Robert C. Watson

 ------------------- Trust in truth keeps hope alive...

Broken Hearted (revised)

Here I sit broken hearted.
Tried to vote, but was only thwarted.

"You're name's not a match." they said to me.
"The computer says so. Look, here see."

"I always vote here!" I cried.
They looked at me as if I lied.

"Computers are never wrong. That's the law."
"Now get out of here. There can be no flaw."

"Perhaps you're a felon, a terrorist or both."
"Or an illegal alien... do you know the oath?"

"We've no time for your sort. Poll closing is near!"
"What do you mean, 'stolen elections'? That Can't Happen Here!"

Is Your Boss A Psychopath?

Is Your Boss a Psychopath?
Psychopathic characteristics have come to dominate business management "success". Business is the model for running all organizations in this country these days including medicine, government, charities, etc. Thus the same values and qualities are used for promotions and elections. If a psychopathic personality is so highly valued, then the most psychopathic individuals would be found at the top. Hmmm....

Maybe we're all nuts
In Bob Lewis' Keep the Joint Running column "Maybe we're all nuts" from 08/08/2005, is more about psychopathic bosses. His column implies that the world has changed and that psychopathy is the norm, even the ideal, in business because everyone else is doing it. Blinders firmly in place, shutting out all distractions to the business of running a business today, I couldn't agree more. However... Is this a sustainable practice?

History would indicate that it is not.

In the past, when employers exceeded large numbers of employees' thresholds of tolerance for abuse, employees resisted, most recently (first half of the 20th century) by forming labor unions. Unions are a shadow of their former selves today but great upheavals are occurring. The breakup of the AFL-CIO could be seen as a further erosion, but the parting unions are saying they're leaving because the AFL-CIO has become complacent and too beholden to the status-quo. They're leaving in order to become more activist in attracting new members and resisting employer abuses. This suggests that the tolerance threshold has been reached.

Psychopathy has long been considered a mental illness that is extremely dangerous to society and possibly to the patient as well. A world of psychopaths does not decrease the danger because everyone is approaching life the same way. Quite the contrary. Without compassion, empathy, remorse and guilt, our daily little differences are amplified and acted on aggressively, escalating to destructive behavior.

For example, psychopathy would seem to be almost a prerequisite for terrorism. To indiscriminately kill large numbers of people in pursuit of one's goals would seem to require an extraordinary lack of concern for others. How many people can hold such a lack of concern up as an ideal in the workplace and shut it off when they walk out the office door?

Perhaps Dr. Hare's recognition of this tragedy will be an important signpost that makes us stop to consider its ramifications.

Will we continue down this self-destructive path until the body count (or the sales of anti-depressants) exceeds our capabilities?

Or will we stop and consider that the world survives, and even flourishes, by constantly seeking balance.

Extremes create progress, but allowed to run unchecked, without resistance, like a short-circuit, are ultimately destructive to society.

Quotes To Ponder

Found these on Data Options Quotes & Notes...

First they came for the Communists,and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews,and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics,and I didn't speak up, because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me,and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.
German Protestant minister Martin Niemoller, after his release from Dachau at the end of World War II

"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."
John Kenneth Galbraith

Integrity and Faith

Are integrity and faith dead?
Replaced with image-making and opportunism?

We trust integrity. We have faith in those with integrity that they are being honest and forthright with us; that they are trying to do what is best for all. Selfishness and taking advantage of the weaknesses of others (most particularly us) for personal gain betrays that trust and causes a loss of faith.

At the core of every American is a fundamental belief in ourselves. A belief that we have the skill, the strength, and the duty to "do the right thing" for the benefit of all humankind. This faith in our "rightness" gives us the courage to act when others vacillate.

With a reputation for integrity, those who question will give us a degree of trust... pending the outcome. Without it, we further alienate others by acting, in their view, recklessly.

"The Da Vinci Code"

A Threat to Christianity?

"The Da Vinci Code" proffers a fictional alternative interpretation of what's been written about Christianity and its origins. However, a number of prominent Christian leaders, who are more aware of how tenuous is the evidence upon which they've invested their entire lives, have railed against Dan Brown's best selling novel and still more are calling for boycotts of the upcoming movie. They seem to feel that any question of what they preach suggests that they may have it wrong and that such a possibility is terrifying.

