Reconciling Secular and Religious Perspectives on Moral Codes

Reconciling Secular and Religious Perspectives on Moral Codes “Have you heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly, "I seek God! I seek God!" As many of those who do not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter... "Whither is God," he cried. "I shall tell you. We have killed him -…

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Wise words in Anna Karenina

I have been trying to fill in the many gaps in my education (how did I miss so much?) and am reading some of the great Russian authors. I came across this in Tolstoy's “Anna Karenina”:Vronsky (Anna's lover) meanwhile, in spite of the complete fulfilment of what he had so long desired, was not completely happy. He soon felt that the realization of his longing gave him only one grain…

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The Moral Animal – A Brief Review

The Moral Animal - a Book on Evolutionary Psychology by Robert Wright What is Evolutionary psychology Reading Robert Wright's book on evolutionary psychology is sobering. It is a readable, interesting, and provocative explanation of this new field of science and its implications. More than once I put the book down mid-page to let the significance of what he said sink in. One cannot read this book without looking at human…

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Montaigne Biography

I just completed this biography of Montaigne - How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Bakewell.  I found it interesting and I have now started reading Montaigne's essays. I had heard of Montaigne but new nothing about him. This biography is a great introduction to his essays because it put his life and writing in context. I had no…

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The Times They are A-changin’ — then and now

Bob Dylan's song, "The times they are a-Changin' " was the anthem for much of my generation. It captured my feelings at the time and the desire many of us felt to make the world a better place and to do it now. I see the song differently some five decades later as we are seeing wave after wave of fundamental change highlighted with vocal and popular advocates for upending the existing order.What…

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Political decay — Insights from Francis Fukuyama

Are we experiencing political decay? Our political situation, particularly the current Presidential election process, is unsettling and unprecedented in my lifetime. Is this political decay or just a rough patch in our political process? I have been trying to determine whether my reaction has some rational basis or is just the emotional response of someone in the last third of life who, like so many before me, feels the world is falling…

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Character should matter in elections

I rarely write about politics but the current presidential election compels me to share some thoughts. I write not to advocate for or against one party or candidate. Instead, I am advocating for a principle.  That principle is that a candidate's character should matter when voting. This may seem to many simplistic, naïve, and Quixotic. But perhaps it is best to look past all the chaos of this election and focus…

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Fearless sifting and winnowing

The recent protests on several college campuses and the response by the leaders of those institutions have raised important issues that deserve public debate. One of the most important is free speech. The question is whether colleges and universities should allow speech by students, faculty, or outside speakers when some, or even most, of the people find the speech offensive. Some historical perspective, as always, is helpful.  In the late 1800's a University…

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So much we don’t understand — spooky action at a distance

For as long as I have known about the theory of quantum mechanics I have been fascinated and awed by what is referred to as "spooky action at a distance."  This is the phenomenon where two subatomic particles are "entangled" and a change in one particle affects the other particle instantaneously even though the particles may be light years apart. It seems foreign and impossible. Even Einstein thought this theory had…

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Mowing the lawn, duty, living your dream, and happiness

I liked the recent New York Times column by Roger Cohen, Mow the lawn, for questioning the all too common advice to "live your dream" or "pursue your passion" as the path to happiness.  He argues that sometimes it is more important to focus on what we need to do even if it is mundane. Dreams are important and can motivate people.  The evidence is strong that doing what you are good…

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