The Social Contract:
You and Me and Society

by Ken Wear, Nov. '05
Links & comments on links at end

I am here; you are here; through no act or fault of our own we exist. Do I owe you; do you owe me? By virtue of our existence, do I owe society; does society owe me? Can I, through a choice over which you have no influence, commit you to spend your time and substance? We are bound together in a social contract, not of our choosing, that cannot be voided, that places bounds on our activities and expectations. We who obey the terms of that Social Contract are entitled to the protections of that Contract; others forfeit protection.

Thoughts of deity aside, I own me. I am an individual wholly within my own skin. My brain operates independently of all others through its internal connections. I am adult, not yet determined to be senile or of compromised mental function. I have unfettered freedom to do as I wish so long as I accept full responsibility for the consequences of my actions, accord to others the same freedom, and do not intrude on them or harm them in any way. Each of us is a separate, unique and independent individual.

There are among us those who have not yet reached an age of accountability. As they grow and develop physically and mentally they progress from total dependence to independence and the freedoms I enjoy. Society has set certain benchmarks for their acquisition of responsibility and independence of action, such as 18 for military service, 21 for voting, differing ages for marriage -- although science tells us the brain is not fully developed until about age 25. Again, we have among us those who were formerly fully functional but through disease or accident or advancing years are judged to be no longer capable of total responsibility and independence of action. We of sound mind must enunciate principles by which we determine our roles as individuals and as a society.

There are also among us whose who would, for personal profit, pleasure or satisfaction, willingly (and possibly heedlessly, even aggressively) pursue activities that have the potential to impose obligations or hardships on their fellows. You must place these attitudes in your scheme of desirable attributes and decide to what degree the social contract demands you assist others in their selfish pursuits.

While I enjoy no elevated status, and it would be arrogant to suggest my opinions are superior to yours, I commend these thoughts for comparison with your opinions. Click on specific topics:
Topic------Topic------Topic
religion beginning of the individual infancy and childhood
sexuality culture of life marriage and prostitution
disabilities, addiction risky sports and professions athletics and the future
racism women's rights social justice
senior citizens end of life adulthood and adult issues
prohibitions greed and motivation wealth and money management
charity (public&private) suicide and assisted suicide environment
government world population will we end civilization?
If these presentations help you solidify your opinion, they have served their purpose.

I repeatedly refer to the concept of 'accident of personal history.' Much of what we experience comes about without deliberate choice on our part; it is an outgrowth of our response to the immediate environment in which we are immersed, which comes about without our rational direction; it is not willfully sought but an accident of personal history. Footnote has an example.1To view footnote, click here..

Religion

The most fundamental question of religion is whether there is an aspect of self that is in addition to the physical structure of this body. For myself there is; I am both body and spirit. Since my spirit is an element of the Spirit Realm, with deity at its head, life without involvement with deity is an absurdity; I cannot comprehend life without the constraints and aspirations promoted by recognition of the role of deity. For myself I have been led to accept the ideas of Rational Theism. I am today. But you must choose what is worthy of your belief.

Self-interest, however much you may protest otherwise, is way ahead of whatever is in second place in your life. And your own religious outlook is a prime component of your self-interest. Whether you have rejected religion, are a 'cradle' believer, responded to the appeal of a preacher, chose to add rligion to an otherwise successful life, sought involvement as an opportunity to pursue selfish interests, sought religion in desperation to correct a life that had gone askew, dedicated your life to promote a cause, accepted responsibility for others, or simply "want your share," you regard every aspect of your being as pursuit of your own self-interest. And your religious outlook is persuasive in that pursuit.

What do you worship? Is it a scroll or other artifact safely deposited in an obscure niche at your house of worship? Is it money or its benefits? Or is it the deity whose forebearance has in effect made these things possible? The mind plays tricks on us; devotion to religious tenets may be so deeply ingrained that it is nearly impossible to sort your motives and identify the influences of religion on your life and activities.

The strength of religious conviction of many people amazes me. Most of us arrived at our convictions through an accident of personal history rather than the exercise of reason. Many who endorse Atheism came to that stance through rebellion at what they recognized as rationally unsupportable doctrine rather than through rational comparison of alternatives. Many religious people endorse the narrow doctrinal pronouncements of one denomination or another, which they learned through recitations by someone they trusted, and stoutly defend them against all challenges, utterly without recourse to exercise of mind. I assert that we ought to use what mind we have to resolve conflicts between our various areas of knowledge.

Many religious Fundamentalists apparently seek to deny progress because it presents a challenge to their faith. But there will always be those who seek for themselves the advantages progress affords them and they will forge ahead. In time the results of progress will prevail, Fundamentalism will be consigned to the ash heap of history, and the surviving religions will assimilate the results of progress. I don't advocate the reckless disregard for religious tradition, but I do recognize the inexorable impact of time and events; religious institutions, like all else, must adapt if they are to survive.

The "American Dream" is predicated on tolerance of the religious views of others. Living in harmony with neighbors who have followed different paths to enlightenment requires you respect their mistakes just as they respect yours. Regardless of the superiority of your religious faith, others are allowed to plod along their mistaken ways, and you have neither obligation to coerce them into your views nor necessity to defend your views. While you are free to revel in your good luck of having learned the religious principles you practice, others enjoy the same privilege of self-determination.

Almost. We preach religious tolerance, then prohibit mutilation of a woman's sex organs taught by her religion, or required Mormons to give up their practice of plural marriages, or reject the practices of the Muslim's Sharia law that require theocracy in place of democracy. While one of the strengths of this country is the fact that people of different religious faiths can live harmoniously together and support common objectives, tolerance has its limits when used to teach sedition. I have no quarrel with people accepting any religious teaching that appeals to them, but when they preach the destruction of the nation that offered them that freedom, their teachings encourage sedition. Not only can sedition not be tolerated, but it must be banished from our society.

As an aside: The more I learn about the amazing complexity of the human body -- the structures and their interplay -- the more convinced I become that a vastly superior intelligence was at play in the body's design. This is my notion: Deity and His subordinates were involved in -- sometimes manipulating for their own purposes -- the evolution of biological entities on Earth. Intelligent Design, if you will: Give credit where credit is due. The basic notion of evolution is evident, that successive generations produce random changes in individual members of their kind, which, over the generations, lead to markedly different characteristics in their descendants. The theist-atheist dispute questions the role of deity, if such exist, but I submit that the on-going saga of life on Earth, as well as in other locations in the universe, is as much a surprise to deity as it is to us; notions of free will would not have it otherwise.

Sexuality

Although our genes sometimes seem confused, predominant sex forms are either clearly male or clearly female. Strength of sexual desire, however, runs the gamut from extremely active to disinterest in intercourse or actual revulsion at the thought of two bodies coming together in acknowledgment of their sex. Let me set aside discussion of those whose bodies are physically unclear in their sex, reportedly some one in 10,000 having confused X and Y chromosomes at birth.

In an opinion newsletter I once edited discussion of homosexuality and abortion never ceased. Those discussions plus extensive study led me to the conclusion that about 4% of males and 3% of females consider themselves homosexual; of these some 40% were genetically predisposed while the balance commenced their homosexual identity as a matter of choice or as an accident of personal history1 To view footnote, click here.

A long time correspondent to my newsletter apparently had little sex drive but did enjoy feminine clothing; he 'came out of the closet' as a transvestite after the deaths of both parents. He later joined a household of transsexuals because, I suppose, they shared the experience of rejection by 'normal' society. But he found the interests of men who became women, or women who became men, were not compatible with his relatively mild rejection of sexual mores such as cross-dressing. So he moved out.

I have been informed that homosexual behavior was common in ancient days. How will herdsmen entertain themselves during months of isolation as they follow their herds? In recognition of possible pregnancies, how can sexual urges be satisfied where there is no knowledge of contraception? So the Greeks segregated whole armies on the basis of sexual preference and their homosexuals were reputed to have been their most ferocious warriors. (Perhaps we should return to the Greek model in this regard.)

What in a woman's body urges her to intercourse with a desire that increases with elapsed time since her last sexual encounter? In the male body fluids accumulate in various organs and pressure for their release increases with accumulation. (An individual spermatazoon takes 8-10 weeks from genesis to maturity and storage is in the testes because sperm cannot survive body temperature; several ejaculations in short order result in decreased semen ejected with each orgasm so other components of semen must be stored and be depleted during successive orgasms.) I find no comparable storage sites in the female anatomy and question how storage would fit within a menstrual cycle. Although there are sites where hormones are stored, none seem related to sexual arousal. I disbelieve that the only arousal mechanism for women is physical or erotic stimulation, that time is not a factor. Two suggestions have been offered: 1) while her whole body is sexual, whatever introduces the time factor lies below the neck and 2) research in this area has been ignored.

I am not familiar with the teachings of other religions, but Christianity strongly endorses men being men and women being women; I regard departure from that delineation to be sexually perverse. At the same time, charity dictates (and the church encourages) compassion toward all. Regardless of sexual orientation, we share the needs of housing, sustenance, freedom of conscience and activity, education, good government, etc. (I should likely include sexual expression in that list.)

Government has no stake in the sexual expression of the individual so long as that person refrains from transgressing on others; should persons of like sex choose to live together that is no concern of mine or anyone else not a partner to the choice. Moreover, it seems rational to allow public recognition of a choice of one to commit his life to the welfare of the other. Since I regard marriage as a religious sacrament while our laws make of it a civil union, I favor recognizing 'civil unions' as a legislative matter and allowing the church to work its wishes on 'marriage.' But I don't want homosexuals intruding on me in any sense, either personally by subjecting me to sexual advances or politically by insisting on more than a fair share of public attention or public funding.

Marriage and prostitution

I am distressed at the flippant, cavalier attitude many take toward production of their replacements in this world. Of course, sex is an instinctive drive, with men urged on by the pressure of accumulation of sperm and other fluids in their bodily organs and women -- apparently having no comparable accumulation -- seeking satisfaction for other reasons. But we are endowed with brains that supposedly reckon with consequences.

We have no records, and I doubt the fossil record suggests when early man recognized the connection between practice of sex and pregnancy; but I have no doubt instinct brought men and women together in the sex act. And the growth of marriage as an institution undoubtedly was encouraged by the recognition that one man paired with one woman offered the most practical and peaceful means of satisfying both instinct and the demands of community.

