Scientific Evidence in Jury Trials

I have noticed that scientific evidence introduced by the prosecution, which is countered by scientific proof provided by the defense, becomes a “wash” with the jury.  If there are competing scientific witnesses, the jury typically will disregard all the scientific evidence.  At that point, it adds little value to parade in more scientific experts than your opponent.  There is already reasonable doubt in the jury’s mind, and most jurors do not have a scientific mind that will further analyze the science.

This “hung jury” on the scientific evidence can occur even when there is overwhelming DNA evidence.  If the prosecution finds DNA samples at the scene of the crime, the defense can offer an alternative theory as to why the DNA was found.  For instance, the defense may argue that the DNA of the defendant was from a consensual sexual relationship.  Or the defense may have a scientist who shows that the DNA sample was contaminated.  It is a more difficult defense arguing that the police or a third party planted the defendant’s DNA sample, but it has been employed with success as in the OJ Simpson trial.

I have seen cases that attempt to match bite marks on the deceased’s breast with the defendant’s teeth fail as soon as the defense’s scientific expert shows that the bite marks do not match.  When jurors were questioned after the trial, they indicated that the scientific testimony regarding the bite marks was completely ignored in the deliberation room.  The jury reached their verdict based on something other than the science.

I was selected to sit on a medical malpractice trial before I attended law school, and I had the opportunity to see up front how a jury operates.  And each jury is different, but this jury completely ignored all the medical evidence provided during the lengthy trial.  The jurors did not understand it, so they dismissed it.  As long as both the plaintiff and the defendant offer some medical evidence to support their side, the jury will ignore all the medical evidence.

So how did this jury reach their decision?  Well, the foreman picked up a picture of the deceased that was taken about a week before he was seen by the physician and passed it around for everybody to see.  The plaintiff’s attorney had introduced the picture to enlist the sympathy of the jurors since the man looked sick and emaciated.  However, the foreman shook his head and announced, “Can’t you see?  The man was going to die no matter what the doctor did for him.  He was going to die anyway!”  And that’s how the jury made its decision for the defendant physician.

So what’s my point?  It’s simply that science will not convince the average person to believe in dark matter or dark energy or even a Creator.  The reason why the typical individual will believe in something is based on the emotion that carries the day.  This is why crowds are fickle.  One day, they may forgive your actions, but the next day, they may string you up.

The world is becoming more polarized, reducing the size of moderate, middle-of-the-road civilizations.  Extremists are always emotional non-thinkers.  That makes them very dangerous because you cannot reason with them.  And once the majority of world citizens are polarized into two major sides, both hating each other equally, and sometimes not knowing or caring why they hate each other.  Once the fire of hate starts feeding on that emotion, all rational thoughts will go up in smoke and the only thing that will matter will be to continue feeding the fire.  At that point, the only government that can control the emotional chaos in the world will be a totalitarian government.

A thinking person might wonder if this were the plan from day one of a small group of conspirators who created the polarized planet for a totalitarian world controlled by them.  Members of this group who want to take over the world may have sat in jury rooms themselves or perhaps they just understand human nature, which is to ignore science and reason if there is any conflict and rely on emotion to make decisions.

Doubts

Whether you are a believer in a Creator or a skeptic, you should challenge your position with doubts.  It is interesting that atheists expend great energy doubting that there is a God, but spend little time doubting their arguments.  It is not logical to require more proof that there is a God than finding evidence that there is no God.

Quite frankly, it requires a leap of faith to justify either belief.  Such a leap by either side requires reasonable doubts.  Doubting is not being a traitor to your belief system.  It actually strengthens your beliefs because it forces you to think about why you believe what you believe and requires you to overcome the doubts.

Unfortunately, the world is becoming polarized by fundamental believers and radical non-believers.  The moderates are being pulled to one side or the other.  The press may indicate that religion is falling by the wayside, but it is not the new religion… it is old traditional religion that is dying out.  The neo-religion embraces groups that are radicalized.  Emotional religion is replacing moderate religion.  The fundamentalists will never doubt their beliefs.  And that is emotional garbage.

Doubting is a form of thinking.  Whenever you have a leap of faith without evidence to support your belief, you should always doubt that leap and constantly challenge it, thus reinforcing your belief.  If you go through life just accepting that belief based on emotion without any thought behind it, there may be a problem when you reach a crisis mode, whether in this world or the next.

