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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bush, Palin, Obama and Hillary: The Same in Change: Changing The world and Getting out of a Paradox

A fox, a chicken, a bag of grain and the smelly old farmer,  who owns them all are on the side of a river bank. The farmer wants to get to the other side with all of his possessions intact. But---he can only cross with one of them at a time. Considering he's got a microcosm of the food chain at his feet, how does he cross without loosing one possession to another? How does he cross without losing the chicken to the fox and the grain to the chicken?  Most adults have a very hard time solving this riddle. Why? Because, they are forward thinkers.

We think about solutions as linear in time: We complete step 1, we complete step 2 and then step three, and then we get our final outcome, the solution to our problem. And, we never go back to step 1 or two. Now, many direct problems are solved with this forward thinking; however, many problems cannot be solved like this. The crossing problem certainly cannot. And, many of our most important political problems cannot. Watch the news, or  listen to political conversations in school, church or Starbucks. They all have one thing in common: they are forward. Consider the political debates of our time: Immigration, Social Reform, and market fluctuations. We build a fence for immigration, we add to existing systems in social reforms, we stabilize the market with more money. All of these are forward thinking. We see a problem and we add to it.

But, like in the riddle, we keep ending up with the same outcome. Something always gets eaten. Immigrants are starved, murdered or get across anyway; The poor get poorer and the rich get richer or the poor get more dependent and everyone gets poorer; and, the market absorbed more money, and then again goes through it's boom and bust cycle, and people continue to get a fortune or lose a fortune. It seems like we are living in a paradox: If I take the chicken first, then I either have to leave it with the grain or the fox when I go back for the grain or the fox. If I take the fox or the grain first, It is the same.

So what do we do if what we have always done isn't working--although many would Americans would say, "it does work!". But, that is only because they are too uneducated (or watch too much FOX news (it is so entertaining)) to realize that western nations (and China) are build on the failures of other people. We use our most impoverished because they are willing to do necessary but terrible work; we use 3rd world nations because they strip their nations wealth for us cheap because their officials are corrupt and their people desperate; and we use other nations as dump sites for our toxic waste, so we don't have to see it's effects and affects and we make a dime off of it while we are creating "Cancer Villages". And, even our middle class in America keeps fluctuating, losing their houses and malnourishing their children because they can't feed their children nutritious foods.

So, what is my proposed solution? Go back. We need a fresh start. There will always be the fox, the chicken and the grain, but we can go back and figure out how to keep them separate and thriving. We'll always have those who easily get power, those who are easily taken advantage of and the resources in-between. We have to get across the river, though, and move through time to a better place. We can't cross the ambiguous waters where the change of movement allow predators to thrive unchecked and feeders to eat themselves out of their only supply of food. The people, those who are the thinkers, the dynamic moral thinkers, usually the educated middle class, those who can see both sides of the bank and all that is in-between, need to solve backwards.

We've been working building on systems that are hundreds and thousands of years old. Now, we need to look to our sociologist, philosophers, psychologist, ecologist and maybe some of the best economic theorist, and look for a better system of doing things. We need a better design, one that is not based on a predatory system, like unfettered capitalism. Instead of building on these old systems--politics, current financial systems and educational systems--we need to start a new.

Politics needs to be eliminated. We should not choose our leaders like we choose between Coke and Pepsi. We should develop system of leadership that puts the best people in the best positions without compromising representation. As a starting step, we should not allow a person to be chosen based on appearance, charisma, or unlimited funds. Instead, we should find a way to allow the public to choose based on principles that are more valid. For instance, all leaders to be elected should should have their entire life laid bare in all things relevant--like financial history, academic writings and college transcripts. Instead of limiting political ads as they are, they should be eliminated. There should be a way to post information about political things that is completely without the flash and manipulation.