Nature has provided reason for a woman to have a single sex partner. Introducing cells of a different DNA into the body, as in organ transplant, requires medication to suppress the immune system. Preparations placed on the skin, or on the lining of bodily organs such as the mouth or nose, are absorbed to some degree; and the tissue lining her sex organs absorbs secretions introduced during sex. So a man's sperm, when absorbed, introduces to the woman's blood stream foreign DNA and her body must respond to accept it without harming her immune system. Thus a single sex partner, with its limited antagonism in her body due to contrary contributions of DNA, places a lesser burden on her immune system. Emerging research shows that conditioning a woman's immune system with a particular man's sperm reduces the incidence of exclampsia (convulsions) during pregnancy; other consequences will undoubtedly emerge from continued research. Not only should she enjoy better health with a single sex partner, but the environment for a fetus should suffer less compromise, leading to a healthier infant.

Whatever lies behind it, our young are apparently driven at ever-younger ages to experiment with sex; it has resulted in a sub-culture of children having children. Our educational system has failed to adequately intervene, but I do endorse education of youngsters in the universality of sex in reproduction -- in Nature as well as extension to human reproduction. Neither do marriage laws appear to be effective in encouraging children to avoid the activities leading to pregnancies. It is beyond reason to suggest oversight of our young people adequate to preclude experimentation, so we must depend on education to persuade them to be responsible in their response to their sexuality. I suggest, as part of our schools, subjecting all girls after age nine or so to periodic urine tests for pregnancy (by a collection by classroom or grade - or even school - and then individually should there be a suggestion of positive indication) and automatically aborting every pregnancy where no responsible adult steps forward to guarantee financial support of mother and child.

Prostitution as a career choice has resulted in reducing the pressure on men for sexual release with randomly selected victims. Unfortunately many people feel that passing a few laws will repeal instinct. Prostitution will be practiced, whether criminal or not; I endorse giving it a cloak of respectability by licensing, mandating a degree of education of licensees, and encouraging development of a medical system to curb sexually transmitted diseases.

Some say marriage is itself prostitution. Where the choice of mate is dictated by financial concerns, I agree that it is selling the body for financial gain. Admittedly the ability to spend is a strong incentive because of the raw sense of power it confers, but happiness is more elusive and it is personal traits that will create the emotional bonds that produce happiness. A co-worker, engaged to wealth, said she could be as happy with a rich man as with a poor man. She was undoubtedly correct, all else being equal. But I suggest that personal traits are more conducive to happiness than the bank account.

Perhaps this is the place to define the term 'marriage.' The time-honored relationship was that of one man and one woman united to be recognized as one; the intervention of civil authority should not be allowed to preempt definition of such a natural relationship. But, when a license is required for the legal recognition of that union, it is apparent the result is a 'civil union,' even if the time-honored relationship of marriage is intended, since the civil authority has prescribed the terms for recognition. Thus the use of the term 'marriage' in legal discourse and documents should be restricted to that natural relationship and the term 'civil union' should be used where civil authority has been imposed.

Live-in lovers have become common in our time; it has become an ordinary prelude to (and often substitute for) marriage. In a practical vein, the practice serves the purpose of instinct; in a legal vein it fails to establish property rights. It does not encourage normal family life -- the begetting and rearing of children -- and I question if it truly fulfills the emotional urge for closeness. I think the practice an ordinary and predictable outcome of introduction of the birth control pill and the sexual revolution it spawned.

Beginning of the Individual Person

At what point in the progression that gives rise to the person does the social contract come into play? What shall we use as a marker that a human person is present? Mental activity? Ability to feel pain? An organized grouping of cells? A nascent person? A wholly separate but dependent being? A person capable of exercising independence? Where in the chain of development can we say with assurance there is a being who must be nurtured, a being in which society (or government) has a legitimate interest? Where is that magical moment before which a cell is just a cell, a natural product of the routine operation of physical law, and after which we must recognize its equality as a member of the human family and hence warrants the protections we afford citizens?

I won’t enter the “When does life begin” discussion -- It takes life to create life -- because I feel it is misdirected. (Both the ovum and spermatazoon are living cells, but, separately, are they alive?) But let us review the chain of development to see if we can pick out that magical moment after which a new person must be recognized.

In the culmination of a process that began early in the development of an embryo slated to become a female, a germ cell that becomes an ovum is nourished within a follicle in the ovary; when mature and the right balance of hormones is reached, the follicle ruptures, releasing its ovum into the Fallopian tube. Each ovum includes in its gamete 23 of the 46 chromosomes necessary to produce a new being. Of the several millions of sperm in a single ejaculation several may be strong enough to propel themselves up the Fallopian tube to greet a descending ovum and upon contact attempt to penetrate the protective cell wall of the ovum. Ordinarily that cell wall hardens when penetrated so only one spermatozoon can enter. Once in the ovum the spermatozoon must migrate so its gamete with its 23 chromosomes combine with the ovum’s gamete to give the 46 -- the zygote (with its DNA or blueprint) -- necessary to development of a new being. Once merging has occurred we say the ovum has been fertilized; then the multiplicative process begins. The descending zygote is nourished by nutrients that were contained within the ovum; it soon consists of many cells and grows into the blastocyst with its layers of cells around a central cavity, eventually reaching the uterus where, if conditions are right, it will become implanted and become the embryo in its own sac to maintain its distinct vascular system. Once implanted in and nourished by the uterus, the blastocyst continues its multiplicative process to become the embryo (generally designated as such for the first trimester); from there the process continues to produce a fetus (the second and third trimesters) and, eventually, a birth. Unfertilized ova simply continue their journey and are discharged from the body.

Evidently only one spermatozoon may enter the ovum, else there would be the competitive struggle to combine with the ovum's gamete.6To view footnote, click here I know not what sort of competitive struggle takes place among the several sperm greeting the ovum. Nor what sort of competition there may be in the uterus should two ova have been released and fertilized, giving rise to two blastocysts).

It should be obvious that much of the above, often through the embryonic stage, takes place beyond the watchful eyes of either male or female participant in the sex act. At some later time -- usually days or weeks, but sometimes months -- the woman becomes aware of her pregnancy. My question in all the above is this: Where in the chain of developments is that magical moment when the product of fertilization becomes of societal concern? And, in a practical vein, how can we detect the passage of that magical moment? It has been my contention in the abortion debates that discovery of pregnancy is the moment of medical or societal concern, and before discovery the ordinary concerns of good health, livelihood and pursuit of happiness prevail. If you differ with me you in effect assert that a sexually active woman is hostage to her sex because of the continuing need to nurture a presence unknown to her, even if there is none. Some women may welcome being hostage because they wish for pregnancy while others may find it an unwelcome intrusion into their pursuit of other objectives. (Parenthetically, it is the essence of freedom that a man and a woman are equally free, even in the marital union, to select and define each his own objectives.)

It is an absurdity to require by law that the utmost in medical abilities be brought to bear to secure each product of the sex act from its demise either from the time of recognition of pregnancy or from the moment a spermatozoon has successfully penetrated the outer layer of an ovum. I have seen monstrous medical expenses laid upon people with no hope for payment, thus consigning them to a life of poverty, in order to preserve a life that cannot, because of a known deficiency, live a meaningful life. I have seen marriages torn apart by the needs for special care so that one parent is consigned to a life of despair.

A subscriber to an opinion newsletter I once edited related her personal experience. She was philosophically opposed to abortion, but when her own teenage daughter became pregnant they reflected on the consequences in her aspirations for her daughter’s life and the daughter’s aspirations for her own life. They dashed off to the abortion clinic. Stark reality overruled philosophical opposition.

Infancy and Childhood

To what extent do parents "own" their children? The state? Birth is one event in the continuum of nurture from fertilization of the ovum until a new person is capable of acting independently. Our moral structure is deeply rooted in an unfathomable past; in modern times birth is the event after which the state assumes a life is due society's protection. Yet the mother (or parents) are expected to exercise responsibility for continued nurture including meeting physical needs, education and instilling values. Were this not true, the woman is relegated to the status of incubator for the state.

Does anyone doubt for the slightest moment that a homosexual man or woman will influence children under his control to adopt a homosexual life style? Would that not be a violation of what he sees as his own person? I see unions of two lesbians (or homosexual men) who had children by marriage and now have custody: families of two female parents or two male parents with children. And I hear the argument that homosexual persons should be allowed by law to adopt children. Children need adults, preferably loving adults; we cannot yank children from their lawful custodians, nor should we remove them from an environment where they are loved and thriving, but it is folly to suggest a homosexual parent will aggressively take steps to insure his children will adopt a heterosexual life style. (We should be mindful that only 1.6% of men and 1.2% of women2 To view footnote, click here -- or some 10% should you accept numbers advanced by the homosexual community -- have a genetic tendency toward homosexuality; and we should expect children to have genetically determined homosexual tendencies in roughly the same proportion.)

Child pregnancy: I recognize this as a land mine issue. The specter of a child, not yet possessing the mental faculty to rationally act independently, haunts me. As suggested in my essay on abortion, our public schools should regularly conduct tests for pregnancy and, in cooperation with parents, seek the best outcome for both the pregnant child, her family and society as a whole. Religion -- or ethics -- undoubtedly plays a part, but I am adamant that one person should not be allowed to impose his religion or ethics on another, certainly not with the force of law. In private school situations it should be parent-school contact how an unplanned pregnancy will be dealt with; in public schools a uniform policy should be set within the school system, and parents of children in that system should be made aware of that policy and their options.

If a school is not available, because of geography or economics, that satisfies the parents' ideas of how their children shall be treated, they have the option of relocating where an acceptable school is available. I do endorse sex education in all schools, public and private, with parents selecting the age at which each child will be expected to undertake that aspect of his education. And, where there is lack of a parental role, a uniform policy should be established by the school board. Let's get out heads out of the sand!

Steroids: Who would have thought it: pre-teen and teenage girls using steroids to hasten their development of a womanly figure. Why?! Motivation scares me. Are they anxious for the enticements of sex? Are the teen-age years so emotionally disturbing that they wish to by-pass them? Will it encourage more manly features in the later teens and early twenties -- the antithesis of what they seek now? Is the notion that there is a pill for every purpose, cultivated by drug companies from infancy, turning our culture inside out?

Masturbation: I present without discussion the question whether, in the absence of organized sex education, it would be preferable to present a teenage boy with a clean and effective means of relieving the sexual tensions of adolescence while respecting a girl's wish to retain her virginity.