If you end up standing before a Creator after being a suicide bomber that killed 50 innocent people, I wonder if the emotion that precipitated that act will please the Creator.  Did you have any doubts before you killed those people?  You probably did not, because your emotions drove you down this path.  Emotions mask doubt.  Emotions destroy thinking.  Emotions lead to bad choices.  Emotions also lead to consequences.  Emotions may make you a martyr who will accept those consequences… unless, of course, they are consequences provided in the afterlife.  Emotions hide those postmortem consequences.  But you killed those innocent people for God, so God should reward you.  The only problem is that God you served is the God of emotion, who some call the Devil.

I believe that the one true God does not countenance murder of innocent people for any reason.  And I want you to doubt that.  But you must also doubt that God wants you to kill for His sake.  I remember when soldiers in Vietnam said, “Kill a Gook for God.”  There may be a God who wants you to kill for Him, but, if so, I believe there is another God who does not want you to kill for Him.  There may be difficult times when I doubt the existence of a good God and think there must be only an evil God, but it is good to examine your doubts.  For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Thus, I believe for every evil deed attributed to an evil God, there is a good deed supported by a good God.

Will the evil God protect you?  Probably not, because He is evil.  Some argue that if there were a good God, He would make everybody safe and secure now.  However, if you believe in a Creator outside our universe, He may be testing us for entry into His universe.  If you don’t gain admission, you will remain in this universe with the Devil himself in control.  I want you to doubt that too.  However, if you are wrong, the consequences will be forever and ever.

John, the Gnostic

John, who is considered to be the author of the Gospel of John, the three books of John, and Revelation at the end of the Bible, is one of a handful of Gnostic writers whose works were not destroyed by the church establishment.  A majority of the books included in the Bible had no Gnostic theology at all, so it is important to examine John’s books to uncover the beliefs of an important Christian sect that was pushed into a dark corner to be hidden from future Christians.

Why were the Gnostics so feared by the church leaders?  Well, it is rather simple.  The Gnostics did not believe that clergy were required to intercede for believers to reach God.  The central thesis for the Gnostics was dualism:  the spirit is entirely good, while matter is entirely evil.  The human body and all material in the universe are bad, while God and the spirit are good.  Separation of your spirit from your body requires special knowledge.  The Greek word for knowledge is gnosis, the derivative for Gnosticism.  Thus, Gnostics believed that you unified with God and became one with God through your mind by leaving your body behind.

In the Gospel of John, the author emphasized that God would send down the Holy Spirit to help us become one with God, just like Jesus and God are one, John 17:11.  Jesus said that the Spirit will be in us, John 14:17.  Jesus is in his Father, just like he will be in you and you in him, John 14:20 and 17:22-23.  After Jesus died, he returned to command us to “receive the Holy Spirit,” John 20:22.

John’s books were included in the Bible because he was not an extreme Gnostic.  For example, some Gnostics believed in “docetism,” which meant that Jesus only seemed to have a body.  John believed some Gnostics of his day were false prophets under the influence of spirits alienated from God.  In other words, there were both evil and good spirits, and we should test the spirits, 1 John 4:1-3.  Some Gnostics, who followed Cerinthus, believed that Jesus was not in the spirit form until he was baptized by John the Baptist and then right before he died on the cross.

But John was a Gnostic in the sense that he believed that you must unify with God.  John believed that God must be in you, 1 John 4:4, and living in you, 1 John 4:12.  He stated, “We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit,” John 4:13.  And John explains that it is important to have God inside you, giving you confidence and driving out any fear we might have on judgment day, 1 John 17-18.  In other words, fear could be disastrous for us in the afterlife, so if we have God inside us, we will lose much of that fear.

John also apparently believed that God’s creation was a closed universe, so that God and Jesus existed before the universe was created, John 17:5 and 17:24.  The creation must have occurred outside our universe, meaning that it has a boundary that separates it from God’s universe.  This comports with the Law of Conservation of Mass and Energy, which states that mass and energy cannot be created nor destroyed within our closed universe.  Creation must occur outside the perimeter of our universe.  And God’s universe is outside and separate from our universe.  Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” John 18:36.

John’s Book of Revelation is perhaps the most intriguing of his works.  If you asked twenty theologians to analyze the meanings, you would hear twenty different interpretations.  However, it is still worthwhile examining the passages.  For example, Jesus said that he was “the Alpha and the Omega,” in Revelation 1:8, meaning that he is the beginning and the end or “the First and the Last,” in Revelation 2:8.  This seems to indicate a closed universe with a beginning and an end.

Does that mean that God will destroy the entire universe?  Does that mean that we will no longer be conscious or aware?  The end of our worldly bodies is something we expect anyway.  The end of the universe is something altogether different.  If God can create our universe outside of its boundaries, He can also end it from outside.  But does that mean that after God destroys the universe that we will no longer be thinking?  Unfortunately, it seems we will not be that fortunate.

