1. Michael Young

    In general, I’d say “yes,” and that a great deal of our “morality” tracks back to economic considerations rather than spiritual ones. You’ve cited a very easily understood example, that of unattached mothers.

    “Thou shall not kill” is another one, that I’ll posit is more to the point, with obvious economic overtones. Testing the premise that “thou shalt not kill” is simply an economic maxim and not a spiritual one requires looking no farther than instances of theft, home invasion, or war — which threaten economic stability — and the dictate vaporizes on the spot:

    –kill the thief
    –kill any intruder
    –kill any of “them” that threaten our “stuff”

    Any “spiritual” basis for “thou shalt not kill” gets thrown out the window immediately.

    I would wander off into the idea that “eternal life” that so entrances humanity via promises of “heaven” and “reincarnation,” etc. are simply economic transactions as well (with a heavy helping of undue influence and coercion.) “Yes, we’ll follow and obey and in exchange you promise to deliver “eternal life.” However, that scenario doesn’t have the nice, sharply defined controls that “thou shalt not kill” does and it’s not so easy to see. Suggesting as much also (cough) alienates folks pretty quickly so I tend not to bring it up. It’s also difficult to deny the attraction after a particularly hard day, week, month or loss of a loved one, etc.

  2. Eddie Cazayoux

    Love the Dorothea Lange photograph. Did I not read anything about abortion or government support for having single mother children? Or was abortion included in the “effective methods of controlling pregnancy”?

  3. MikeSpartan300

    Michael Young- One thing I’ve learned about bookscrounger that I just adore is his respect for people who disagree with him. I really have no hostility about this discussion either. But let me say that you may be making to broad an interpretation of the phrase “Thou shalt not kill” . Quick disclaimer, I do not know any Biblical languages, but I have been taught that a more precise meaning of “Thou shalt not kill” is “Thou shalt not commit murder.” In no way to offend you, but just to make a point, you wouldn’t take the term “thou shalt not kill” to mean the command prohibited the killing of animals to eat. Thus it was not a restriction on all types of killing, now if it meant thou shalt not kill humans, it would seem to conflict with other commands given to Israel by God when there was a time to put someone to death for certain crimes.

    • Michael Young


      Mike, you’re absolutely right. It is better translated as “murder,” in both Exodus and Deuteronomy. The KJV uses “kill,” others “murder.”

      Having said that, I can’t see where it affects the point all that much; a behavior which is prohibited in one scenario (for economic reasons) is condoned in others (again, for economic reasons.)

      For a (poor?) example: gambling is permitted in Las Vegas and Nevada (along with prostitution) because the state had very little else to offer, and it’s a huge economic benefit to the state. Gambling (and certainly prostitution) are viewed as cancerous in areas which are already economically developed, economically stable. (Jack Abramoff’s & Edwin Edward’s special case scenarios excluded :;) )

      Two or three of the other commandments are directly related to economics, “thou shall not steal,” “thou shall not covet,” etc.

      There were no insurance companies to ease the pain back then. We toss around terms like “catastrophic” loss these days while we wait for a check to arrive; in those days losses were truly “catastrophic” and often truly unrecoverable.

      • MikeSpartan300

        Thanks Mike,
        In my prior response I totally overlooked the aspect of the economic factor that you were making. It is a good lesson for me to “listen” more and talk less. As I understand it, under the ancient civil laws in Israel, if a person killed another person even by accident, the family of the victim had the right to kill the person guilty of causing an accidental death. That person could escape that if he was lucky enough to make it to a city of refuge before being caught. If it was economics that they were considering, one would think the rather than killing a person in that circumstance, they would have made that person work and pay to the victim’s family.

  4. MikeSpartan300

    With regards to the double standard. While our society may be changing, and with that, attitudes are changing, I believe that the double standard is more innate to our psyche than many might think. I have merely very sketchy antidotal information on my sense about this, but it seems to me that girls or women that have been “liberated” from feeling premarital sexual relations are wrong, and also either had precautions against pregnancy or just didn’t get pregnant, still seem emotionally bonded to the first man that they give themselves. To borrow a rather crude line from Charlie Sheen, he said: “You don’t pay a prostitute to have sex with you, you pay her to leave.” Although I consider myself a person of faith (as faulty as that faith may be at times), I personally think that while it may be pleasant and special to have a formal marriage ceremony with family and guests, that the formality is not a moral requirement. I believe it is a moral requirement to chose only one sex partner for life, until death do us part, regardless as to if one choses to have a ceremony or not.

    • Bookscrounger

      Absolutely. We are part genetics, part culture, part thought. A friend of mine, a well-known neuroanatomist* says we are 80% genetics. I disagree with him; not with his number, but that there is ‘a’ number at all. It depends on the person, it depends on the situation. We are all of us at times 100% genetic, given to passion, not just sex but anger and violence and hunger and other bodily functions. At the far extreme there is the story of the Roman Scaevola, who failed in his mission and burnt off his hand. It is unimportant that this may be legend; it is still possible for someone to do this, we can demonstrate equivalents through hypnosis and surgery.

      One of the things I am trying very hard to do is to get people to understand there is not one answer. Kill, murder, euthanize, even massacre, there may be a time it is necessary. Massacre may seem dubious, but it is what we did at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We say that hindsight is 20/20, but in this case it is not; we still do not know if that was the best way to do it, but there was no way to know then, and no way now: we only had two bombs to drop, and they had to end the war. We picked the most devastating targets that we could. And it barely worked. If Hirohito hadn’t put his foot down, we would have had to take the country one village and one island at a time.

      To the post at hand, some animals mate for life, some copulate and leave. We believe that all of it is based on the best strategy for survival. To that, I will offer this illustration: imagine a man who sneaks around, finds baby girls in their cradles, takes them out and copulates with them. That sounds horrific, but it is what ermine do. The pups become pregnant, and the fetus within them grows as the pups do. We assume this is a superior strategy for animals that face the problems that ermine do.

      So the puzzle for me, and the one that I am writing books on, is how do we explain human abuse and horror, and how do we stop it? Because when you see war, and physical and sexual abuse of children, and when they happen all the time in all cultures, as horrible as it is to contemplate we have to assume that at some situations in the past that these strategies were superior to others.

      More anon.

      *The neuroanatomist is named James Fallon (no relation to the comic). He supports one of the theses for my current book by pointing out that modern dictators fit the definition of psychopaths, in this talk to the Oslo Freedom Forum.

  5. MikeSpartan300

    Very challenging thoughts. I am one who takes the side that we were right in using those two atomic bombs, but it is a very hard position to hold with my belief that I am for peace, love, and harmony for all of humanity. Thanks

    • Bookscrounger

      There’s really no way to know, is there? History is where the scientific method completely falls apart. Conditions cannot be exactly recreated, so no experiment can be repeated, and no hypothesis can be tested.

      I think the decision we made with the A-bombs is the same any head of state makes fairly regularly: yes, it is a matter of life and death, but also of how many lives, and how many deaths. We hope we made the right decision. But science fails us, there is no way to know.

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