Can infanticide be morally justified? It is not always possible to determine before birth if there are such severe physical or mental deficiencies that life presents questions of quality of life or object of affection for the new-born. If there is validity to the idea of continuation of life for the spirit after death of the body, the possible deliberate release of the spirit from the body moves the question of infanticide to the fore. Does continuation of that life delay the process of attachment of that spirit to another body better prepared for life's contingencies?

Culture of life

We do have minds; we do observe; we can assess the probable worth of an individual to himself. Let me assert: It is folly to insist that all products of sexual activity should be aggressively protected and nurtured until that grouping of cells dies on its own, whether pre-natal or in old age.

Whether eugenics ever becomes commonly and willfully practiced, it should be obvious that evolution has done its job when the individual survives long enough to propagate his own kind. An extended life span must be the product of deliberate effort to learn what factors affect life span; it must be the product of exercise of mind.

For weeks the words of the song "you're nobody 'til somebody loves you" have imposed themselves on my mind. It is a truism that, should you not contribute in some way to a meaningful life for someone else, or someone else to you, in eyes beyond yourself you may as well not exist. I wonder how many lives of mischief and crime have resulted from the simple cry "I am here, too; is there someone who cares." Seems natural enough since loving and being loved are among life's major goals. Of course, the social contract cannot be voided by your lack or the lack of others.

Stem cell research: I have been studying cells. Each cell is an immensely complex community even when specialized to a specific function. Stem cells seem even more complex in that they have the capability to be the root or stem from which grow various kinds of specialized cells. In adults stem cells may be extracted from specialized sites that limit their further differentiation. A human blastocyst may consist of hundreds of thousands of cells by the time it has descended to the uterus to become implanted there, and cells are already specializing into precursor organs. Stem cells of maximum versatility must be extracted very early in the multiplicative process and are best taken immediately after fertilization of the ovum, which is for this purpose best accomplished by artificial means in the petri dish.

I don't question that even the zygote has the potential to become a person when properly nurtured. But it remains within the province of the owner of the zygote whether or not to pursue nurture of any particular zygote. Fertilization clinics have unnumbered zygotes that must be either implanted or destroyed. It is senseless to insist that the only acceptable form of destruction is discard. The potential to be a person will be realized only after delivery of the infant from the womb. How can we insist that the zygote or blastocyst that is inevitably bound for destruction has the same moral status as a child or adult who may be made whole through use of that cluster of cells?

Whether there should be an industry arising from artificial fertilization of ova for the purpose of research I leave to ethicists. It is an argument into which I don't wish to engage.

Cloning will eventually be successful in producing a human adult; that is the nature of progress in science. But whether tellomeres or some other limitation will intrude to degrade the cloned product, either immediately or through the succession of cloned generations, may not be known for many generations thereafter.

Should there be traffic in body parts? Should it be possible for a person to offer on the open market to buy an organ he needs and then pay the donor? I suspect that with monetary rewards many people who prefer to simply bury their dead would find the profit motive compelling and that the availability of organs would be greatly increased. After all, the dead have no need and will suffer no loss, but the recipient may well find renewed hope for an extended life span after receiving what is to the other disposable trash.

Modern medicine, both traditional and alternative, has fallen heir to selfish motives, a major factor being the intrusion of government. Each of us wishes the best of health for himself, but most of us feel inadequate in knowledge of bodily processes, disease agents and chemistry; whether or not they deserve it we must place confidence in those who presume to have the best preparation modernity affords. But our FDA has become a bureaucratic vehicle of personal ambition, has imposed its bureaucracy on medical practitioners, and is so influenced by drug interests that health has become secondary to the profit motive. "It's the economy, Stupid. Why would any right-thinking person limit himself to a penny aspirin when there is a $5 prescription pill to do the same job?"

Are medicine and heredity moving in opposition? The most powerful medicines undoubtedly affect our DNA since they instruct our bodies to alter their natural tendencies. And the search is on for knowledge of DNA so as to strengthen specific attributes of the person. The consequences of alteration are unknown and will likely remain outside the realm of specific knowledge for generations. Generations!: The original blueprint for the body will have been lost. Whether this bodes ill or well for mankind cannot be predicted, but, in our zeal to heal today, we had best be aware that tomorrow comes, and the effect on hereditary changes won't lend to correction.

Hitler's Germany and the Soviet Union both undertook selective breeding of people to produce genetically superior beings. Why did they quit? I would guess that there was the realization that the offspring would not be content with the social order that gave rise to their being. In other words, the project carried the seeds of destruction of its sponsors.

Protracted coma: To be forced to decide to withdraw life support: What an awful predicament! There are known instances where a person has fully recovered after months of vegetative existence, but medicine now has the tools to determine if the brain has suffered severe irreparable loss, and application of such tools should ease the emotional trauma of ending life support. Our sense of humanity must be our guide.

Irreversible mental decline: I advocate respecting the stated wish of someone who has lost, and is unlikely to recover, mental capacity. As long as I have the mental capacity to determine the life/death tipping point, my wishes should be focal in decisions regarding my care. I sometimes think of the inhumanity of forcing a person to continue life when he has lost the capacity to recognize that his life has no quality whatever, he is not the object of affection of any known mortal, and the only rational reason for his continued existence is the income care-givers receive for his care. In cases where disease or accident has resulted in severe mental decline, we need publicly-accepted rules to help us determine when deliberate steps should be taken to allow a life to end or to end a life. Again, our sense of humanity must be our guide.

Irreversible physical decline: Only the afflicted can evaluate his own wish to overcome his obstacles to living a life that is acceptable to him. And only his care-givers can evaluate the burden of care they are willing to accept. It seems unlikely that a conflict dictated by financial concerns will be happily resolved, but I advocate allowing someone to seek assistance in ending his own life. It is, after all, his life.

I cannot speak for another, but, should I lose, by stroke or some other calamity, the greater part of my reasoning power, I would not wish to continue life. In addition, since I live alone, should I lose the ability to move about on my own, even though my mind is not seriously degraded, my quality of life would be unlikely to offer sufficient reward to make continued living worth the cost although I reserve the right to make that decision. Of course my attitude may not be shared by all since I have also taken steps to will my body to a medical school for either harvest of parts or use by students.

Severe emotional trauma or depression: This is outside my experience; I cannot evaluate for another and offer no opinions.

Euthanasia: A cultivated sense of decency and humanity must come into play in making life/death decisions.

Athletics and the future

It seems natural that we prefer winnng over losing. In the larger picture we as a society must reflect on the relative merit of cultivating an individual talent versus preparing an individual to participate in all aspects of life that may become important to him. There is no question of the appeal and rewards of public adulation for superb performance in competitive athletics, but I am mindful that we should strive for balance in preparing an individual for the challenges life will most assuredly present.

The push to be dominant in athletics, considering our recent gain in understanding genetics and chemical enhancement of individual performance, is bound to produce some interesting results. Use of steroids to increase muscle mass (strength?) has been common for years. In the recent Winter Olympics, and in the earlier summer games, cheating by way of chemistry (as well as old-fashioned favoritism) hit the headlines. Chemicals that leave a residue in the blood can be detected, and there is the continuing balance of the challenges to find chemicals that cannot be detected and to find means of detection. But genetic changes are unlikely to be detectable, even in analyses of DNA (in the absence of gross abnormalities).

Over the next generation or two society will decide, through the accumulated results of efforts to enhance performance, whether to create specialties based on control of genetics. While I was an ardent fan of the Olympics movement, my suspicion is that the near future will present us with super-athletes produced by genetic enhancements; projecting that into the future, there will likely arise divergent cultures based on introduction of genetic alteration. A culture of body mass and power, a culture of manual dexterity, a culture of speed, . . ., based on the needs of various athletic endeavors. And our games will undoubtedly evolve to follow these divergent cultures.

I can't help wondering about the daughters of men bred for football or basketball, or the career prospects of those who prefer to follow career paths other than the one for which a parent was genetically enhanced. Among other things it will create entertaining fiction involving the conflicts genetic enhancements create. But the excellence in athletic performance will surely be magnified.

Extreme Sports, Risky Behavior and Dangerous Professions

If you are one who wishes to destroy himself: It is your life. That is your privilege. Don't impose on me.

Alcohol: I grew up in an environment that taught you were either a teetotaler or a sot drunkard; there was no middle ground. It is true that taking the first drink reduces your inhibitions about taking further drinks, but in my experience most people who partake of alcohol do so responsibly. For the few who can't or won't drink responsibly the penalty should be quick, harsh and certain, such as temporarily losing a driver's license on a first offense, longer for a second or third offense, but permanently with repeated offenses, or extensive and possibly obnoxious community service. Whatever the penalty, society should not be burdened with the cost of his habit.

I have been informed that there is a genetic link in addiction to alcoholic beverages, that it 'runs in families.' I have also been informed that one rarely recovers from alcoholism but that there is a life-long necessity for the assistance of God and the encouragement of others similarly afflicted.

Tobacco: I doubt that anyone in school or with his ears open has not heard the message that tobacco, dipping or chewing or smoking, either cigars or cigarettes, is harmful to his health. So long as he is careful with his fire, I concede that his personal freedom allows that privilege. What troubles me is the expectation that, later in life when the consequences of his choice become a serious detriment to his health, he expects public charity to cover his medical expenses. His choice. But I don't want him intruding on me to pay for his choice.

Second-hand smoke is another matter in that it affects those around the smoker. Should it be the smoker's privilege to compromise the health of others? I smoked pipes and cigarettes some 20 years but have been smoke-free the last half of my life. My lungs were damaged to the extent that being in a smoke-filled room for an hour causes my lungs to be afire for hours afterward. Young children, according to studies, have compromised immune systems as a result of exposure. What is, what can be, done to balance the smoker's freedom to smoke against the ill effect of his smoke on his victims?

Drugs (other than tobacco and alcohol): Our legislatures must distinguish between the mild, dangerous and deadly drugs. I don't regard marijuana as being nearly as dangerous as alcohol or insidious as crack cocaine or heroin. But, if you choose to partake, you know beforehand that they can be harmful or possibly addictive. Your choice, but do it so I cannot be affected. People who traffic in significant quantities of dangerous or deadly drugs are not innocent to the consequences on their customers; if we truly wish to stamp out this traffic then the penalties for trafficking must be set extremely high, comparable to the penalty for murder. If I could mandate it, I would rule that anyone caught with a significant candestine quantity (to be defined) of deadly drug (also to be defined) would be shot dead on the spot -- no questions asked and no police harassment -- inquiry, yes -- as a consequence. Innocents?: The question is, Do we want to stop the traffic.