A Roman poet, Cornelius Gallus, wrote in the first century B.C., “Worse than any wound is the wish to die and yet not be able to do so.”  Revelation describes the end of times when God will select only 144,000 people to be protected from the torture and agony that is the future.  The remaining people “will seek death, but will not find it; they will want to die, but death will elude them,” Revelation 9:6.  The 144,000 are described as having God’s name on their foreheads in Revelation 14:1, which because of John’s Gnostic leanings may have meant that these citizens had God inside their thoughts and were one with God.

As mentioned in 1 John 4:1, we should test the spirits because some are evil.  Revelation describes evil spirits working to forge forces to fight in the final battle of Armageddon, Revelation 16:13-16.  Revelation does not offer any peace for people unless they unite with God.  Those who oppose God like Satan will be relegated to a fiery lake where they will be tormented for eternity, Revelation 20:10.  These may be allegorical references to torture forever within our own thoughts.  We may torture ourselves more than God ever would.  Nobody knows for certain except the Creator, who also holds the power of Destroyer.  If we were in that fiery lake, we might beg Him to destroy us and put us out of our misery, but apparently that does not happen.

At the conclusion of Revelation, Jesus mentions the Omega or ending again and then describes a new world which is outside the old universe (Alpha and Omega) in Revelation 22:13-15.  It is logical that in order to join Jesus and God in their world, you have to unite with them and become one.

Love and Hate

Love and hate are both four-letter words.  Sometimes they have other similarities.  Love can turn into hate and hate can return to love.  How can this be?

Well, both of them are extreme emotions that many times spring from relationships.  The most basic explanation is that love occurs when the relationship is good and hate develops when the relationship sours.  So are we talking about the same emotion, distinguished by whether things are going well or not?

It’s not quite that simple.  Some people love and hate from afar.  A stalker may be initially attracted to a beautiful lady, thinking of his feelings as love for her.  But the stalker may eventually realize that he can never have her, so his feelings turn to hate.  The poor lady may never even know anything about this guy until he appears out of the dark and kills her.

Some people hate others based on race, creed, or religion.  If you are poor, you can hate the rich without knowing them.  Thus, these forms of hate are not based on personal relationships that have gone bad.  Many times, hate is a way for the oppressed to compensate for their positions in life.  Hate also can become a super-glue for political parties, gangs, and peer groups.  What better way to cement individuals together than by hating another group?  Hitler understood this very well.

Love and hate, although very powerful initially, typically are very temporal emotions, because extreme emotions can burn out fairly quickly.  They can disappear as quickly as they appear.  But there are exceptions to this.  The hate between Arabs and Jews has been going on for hundreds of years.  This is not going away because the Bible makes the Jewish people the chosen ones and the Koran does not.  The hate leads to terrorist acts that beget more violence.  It has become a “never-ending story” of hate.

However, these problems can be resolved over time when reasonable leaders are in charge of Arab countries and Israel.  An example of this was Northern Ireland and England.  The terrorist killings had gone on for decades without any end in sight until the leadership of those countries recognized how the acts of terrorism were tearing the economy of the two countries apart.  Reasonable leaders found an economic compromise that has held the peace for many years.

Does that mean that the leadership in the Middle East is unreasonable?  Well of course it does.  But which comes first:  reasonable leadership or stopping the terrorist attacks?  The leaders say that they must respond to the terrorist attacks, and since the terrorists are not reasonable, they cannot be reasonable.

There is a problem with extremist thinking.  It is important for moderates to exert more control in the world.  Generally, moderates do not choose to get involved with extremists.  They patiently wait for the extreme positions to dissipate.  But moderates must take a stand against terrorists and extremists before they polarize the world.  The thing that makes moderates apathetic is that they believe that since terrorists and extremists are in the minority, they can never take over the world.  Hitler is the ultimate example of why this is the wrong way to think.  Many extremist minorities have taken over countries throughout history.  Stalin just killed millions of people who didn’t do what he demanded.

There are many countries in the world who do not want terrorism to expand into their areas, so they should be willing to form a worldwide coalition to eradicate terrorists and extremists throughout the world.  The terrorists and extremists cannot stand up to a worldwide force that joins hands to crush them.

Perhaps we would be better off by not emphasizing extreme emotions like love and hate and instead by becoming a more thoughtful, moderate world.

What Is Sin?

Somebody asked me years ago what sin was, and I recall telling them that it was anything taken to extremes.  Back then, I thought moderation was the key to modifying all behavior.  Today, I’m not so sure that is the answer.  I still believe that moderation is very important in a social setting, but I wonder if there is a better definition of sin for the afterlife.

