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.

The Passing of the Greatest Generation and its Values

Tom Brokaw wrote a book in 1998 called, “The Greatest Generation,” about the American generation that survived the Depression and went on to fight for freedom in WWII.  Brokaw wrote in his book, “… it is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced.  He believed that the men and women in this generation fought not for fame or recognition, but because it was the “right thing to do.”

We are losing this WWII generation on a daily basis and as they pass the baton to the younger generations, I wonder if this older generation’s values are being passed along or are they being passed over.

Former president Jimmy Carter wrote about this in “Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis” in 2005, which was “dedicated to our children and grandchildren, for whom America’s basic moral values must be preserved.”  Carter wrote, “I am convinced that our great nation could realize all reasonable dreams of global influence if we properly utilized the advantageous values of our religious faith and historic ideals of peace, economic and political freedom, democracy, and human rights.”

What is causing this erosion and endangerment of our former values?  I call it a “creeping extremism.”  You see it increase every day as extremists throughout the world are committing egregious acts without significant consequences from moderates who used to be in the majority.  Extremists have begat extremists, so that they are becoming the new majority.  This is polarizing our world, removing the moderates, who in the past made our world a better and safer place to live.

What is happening to the generations that follow the Greatest Generation?  Well, they have not had the same moderating influences.  Going through a depression will significantly influence your value system.  I remember my father and mother both believed in “doing the right thing” no matter what the consequences might be.  They were selfless and made moral decisions based on how their actions would impact others.  Today’s generations, without the moderating influences of major economic and wartime pressures, are selfish and their moral values are based on how their actions will impact them.  It’s all about me and not you.

Now, these are generalizations.  Clearly, there are some members of younger generations who are wholly committed to serving society and not themselves.  But it is a matter of percentages.  A great majority of the younger generations have not gone through economic deprivation and therefore have placed themselves on a high pedestal.  They believe that “greed is good.”  If these individuals were asked to give their lives for their country, I suspect I know what most of them would say.  And their question would be, “What is in it for me?”

The problem with extremism and fundamentalism taking over the world is that it will lead to worldwide totalitarianism.  There are those in powerful positions today who believe that they should control the world for themselves, not for the benefit of others.  There is a big difference between philosophical Marxism, which is designed to benefit the working class, and the real-world communism, which controls and subjugates the working class.  The new world leaders will want the rest of us to be completely under their control.  When “freedom” is no longer important to the masses, it will be replaced by “free” government entitlements.  The masses will become addicted to the government and just like drug addicts will give up their freedom for a fix.

So as we lose the Greatest Generation, I pray that moderates within the following generations can maintain some modicum of control to protect our children and grandchildren for a few more years.  However, I think the most we can hope for is to preserve democracy for the remainder of this decade.

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…

Perception of Reality

Reality is only what you perceive it to be.  In other words, your senses detect information and you translate that into your perception of reality.  It may not even be close to another person’s reality, but it is your reality.

If you were deprived of all your senses, you would still be thinking and would be conscious, but you would have no sight or sound or smell or taste or touch to provide you information on your reality.  So reality might become something altogether different with sensory deprivation.  Reality might become a surrealistic landscape with giant insects crawling toward you.  Or it might be a hellish environment with molten rock pulling you down into a volcanic lava flow.  It could be anything your imagination creates or anything you cannot stop from creating.

Reality then is fleeting and determined by our perceptions.  If our brains are dysfunctional, then reality will suffer because our perceptions will be distorted.  If you are schizophrenic, you may hear voices telling you to do things, so your reality will be very different from those who don’t hear those voices.  Even if these voices cannot be heard by others, the voices are very real to those who hear them.  One person’s reality may be another person’s perception of somebody who is out of touch with reality.  My reality may not be your reality and vice versa.

So if reality can vary from individual to individual and depends on a variety of sensory data, how can society judge which reality is correct?  Is it based on what the majority of people think reality is or is it based on what the government dictates what reality is?  And if your perception of reality differs from what the society or government dictates, are you wrong?  Should you conform to the reality that others describe and proscribe?