Criminal activity, I would suggest, is a dangerous profession. I have little sympathy for those who deliberately engage in it for their financial support and much prefer extermination over public support in prisons. Stop to think about the death penalty: Should we allow a person to deliberately choose a profession that will, if society is successful in deterring his propensity for violence and stealth, result in the public supporting him? (But we might execute an innocent person: Sure, mistakes happen, but the percentage is minuscule compared with deaths from vehicle or fire or other accident or with deaths produced by criminals in pursuit of their criminal activities.)

Ask the police how many of their repeat offenders (often petty crimes) have chosen that path over making an effort at self-sufficiency in ways that are acceptable to society. We must find ways to make life on public support less attractive; it is certainly the wrong direction to provide amenities to make their life in jail or prison more enjoyable or less burdensome than a life of freedom.

Crimes of passion (other than sex) seem more spontaneous, with less deliberation. Even so, a person fleeing from a murder or other heinous crime should not survive to reach jail. As I view it, instant retribution is actually more humane than the death penalty for perpetrators. (While I have no experience with either short-term or extended incarceration, I suspect that life without the possibility of parole is a more weighty punishment than the death sentence. It is certainly infinitely more expensive for society, a fact that distresses me because of the cost of maintaining a life whose only purpose appears to be to provide employment in a penal system as well as work for judges and lawyers.)

Extreme sports: Degree of risk to the participant's life and limb varies sport by sport: sky diving; deep-water diving; spelunking; parasailing; rapelling; white water rafting; bunge jumping; . . . I am glad people enjoy such diverse avocations and sometimes wish I were more adventurous. ButI feel it unwise -- and even greedy -- to expect that the public, at its expense, will rush to the devotee's assistance in the event of mishap. Part of his preparation for involvement in such activities ought to be buying an insurance policy to cover expenses in the event of accident. I think it blindly self-seeking -- and exceeds the bounds of charity -- to ignore the possibility of mishap and expect to place himself on public charity. It may be difficult for people of charitable inclination to accept, but I feel there should be general recognition that acceptance of risk is part of the sportsman's reward; he should be required, by law if necessary, to underwrite the costs of failure at his own expense. There should be the understanding that, in the absence of preparation for mishap, the individual will be left to his own devices and his own finances.

More, a teenager undertakes a drag race and crashes, or an individual overdoses on drugs, or a spelunker undertakes exploring a cave suspected to be subjesct to rock or mud slides that would pose hazards to prospective rescuers: society should not be put at risk due to foolish undertakings of others.

Disabilities and Addictions

We do the best we can.

I have great admiration for those who have incurred disabilities in performing what they consider their obligation to society; I have utter disrespect for those who have willfully sought or feigned disability as a means of gaining an advantage, be it economic or moral or any other.

For help in overcoming an addiction, click here. For assistance afterward or a support group, click here.

Adulthood and Adult Issues

Choices: One aspect of the ability to choose is the possibility of mistake. Is it preferable to risk mistake or to refrain from choosing?

Self-preservation: When you are staring into the eyeballs of someone bent on doing you harm is no time to think about police protection. If you aren't physically strong enough and trained to physically subdue someone, you must rely on other measures. Weapons come to mind. Of course, you, hopefully, as a practice, avoid places and situations prone to such confrontations. Also, hopefully, you have mastered the use of whatever weapons you possess.

I proposed that the ideas of quality of life and object of affection are valid concerns in reflecting on the wisdom of intervening to preserve a life. Wishing not to repeat myself at this web site, I refer you to my essay on abortion. A link appears at the end of this essay.

Immune system: Stress, whether emotional or physical or medical, has a negative effect on your immune system and thus reduces your capacity to rebound from exposure to harmful viruses and/or bacteria or from over-extension of your own capabilities. I like humor to reduce stress. To the extent pain relief reduces stress, it allows strengthening the immune system; I encourage consideration of hypnosis as a means of relieving protracted or chronic pain; while it doesn't work equally for all people, it is one option in the battery of available treatments. I have read that those possessed of a religious persuasion experience less emotional stress or rebound from it more readily and thus have stronger immune systems.

Physical inheritance: DNA: Those wondrously long chains of amino acids determine our physical form; our intelligence; the number, shape and placement of limbs and bodily organs. But we are told that only a few combinations create the differences between man and apes or bacteria. And peculiarities in DNA are being used to demonstrate our individuality as persons. My suspicion is that most (if not all) of those combinations of DNA, in their sequences, are in some way influential in development of the whole body. Nature is selfish; she is not wasteful. Something must determine which and when certain sequences in those chains of DNA become active. So I suspect our present understanding is woefully lacking in fathoming the consequences of sequences and their position on the chain.

Homelessness: I have wrestled with this; it is a perplexing problem. I guess we need to divide these people into three categories.
1) Those who are temporarily down on their luck but sincerely wish -- to the extent of self-sacrifice -- to become self-sufficient.
2) Those who have no wish for self-sufficiency and are content to survive as best they can on public or private charity, and
3) Those possessed of addiction to drugs or alcohol to a degree they become a public nuisance.
(Criminal elements I have discussed as Dangerous Professions.)
Of these:

1) I have great sympathy for people who have suffered misfortune, been forced from a productive life, yearn for self-sufficiency, and are intent on improving their circumstance. They should be offered re-education at public expense, possibly with help with lodging and nourishment, while they actively pursue betterment. I would even offer them counselling plus (forgivable) loans for tools and necessities to help them toward a new career. Undoubtedly there are some who have surrendered and lost their willingness for self-sacrifice to overcome their misfortune (and some who prefer perennial victimhood); these are tragedies with no apparent remedy.

2) We don't want our streets littered with dregs whose ambition has been reduced to acceptance of what the public will offer. We need camps where they can be assigned to work cooperatively with others in like circumstance to provide their own sustenance -- while not competing with productive enterprises. There is little point in offering more than a bed, food, a basic education, opportunities to exercise and a library where they can while their hours when not productively engaged in their share of the work load (and, hopefully, acquire ambition). There should be no non-motivational entertainment and their lives should be deliberately sterile, with regular reminders how sweet life can be, in the hope they can be motivated to self-improvement. For those who make the effort, transition to a productive life may require half-way houses.

3) Surrender to addiction presents a unique set of conditions. Some can, with assistance, overcome their addiction; some have surrendered and are in fact hopeless or destroyed. Treatment, at least to the point of assessing if treatment is likely to be successsful, should be available at public expense. When it is deemed likely there is no hope for improvement, the kindest thing we can do is provide circumstances where they can self-destruct and end their misery.

It may at first blush seem cruel, but, where hope for a rewarding life has been irretrievably lost, there is little point in the public exercising its initiative to provide bare sustenance -- and there is little incentive to offer more. Where life has lost both meaning and hope for emotional reward, that individual warrants no more (at public expense) than warehousing until his attitude mends or his life ends. It is disheartening, but there are among us individuals where a simple sense of humanity suggests allowing an end to their suffering.

Death Penalty: (Two thoughts):
(1) If you reflect on the spirit as separable from the body upon death and the possibility for that same spirit to live another life in another body at some point in the future, then protracted effort to extend the life of someone condemned to death is merely delaying his spirit's opportunity for a new start.
(2) Consider the randomness of criminal activity and reflect on the number of deaths produced by criminals in pursuit of their criminal activity. Compare that with the number of felons condemned to execution. While we don't wish to execute an innocent person, we should seek balance. Why should we expend tremendous resources and time to 'protect the rights' of someone whose guilt is beyond question? Where's the sense of balance?

Social Security: Most people recognize that Social Security, which is linked to retirement, is in need of change if it is to remain viable. Life spans of vigorous good health have been greatly lengthened since Social Security was enacted, and somehow this must be accommodated. Delaying retirement still further is an option, but many people in their 40s and 50s have acquired limitations while others retain active good health into their 70s, 80s and beyond. The onset of Social Security payments should likely be electable -- at reduced benefits -- years earlier than at present while more options are offered for delayed receipt of Social Security. (And handicap benefits, which have been exceedingly generous because money was so readily available, must be reexamined.)

Has truthfulness devolved to a matter of personal convenience? When I was young we debated the propriety of 'little white lies' -- insignificant untruths to spare hurt feelings. Now a TV judge declares you know a teenager is lying because his lips are moving: he wants something. I marvel at the ingenuity of writers of TV detective shows in creating dialogue that obfuscates, misleads, distracts, distorts, ignores and otherwise avoids even a suggestion of truth. And we had the spectacle of the President of our country lying under oath (and protected from consequences by his friends) and declaring an untruth over national TV. Is truth something conscience no longer demands? Is lying now acceptable if it furthers your own cause?

Sex education of the young: This may seem an odd place for this topic, but the remedy begins with us: We have hang-ups we need to face. Physicians don't know what triggers them, but at some ten to fourteen years certain glands begin to produce hormones that affect bodily structures and appetites. And those hormone will rage; that is part of adolescence and, as we all know, there are temptations. We adults need to re-think and instruct our governments on the results.

I am personally appalled at the suggestion of making condoms freely available to grammar and middle school youngsters, and I abhor the advertising required to make that useful. I don't even encourage it for high schoolers, for it is openly encouraging intimacy and sexual intercourse. I don't like to see pregnant teens, who have not yet learned what life offers, tending their offspring and accepting the limitations motherhood requires. We need to teach our youngsters in alternatives to intercourse. I see education as the only alternative -- education that presents male and female as simply part of Nature's design for reproduction of her species. It is my conviction that, if teens could see sex from that perspective, they would have less incentive to engage in premature or promiscuous sexual activity.

I have only anecdotal information -- and very little of that -- on what a girl experiences in the way of sexual arousal. I do insist that there is somewhere in the female body a group of cells, an Isle of Eros, not necessarily contiguous with her sex organs, th at produces arousal. But I do know what a boy experiences, and his erection means he has an accumulation of fluids in bodily organs. "Wet dreams" reduce the fluids but I don't know how to induce them. I do recognize masturbation as a possibility, but there needs to be lubrication to prevent tearing the skin; almost any oil -- baby oil, cooking oil -- will do. Sanitation should be practiced but it serves no purpose to induce shame.