After you die and if you are still thinking, you would not want to carry any sins with you as baggage on your trip through the dark underworld.  So what is the definition of this type of sin?  Well, it must be anything you have done that causes you to feel guilty.  Thus, guilt could drag your after-life thoughts down into the depths of eternal depression.

We know that Christianity offers a way to avoid this.  By believing that Jesus died for your sins, then your sin debts are paid in full.  You don’t have to worry about your sins because Jesus erases them.  Of course, that’s assuming that you truly believe this.  If your belief is based on a selfish desire only to eliminate guilt from the sins that you never really stopped committing, then there may be a surprise waiting for you.

But what actions and inactions deserve to be called sins?  Could that vary from individual to individual?  A hardened criminal may not feel guilty about killing a dog, but I would feel that I committed a sin if I even hurt a dog.  Is it a sin if you think you committed a sin, but you actually didn’t?  If a man paid an assassin $200,000 to kill his neighbor; but instead, the criminal gave the neighbor $100,000 to flee to Mexico, would this be considered a sin?

Well, I guess it depends on what you take into the afterlife.  It is possible that you may feel guilty about things that never really happened and you only thought that they happened.  That would still be a sin in your mind.  And it is possible that hardened criminals will not feel guilty about some actions that you would feel guilty about, but those hardened criminals are going to have plenty of other things to hang on their guilty tree.  It is a mistake to compare your feelings of guilt with those of others.  The feelings of guilt in the afterlife are very personal.

The bottom line is what feelings of guilt do you take into the afterlife?  Those are your sins.  If you truly believe in Jesus, then He will remove these burdens, which will lighten your journey.  This is not to say that your trip through the afterlife will be easy.  Your belief in Jesus will only make it easier.  None of us knows what lies ahead, but we can expect that consequences await us for all the poor choices we made during life.

It is critical to have a tour guide and Jesus can be that guide.  We like to think that we can handle everything on our own, but that is certainly not true in what may be the chaotic, dark unknowns of the underworld.  You must truly believe in Jesus and allow Him to be inside you and become a part of you and your every thought.  However, if you are not thinking after death, then believing in Jesus and God only did two things: (1) it made it easier for you to accept mortality and (2) hopefully made you sin less often.  But if you are thinking after death…

Left or Right?

During basic training in the military, we did a lot of marching shouting out jody calls to help us keep our cadence count as we were moving as a unit.  One of the chants was:  “Sound off 1-2, Sound off 3-4.  Sound off 1-2-3-4, 1-2 – 3-4.”  We also wanted to make certain that we were all marching on the same foot, so we would say: “To your left, your right, your left. To your left, your right, your left.  If you had a wife and 15 kids, you would have left; you would have left, you would have left, right now.”

I did my basic training in Biloxi, Mississippi, during the summer months.  We used to kid each other about holding a pebble in your right hand, so you would always remember which direction was right, just in case the heat fried your brain.  But it was interesting that we always wanted to know which side was right and not left.  Right was the important side, while left was just the other side.

As I got older, I found out that I was ambidextrous and could play tennis both right and left handed.  This came in handy when I had tennis elbow in my right arm, since I just simply switched hands.  My opponents said they didn’t even notice that I switched sides.  That either means that I was so bad right handed that they didn’t notice when I switched hands, or that they were paying me a nice compliment.

So, I grew up not really favoring the right or left side.  Even in politics, I always looked for the best candidate.  Before I could vote, I remember liking Adlai Stevenson, a Democrat, because I thought he was a very thoughtful politician.  Even then, I knew that he was an anomaly in politics.  I liked Ronald Reagan, a Republican, because he knew how to delegate and he accepted the blame for failures of his people.  After Papa Bush, I did not have any favorite presidents, either Republican or Democrat, but I liked what I read about President Truman, a Democrat.

As a moderate, I really prefer the middle, but as our society becomes more polarized, it has become increasingly difficult to remain in the center.  Both left and right wing extremists make you feel incompetent if you do not choose a side.

It is interesting that the Bible does take sides.  Jesus told his followers to fish out of the right side of the boat.  He also said that the goats, not entering heaven, would be on the left side, and the sheep, entering heaven, would be on the right.  Ecclesiastes 10:2 states, “A wise man’s heart is at his right hand, but a fool’s heart at his left.”

It is important to remember that Jesus preached temperance and moderation, but there are times when you have to choose a side.  And the Bible is telling you that the right, meaning correct, side is naturally right.  Jesus taught us to honor the poor and love your neighbor, which sounds very similar to left wing comments.

