human beings. 
However, we chose to create the technologies that have made us much more powerful than we once were.  Thus, we have chosen the greatly changed circumstances which now subject us to new and extraordinarily difficult moral demands. 
While power brings benefit, it also brings the responsibility to use it wisely.  Extraordinary power brings extraordinary responsibility. 
Consider what it would mean if the way we choose to live our lives has the consequence of destroying the possibility of millions of future generations of humans and other sentient animals.  Nothing humans have ever done before would be as evil or horrible as that.  In The Road, Conrad McCormack tells a story that reveals, on the level of both thought and feeling, the extent to which the meaning of our lives is fundamentally tied to securing the possibility of a bountiful future for our children, our fellow creatures, and all future generations.  He tells the story of a father trying to find a possibility of a future for his son in a world where we have killed all the trees and other plants through some horrible act, so that food is no longer available at the grocery store and many people become cannibalistic, hunting down other people, so that few children, who are most vulnerable, survive.  There are so many ways that our world could collapse into such a horrible place with no hope for our children, or their children, or a million generations of children not yet born.  We must strive to comprehend and feel the horror that we could cause, so that we can be motivated to do what we must in spite of all the motives that we have to ignore the horrible consequences our choices could have in the future. 
You might not believe the warnings of global warning, nuclear winter, or that we are on the verge of using up all of the resources that make modern technology possible.  If you are right and we survive, then our power will continue to grow.  What that means is that, eventually, every single person will be able to intentionally, or even unintentionally, destroy the world in a moment of anger, carelessness, ignorance, or mistake.
Given that prospect, terrorism is a very frightening part of the age of the problem of extraordinary power.  Small numbers of people have the power to kill, injure, or otherwise harm ever greater numbers of people.  As our technology continues to advance making each of us more and more powerful, terrorism will become even more frightening.
However, while terrorism is very frightening, allowing ourselves to focus more or less exclusively on the politics of eradicating terrorism would be a mistake.  The problem of extraordinary power cannot be resolved by merely blaming some defined group of other people.  The problem of extraordinary power cannot be solved by simply eliminating certain groups of other people. 
Once each person has extraordinary power, every one of us is a threat to the security of everyone else.  Thus, the solution to the problem of extraordinary power rests in the question of how we can change ourselves, each and every one of us, so that we can trust ourselves to properly use, or limit our use of, power. 
This will be extraordinarily difficult.  But, it is our only reasonable option.  We cannot afford to fail. 
It might seem that we could choose to return to an earlier way of life that uses less of the power we have accumulated.  However, since the technologies of earlier periods are not adequate to sustain our enormous population, a broad, voluntary choice to return to the ways of an earlier age would result in widespread famine.  In such desperate circumstances, people would probably resort to desperate measures to secure their basic needs.  The survivors would probably be the people who most completely reject any limits on their own use of power.
Thus, a broad, voluntary return to the low power way of life of an earlier age does not provide an adequate solution to the problem of extraordinary power.
Nor will it be adequate to merely freeze our technology at the current level.  We are already destroying our world with the way we live now.  Even if you do not believe the scientists about global warming, you must admit that we will eventually use up our nonrenewable resources if we do not change our way of life.  That will then result in widespread famine. 
If humanity survives that calamity, it will be at a primitive level.  The establishment of the machinery and adequate procedures to recycle materials on a large scale, and to make significant use of renewable energy resources, will be much more difficult, if not impossible, once we no longer possess functioning factories, methods of shipping large quantities of materials and products, or a functioning electrical power grid.
Thus, we should not respond to the problem of extraordinary power by merely putting a stop to the development and use of new technology. 
A successful way of responding to the problem of extraordinary power will have to involve much more careful determinations as to which of our powers we shall use, which we shall avoid, and which new powers we should seek to obtain.
The unavoidable answer to the problem of extraordinary power is that as our power becomes more and more like the power of God, so too must our wisdom and benevolence become more and more like the wisdom and benevolence of God.  This is true for every single one of us.
The Bible quotes Jesus as saying, “Seek to be perfect even as God is perfect.”  If we do not succeed at following this recommendation, we shall most likely perish.

[1] "power." Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2009.  Merriam-Webster Online. 16 August 2009  <>