One argument is that an individual’s reality should not be allowed to interfere with the reality provided to a society by a government.  The common good for the masses would outweigh the good for the individuals.  But is that really true?  If reality is superimposed on a society by a totalitarian government, is it always good for the masses?  Let’s take the Nazis effort to exterminate the Jewish race as an example.  The reality of a superior race, eliminating the Jews as a form of ethnic cleansing was not good either for individuals or the masses.  It was only good for a short period of time for the leaders of the Nazi party.

True, there are some who have mental conditions that make them dangerous.  Their perceptions of reality are distorted by those conditions.  However, it may be difficult diagnosing and categorizing these conditions, since there are world leaders like Hitler and Stalin who probably had mental conditions that changed the reality for the German and Russian citizens for many years.  If you live in a totalitarian regime, your reality becomes that of the mentally challenged leaders.  If you don’t conform to that reality, you will be tortured and murdered.  This is a reality that I hope you don’t encounter during your life.

The biggest issue with reality occurs after you die.  If you die and you are no longer aware of anything, then you are “dead” dead.  There is nothing more and there is no reality after death.  But the problem occurs if you are conscious after you die.  What does your reality become at that point?  Is it like the totalitarian rule where a power dictates your new reality?  Or is it your individual spirit that will create your new reality?

The dilemma is how you will respond to this new environment.  Some people need guidance and prefer being told what to do, so that a totalitarian ruler would be able to control their after-death reality.  But others may think that they are independent enough to handle the after-death experience by themselves.  This would be like traveling past the event horizon into a black hole, attempting to dictate what happens next.

Your reality in this new universe is an unknown.  You may or may not have your senses to assist you.  Without your senses, your imagination may be your worst enemy.  You may think about being buried alive in a very confining coffin.  Your mind may create a most hellish environment that becomes your new reality.  In that case, having a guide, perhaps even a totalitarian guide, might create a better reality.

Our perception of reality that is most comfortable to us is found in a moderate, comfortable, balanced, and controlled environment.  A chaotic quantum world would be a nightmare for us.  We are comfortable in a controlled solar system around us, yet we have a quantum universe inside us.  In other words, our reality is steeped in what we see outside us, but if we die, it is possible that we may collapse and fall into the chaos of quantum mechanics.

What would our perception be if we were in several different locations at the same time?  What if we were riding on a quark without any clocks or calendars?  What would we think if we had nothing to hold onto?  How devastating would it be to our thoughts if we had no distractions of sight, sound, smell, taste, or touch?  My best guess is that most people would lapse into a psychotic state, hallucinating most of the time without any end in sight.

So what is our perception of God?  Is God reality?  Many have faith that there is a God, but I suppose we will not really know until we die.  After death if we are still thinking, then four main realities may be perceived:  (1) you may have no belief in God, thus God will not be in your reality, leaving you to your own devise without anything to hold onto; (2) you may consider yourself as being godlike, being in charge of everything that happens in the afterlife; (3) you may perceive God as a totalitarian authority who controls everything, leaving you to God’s providence; or (4) you may perceive God as being inside you, uniting you and God as one in the afterlife.

Of these four, I prefer number four.  Why?  I have heard stories about tough prisoners who were placed in solitary confinement and captured soldiers who were tortured with sensory deprivation and how they broke down after a short period of time.  Many hallucinated and suffered greatly.  Without anything to hold onto, these hardened prisoners and soldiers went through complete meltdowns.  They were reduced to being emotional wrecks, out of control.  That is why I have no confidence in our species dealing with the afterlife by itself.  If we are still thinking upon death, we must have a powerful belief that we can latch onto like a life preserver in the storm.

Many religions emphasize number three.  Why isn’t that a good option?  Well, it is certainly better than the first two, but it fails to deal with entity that is thinking.  If you surrender yourself to a God who is not within you, then that God is outside of you.  You give up all control to a God that may become something created by your imagination or something that morphs into just the opposite of what you expected.  If you are thinking after death, then you must deal with that entity that is still thinking.

