Archive for January, 2011

A Universal Code of Moral Behavior (UCMB)

January 31, 2011

A Universal Code of Moral Behavior (UCMB)

I will soon present a Universal Code of Moral Behavior (UCMB) as  my humble attempt to identify useful old and new prescriptions for evolving sociocultures that wish to avoid the chaos of rising levels of bad behavior within their populations and therefore their collective decline.

I have partitioned this code in several ways. The first section is entitled, Love, Honor, and Do. This section is one in which prescriptions are stated in terms of behaviors to do. People of faith may wish to read many of these prescriptions (taken from religious materials) as Commandments to be obeyed for the love and/or fear of God.

 Those with  more secular belief systems may prefer to see the prescriptions as logical rule statements for seeking happiness and avoiding pain during life on this planet. In this case, they may wish to read each one of these prescriptions as though it stated, “You will be wise to”— in front of it.

Those with a scientific perspective should look upon the following prescriptions as rule statements to be validated through further investigation and analysis.

There is actually no reason why any one individual could not view various prescriptions within the UCMB from a singular or combined perspective of any of the three listed above: God’s Rules, wise rules, and/or rules to be tested.

The three remaining classes of prescriptions are designed to cover most human interactions within their social and physical environments. They are:  Do Not Harm Others; Do Not Harm Yourself; and Never Harm Children. Some may not like that these sections are stated in the form of negative prescriptions ( i.e., Do Not) . However, in the UCMB, as in teaching children and adolescents what to do to achieve rewarding outcomes and avoid painful ones, positive prescriptions by themselves can sometimes lack important specificity.

For example, parents in Florida picnicking at an inland lake may tell their children to “only play on the beach”. But this prescription would be inadequate if they did not also add: “Don’t go in the water or an alligator might eat you”.

The parent of an adolescent might enjoin their adolescent to drive the speed limit, stop at stop streets and stop lights, to watch for pedestrians, etc. But they would best be admonished; “Do not ride with someone who has been drinking. There may be death or serious injury to yourselves or others”. In most cases similar admonishments the parent’s  own teen about his or her drinking and driving would also be in order.

As an adult on my sail boat with a gasoline engine, the rule “turn on the blower before you start your engine” was made much stronger by a negative statement: “Don’t start your engine before your blower or you’ll blow yourself to smiterines”.

As a Navy diver, using an Aqualung, I was trained to “breath normally as you swim to the surface”. This rule was very importantly augmented by another: “Don’t hold your breath when you swim to the surface or you will blow your lungs up and die”.  

I am certain that you can provide other examples of positive rule statements that are best augmented by negative statements. There are other times when a negative rule statement implying a very unpleasant natural consequence for breaking the rule  will provide the shortest, most specific, most memorable, and most effective rule: I.e., “Don’t play with fire”.

The following UCMB prescriptions each imply their own positive and negative consequences. . Complex environments appear to  require greater complexity to their moral codes. The UCMB  is lengthy and including the all of the anticipated consequences for following or breaking a rule would make very long indeed. The teaching of this, or another moral code, would seem best to be approached in modules, with the various implied consequences depending upon the age and maturity of the learner fully discussed, illustrated, and  referenced.   Whenever possible moral prescriptions should be referenced to scientific support.

To increase the probability of moral behavior within a population, a code similar to the following UCMB should be taught and encouraged in all sociocultural venues possible.

The outcome would promise great goods. Great likely harms (concerns for unintended consequences noted) are seem doubtful.

Stay tuned for the UCMB.

Wake-Up America!

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.

He Gave It All

January 29, 2011

He Gave It All

Thank you Vic Palenske.

Maybe we can all just try a little harder.

Please see this video for an awe-inspiring tribute to a Mexican American hero and to all members of America’s fighting forces.


Virtue and Happiness

January 28, 2011

Virtue and Happiness

Some will debate the origins of the probablistic relationship between virtue and happiness. They will disagree as to whether it is a gift from God or a natural result of the interaction of human genetics and their ecosystem. 