The threat of such ideas is not to Christianity. It is to the personal self-image of those who know that vast amounts of the rhetoric used by religious leaders is not only objectively unsupportable, but is specifically designed to gloss over that and indoctrinate followers into blind obedience.

Repetition is the most effective way to train the mind to react automatically, without conscious thought. Repetition of simple concepts dominates Christianity. Followers are taught that any attempt by "laymen" to interpret the writings for themselves for example, is a breach of faith which makes them a nonbeliever, an outcast.

Christian leaders who are secure in their faith realize that faith is the most effective way to provide a "moral center" to human decision-making. A great many choices in our lives have no clear, objective right or wrong. Somehow we must decide. Faith, religious beliefs, can provide that "tie breaker".

Beliefs that are simple and unambiguous seem to work well. "Thou shalt not kill" is such a belief that, when adhered to in all situations, brings peaceful coexistence. Exceptions undermine the authority of such a belief however. First is the exception for plants and other animals, primarily as sources of food. It was long ago decided that this "commandment" only applied to killing other humans. Then came exceptions for killing anyone trying to kill us. So far, most everyone is in agreement. Then, however, we move down the slippery slope to it being alright to kill people who potentially might try to kill us in the future and further to people who don't hold the same beliefs we do. Beliefs that require adherence to very specific behavior are fraught with peril.

In modern terms...

Long term strategies are very beneficial.

Micro-managing undermines leadership.

The uproar over "The Da Vinci Code" is micro-managing of the first order. It is short-sighted and undermines the trustworthiness of religious leaders.

Most of all, it exposes leaders more interested in exercising the power to control others than on the wisdom Christianity can bring to heal and strengthen them.

Why Am I Here?

"The Purpose Driven Life" is a popular book that purports to answer this question.

Here's a more accurate and useful answer...

Any one of us is here because our biological parents had sex, our mother was fertile, one of our father's sperm beat out a few million other sperm to fertilize an egg, and our mother did not abort us.

It's up to each of us to find our own meaning and purpose.

The choice is ours. Not God's, not The Church's, not anyone else's.

Some choose to serve humanity by adding their voice to that of others working for change.
Some choose to try to destroy humanity.
Much of the time it's hard to tell which is which.

By far the most popular choice though, is to do nothing.

We immerse ourselves in work, sports, exercise, gardening and a host other pastimes in an effort to ignore societal problems that are depressingly troubling, largely because we feel helpless to solve them. We become terminally passive.

We're not going to find answers in a book or in a church or even on Google.

The answers are within ourselves.

Evolution vs. Intelligent Design - Summary

If the universe is too complex to have evolved on its own and thus must have been created by an intelligence such as God, then who created God? And who created God's creator?

You see the problem.

If life cannot evolve from non-life, then there would have to be a hierarchy of creators and creator's creators ad-infinitum.

And if intelligence cannot evolve from non-intelligence... how does one explain education?

Evolution vs. Intelligent Design

Well Said Dr. Fullam...

Debate Over Intelligent Design Of God
and the case for unintelligent design

by Lisa Fullam

As the theory of intelligent design again hits the news with President Bush's encouragement this week that the theory be taught in schools alongside evolution, I have one question: What about unintelligent design?

Take rabbit digestion, for example. As herbivores, rabbits need help from bacteria to break down the cell walls of the plants they eat, so, cleverly enough, they have a large section of intestine where such bacterial fermentation takes place. The catch is, it's at the far end of the small intestine, beyond where efficient absorption of nutrients can happen. A sensible system -- as we see in ruminant animals like cattle and deer -- ferments before the small intestine, maximizing nutrient absorption. Rabbits, having to make do with an unintelligent system, instead eat some of their own feces after one trip through, sending half-digested food back through the small intestine for re-digestion.

Horses are similarly badly put together: They ferment their food in a large, blind-ended cecum after the small intestine. Unlike rabbits, they don't recycle their feces -- they're just inefficient. Moreover, those big sections of hind gut are a frequent location for gut blockages and twists that, absent prompt veterinary intervention, lead to slow and excruciating death for the poor horse. The psalmist writes: "God takes no delight in horses' power." Clearly, if God works in creation according to the simplistic schemes of the intelligent design folks, God not only doesn't delight in horses, but seems positively to have it in for them.