But there is a difference.  Jesus meant it, while socialist leaders do not.  The truth is that both left and right wing leaders are most interested in promoting their own interests.  It would be wonderful if Jesus were running for President.  I trust him and would vote for him.  However, there is no politician running for office, who even remotely resembles Jesus.  Politicians all have evil intent and motives.

So, when is the right side the right choice?  It is the extreme position that you must take when there is no more room in the middle.  When Jesus reached the end of his days on earth, he knocked over the money-changers table and took more extreme positions to make his points more effectively.  And not much is more extreme than being tortured and crucified.  All this was done to save mankind.  When all the bridges crossing the middle are destroyed, you must remain on the right and wait for the end of days, which will include torture and death at the hand of the left.

Morality vs. Societal Values in the 21st Century

Introduction

Morality is no different in the 21st century than it was in any of the centuries past.  Morality has always been based on the right thing to do.  The right thing to do has remained the same over the millennia.  It is embedded in our conscience.

However, societal values and laws relating to ethics interpreting the right thing to do are different today than they were centuries ago because these moral guidelines fluctuate with the government, ruling class, free time, and the education of the citizenry.

Let’s start with determining what “the right thing to do” is.  Whenever you feel that hiccup before you take an action or whenever you feel a tinge of guilt while taking an action, you know this is not the right thing to do.  Remember Jiminy Cricket in the Walt Disney movie, Pinocchio, and how he and Pinocchio were instructed to always let their conscience be their guide?  Even when we know the right thing to do, we can rationalize or talk ourselves out of doing the right thing with little difficulty.

But society interprets “the right thing to do” through laws and ethical codes.  So how does society determine what the right thing is?  I believe that a fair and just society can use either one or both basic methods for making this decision.  The first is what individuals think, and the second is what others think.  Ideally, the law should coincide with one or both of these ethical perspectives, but that is not always the case.[1]  Many governments, including totalitarianism, impose arbitrary and capricious laws and codes on citizens.

Subjective ethics are relative to the individual.  This theory is common in America, a country of immigrants from a variety of cultures with differing ethical values; however this subjective theory has inherent weaknesses because of our humanness.[2]  Objective ethics, also called rational ethics or moral absolutism, deems actions right or wrong based on a consistent objective test.  It imposes a duty on all citizens to refrain from violating the rights of others.[3]  Sometimes, it is the better approach.

The closest objective test in law I could find was included within the elements of negligence.  A legal duty must first exist between the parties to establish liability through negligence.  As mentioned above, the duty in objective ethics is to refrain from violating the rights of others.  The next element is a breach of that duty.  This requires the actor to meet the standard of care, which in many cases is what a reasonable person would or would not have done under the same or similar circumstances.[4]  In other words, would a reasonable person believe this was the right thing to do?

For example, you are shopping at Kroger’s and you haven’t eaten for five hours, so you are tempted to take a grape and pop it in your mouth.  Nobody would miss one grape.  What is the right thing to do according to 21st century society?  Well, let’s apply the subjective test.  The majority of people in today’s society would not have a problem with this.  Most would rationalize that nobody would really be hurt by the loss of a one grape.  The store would still sell the bunch of grapes, and the purchaser would never know the difference because each bunch of grapes had a different amount of grapes anyway.

In earlier centuries, stealing a grape would have been different from stealing a horse only by the value of the item taken.  But clearly, the moral and right thing to do would be to not take the grape no matter what century you lived in at the time of the decision.

What happens when we utilize the objective test in the 21st century?  Let’s employ the quantum of proof required for negligence just like we learned in law school.  In a civil case, the burden of proof is by a preponderance of the evidence also known as “more likely than not” and “greater weight of evidence.”[5]  A case under the Civil False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 2729, somewhat analogous to our determination whether an act is the wrong thing to do, also uses this burden of persuasion.[6]

Let’s first examine the preponderance of the evidence test.  If the scales are just a little lower with the weight of evidence on the side of this being the right thing to do, then it is the right thing to do.  We would have to examine all the evidence and place it on the scales of justice to see where the scales tip.

In this case, we have evidence indicating that taking the grape would be good for the decision-maker because it would stem the hunger until the groceries paid for get home.  We also have evidence that there will be little to no harm to Kroger’s or the ultimate purchaser of the grapes.  The theft of a grape would not be worth prosecuting since the value is so low.  Where do the scales tip in this instance?  A reasonable person would not consider the taking of a grape as the wrong thing to do or, in other words, the decision to take the grape was the right thing to do after examining all the circumstances.

In certain situations, you may find that the scales seem fairly balanced.  That is when we examine the “seven steps.”  These seven steps should be taken to determine if any of them tip the scales.