Also, until the education system can fixed there should be a special series of classes for voters that is based on the best educational theory, one researched by our brightest minds, that helps people learn basic valid reasoning, like recognizing fallacious reasoning, and psychological principles, like how easy the mind is to persuade and in which ways; and, also, how to operate in the new system of voting, where you have only writings and other appropriate materials to show what the candidates are like. Everyone who wants to vote should be required to have these classes and made so that no matter what ones situation, they can easily take the class.

We need an entirely new system and as a nation and as the world, we need to discover what things we need to change piecemeal and which things we can change immediately and completely. Politics, as it is, can be changed almost completely--Now. It needs to. Economics and education may need to be piecemeal. But all of it needs to change in synch with one another. And, it needs to happen in a generation, lest others forget the movement.

Pollution, food and Reproductive Rights: Go Green and be Eco-friendly With Birth Control

The general topic of this paper is reproductive rights . And the two major questions of this paper are is it ethical to legally restrict the number of children a person or a couple have (conceptually); and is it unethical if we (as in those who inhabit the planet) do not legally restrict the number of children a person or a couple has? To establish this we will need to find what the link, if any, there is between reproduction and the primary rights of health, safety and autonomy; then, we need to discover whether unlimited reproduction can potentially negatively impact those rights; and, if so, is that a current or eminent problem for us. If it is ethical to restrict the number of children a person can have, then it might be beneficial; if it is beneficial and necessary to protect future or present health, safety and autonomy, then we are ethically bound to legally limit the number of children a person has. There are, however, some significant accusations against legally limiting the number of children a person can have. Two are that are the most significant are that reproduction is a fundamental right, and, also, that legally limiting the number of children a person has constitutes a eugenics policy. To deal with these problems we will need to ask, if it is indeed the case that these restrictions can be ethical and beneficial, then in what cases it would become unethical. For instance, when would it violate a fundamental right?

First, what are rights? Rights according to Mill are “When we call anything a person's right, we mean that he has a valid claim on society to protect him in the possession of it, either by the force of law, or by that of education and opinion”, which, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2009) calls “Those things which ought to be so protected were, in his view, those which concerned the fundamentals of human well-being. In this essay, we’ll stick with Mill’s and Stanford’s definitions. The keys to this definition are a valid claim to protect and fundamental to human well being. So what does it mean to be ethical or unethical? We’ll define anything that violates this right—which is that valid claim or something fundamental to human well being—as unethical, and anything that maintains or promotes a right as ethical.

Now, is unrestricted human reproductions a right? Reproduction, in general, might be a right because it might be, and in many cases surely is, necessary to human well-being. Reproduction might be vital to autonomy in the pursuit of happiness and mental health because the parent role may be one some humans are programmed by nature to fulfill, but this is a psychological question, one that psychologist would need to answer. However, at this point, we can say that it is not as primary as the need for food, or medical care, or safety, or the freedom of individual to seek those. Because, many live without children in healthy, safe and autonomous way, but no one can live, or live healthfully, without food, medical care and safety. And, furthermore, we can say that unrestricted reproduction is not a right at all because it might reduce the overall utility, the rights of the many, for the uninhibited expression of the few.

How could it reduce the utility—which is the overall distribution of rights—of the many? Well, consider this thought experiment. Imagine that all there are hundreds of people, men and women, who volunteer to live in a giant room with a class ceiling (literal not metaphorical)—and live there forever. This room is equipped with ample housing for the hundreds of people there and ample water which renews once a day from a pipe into a huge basin, which is far more than enough for the current population. They are also given tons of sunshiny space in this room to plant different crops, and the crops are booming from this oh so fertile soil even though the skills of the new farmers are week. After a time, these people start having children, lots and lots of children, and the more food they produce through innovation the more children they have. For years, no one can see anything but prosperity in this giant room. But, soon, the population grows so much they have to start conserving water and conserving food, just so everyone can live. Even with their innovations, the room-community isn’t able to keep up; they have reached the level of diminishing returns and have started to strip the soil irreparably. And, soon, the housing is too little and they have to encroach on growing land just to support keep people in adequate living. But, people just keep having babies, cause they love children. Would it be ethical for the room-community’s leaders to legislate how many children are born. It surely would. Because if they keep having children, then they will soon damage their land too much to support their population at current levels, no one will get enough water, there won’t be enough housing, and there won’t even be space to move if it keeps up, so all health, all safety, and all autonomy will be compromised because the people did not govern the number of children they had when it was at an optimum level. Every couple might have been able to have two children, and maintained an optimum level of living, if they had possessed the foresight to consider they were in a closed room earlier.