It really does not matter what religion you carry into the afterlife.  But you must have a solid faith in God.  However, it must be a God that is inside you at death.  You must be fully united with God.  You must be one with God.  I selected Christianity as my personal religion because it is the only religion I know that eliminates all your sins before death.  This is important because you must not carry any guilt into the afterlife.  If you are thinking about bad things that you did during your life, you will punish yourself more than any Devil ever could.  If you are claustrophobic, you will stuff yourself deep inside a shrinking shaft for eternity.  You get the picture?

But no one knows exactly what will happen until we reach the point of departure.  I do have faith in God during this life because I believe that you cannot just select one of these realities at the last second.  If you want to have God inside you, you need to prepare in advance and let Him inside you long before you die.  After you die, it may be too late to be one with God.  Living with yourself for an eternity would be hell.

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.

God’s Love

There are many definitions of love: to cherish, devotion, tenderness, to caress, to fondle, to copulate, to take pleasure in, to like or desire, to feel affection, to thrive in, just to mention a few.

Perhaps the majority of men think that making love is the act of copulation.  Perhaps the majority of women think that making love is the act leading to copulation.  But human love generally leads to copulation. 

But there are types of love other than erotic or passionate love.  There is brotherly love.  There is agape love between brothers in Christ.  There is the love that a father and mother have for their children.  This may be the love that God has for his children, but we do not know for certain because the God of the Old Testament appears to be different than the God of the New Testament. 

There may be a love that we as humans cannot understand.  We see the manifestations of the love Jesus had for God and for us, but we do not fully understand that love.  What greater evidence of love is there than to lay down your life for those you love?  Jesus did that for his father and for mankind.  He accepted all the torture and pain for our benefit, certainly not his. 

We know that soldiers will sacrifice their lives protecting their brothers in arms. We know that the remaining eleven apostles sacrificed their lives as followers of Jesus. We know that other Christians were sacrificed for their beliefs, and they reached a level of love that may be required to enter God’s heaven. 

So what is God’s love?  Unfortunately, this is an unknown.  We may be assuming too much if we believe that God loves us so much that He will forgive us for all the mistakes we made during life.  God’s love may be something we have no comparison for in our world.  In fact, God’s love probably is alien to us because it exists in God’s universe. 

But Jesus is our intermediary to God’s world and God’s love.   We believe that Jesus loves us absolutely and completely, and because of that we can love him absolutely and completely.  If we love Jesus a little bit, but treat the Ten Commandments like they were a multiple-choice test, then we can expect our love to fall short of what is required in the judgment.  If we successfully avoid committing sinful acts, but our thoughts are corrupted with evil’s poison, then we can expect our love to fall short of what Jesus taught in the Beatitudes. 

When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.”  Matthew 22:37-38.  So, loving God with everything you have may be the radical way you have to love God.  I say radical because you must be willing to give up everything you have and own.  You must renounce everything, including your health, your wealth, your family, and your life for God’s love.

The Bible is our best source for determining the three steps to loving God with all your heart and soul. 

Step One.  In Matthew 1:21, “… he (Jesus) will save his people from their sins.”  Jesus stated in Matthew 10:32, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.”  Jesus emphasized faith when Peter failed to walk on water in Matthew 14:31. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”  Jesus healed a boy plagued with a demon while his disciples could not.  They asked Jesus why they could not drive out the demon.  In Matthew 17:20, he replied, “Because you have so little faith.  I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there and it will move.’  Nothing will be impossible for you.” 

After his resurrection, Jesus told His disciples to preach the good news to all creation.  He said in Mark 16:16, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”  In Acts 15:11, Luke wrote, “We believe it is through grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved…”   In Romans 3:22, Paul wrote, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.  He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

In other words, if we believe in Jesus as our Savior, we enter heaven’s first gate through the grace of God.

Step Two.  Once we receive God’s grace, we may not continue sinning.  In Romans 6:16, Paul wrote, “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness.”  In effect, Paul was saying that once believers received God’s grace, they had an obligation to lead righteous lives.  Paul talks about the Holy Spirit that will direct your righteous actions that will please God.  The Bible talks about judgments based on our acts and deeds, so logically, there must be a second judgment with consequences for what you did or failed to do during life.