The magnificent seven are:

  1. Examine your “gut” feeling.  The NCIS “Gibb’s gut” is used.  If your “gut” tells you that the action is not right, then more than likely it is wrong.  This “gut” feeling could tip the scales for you on the side of deciding not to take that action.
  2. Take the “CNN test.”  You can substitute any newspaper or television news report for CNN, but you need to determine if the action could create “bad press.”  If you fear the action could lead to a problem with the media, you should, at least, run it by your public affairs experts.
  3. Examine the pragmatic angles.  If the action is not practical, then why gamble with it?
  4. Res ipsa loquitur – “the thing speaks for itself.”  This is an evidentiary rule that permits some degree of evidence from an inference of a breach by the outcome.
  5. Burden of persuasion is on proving that it is the right thing to do.  A tie goes to proving that it is the wrong thing to do.
  6. Err on the side of avoiding gray areas in the law.
  7. Avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

In this case with the single grape, how would the application of the seven steps work out?  Examine the seven potential tipping points.

  1. Your “gut” may be telling you that there are no real consequences to third parties.
  2. There will be no “bad press” because there is no potential for this being a violation of criminal law.
  3. Practical value of eating this grape to satisfy hunger is greater than problems encountered even if caught.
  4. A single grape makes little noise for itself.  It carries little significance in the scheme of things.
  5. The preponderance of evidence is that a reasonable person would do this and consider this the right thing to do.
  6. There is no legalistic gray area.
  7. If this appears to be a problem, then it is a problem.  This is where the 21st century ethics will not find this as even appearing to be a problem, while earlier centuries would find that the theft of anything would create the appearance of a problem.

And here is the tough part.  Even if the scales are level, the burden of proof has not been met, and you cannot take or recommend taking that action.  In other words, you cannot say that it was a “tie,” allowing you do nothing.  It doesn’t work that way.  Even if the scales are barely tipped to the side of not taking the action based on your “gut” feeling, the decision has been made, and you must argue to not take that action.

Who Makes the Final Ethics Decision?

Is there a judge or jury to decide the case for you?  Or is the decision entirely up to you?  Wouldn’t that be great if you could decide what the wrong thing was?  You could rig it so that you could never do the wrong thing.  All your choices would be spot on, dead center, right on target.  But if you “ain’t the king,” you are going to be second guessed by everybody.  Do I really mean everybody? Yes, I do, including: your supervisor, your co-workers, your secretary, your friends, your parents, your wife, your kids, and even your dog on bad days.

If your supervisor came into your office and asked you to change your opinion because it went against what the company wanted to do, how would you handle it?  Would you comply or would you refuse to change your opinion?  Would you apply the subjective test and rationalize that it wasn’t that big a deal to cave in to the boss?  Live to fight another day.  Or would you examine the situation using the objective test and present a logical argument to take to higher officials within the company, including checking with Public Affairs on their take on the issue?

When I was teaching the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) as an Air Force JAG to combat pilots, I always asked them to make their decisions after employing the “CNN Test.”  You can insert any news media in place of CNN, but CNN was big back during Desert Storm.

What did I mean by the “CNN Test”?  Any choices by pilots to fire or not to fire would be examined under the scrutiny of world opinion or the “CNN Test.”  What would the world think about this decision?  How would it appear in the newspapers tomorrow?  There was always the thought that in war, “you gotta do what you gotta do.”  We wanted the pilots to return safely from every mission, so if somebody were attempting to obtain a firing solution on them, they needed to fire immediately.  But if they had time to think through situations like in selecting targets, they should think about the consequences of world opinion.

Now, why should we care about what other people thought?  We are number one aren’t we?  We are more important than other people.  Who cares about other people’s opinion?  Well, we should care because society benefits from people doing the right thing.  We should place a high priority on doing the right thing and following laws.

 21st Century Decision Making

An eighty-year-old grandfather told his grandson that there was a battle going on between two wolves inside us all.  One was an evil wolf, filled with anger, jealousy, hate, greed, resentment, lies, and a huge ego.  The other was a good wolf with joy, love, peace, kindness, humility, truth, and empathy.

The grandson asked which wolf would finally win.  The old man leaned back and smiled, “The one you feed.”

I present 21 questions for the current century.[1]  I will first give the societal value answers of this century and then I will provide what I believe the moral answers should be.