Given the choice of 1) teaching boys safe and hygienic masturbation, and 2) school girls having to defend their virginity, I know of a certainty which I prefer. I recall a federal surgeon general being forced to resign because he openly advocated masturbation. Resigned for being conscientious! If you have examined my essay on churches, you recognize the suggestion this is one aspect of the openness necessary to securing sound attitudes on the part of all of us. Ministers, teachers, parents, public officials -- adults all -- all need to re-think. The time has come.

Childless Couples vs Birth rates: A friend has suggested that changes in the law of contracts would help remedy the prevailing decline in Western civilization. A healthy young woman should be able to sign a non-revocable contract to deliver her child to the couple paying for her pregnancy in order to increase their family size by adoption. Many girls otherwise unable to pay for college could thus be enabled to seek higher education. And couples who deferred the family joy of rearing youngsters as their own (and therefore willing to underwrite the pregnancy) could have assurance their investment would increase their family. (There is no point denying that adoptions from the existing pool of available children is hindered by the fact couples cannot now seek characteristics of their choosing in the infant.)

Medicine: I have no doubt our mind is capable of influencing the sub-conscious operations of the body, but our knowledge is inadequate for us to rely on that in place of medical practitioners. Years ago a co-worker joined a group to try to influence cloud formaton by exercise of mind; while they claimed limited success the project was abandoned. We hear claims of faith healing and I must conclude that many of the claimed successes are real; after all, Edgar Casey enjoyed a success rate far exceeding what probability theory would allow.

Medicine is learning how to intervene and restore to functionality persons who in the past would have died before reproducing; our gene pool is obviously weakened by their survival to propagation. Medicine is now on the cusp of remedying many genetic defects in the individual and his offspring. Since evolution did not anticipate life spans of 60+ years; we must exercise our intelligence in finding means to extend healthy, vibrant life to eight or ten decades or beyond.

From time to time we are forced to face the stark reality that medicine is dollar driven. We must recognize that mitigating symptoms retains you as a paying customer while cure removes you as a paying customer; which do you suppose drug companies and physicians prefer? (I am sure doctors are aware that dentistry advocated strengthening teeth by additions to public drinking water sources, and now dentistry has declined as a profession; it was an object lesson in maintaining a healthy bank account.) If you needed motivation for education or self-education, here it is: Only through education can you defend yourself from needlessly inflating someone else's bank account at your expense.

Nor can the practitioners of alternatives to traditional medicine claim to be free of the profit motive. Hardly more than a century ago anyone who wished could practice medicine. Today it is still true that you must select from the forms of treatment you know to be available, just as you decide when to seek treatment. Reflecting on the question of where to place your confidence, it is obvious that, the greater your fund of knowledge, the better prepared you are to make wise choices. Again, education.

Who can deny that prevention is preferable to remedy? Only you can weigh the comparative cost to yourself of adopting a healthy life style and diet versus remedy of affliction once it has overtaken you. There is something morally offensive to require those who have accepted the disciplines necessary to healthy living pay the medical expenses of others who have refused to curb their appetites to benefit their own health.

Is government intervention wise or folly? I regard self-education as your only wise choice in maintaining personal health, and any system that weakens your motivationfor self-education is ultimately destructive. To the extent that dollar pressure is your reason for educating yourself, reducing dollar costs reduces motivation to seek sources of reliable information. Sure, I enjoy the government's efforts to reduce my cost to forfeiting some leisure time in pursuit of medical advice and prescription drugs. But, is that really in the best interest of citizens? Requiring me to bear a substantial portion of the dollar costs is the best means of motivating me to be more reliant on self and less dependent on public assistance. I heartily advocate the government(s) taking significant initiative to encourage people to learn about their bodily needs for extended healthy lives (one option being offering improved benefits following satisfactory completion of classroom study).

In therapy sessions following my heart attack I learned that only 1/4 of attacks have associated pain, that the most common symptom is the feeling of pressure within the chest. A cardiologist suggested, after I took a stress test, that I should seek help when and if I experienced pain. There is an obvious suggestion here that is morally offensive. I feel strong measures should be taken against professionals who propagate such a myth since they are consigning 3/4 of heart attack victims to premature death. My book, Love to Live and Live to Love: Making Longevity Worthwhile, (now available) may be ordered from Amazon or by clicking here, discusses this in much greater detail.

The present system of approving drugs is in need of reform. Taking a pool of several thousand and giving half a placebo (double blind test) insures that half the participants gain no advantage. And: Refusing to allow prescription of experimental drugs to those diagnosed with terminal illnesses denies people a choice in seeking life-extending medications. Moreover, our FDA, due to budget limitations, is selling priority positions in the approval process by entering agreements to accelerate the process in return for cash payments that must be refunded if the process extends beyond a date certain. A Harvard University study has shown that approvals commonly occur barely before the deadline, and drugs so approved have a higher rate of removal from the market as unsafe than drugs approved through the normal route.

Women's Rights

I have wondered at what point in the evolution of our species it was recognized there was a connection between sexual intercourse and arrival of an infant. Undoubtedly the relation between swollen belly and infant was recognized early, possibly when there was only a rudimentary language. The custom of one man bound to one woman likely followed shortly after recognizing the link between intercourse and infant since it appears to be the most effective way to maintain peace among tribal members.

I assume the status of women changed from dominance, when they exercised the magic of bringing forth an infant, to submission, when the connection between man and infant was recognized. We recognize in today's world the entire range of interdependence of men and women from total dominance of men over women to effective control of men by women. I personally endorse the idea that each adult individual has equal rights and equal authority. But Nature has endowed men and women with differing physical and mental characteristics and hence different roles in the human saga. And in the practicalities of community life women are sometimes required to make personal decisions that are foreign to men.

I commend the notion of equal reward for equal production. A woman choosing family as her career evidently precludes the consistent effort necessary to climbing the business career ladder; lagging in career promotions seems a necessary part of that choice. Perhaps there is merit to a system where a woman may elect (or abandon) an uninterruptable career path that precludes time out for births and nurturing youngsters, thereby allowing her job experience to be cumulative.

I perceive an element of unfairness in the job market that is not apt to be remedied. It is based on the competition in matching men and women in the social setting. And, make no mistake, it is a competitive enterprise: Just as men compete for the attention of women they consider attractive, women compete for the attention of men they feel desirable. So one aspect of the former system, where women generally stayed home to nurture the family, has carried over to a system where men and women compete in the job market and a two-income family is the norm. And that unfairness lies in the cost of appearing to be attractive, men to women and women to men. Cosmetics, bodily enhancements and wardrobe (especially for social occasions) are disproportionate between the sexes while the costs of necessities are the same for both. Granted equal pay for equal performance, women are at a disadvantage because a greater portion of their income must be dedicated to the competition of appearing attractive.

I am handicapped in knowledge of the issues women face and choose not to carry this discussion further at this time.

Wealth and money management

Worldwide there are a few of extreme wealth, a thriving middle class whose members are gradually accumulating wealth, and a majority in poverty. Opportunity, whether aggressively sought or fortuitously awarded, governs acquisition while personal wisdom results in accumulation.

I have only recently realized that the enormous sums of money represented in investment results from myriad accumulations of relatively modest fortunes. And those fortunes have resulted from consistent productive effort plus the thrift that allows savings. The admonition to "live within your means" must be impressed on every individual who wishes to participate in the rewards of investment and wealth. It becomes a matter of modest gratification today versus the prospect of greater reward in the future.

Historically those who trained in the martial arts enjoyed an advantage in securing their wants but had little time for productive effort while those concentrating on productive effort did not have time to train in the martial arts. Producers were thus victimized by those who trained in martial arts; it was only with the arrival of guns that one person could both produce and protect the benefits of his production. That set the stage for the industrial revolution in that people could innovate to boost production while enjoying the benefits of their efforts.

That brings to mind the question who, in the early days of trading, made trading possible -- the adventurer willing to risk his person or the guarantor of his profits in trading -- the role of insurance. How did the insuror acquire sufficient means to guarantee the adventerous against loss by piracy or raiding, which were common in those days. I hazard the guess that, after the arrival of coinage to supplant barter, it was plain piracy and theft by those able to protect their acquisitions.

Greed and Motivation

I think it unfortunate that many people have allowed their personal greed to blind them to other opportunities available to them for personal satisfaction and qualities in potential friends and activities that could enrich their lives. Often possessing for the sake of possessing. Lives so otherwise empty that acquisition dominates their being.8 To view footnote click here

Call it 'greed' or call it 'enlightened self-interest,' the desire to improve one's own lot in comparison with others has been a strong element in invention, in economic development, in scientific explorations, in art and literature, in . . . We would be a much impoverished species without it; yet, unbridled greed must be restrained to allow later arrivals to exercise their own greed. An enligtening sidelight is that the framers of our constitution, once that instrument was in force, commenced their efforts to subvert its provisions to their personal advantage.

Again, once a potential athlete has been identified, developing his talent at the expense of his education for the aggrandizement of family or coach is greed gone awry; it is cruel and thoughtless and deprives the athlete of a balanced education. For an example, click here.

I have an idealistic bent and am still distressed at how the U.S. took the lands of the aborigines, displaced them and dealt with them. And I was never a Zionist. But I am forced to recognize that geographies have been imposed by force because one group wanted what the other had. I have proposed plebiscite as a means of making people happy with their governments, even though that does not address distribution of the land on which those peoples live. I wonder if it is possible for our species to be content to develop what is already theirs, or must they forever seek to take by force whatever they perceive as desirable.

Someone observed that, in an egalitarian society, all would be equal in their poverty. How utterly and devastatingly true! If all have equal access to life's necessities, why would anyone seek to advance himself? In consequence, why would anyone accept the risk of economic development or spend time on new and improved devices? We may well ask if greed is wholly undesirable, or how much is enough. Is there a boundary between greed and the public good?

Political corruption is government-sanctioned greed. There seems a one-on-one connection between political corruption and backwardness of economic development -- as is evident in Mexico and many other countries around the world.

In the early days of the recent '08-'09 recession, when the government suggested it would invest in overcoming the effects of bursting of the economic bubble, businesses changed from seeking to earn profits in productive activities to seeking as large a share of government money as they could get. It has encouraged taking versus production and will undoubtedly have adverse long-lasting results. Shamefully, our politicians have found it entirely too entertaining to toss around tax money to the advantage of indolence; I suppose the theory is "everybody's money is nobody's money."