But it was James, a brother of Jesus, who made it clear that faith was not sufficient by itself.  In James 2:17, James questioned the good of wishing someone well without taking any action.  He wrote, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

In other words, our actions and deeds during life will be examined by Jesus to determine if we are worthy to enter the second heaven.    

Step Three.  The final step is a mystery known only by God.  The step into the third heaven, his kingdom, is limited to just a few.  In Matthew 7:14, Jesus said, “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

We only know about the three heavens because Paul wrote about them in 2 Corinthians 12:2.  However, very little is known about the three heavens.  The three potential judgments or steps discussed in this article appear to match the three heavens.  But there is nothing in the Bible listing three judgments. 

John the Baptist preached in Matthew 3:2: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”  The kingdom of heaven is mentioned 33 times in Matthew.  Repentance in the Bible is more than just saying I am sorry; it is a radical change in your lifestyle, renouncing our sinful nature and returning to the kingdom of heaven.  We can imagine that the judgment for the third heaven, which is listed by the author to refer to the entrance into God’s universe, requires a draconian approach to avoiding sin in your actions and in your thoughts, but it also demands that you give up everything in this universe and be prepared to sacrifice everything including yourself. 

This test will be extremely difficult because our human thoughts dip into sinful venom before we can stop it and we find it difficult giving up our worldly possessions and even harder to suffer pain and torture.  But in order for us to reach the third level, we must be willing to sacrifice ourselves, our family, and all that we touch in our world.  We must be extreme and radical in our love for God.  We must be willing to be crucified for our love just like Jesus.

As radical and excessive as our love must be for God, God’s love may be moderate.  At least, I hope it is.  If God’s love were a passionate love, it would burn out quickly.  A passionate relationship forever is not realistic, because just like stars, it eventually burns all its fuel and then explodes.  But a consistent love could last forever.  I pray that God’s love is moderate and lasts forever.

When I hope that God’s love is moderate, I do not mean I am wishing for a God that will love us less than we have loved him.  I mean that I desire God’s love to be based on moderation and temperance.  In a chaotic world, God hopefully has a moderate love that is under control.  This, logically, is the only type of love that could survive eternity. 

When you first started dating your spouse, you probably had a very passionate relationship.  After several years of marriage, your passionate fires were turned down to medium.  After several decades of marriage, your relationship probably changed and became less passionate and more moderate.  Most love stories revolve around passion based on extreme emotions that do not last.

God’s love is probably very different from the loves you have had during your life, requiring a quid pro quo.  God’s love is a gift of moderation after you have crossed the final gate, bearing the cross of crucifixion as well as Jesus did.  And don’t be embarrassed about loving God.  You must learn how to love God in an extreme fashion in order to enter the third heaven.

You can start with the love you have for your family.  Emphasize that type of love and bring that to your conversations with God.  Over your life, you can hopefully develop a relationship with God that will facilitate your judgments before Him in the afterlife.  The first heaven is not difficult, but the second is difficult.  However, the third heaven requires an extreme love for God, requiring a full commitment, being willing to sacrifice everything, including your family and body.

It is likely that the first two heavens are still in our universe, leaving the third heaven as the final portal into God’s universe.  Only a few will leave our universe and enter God’s kingdom, which means that the rest of us will remain behind to be recycled in our universe.  But that does not discourage me from doing my best.  I will love Jesus as the mediator, doing my best to pass the second judgment.

One of the things that I do is I mark down which virtues and good acts I have accomplished on a daily basis.  And I try to improve on these righteous acts and incrementally make myself a better person each day.  I try to model myself after Jesus as much as I can.  I think of it as getting a little closer every day, knowing that I will never reach the perfection of Jesus.  Jesus is my role model.  I have not been persecuted and tortured like Jesus, but I am prepared to accept that if it comes to pass.  

My love for Jesus and God will be equal to the love that I have.  I am prepared to give my all even if I do not make the third heaven.  I will do my best and will never stop trying to improve.  For I believe that God’s patient and moderate love is waiting for me.                       