You may suit yourself regarding the origins of this natural relationship, but you would deny the fact of it at your own peril and also your loved ones.

Virtue really is not its own reward: The rewards may be delayed, but there are many others likely to come.

George Washington knew this and so should we all.


Founder's Quote Daily

“There exists in the economy and course of nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness … we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.” –George Washington, First Inaugural Address, 1789

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Influencing Behavior: Rewarding Consequences and Values

January 27, 2011

Influencing Behavior: Rewarding Consequences and Values

Thanks to Bruce Bryner for sending this wonderful video collection to me.  It best illustrates that human behavior is controlled by consequences. This is one  of psychology’s major Laws. It further illustrates that using rewards (positive reinforcers as consequences for behavior that we wish to see happen more often in the future is the way to go).

Beyond this, the traffic control videos show that for some behaviors, a combination of punishment for infractions and rewards for compliance are needed. It should be known that the over-use of punishment without strong rewards for incompatible behavior normally has bad outcomes for the punished and the punisher.

Finally, all tapes illustrate that to implement systematic consequences that will influence behaviors in desirable ways, it is necessary for groups or sociocultures to organize themselves around common values and morals (i.e., it is good to follow speed limits it is bad to speed; it is good to put trash in its proper receptacles; it is bad to pollute the environment; etc.).

Want some fun?

What to see some ways to help ourselves behave better by having fun?

Watch the following videos.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.

A Uniform Code Of Moral Conduct?

January 25, 2011

The Rational For A Universal Code Of Moral Conduct

The reasons that I have assembled the Universal Code Of Moral Conduct (UCMC) are many. Foremost is the fact that everyone will benefit from having a practical code of moral values and conduct to teach their children and adolescents and to encourage among themselves.  A socioculture that fails to acculturate its members in the ethics of morality will suffer increasing behavioral chaos and resulting economic and functional decline.

To the best of my imperfect ability, the inclusion of prescriptions in the UCMC has only been a result of my bias toward the scientific literature on the principles of human development and behavior and also elements from traditionally successful moral codes. In other words because they accord with the data of the physical and psychological sciences and because they have effectively supported some of the most successful sociocultures in history.

All great sociocultures have had religious belief systems and religiously derived codes of conduct which helped to organize and regulate their collective behavior. The more effective these moral codes of conduct, on balance, the better these sociocultures have faired in the world of other  sociocultures that compete for survival.

But, the evolution of science and technology in the modern world has led to population mobility and unprecedented rates of migration between cultures. This amalgamation of many cultural beliefs and practices and the effects of science and technology upon these belief systems and behaviors  have weakened the power of religious faith-based moral and ethical precepts which once helped to organize and sustain their sociocultures.

In deference to its increasing religious and philosophical diversity, the United States has seen fit to remove its traditional Judeo-Christian rules for conduct (The Ten Commandments and Golden Rule), as well as most references to these faiths and moral precepts from its public land, courts, most media and our public schools. As a result it has increasingly failed to teach moral behavior to its children for several generations with the predictable result of increasing behavioral chaos and a general decline in America’s adaptability and functioning. It has been left to parents to teach their children morality. But, parents cannot teach what they have not learned. It has been left to the churches to teach morality. But, in the face of the church’s weakening hold on its parishioners, they have reduced their advocacy for moral restraint and sacrifice in order to sustain themselves.

America is reaching a point of no return. Any society that wishes to survive long and well, must settle upon an effective code of moral conduct to teach to its children.  They must then effectively organize themselves to powerfully do exactly that. Simultaneously, they must motivate conformity to this moral code in their adult population. What better moral code could there be for an increasingly diverse socioculture than one distilled from the most successful ones in the history of our planet that are also consistent with important principles of science, religion, and philosophy.

While there are numerous religions and moral prescriptions, the most successful ones have many themes in common. These common themes provide for an integrated face-valid, time-tested and successful moral code of conduct for modern diverse liberal democracies similar to the United States of America.