In this example, it is clear and obvious that because they did not regulate one portion of their desires, they were left with no autonomy and eventually very little health, at all. But, is it the same for our world? Will there ever be a time when it is ethical to consider limiting the number of children people have so we don’t irreversibly destroy our resources and where our lack of resources—like food, water and space—cause us to lose even moderate levels of health, safety and autonomy? This again is obvious, bar new advances in space travel: we live in a close tightly interconnected, shared and closed system, like the room. There is only so much land we can use for housing without building into agriculture and there is only so much farming we can do without destroying our fragile environment (like other species) and the arability of our land.

The question is, when should we let the environment dictate our rights or should we limit some things, which we consider rights, so we can maximize the rights of the many over time? And, if so, when should we do it? And how? Remember, we defined rights as something necessary for human well being and something that a person has a valid claim for society to protect. This being the case, it looks something like this: unlimited, unlegislated reproduction causes a decrease in overall utility, or the overall human well-being, and, therefore, it is not a right; and furthermore, because government has a duty to protect the utility—health, safety and autonomy of the people—it has the duty to restrict the number of children a person has. It would be unethical for us, especially as a democratic society, to not limit the number of children we can have, if we are close to passing the optimal level of population, or we have already passed that level.

If we have are at the point where we as a world or a nation or a state need to start controlling reproduction, what would an ethical control the number of children look like? How would it be enforced? And, how would it deal with problems like twins, triplets and so on? China, who’s One Child Policy is infamous, and has been very effective, is currently facing the problem of enforcement. And, there are two major methods they use—there are many, some terrible—forced abortions and a mandatory birth control ring, which is implanted immediately after the birth of the first child, that is constricts the fallopian tubes so the egg can’t pass through (BBC news, 2000). The first, abortion, illustrates a problem in enforcement because in what was meant to preserve health is now compromising it; and, the second, that there is a way to avoid those enforcement problems through preemptive work. There are many safe (at least, safer than having a child) birth controls out there, which are permanent and can be ethically given while in an already intensive medical procedure. There then comes the problem of having more than one child at a time, either naturally or through in-vitro fertilization. Natural multiple births need not be a problem because they are rare, they are simple facts of nature and the same procedure for birth control used on all woman after their first or second child can be used after the fact—she would just have gotten lucky, or unlucky, depending on her perspective. The greater problems would come with in-vitro fertilization and the abuses it allows; however, that need not be a problem with proper oversight guidelines for doctors, as well as censures, like the loss of their medical license or fines, for abuses.

Some might argue that restricting reproduction, even in the face of dangerous overpopulation wouldn’t be a ethical or a good idea because we are always advancing and can stop or undo the damage that we caused in the mean time. However, this is a terrible way to look at a problem. It is intuitively bad if we look at it in a real world situation. What if you’re in a ship with a bunch of people in the middle of the ocean, and you’ve started to sink. Now, the ship is sinking, but the crew, if they all worked through the day and night, giving up a few meals, and just buckling down below decks working could save the ship and everyone on it. But, the captain and the crew tell you, “we’re all going to the mess hall to get something to eat instead fixing the ship cause it’s nasty work, so we don’t want to do it—but don’t worry: sometimes the Coast Guard comes by so we could be fine”. If this were the case we would all see the folly of the assumption of future technology. However, the term new technology is a glossy term that engenders the idea of power over circumstances and never having to compromise or settle. It gives the appearance of substance, but in reality it is hollow and useless for situations such as this. To say that we’re ever growing in technology will save us from any disaster is like being offered the tools to fix your car, and telling the person who offered “no thanks, I’m waiting on God because he has come through for you so many times before”. Hypothetical solutions are not solution they are potentials and nothing; we must use current, real solutions, to solve real problems.