Furthermore, why wouldn't an intelligent designer make it possible for animals to digest their natural food without playing host to huge populations of bacteria in the first place: Couldn't mammals have been equipped with their own enzymes to do the job?

But that's not all: Consider mammalian testicles. In order to function optimally, they need to be slightly cooler than the rest of the body and so are carried outside the body wall in the scrotum. Why would one carry one's whole genetic potential in such a vulnerable position? Clearly it's not a gonad problem in general -- ovaries work just fine at body temperature and are snuggled safely within the pelvic girdle for protection. But for testicles, nope -- the scrotum is jerry-rigged to allow for a warm-blooded animal to keep his testicles cool. Surely an intelligent designer could have figured out a way for testicles to work at body temperature, as ovaries do.

Here's another: Do you know anyone beyond the age of 20 or so who has not had a backache? Let's face it: The human body is that of a quadruped tipped up on end to walk on only two legs. The delicate and beautiful cantilever curve of the human spine
compensates (but not enough) for the odd stresses that result from our unusual posture. Perhaps the God of intelligent design has a special place in his plan for chiropractors? And what about the knee? Between the secure ball-and-socket of the hip and the omnidirectional versatility of the ankle is a simple hinge joint, held together only by ligaments (including the anterior cruciate ligament) whose names are known to athletes and sports fans because they're so easily and frequently injured. Again, unintelligent design.

The real problem with intelligent design is that it fails to account for the obvious anatomical and physiological making-do that is evident of so much of the natural world. Evolutionarily minded folks see this as the result of genetic limitations and adaptations accumulated in specialization for certain environments, while the intelligent design folks are left with a designer who clearly cannot have been paying close attention.

While there are extremely precise and fine-tuned mechanisms in nature, there is also lots of evidence of organisms just cobbled together. For instance, take marsupials, who give birth to what in other animals are analogous to fetuses, then have to carry them around in what amounts to an exterior uterus until the offspring are ready to face the world.

As a theist who sees natural evolution not as a theory but as well-established observation, I take comfort in the catch-as-catch-can of the natural world. I have every confidence that an all-loving creator walks in and with the natural world as it struggles to fruition, cheering on our evolutionary triumphs (let's hear it for the opposable thumb!) and standing in solidarity with the evolutionary misfits and misfires, like rabbit guts and horses generally.

Isn't this how God walks in and with us in our individual lives as well, cheering us on, emboldening us and consoling us in our often misguided attempts to live well and do right, and standing in compassion and solidarity with us when we fail, and loving us into trying again? And isn't this a more compelling vision of God, and truer to the biblical God who comes again and again to offer salvation to erring humankind, than that of a designer who can't quite seem to get things right?

Lisa Fullam, a former veterinarian, is an assistant professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley

Published on Thursday, August 4, 2005 by the San Francisco Chronicle

Batman Begins

The fifth Batman film, Batman Begins by Christopher Nolan captures the heart of the Batman saga that the previous films missed. Batman, like most good storytelling, is about us. Our fears, our foibles. Our dreams and our nightmares. Three messages stand out:

  • Have Faith In Each Other
    Michael Caine, as Bruce Wayne's paternalistic butler Arthur, masterfully hammers this message home throughout the story. Through word and deed, Arthur continually reassures Wayne that he'll never give up on him no matter what. This faith carries Wayne through some of his darkest moments of doubt.

  • Compassion Is What Separates Good From Evil
    When mentor Henri Ducard (Leam Neeson) insists that Wayne must be willing to kill decisively and without remorse if he is to defeat evil, he refuses. He instead insists that compassion is the defining difference between Good and Evil.

  • Revenge Is Not Justice
    While Ducard tries to convince Wayne of the righteousness of vengeance for the murder of his parents, ADA Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes) admonishes Wayne, "Justice is about harmony; vengeance is about making yourself feel better".


A Better Way to Learn?

Andrological and Pedagogical Training Differences for Online Instructors presents an insightful alternative to traditional training methods for the self-directed (usually adult) student.