Yet, laissez faire has its limits. Unrestrained pursuit of wealth in disregard for the consequences in the lives of others leads to economic unbalance and dislocation and a consequent social unhappiness. A century ago predatory trade practice made it necessary to enact anti-trust laws; during the last decades restraint of trade based on intellectual property rights made possible super-fortunes in a burgeoning computer industry; today we are witnessing free trade ravishing our middle class. These matters have been thrown into the political arena in the hope of preventing extreme social unbalance.

Public assistance: The suggestion that illegal immigrants take the jobs citizens don't want is a fiction. Citizens on welfare look at the marginal improvement in income for working as opposed to indolence: Why subject yourself to the harassments of submission to a boss for a pittance more than freedom offers? Moreover, many of the apparently unemployed work in the shadow economy of day labor or domestic jobs where there is no accounting for funds. Our illegal immigration problem is a predictable outcome of our public welfare programs.

Gambling versus greed: The boundary between gambling and entrepreneurship is the willingness to devote one's own effort to the enterprise; hoping for a quick profit without effort is gambling. In that sense the professional gambler, who has dedicated himself to learning how to take advantage in order to profit, is an entrepreneur while his victims are gamblers. Plush casinos and the popularity of lotteries are evidence that gambling as an industry is immensely profitable. Intriguingly (and logically unsupportable), Bingo games (a form of lottery) are strictly controlled by the state while the same state openly advertises its lotteries.

The past two decades have given us two examples of investing as a form of gambling. In the 1990s it was the stock market, where speculators induced an economically unjustifiable run-up in prices until there was a realization the underlying corporate profits were not keeping pace, and stock prices fell to economically supportable levels. (Politically, the government claimed a budget surplus based on anticipated tax revenues from those gains in value; both profits and surplus evaporated with the realization there had been inflation in value.) In the 2000s real estate became the vehicle for speculation in the hope for immediate profit from property value inflation; once again economic misery followed realization that the progressive increase in value could not be sustained. Many people had undertaken obligations their incomes could not support; others had spent the (artificial) increase in equity. As before, entrepreneurs -- many with predatory or fraudulent schemes -- and gamblers.

Greed and Charity: An interesting side light to greed is that of a friend, upon being recognized as an outstanding athlete and accepting a huge contract (which was reported in newspapers), discovering all manner of relatives who 'came out of the woodwork' and sought to overcome their personal short-comings by insisting the newly-rewarded athlete share his earnings with them.

Greed and Ethics: There resounds in my mind an event witnessed while visiting an auto repair shop. A worker, a painter, came to the boss and told him he had finished painting a van for a customer but suggested the manager insist on immediate and full payment because the paint was already pealing as he applied finishing touches. Such an ethical lapse!

Racism

We each prefer to interact with persons similar to ourselves: That is a fundamental fact of society. But we are thrown into the company of others quite unlike ourselves. My own view has evolved over many years and I presently view others through a combination of reverence for all life, charitable acceptance of all persons who chance in my path, and practicalities based on a person's known background and apparent present intention. I have learned it is totally unfair to assign any individual to a category on the basis of stereotype.

We may categorize intolerance on the basis of race (black-white-brown-yellow) or on socio-economic status or level of intelligence or education -- or whatever other basis our personal history suggests. Despite recognition of its unfairness it is difficult to set aside years of training and experience when facing an unfamiliar person or situation. Personal safety must always be paramount; a sense of guilt at demonstrating intolerance is a poor exchange for exposing yourself to possible harm. At the same time we live in a world populated by diverse cultures and a sense of humanity dictates we assess each individual as charitably as possible. It is unfortunate we often don't have time enough to evaluate each person on the basis of his personal qualities and must allow group-think to dominate our responses.

Whether profiling is good or evil, we know who commits our crimes, and it is grossly wasteful of public safety resources to assume all are equally criminal or all are equally upright and judicious. Your own conscience must be your guide in a sense of fairness, based on the path you have trod, in assigning relative merit to each person who chances into your own environment and the resulting emotional discomfort or ease of your responses. When time permits exploration of personal traits, we ought to reflect on the wisdom "Do to others as you wish them to do to you."

At the end of this essay is reference to another essay dealing with tribes, race, etc.

Prohibitions

We tease ourselves when we think passing a law or two will end the chase by scientists for knowledge and the ability to use that knowledge. Such things as cloning, use of embryonic stem cells, nuclear weapons, and other sources of modern fears cannot be barred from exploration; the human animal is such that prohibiting the practice only drives its adherents to places where they can pursue their quest. Prohibition may retard or drive underground, but it cannot prevent.

Human cloning, whatever evils it may release, will become a fact. Whether the results are human or sub-human, results there will be. If we drive the research from our shores, those wishing to pursue it will find venues and our citizens will be denied its benefits for as long as it takes for the technology to percolate to our shores. And the supporting industry will develop elsewhere.

Traffic in human parts, both organs and tissues, is already common, although organ donation is rigidly controlled while traffic in tissues is outside public view. Huge profits are being derived from resale and from medical practice. Our wish to prevent body parts from becoming a matter of commerce only retards development of an industry. Preventing the suicide-bound from selling his own body parts merely guarantees their destruction without benefit to anyone. (My body is willed to a medical college; I've no doubt it will be mined for salable parts before medical students have an opportunity to learn by dissection.) To my mind it is far better for the traffic to be in the open with attempts to regulate it, with donors contracting for the sale of their parts; refusal to recognize merely drives the practice from public view. (Reportedly it is already a shadow industry using cadavers from funeral homes and Chinese prison executions as sources.) Allowing sale of a kidney, eye, ovary, testicle, bone marrow, skin or liver tissue would greatly increase the number of patients who benefit from modern medicine.

Fertility clinics hold untold numbers of fertilized human ova. There is today an industry for their creation but no legal provision for their demise. Unused fertilized ova presently have no value, more like garbage than articles of commerce. Yet the alleviation of human suffering that can result from using those same ova for research purposes is hindered because of some nebulous idea about their intrinsic worth. They are slated for loss to human kind; can we not create something of value from that loss? (Yes, I hold that the product of fertilization, wheher accomplished in a petri dish or the female body, is worthy of defense as a human individual only after it becomes an object of affection to an existing mortal.)

Our country's experiment with prohibition of production and distribution of alcoholic beverages should be a lesson in the lack of power of the legislature to alter our humanity. Traffic in drugs there will be; we have created a hideous political machine in an effort to prevent it. How much better it would be to try to regulate (and possibly benefit from taxes) something that will be practiced anyway.

Laws against prostitution have not been successful in curtailing its practice, nor will they be. We would benefit from curbing sexually transmitted disease. The AIDS epidemic should provide lessons: Governments that denied its existence allowed its spread while denying treatment to its citizens. Sex will be practiced, whether legal or not; our efforts should be directed to mitigating destructive outcomes.

Charity (Public and Private)

Private charity works; public charity doesn't. Witness the Indian Ocean's tsunami or our southern coast's hurricane Katrina followed by hurricanes Ryan and Wilma.

I have just learned (Oct. '09) of an international organization, headquarteread in the U.S., that has for 60 years been involved in individual charities. (Heifer International, headquartered in Arkansas.) Their approach is to work with individual families by providing agricultural "seed" products and then helping them master the requirements for profiting from and propagating the benefits of their gifts. Goats, cows, pigs, sheep, rabbits, chickens, honeybees, llamas, water buffalo, camels, ducks, trees and seeds. The gift alone is not adequate to assure the results they wish from their charity; it requires feet on the ground so that recipients become knowledgeable in the care and use of their gift (such as use of wool from sheep or llamas) as well as propagation of the offspring or harvest and sharing their increase with others. Whole neighborhoods can, with time and local effort, become self-sufficient and no longer in need of charity. I applaud Heifer since theirs is a very progressive form of charity.

Senior Citizens

To what end an extended life span? Is it simply patiently waiting for life to end, realizing you must fill your day somehow until that time, or does it open other possibilities for enrichment or contribution?

I have recognized the impact of Social Security in enabling the stretching of life into old age. Without it, many of us would have been unable to retire or would have been forced on the charity of our children. When it became law there was the promise that it would enable senior citizens to live independently; since then life spans have been greatly increased and the burden on government has changed the official emphasis that Social Security was never intended to offer adequate resources for a satisfying life and should be augmented by personal savings. Two faces of government.

End of Life

It is, after all, my life. Each of us strikes a balance between the rewards life confers upon us and the physical and emotional costs to bring us those rewards. So long as rewards outweigh costs -- or there is hope that condition can be restored -- there is reason to wish our life to continue. It is an intensely personal decision, should that balance become negative, at what point release from consciousness becomes desirable.

There is the possibility that the ravages of time or accident or disease will rob me of self-determination. I have visited nursing homes and facilities for senior citizens no longer able to live independently; I have seen bodies whose minds have failed and minds whose bodies have been severely compromised. And I have contemplated the possibilities for my own life and have instructed my children on my present wish, should I lose the mental ability to determine things for myself. So long as I have mind enough to determine for myself the value to me of continuing in life, I wish to have my choices respected; should I enter that nether world of mental decline where I can no longer thoughtfully choose -- where I have lost the one thing that distinguishes me from the lower animals -- then I assert that continuing in life has lost all meaning to me.5 To view footnote, click here.

I regularly make a judgment whether positive outweighs negative in my wish to continue life; it determines my conduct; and I suspect most people feel the same way. But care providers have a problem in determining that point, in the mental decline of someone in their care, at which continuing support becomes contrary to a sense of humanity. Reflect, if you will: Contrary to a sense of humanity. And society -- the impartial observers -- must provide guidelines to assist discernment of that point at which life has lost meaning to an individual and should be allowed to expire. It is depraved and self-seeking to insist on supporting a life, simply because that is your source of income, after it has become obvious that the person in your care has lost functional mental capacity with no hope for recovery.

Suicide and Assisted Suicide

I believe in self-determination for those of adequate mental capacity. More, this is a topic we should feel free to thoughtfully but freely discuss. And each of us, when viewing approaching incapacitation, ought inform the emotionally close of conditions under which he would wish his life to end. That fine line between assisted suicide and murder must be carefully defined so that murder cannot be excused as an act of humane consideration.
  • In diagnosed terminal illness the afflicted should be allowed to choose the life/death tipping point.
  • Each elderly person experiencing mental or physical decline should be extended the courtesy of honoring his wisdom in choosing to end his own life, either at his own hand or in soliciting assistance to that end.
  • The younger but mature whose life seems to himself to be an unbearable torture ought reflect on his obligations and ability to assist others as well as the pain and misery his absence would produce.
  • For the young who have not yet reached the age of reason those charged with their care must oversee issues of life support.