But, are the accusations that controlling the number of children a person has is eugenics and racism? Eugenics is restricting certain populations from reproducing, or killing them, and promoting others. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines eugenics as “a science that deals with the improvement (as by control of human mating) of hereditary qualities of a race or breed”(1883). So, on the one hand the claim that it is racism and eugenics to control population numbers is unfounded because it is about promoting the human race by limiting its numbers, not by promoting one specific subset of human. However, there may be an unintentional eugenics-like effect due to the different proportions of different ethnic groups in different areas and especially if the minorities are quickly catching up with the majority through reproduction. This is an issue that will have to be dealt with fairly in any reproductive legislation. Because, while preserving earth’s resources and correspondingly our rights, it may, at the same time, degrade the social evolution of those cultures and society in general.

That being said, it is still a question as to whether or not a policy that limits the number of children a person or couple has is needed. According to Scientific American (2009), our world is falling apart because of overpopulation. It points to overpopulation as the source of the problems of pollution, “the wholesale loss of bio-diversity”, and the loss of land and water. According to the Global Environment Outlook 4 (2007), a United Nations publication, “This assault the global environment risks undermining the many advances human society has made in recent decades. It is undercutting our fight against poverty. It could even come to jeopardize international peace and security”. And it goes on to say, “Available supplies are under great duress as a result of high population growth… The water-supply-demand gap is likely to grow wider still, threatening economic and social development and environmental sustainability… Making good on the global water and sanitation agenda is crucial to eradicating poverty and achieving the other development goals”. These concerns were raised mainly over pollution and water; however, land management is becoming a huge problem as well. And, again, it goes on to say that there is a concern about land because 11 percent of our land is already used in agriculture and in many places there is almost no room for further expansion due to land and water shortages.

We are looking at human rights and government stability breaking down because we no longer have the resources to sustain ourselves our growth. We are on the precipice of a disaster that needs more than talk and hypothetical scenarios. According to The World Population Monitoring Report (2001), our population, to many experts has already maxed out our worlds carrying capacity—the capacity of our resources to renewably sustain us—and, the median of all estimations put us around at over capacity in year 2200, when our population is suppose to be 10 billion. Our world population is forecasted to be 7 billion by 2012 and 9 billion by 2050, according to a UN press release by the Population Division (2009). We have reached a point in our history where the population is a clear and present danger. For at least two hundred years, with Malthus, we have known about this problem, and, now we are confronted with it in all its size and mass(World Population Monitoring, 2001). The consequences would be even more dire if we waited another two hundred years.

It would be unethical for us to take the imaginary, hypothetical way out instead of controlling reproduction through legislation. It is the most direct and efficient rout. Cultural change is too slow without a boost and persuasion is as well—people are too busy and tired to worrying about the world population. When faced by clear and present dangers, like this, it requires the educated, the knowledgeable and the powerful to take charge and do what is right because they are looking from a clearer perspective

. There is a cliché of saying we are building depts that our children will owe. However, we are possibly making depts that no one can ever pay back. If we don’t make the hard, ethical decision to control our population through legislation, we are very likely consigning future generations, who we share the earth with in time, to much less basic human rights, if any, than other generations have enjoyed. It would unethical to leave the problem to fix itself because we are stealing the freedom health and autonomy of future generations if we are wrong about it fixing itself and because we liked the idea of making more people for that generation.

The signs to knowing when we have maximized health, safety and autonomy through legally limiting the number of children people can have will be clear. There will be surplus of resources, lower income disparities, a far lower poverty rate, a far lower number of malnourished people, and more people who are educated and have adequate health resources—and the clearest of all: a reduced population.