  1. Why be good?
    21st century: There is no good reason to be the good wolf, so do what you want.
    Morality: Your conscience is a moderate, moral compass, telling you to be good.
  2. Is it ever permissible to lie?
    21st century: Yes, lying is permissible in many cases.
    Morality:  Your conscience permits lying only in moderate amounts, when it is beneficial to the listener.
  3. What’s wrong with gossip?
    21st century: Nothing.
    Morality: Your conscience tells you it is wrong when it is not done in moderation and harms others.
  4. Do you have an obligation to be healthy?
    21st century: No, you can do what you want.
    Morality: Yes, your conscience lets you know that you should live a temperate life and remain healthy so you are not a burden on others.
  5. May I take a grape while shopping?
    21st century:  Yes, because it doesn’t hurt anybody.
    Morality: No since quantity is not the issue in morality; moderation does not permit murdering of an infant because of their size; theft is theft and murder is murder.
  6. Is it wrong to make as much money as I can?
    21st century:  No, although this is changing as capitalism loses out to socialism in this century.
    Morality: you should live modestly and make as much money as you need to survive, avoiding greed.
  7. What are my obligations to the poor?
    21st century: None, although this is changing as capitalism loses out to socialism in this century.
    Morality: You should take care of the poor by teaching them to fish rather than giving them fish.
  8. Can we do better than the Golden Rule?
    21st century: Do unto others before they do unto you.
    Morality: Do more for others than you would do for yourself.
  9. Why can’t I just live for pleasure?
    21st century: You can.
    Morality: Your living for pleasure must be moderated by your conscience.
  10. Why can’t I date a married person?
    21st century: You can as long as the relationship is consensual.
    Morality: Because adultery runs afoul of your conscience and is not temperate sex.
  11. Are jealousy and resentment always wrong?
    21st century: No, these are human emotions that should be accepted.
    Morality: They are wrong when they are not controlled and you keep feeding them.
  12. What are the rules for respecting privacy?
    21st century: You have little privacy under capitalism and no privacy under totalitarian rule (socialism generally degrades into totalitarianism); both extremes in government take away your privacy.
    Morality: The Golden Rule applies to rules of privacy.
  13. What do I owe my aging parents?
    21st century: Nothing.
    Morality:  Your conscience will guide you to providing what your parents reasonably need.
  14. Should I help a suffering loved one die?
    21st century: Yes, if it means one less person on social security and an early inheritance.
    Morality: No, find a way to relieve their suffering other than killing them; murder is murder.
  15. Is “genetic enhancement” playing God.
    21st century: There is no God.
    Morality:  No, it is playing Hitler; genetic enhancement is a dangerous tool that extremists could misuse.
  16. Is conscientious objection a moral right?
    21st century: Yes, anybody can claim this right.
    Morality: It is a reasonable right based on our freedom of religion and convictions, but this right cannot be claimed for spurious and disingenuous reasons; conscientious objection must be done in moderation, following the conscience.
  17. Is it always wrong to fight back?
    21st century: You have the right to fight back as long as you aren’t going against the government.
    Morality: No, you can even go against the existing government if it is a bad government that does not support the citizens of that country; non-violent revolution is permissible.
  18. Should the death penalty be abolished?
    21st century: It should be permitted, especially for revolutionaries and crimes against the state.
    Morality: Yes, it is murder and thus is not permitted by our conscience.
  19. Is torture ever acceptable?
    21st century: Yes, it allows the government to obtain important information.
    Morality: No, it goes against the very fiber of our morality.
  20. Do animals have rights?
    21st century: No, humans are more important than animals.
    Morality: Yes, humans are animals, and your conscience tells you that all animals have rights.
  21. Why should I recycle?
    21st century: Because it is what everybody else is doing.
    Morality: Because it is the right thing to do.

 Conclusion

Have you ever looked for a book on moderation?  There aren’t many.  Have you ever wondered why?  My guess is because the extremists are the squeaky wheels who are always getting the grease to get their books published.  Extremists also have better sound bites for television interviews.  Furthermore, extremists make better headlines and will sell more newspapers and books.  Extremists excite you, energize you, and win you over to their powerful magnetic force.

Moderates are boring because all they want to do is stay in the middle of every argument.  They are the weak force.  But have you ever thought about how difficult remaining neutral really is?  When you have two extreme forces tugging at you, it is actually extremely hard not picking a side.  As the magnetic field strengthens, you generally are drawn to either the north or south poles.  No wonder the world is becoming more polarized with moderates becoming an endangered species.

When we make decisions, we are generally influenced by extreme positions.  Our two-party political system is an example of how two opposite sides polarize America.  Moderate parties generally do not win elections.  However, my conclusion is that people should utilize moderation in making choices in life.  The “Golden Mean” of Aristotle, the “Middle Way” of Buddha, and the “Balanced Order” of Confucius are the heart of virtue ethics.