    An elderly couple, both with advanced disabilities, agreed their lives should end and went to Switzerland, where assisted suicide is by law permitted, signed a statement they did not expect to awaken, and drank the barbituate potion. While their absence may be felt by many, I applaud that society is beginning to allow personal freedom in electing suicide. I am reminded that the spirit, once liberated from his body, then begins his cycle from which he may again enjoy an unemcumbered life in the physical realm.

    It is lacking in humanity to insist a person slog on until his body will no longer support breath when he feels the burdens of his life exceed its rewards and have little prospect for improvement.

    Social Justice

    The catch phrase has become "Follow the money." I despair that our social or political structure is capable of assuring equality of either opportunity or result. Even in our "American experiment," as benevolent as it has proved to be, the individual framers of our Constitution immediately commenced seeking ways to pervert the resulting political machine to their personal advantage.

    Granted that the economic engine that provides jobs, development and progress depends on people of economic strength and vision seeking to enhance their personal competitive position, unfettered pursuit of wealth created the need for anti-trust laws to limit their power. And, as a consequence, the effort to seek advantage was thrown into the halls of government. We can view the various spectacles growing from that effort to find balance between personal power and equality of opportunity and result. It is easy to catalog the results of the conflict between individuals seeking personal advantage in the face of the quest for social justice.

    In the various arenas of the petroleum industry we had the Exxon Valdez disaster, OPEC seeking to control production in order to increase the price of oil, foreign political figures seeking to control oil wells in their country, distribution by governments of royalties producing indolent populations, and petroleum profits financing the efforts that produced our "war on terror." In the paper industry anti-competitive laws have produced a hideous government bureaucracy based on throttling personal tastes in recreational pursuits: hemp. In the housing industry efforts to guarantee a social mix have forced wealth rubbing elbows with poverty, which has in turn allowed criminal elements to mix freely. The minimum wage has produced a generation of unemployables and that, coupled with public charity, has encouraged massive illegal immigration. Income redistribution has produced a bumper crop of children birthing children. Such a list as this is fertile ground for extensive expansion as evil after evil follows efforts to find a balance between personal freedom and its limits as individuals seek their own personal advantage.

    Governments

    Even in hunter-gatherer societies it was necessary for people to organize themselves into political units with leaders and specialties of various sorts to provide the goods and services demanded by that society's members. It should be obvious from the successes and failures of governments of recent history that it is unlikely the nature of our species can be altered by legislation and that the success of any society is ultimately controlled by the motivations of individual members.

    Throughout recorded history one group, wishing to possess what another group held, has used force to reduce the other to submission and thus accomplish his own dreams. Not that this is morally right; it is a fact of history. Witness our own history of dealing with aboriginal populations or our struggle to be free of the yoke of submission to England.

    "To each according to his need; from each according to his ability" has not been successful. Witness the Russian agricultural collectives; each worker wished to make his personal effort produce for himself personal advantage, so he reduced his own effort in the collective and cast the burden of physical effort on his fellows; the common good was not sufficient motivation; yet each individual worked his personal holdings with much greater diligence to satisfy his personal needs. Witness the current travail within France; established people have their guarantees; the young want their share; it is difficult to see how there can be enough to provide all with comparable amenities. And there must ever be a question who will be motivated to invent and develop. With people constituted as they are, socialism cannot succeed.

    Unbridled ambition, where each individual seeks what he wants heedless of the consequences to others, will predictably lead to conflict, depletion and other ills. Anarchy as a government style is equally impossible to maintain.

    Governments are necessary to organize our efforts, to spur the indolent to constructive activity, to contain the ambitions of others. The most successful form of government discovered by our species allows each person to pursue his own dreams within proscribed limits and enjoy the benefits that accrue from his efforts. In application we must find collective wisdom adequate to describe and enforce the limits that are necessary to assure that all have equal access and opportunity to pursue each his own dream.

    World Population

    Somewhere I read the statistic, and never questioned it because it seemed so reasonable: To carry on the family name it takes some 3-1/4 children per couple. I would suppose that is approximately true for perpetuation of the culture. If everybody born produced his share of children, it would, of course, require barely more than two children per couple; but many people don't, for whatever reason, have children.

    Personal practice of sex and the future of our species are interlinked. The Biblical injunction "Go forth and multiply" was uttered at a time of sparse population; it is self-evident that conditions for life have changed in the intervening years. Religions (and their practitioners), in the clash of religions and their adherent cultures, must recognize the consequences of continuing to encourage unlimited population growth. The impact of unwise propagation must override religious teaching and the teaching of a man's dominion over a mate in the practice of sex.

    Whether and when to have children is and should be the result of a series of personal decisions of each couple and total world population is the sum total of the results of those personal decisions. But in society as a whole, a culture that produces fewer children is doomed to extinction and will be replaced by whichever culture produces more children. Total world population has been inexorably increasing and, were it not for the results of science in finding ways to increase agricultural yield, would have already outrun its food supply. No one questions that there is an upper limit to food production, even if every square inch of Earth is placed into production and means are found to avoid depleting the soil of essential minerals.

    In our world of today those of European descent, who have, according to history, produced the wealth-generating machinery we enjoy today, are in decline, while other cultures are ascending. Yet total world population continues to rise. I don't have numbers that allow extrapolation on which cultures are on the path to replacing which. Rome rose and fell; the Byzantine Empire rose and fell; other cultures succeeded to dominance. It is impossible to predict which, if any, of today's cultures will be dominant in a few centuries.9 To view footnote click here But, when we examine present birth rates of various cultures, with the U.S. at 1.6, Europe at 1.38 and Muslims presently at 6.1, there is a clear trend that suggests an Islamic world population before the year 2100.

    I have heard projections that the world population will level off at 12 billion; a few years ago the projection was 10 billion. I have trouble grappling with space for such amenities as parks (and such as the Grand Canyon) with more than twice the present population. And I am distraught at the ability of natural processes to reject to space the heat produced by the energy spent in the heightened living standards of that time. Unquestionably the world's average temperature will be driven upward, likely significantly, while the surface area of ground is reduced by elevated sea levels, resulting in compression of people into much more compact living arrangements.

    It seems reasonable that every person would want for himself the comforts and conveniences that technology makes available. I have wondered if Earth contains among its resources enough copper or iron or uranium or other metals to allow washing machines, air conditioners, vehicles and other amenities (and enough power to drive them) for every unit of society (family or whatever organization becomes dominant). And I have wondered what will become of the offal. I make no projection; every device has limited life and must be both disposed of and replaced. No projection is possible that does not include recycling as the norm. Eradication of disease seems a laudable objective. And, for those alive today and watching their own offspring, it certainly would reduce a cause of travail. But, if it merely makes possible an accelerated increase in population, it holds the prospect for ever greater misery unless an infrastructure and economic engine are developed to support those added numbers.

    Environment

    Like it or not, we are all in this together. And we are dependent on natural processes that we cannot control to deliver to us air that is breathable and water that is drinkable. We can waste, yes; we can poison, yes; but we are dependent on Nature to provide and to cleanse. In my view mankind is perilously close to (if he has not already exeeded) the limits of Nature.

    If we wish to forestall collapse of Earth's civilization, we must reduce the pressure of ever-increasing population (which demands increasingly unwise development), insist each (corporate or individual) citizen practice charitable stewardship, and find some means to apportion the bounty of Nature so each may receive his -- diminished -- share.

    Projection of the Future

    Assuming Nature does not provide a calamity that wipes the human infestation from the Earth, what kind of future does our species face on Earth? I see only two possibilities: 1) We will commence to conserve our soil, trees, waterways, oceans, life forms, at a level that permits Nature to recover a complete closed ecology, or 2) what humans remain will live in huge self-sufficient enclosures amidst an arid land of blistering heat and bruising storms. Enclosures because no life forms larger than bacteria live outside in the barren desert where once flourished trees and farms and grasslands and where rivers are fouled so badly it is futile to clear them. The spoils of unchecked exploitation. And bruising storms because there are no growths to check the winds -- only what dust remains that has not been collected in the cess pools that were once oceans.

    How could it happen? Oil and coal and methane long since depleted. Metals and other materials recycled with scarcely any ores left worthy of mining. Was it war that emptied Earth of what we now need? Was it unchecked population growth that demanded sacrifice of all natural growth in favor of food? Was it the offal of human habitation that overwhelmed the natural forces of decay and renewal? How could intelligent, thinking creatures have permitted such devastation as to make their world such a challenge? Would our forebears have deliberately sought such impoverishment that they are the grateful dead?

    Scientists are beginning to compile a catalog of extra-terrestrial events may produce conditions on Earth that are inimical to continuation of life here. Civilization may, of course, destroy itself as a consequence of its own achievements by, for instance, massive accumulations of offal or unwise weather control or a struggle for political control.3 To view footnote, click here. And, lest we be careful in our stewardship, life for future generations may be rendered so empty and sterile that we would not ourselves wish to be part of it. If you subscribe to the notion the human soul survives death, you may rest assured your own future will be affected by the legacy of your actions in this life; it is in your own selfish interest to be active in assisting Nature to maintain a healthy balance between exploitation and renewal..

    Every living thing makes its demands on the environment. It seems that the nature of Nature is for each species to expand its numbers to the extent of its available food supply. Other species are limited to what undisturbed Nature makes available, but man tills the soil and husbands animals to augment what foods undisturbed Nature provides. Our species has increased in numbers to the extent that our science has harnessed Nature to increase the productivity of food sources, and our continued viability depends on both the efforts of scientists in developing more productive variations of foods, the wisdom of politicians in maintaining an atmosphere of tranquility, and the unfailing cycles of Nature.

    My projection is that, lest our species harness its numbers, population will grow to the extent that people are warehoused (stacked one above the other), animal life will be limited to pets and food sources, and plant life will be limited to food crops. And unleashing products of our own productivity may poison Earth's surface to the extent that cities (if, indeed, life may continue at all) are entirely within plastic domes while unrelenting storms ravage the barren and hostile desert outside.