To sum up, we have established that there is a link between resources and rights, and that our resources are dwindling as our numbers are growing. We have established that having an unrestricted number of children is not a right, and that it may even be at odds with ethical decision making. Also, that if we don’t solve the resource problem our rights as a society will decrease and that it is our ethical duty to maximize health, safety, and autonomy by restricting reproduction through legislation, because it is the fastest, clearest and most present approach to controlling the numbers problem. And we will know when this has been effective when we see a better allocation of resources across peoples.


"Another Inconvenient Truth: The World's Growing Population Poses a Malthusian Dilemma". Scientific American . July 28th 2010 <>.

"Eugenics". Merriam-Webster. July 28th 2010 <>.

"Global Environment Outlook 4". United Nations Environment Programme. July 28th 2010 <>.

"Legal Rights". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy . July 28th 2010 <>.

"World Population and Monitoring 2001". DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL AFFAIRS POPULATION DIVISION . July 28th 2010 <>.

"World Population Prospects, the 2008 Revision". United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division. July 28th 2010 <>.

"China Steps Up 'One Child' Policy ". BBC. July 28th 2010 <>.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Education, Philosophy, UNF and Sarah Palin's Front Porch

All of us have had the experience of being frustrated and clueless in our first philosophy class---if not for most of them. And, lets not forget the terror of a dropping GPA . To many, philosophy is as punished, as obscured by past personal failures, as math has been. This is a terrible crisis. It seems like just another cliche, but this is a cliche that needs to change because effectively teaching sound reasoning is probably the simplest and most effective solution to cleaning up our squalid political world--and setting the foundation for a better  future.

If philosophy is the path to sound reasoning, and sound reasoning is the method to a better future, then it should also be that philosophy has been subjected to the best research in learning theory, and that the classes that teach philosophy are arranged so that even the mediocre IQ can manage to learn to think with the best thought-technology around. It should be arranged so that learning sound reasoning is an accessible, manageable and personally profitable process. This is not the case now.

Philosophy is taught using text full of old words, old syntax and cultural backgrounds that are no longer salient. Professors  have to either ignore or teach all the background necessary to understand philosophical principles, hundreds or thousands of years of it, in a single semester---and then teach the important principles themselves. Students are left with their heads spinning and many if not most are filtered out of philosophy, all together.Philosophy has become an elitist discipline, with only those indifferent to grades, or those highly motivated, or those who are intellectually gifted or all-of-the-above making it through even a minor successfully.

The text and the language, they have a huge part to play in the study of philosophy, and they definitely should be introduced---slowly and consistently. This is one of the great strengths of the UNF philosophy department: they introduce the literature well. However, there needs to be a large scale move to make philosophy universal. Philosophy, of all the academic disciplines, is the most important for a thriving society. It is the great measure of sound thought. Which is of great need in all societies, but especially in such societies that vote people into office based on slogans, like "flip, flop", and on posters with pleasant pictures like HOPE. We, as a democratic society, have sold ourselves to the decore of the political arena, where car salesmen dressed as leaders determine the salience of political debate. Since I've studied philosophy, every year people become dumber because I see past there flash, quickly. we need an entire nation, a world, of people who see past the flash---a world of philosophers. At very least, we shouldn't let our college students get out of school without being compelled to vomit after watching C-span, or having the ability to see past the glare of bright colors, catchy slogans and the raucous of political collective-monologue.

I was walking through the UNF campus last semester, and it suddenly occurred to me that these students are the best our nation has to offer. They're the university students. Most of our nation doesn't have university degrees. At very least, these people, the minority educated class, should be able to reason soundly. However, listening to even philosophy students about to graduate, makes me realize: we need to do way better. Listening to everyone else makes me want move to Alaska---the part that even Sarah Palin can't see from her front porch---build a shack and give up on the world except for the periodic angry letter and manifesto mailings. But, then again, that sounds like the Unabomber, so guess I'll take my chances with city life.