The 21st century societal value answers to the 21 questions were not moderate.  But the morality answers tended to be more balanced.  That is not to say that the morality answers were perfect.  Any human answers are flawed by humanness, which is found in us all.  But moderation is perhaps the best goal that we as humans can utilize to achieve a heightened sens of morality.

Unfortunately, a revolution generally does not lead to the reinstatement of morality.  Typically, it leads to a new government with new laws, which more than likely will be based on something other than morality, subjective ethics, or objective ethics.  The new leadership will have its own self-interests to serve.  Even communistic revolutions, promising power to the people, have ended up with totalitarian governments taking away everything from the people, including their lives.

Perhaps, this is why morality should be the choice of the people rather than societal or governmental values.



[1] Gordon W. Brown, Paul A. Sukys, and Mary Ann Lawlor, Business Law with UCC Applications, 8th Ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1995), 3 and 8-9.

[2] Brown, 4.

[3] Brown, 7.

[4] Richard A. Mann and Barry S. Roberts, Smith and Roberson’s Business Law, 9th Ed. (New York: West Publishing Company, 1994), 175.

[5] Roger C. Park, David P. Leonard, and Steven H. Goldberg, Evidence Law, A Student’s Guide to the Law of Evidence as Applied in American Trials, 2nd Ed. (St. Paul, MN: Thomson West, 2004), 93.

[6] Brian C. Elmer, et al., Fraud in Government Contracts (Washington, D.C.: Federal Publications Inc., 1993), 3-15.

[7] Many of these questions are found in “Moral Decision Making: How to Approach Everyday Ethics” by Clancy Martin, a professor of Philosophy at the University of Missouri – Kansas City.  The answers are my own.

Reasoning with SO-SO Loops

Is it better to reason with subjective (a priori) logic or objective (a posteriori) logic?  Many philosophers have picked either the Descartes subjective side or the Bacon objective position.  Why not use both?

SO-SO is the acronym for Subjective Objective – Subjective Objective.  Please examine the SO-SO Loops included below.  You start with the “Instinct” or Deductive Reasoning on the right-hand side of the circle with the top-right Subjective “I Feel” and work clockwise around the circle.

This cyclical movement ensures that many inputs and sources are considered before making a decision.  And it is important to run through this reasoning process at least twice, thus earning the name SO-SO Loops.  If you just utilize this cycle once, your decision would be just “SO-SO.”  This thought process is designed to lead you to making enlightened and more moderate decisions.

 As I said, the Loops are “SO-SO” if just utilized once, but your decisions will improve exponentially if you repeat the process at least twice.  After you have worked through the loop once, do a “gut” check and run it through the cycle again.  This is the circular path that can assist you in making moderate choices.

Have you ever looked for a book on moderation?  There aren’t many.  Have you ever wondered why?  My guess is because the extremists are the squeaky wheels who are always getting the grease.  Extremists have better sound bites for television interviews.  Extremists make for better headlines and will sell more newspapers.  Extremists excite you, energize you, and win you over to their powerful magnetic force. 

Moderates are boring because all they want to do is stay in the middle of every argument.  They are the weak force.  But have you ever thought about how difficult remaining neutral really is?  When you have two extreme forces tugging at you, it is actually extremely hard not picking a side.  As the magnetic field strengthens, you generally are drawn to either the north or south poles.  No wonder the world is becoming more polarized with moderates becoming an endangered species.

When we make decisions, we are generally influenced by extreme positions.  Our two-party political system is an example of how two opposite sides polarize America.  Moderate parties generally do not win elections.  However, I am suggesting that you utilize moderation in making choices in life.  The “Golden Mean” of Aristotle, the “Middle Way” of Buddha, and the “Balanced Order” of Confucius are the “ABCs” of virtue ethics.

We all make difficult decisions every day.  That is our job at work and at home.  Don’t shy away from it.  Embrace it.  Come to work excited to be challenged by these choices. 

And when you run into a really tough decision when it looks like the scales are balanced equally… when it looks like you can argue the case either way, then go to your gut and ask yourself, “What is the right thing to do?” Not what is the easiest thing to do… not what is best thing for my career, but what is the right thing to do?  The right thing is usually the hardest thing to do and not for the faint of heart.

Reasoning

Subjective                   Objective

Deductive (a priori)              Inductive (a posteriori)

(self-evident propositions)             (observed facts)

Instinct                                     Logic

Start

1. Subjective “I Feel” – My conscience, intuition, or “gut” feeling

2. Objective “They Feel” – Reasonable person’s laws, mores, society

3. Subjective “I Think” – My logical conclusion

4. Objective “They Think” – Reasonable person’s logical conclusion

Then loop back around and go through the process again.