    But Nature may provide weather events that cause such severe disruption of normal activities that society is hobbled, such as massive earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunami, hurricanes or volcanic eruptions on a massive scale, or asteroid impact. I awoke this morning with this possibility in mind, thinking what is within man's capability to ensure against termination of life on this planet resulting from such events. Were we to establish in various mountain meadows (possibly in the Rockies, the Alps, the Himalayas and the Andes) small (a few hundred population of the intellectually gifted) self-contained communities, rotating our best minds for seasons there, we could have the maximum possible assurance of survival of at least remnants of our species. The United Nations, due to its ineptitude and corruption, could not be expected to organize or operate such communities, so we must depend on private foundations to recognize the need and select their projects. Of course all available knowledge, selected seeds and creatures, and enough rudimentary equipment to assist in re-establishing technology, would be maintained in each community.4 To view footnote, click here.

    But I have a greater concern for upsetting civilization than man's unthinking blundering to the brink of survival through a calamity of his own making; it lies in unbridled lusts and ambitions of the Hitlers and Saddams and bin Ladens. We hear of weapons of mass destruction, of H5N1 avian flu, of ebola, of dirty bombs, of germ warfare, of anthrax: much of it in the possession of people seeking power (mastery over others). It seems that, if they can't have their way, nothing else matters. I shudder at the prospect of two or more leaders wholly consumed by ambitions of power and armed with such weapons.

    The dire consequences of a nuclear war are so great that it becomes simply unthinkable, while realism suggests it is inevitable. Even if confined to a small area, the results are apt to be wide-spread. Of those affected I question they will find it attractive to emerge from their bunkers, although there will always be a few hardy enough to struggle to survive. I have no basis for speculating to what extent the oxygen content of the atmosphere may be depleted, or the amount of radioactivity that will be washed into the oceans with its effect on the food chain. Mutations aplenty would be expected among animals as well as humans, and those obviously ill-equipped to compete in the newly-harsh environment must not survive to become burdens on those who are prepared to compete. The future of the species would demand that the best and best adapted become the parents of succeeding generations.

    Prudence dictates that we give some thought to the future4 To view footnote, click here. and establish priorities. Should we successfully forestall disaster, the future holds promise of peace, prosperity, beauty -- always with struggles and always with the unknown.


    Should something in this essay trigger in you a desire to discuss further some aspect of my monologue, an e-mail with subject "I read your post about . . ." (to pass my spam filter) may be directed to me by clicking here.


    To go to the index for my web site, click here. Evidently many discussions here are interrelated with essays on specific topics, to the extent I have accumulated here a list of links with comments that should allow you to select with efficient use of your time. To link, click on the underscored word or phrase; afterward, use your BACK button to return here.

    I have trod a long path on Earth to reach the point I feel adequate to compose such a document as this Social Contract. I admit that it has an underlying religious orientation. The path I trod is described as my odyssey. It has led to a religious concept I call Rational Theism, and I have presumed to suggest a religious sect to foster teaching the commonality of science and religion. A number of ideas that have been called to my attention are described as versions of reality. While I feel the established church is derelict in dealing with the consequences of its own promotion and should extend its influence into contemporary concerns, the House of Man suggests a common base for all religions.

    I promised a link to discussions of quality of life and object of affection. They are included in an essay on abortion. You may link to the essay itself or these two topics by clicking on the underlined words.

    I have been distressed by the conflict between atheists and theists, especially in notions of evolution, which many people take as demonstration of the validity of atheism. Fossil evidence, as well as the amazing complexity of living organisms, seems to me to suggest an intelligence has been involved in evolution. I am concerned that present and future practice of medicine will undermine the physical and mental prowess of our species. I have incorporated a brief history of the universe and Earth and life on Earth, as well as suggesting a contrary view of the origin of the universe and discussing the possible ending of civilization, which is partly demonstrated by the Exxon-Valdez disaster and may be partly insured against by highly developed remote outposts in such places as mountain meadows.

    I have been concerned for contemporary issues such as abortion (and the implied culture of life as exemplified by the Terri Schiavo case), drugs, education in general, encouragement of gifted individuals, race and race relations (including tribal organization of society), and display of the Ten Commandments as an instrument for moral instruction.

    The intense current interest in environmental degradation hs touched upon in the essay energy, and is the topic of average global temperature. Environmental concerns are reflected in describing the end of civilization (reference below).

    Much brief comment on essentially political issues appears on domestic issues (including our pursuit of national suicide), foreign policy issues and religious aggressiveness (including a brief outline of Islam). I have presumed to suggest a number of amendments to our Constitution that would serve to restore government practices to be consistent with a love of personal liberty.

    I have been interested in such forward-looking topics as a phonetic alphabet with which most languages could be rendered, reform of the English language to simplify and make misunderstandings more difficult, a more efficient arithmetic using base-16 (now, mid-2009, deleted), fully automatic driving to relieve the driver of the need for attention to the road, sources of energy to power civilization, biodiesel using agricultural crops, algae as a source of biodiesel and ethanol.

    I have also included a chapter from my book Love to Live and Live to Love giving emergency information everyone needs on heart attack and stroke .

    1 Footnote #1:
    Since I have not run across the idea of 'accident of personal history,' let me clarify with an example: My son was very shy as a teenager, and he was involved in soccer so he was frequently exposed in a dressing room to nakedness and the impromptu shenanigans of adolescent boys. Adolescence is that time of sexual awakening and commencement of the flow of hormones; had he experimented with sex and found it satisfying he may never have pursued dating girls but been content, in his shyness, to satisfy his sexual urges with other consenting boys. An 'accident of personal history.' (He married and has given me two grandchildren.) I've no doubt there are many other scenarios: a disappointed love relationship, lack of or rejection by available girls, awkwardly-sized organs, . . ., that lead to homosexual behavior.

    The arena of religion offers another example of 'accident of personal history.' Such as chancing into a meeting, by invitation or curiosity or escape from bad weather or . . ., and becoming intrigued by the presentation there. No intention to become involved in religious activity, certainly no exercise of reason in selecting the audience you joined.

    2 Footnote #2:
    Evidently such a claim requires justification. I refer you to the second paragraph in the earlier segment on sexuality. To view that,
    click here.
    Using your BACK button twice should return you here and then to the text.

    3 Footnote #3:
    And the Lifeboat Foundation has studied the various means by which civilization may destroy itself, such as engineered viruses (for which our immune systems have no defense), abandoned nuclear weapons and fissionable materials, various products of nanotechnology such as self-replicating viruses or bacteria (or some mechanisms). For more information on the Lifeboat Foundation, you may go to their web site by
    clicking here.

    4 Footnote #4:
    I have commenced a delineation of the "mountain meadow" concept. It will require minds other than mine to complete the topic, but here is a start. It appears as Resurgence of Earth's Civilization. To view it,
    click here.

    5 Footnote #5:
    A case in point is the threat of Alzheimer's disease, where mental function gradually slips away. If the body is strong enough the bodily organs may continue harmoniously enough for physical life to continue well beyond the point where life becomes a matter of warehousing a body without active mind. Is that life meaningful to itself? Without meaning, is there purpose, beyond a sense of duty by care providers, in undergoing the anxiety and burdens of support? I speak only for myself but, before I reach the point I can no longer utter a meaningful sentence or regularly recognize my own children, I wish my spirit be released to return to the Spirit Realm for whatever purpose that may serve.

    6 Footnote #6:
    I was fascinated to learn that the ovum cell wall includes, for its own protection, chemicals that repel potential invaders. The spermatozoon contains in its head a chemical to offset the ovum's protection, but a single spermatozoon does not have enough; so several spermatozoa must contribute, and their cooperative effort provides enough chemical to allow penetration. But, ordinarily, only one may enter. So, while there may be competition in the world of maleness, males must cooperate to allow a single one of their members to penetrate the ovum's cell wall. It is also fascinating to reflect on the rapidity of the female response that hardens the ovum's cell wall so quickly that the ovum is not flooded with aspiring candidates.

    7 Footnote #7:
    I became closely acquainted with a middle-aged man who was recognized as athletically inclined early in school team activities. He was encouraged to develop his skills (manual strength, dexterity, stamina) -- of which most of us would approve -- but at the expense of his studies. In high school he attended special programs for athletic development, was pampered by coach and teachers, allowed to skip classes freely but passed each grade anyway; I did not learn how his parents responded to this special attention. He was awarded an athletic scholarship to a prestigious university but decided to "go professional" during his freshman year and received an enormous contract by a baseball team. He apparently felt he "could do no wrong" because of his superior athletic performance; he had "arrived" and was the envy of family, friends and peers. But he "messed up" during his first professional year, had his contract voided, and was not sought by other teams. So he was dumped on the job market in his early twenties without education or skills but with attitude. Somehow he has managed to find work, has reared a son, but still cannot find and keep a good job. In my estimation he has a good mind but has erred in how to use it. He is now considering returning to school to acquire what, but for the greed of coaches and other athletic professionals, he would have received while in his teens.

    There are many aspects to this story, such as, for instance, discipline by his parents. But I am appalled at a system that will deprive a school boy of his education so "responsible" adults can find personal glory and wealth based on the genetic inheritance of gullible children.

    8 Footnote #8 (May 2009):
    I have been in the unhappy position of being a close friend to a woman of wealth whose children fear she would reduce their inheritance by giving me money. The children created unbearable stress for her, insisting she cease the friendship (which she professed she wanted to continue). Stress has led to its natural consequence; my friend has suffered heart attack and stroke and, as I write this, is near death. I have to suppose her children are delighted they will soon be in possession of her wealth. The warmth of love replaced by the coldness of greed!

    9 Footnote #9:
    Those who study populations insist that, if each couple produced 2.1 children, population would be stable; they fail to consider that many citizens do not marry, are infertile or choose to remain childless, so that stability requires a number closer to 3.4 per couple or 1.7 per citizen. Allowing their erroneous assumption, a culture producing 1.6 children per couple is in decline; at 1.2 it is impossible for the culture to recover; 1.4 seems the boundary below which that culture is doomed to disappear. Recent reports show the U.S. at 1.6, Spain 1.1, England 1.4, Europe as a whole 1.38; China has decreed one child per couple; the Muslim world is presently at 6.1; I have no numbers on Africa or South America. In my estimation the Western world's acceptance of the equality of women with men in the work place, which I wholeheartedly endorse, has encouraged substitution of other personal goals for reproduction, to the detriment of family size; the consequences are inexorable. While world population is increasing, the Western world is in decline and, within a generation, will be dominated by Islam. (We had four children; one son has two, one daughter three, the other two none; presently one grandchild has married, two seem questionably marriage-minded, and two are still young.)

    My printer takes 25 pages or 13 sheets of paper to print this document.