Tipping Points

Our earth is located in what scientists term the “Goldilocks Zone” because it is “just right.”  If we were not located exactly where we are in the solar system and in the galaxy and in the universe, we probably would not exist.  Extremophiles probably live in hostile environments throughout the universe, but mesophiles, like our species, need a stable and moderate habitat or they cannot survive.

There have been mass extinctions throughout the life of our planet with the Permian extinction having the distinction of killing off the most – about 90% of the species on earth at that time.  Some scientists are concerned that we may be on the brink of a sixth major extinction since plants and animals are dying off anywhere from 100 to 1,000 times faster than they did before humans came on the scene. 

Scientists at Duke University completed a study, published May 29, 2014, in the journal Science, that measured the rate at which species are disappearing from earth.  In 1995, the researchers found that the pre-human rate of extinctions was roughly 1. Now, that rate is about 100 to 1,000.

Stuart Pimm, the study’s lead author, said habitat loss is mostly to blame for the increasing death rates.  As humans continue to alter and destroy more land, animals and plants are increasingly being displaced from their natural habitats.  Climate change is also a factor, he added.

So, with the balancing point of nature being “just right” on our planet, it probably does not take much to tip the balancing scales to one side or the other, which will have devastating effects to those species which cannot adapt in time.

There are many potential tipping points on our planet:  (1) climate change, (2) ocean currents, (3) frozen methane, (4) buried black carbon, (5) permafrost and glacier melt, (6) hydrological cycle, (7) reduced sea ice, (8) draught, (9) bacteria resistant to penicillin, (10) proximity of sun, (11) proximity of moon, (12) volcanic activity, (13) pestilence, (14) movement of asteroid belt, and (15) other things that we may not even see coming, such as black energy and black holes.    

Although global warming focuses on greenhouse gas as the culprit, there are other more significant sources of carbon that would be more dangerous tipping points that would contribute to major climate change that might lead to mass extinctions.  These sources of carbon are black carbon buried in soil, methane frozen in water, and volcanic eruptions.  In fact, the Permian extinction may have been caused by all three of these releases of carbon. 

The most devastating of the three releases may be methane, which has an exponential impact.  As the climate warms, more methane is released.  As more methane is released, it causes our temperatures to go up higher than they would with releases of carbon dioxide.  This melts more methane, causing even higher temperatures with a tipping point being reached with runaway releases like in the Permian period.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, have found that there is black carbon only about six and a half meters below the surface in Kansas, Nebraska, and other parts of the Great Plains where ancient soils are filled with black carbon and plants that have not yet fully decomposed.  These carbon stores could be released into the environment via erosion, road construction, mining, or deforestation.

Erika Marín-Spiotta, a professor at UW-Madison and a coauthor of the study, which was published earlier this week in the journal Nature Geoscience, stated, “It was assumed that there was little carbon in deeper soil.”  Since most soil studies do not penetrate deeper than 30 centimeters, scientists had dramatically underestimated underground carbon reserves that could be released into the air.

Erika explained that carbon reservoirs in buried soils can lurk in a range of environments—under dust accumulation, in floodplains, in valleys, at the foot of slopes of hills and mountains and under lava flows.  She said they are likely to occur in many other parts of the world.

Marín-Spiotta said as much as 5.95 trillion pounds of carbon could be lurking in the depths of the Great Plains area her team looked at.  That’s assuming the ancient soil forms a continuous layer across the region; the researchers were only able to collect measurements from specific points and don’t really know what portion of the region contains the carbon-rich soil.

This giant carbon bomb could be released over the next few decades as we clear cut more forests and see more erosion in draught-prone areas.  We have already seen recent exposure to the atmosphere.  But for the subterranean reserves, Marín-Spiotta believes a number of factors are at work, including how much carbon there really is, how much has persisted since it was buried, and what kind of carbon is down there.

Though Marín-Spiotta says the buried reserves carbon don’t pose an immediate risk to rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, but land managers need to take precautions, since the researchers found that the ancient soils are more reactive than was previously understood.

As with all tipping points, there can be multiple contributors to the final point of no return.  And these contributors can have exponential effects on each other.  We probably will not know when we have reached the tipping point, but our ancestors will not only know when that tipping point had been reached, but will also suffer the consequences.

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.