Regarding the validity of the prescriptions of  the UCMC, each by itself should accord with a history of success and predictions from scientific principles, theory to improve the primary mechanisms and measures thought to mediate our sociocultural health and viability.

Accordingly, conformity to each UCMC prescription should lead to the reduction of  bad behavioral contagion (the spread of maladaptive behavior within a population), the improvement of metabehavioral measures (critical social indicators), the reduction of social entropy (that proportion of a population unavailable to build and maintain the socioculture, but functions as a drain upon it), and a commensurate reduction in the probability of sociocultural decline or decompensation (the loss of ability to maintain viability due to catastrophic events and/or increasing rates of physical or social entropy).

All that is needed is a faith in the value of the moral code itself. The basis for such a faith is easily documented when viewed against the success of those historically valid moral systems from which it is derived. Because the UCMC is ecumenical and science-based in its origins it should be acceptable to those of many faiths,  agnostics, atheists, as well as scientists and those with faith in secular humanism.

Whether the prescriptions of the UCMC have been sent by God, or by a history of trial and error and intelligent human analysis, is a private matter for each individual to decide. But the value of such a moral code for collective life and sociocultural success is beyond question.

The Uniform Code of Moral Conduct should therefore be widely promulgated, taught, and encouraged at all levels of private and public life.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.    1/25/11

Morality Among the Godless

January 23, 2011

Morality Among the Godless

I do not intend any disrespect to those who do not profess a faith in God and his moral precepts for life. I also mean no disrespect to those who are avowed atheists. 

The practical question to be answered is how can society identify a moral code that it can teach to its children and encourage among its adults that will strengthen the health and viability of America?

Beyond an exclusively religious moral code, where is one that both people of faith and those of no faith can be encouraged to follow?

For those who do not believe, it is only the social of consequences of peers, family and the media, and select laws that are likely to influence their moral values and behaviors. For non believers, these influences are apt to be of poor quality because it is natural for humans to associate with those who are similar to themselves and who will agree with and reinforce their actions. They are likely to avoid the company of those who do not do these things. Therefore non believers are most likely to associate with those who reward conformity to nonreligious moral codes that are often inferior.

Social moral influences will also have a weaker effect upon the conduct of non believers for another reason. Non believers will experience social consequences for only their behaviors that are detected by their associates. Social moral influences are likely to be weak when non believers can behave in private or with anonymity (i.e., the internet, large cities, travel to distant locations). Modernity promotes the very conditions that increase privacy, anonymity, and association with others of similar religiously immoral value systems and behavioral tendencies.

For non believers, there are no spiritual consequences (God’s love, Heaven or Hell). Secular social consequences are often small, delayed, and improbable for religious moral behavior. On the other hand immoral behavior earns relatively immediate, large, and certain physiological reinforcement (pornography and sex = novel stimulation and orgasm, ingestion of drugs and alcohol = reduced anxiety and rewarding changes in states of consciousness, Gambling and violence = physiological excitement, etc.). Furthermore, non believers will easily find social contexts in which to behave in immoral ways and also gain approval.

To the believer, “the wages of sin is death”. To the non believer, the wages of sin are more immediate, larger and more certain reinforcements. But, the damaging consequences for both non-believing individuals and non-believing sociocultures that engage in immoral behavior and enjoy more immediate powerful environmental reinforcers are often so delayed that the individuals and socioculures are unable to exercise what we commonly call self-control. Over time the results can become calamitous. If you watch the behaviors of individuals and our government in America, you should now be able to see many examples of what I am discussing.

Without the “Eye In The Sky” and His whopping consequences for individuals, it will be very difficult to teach non believers, or the governments they comprise, to give-up personal pleasures so that the world will remain clean, animal creatures will survive, or that our future children will inherit healthy environmental and economic conditions. Without God and his moral code, it will be very difficult to teach humans to sacrifice their own conveniences and pleasures so future generations can have better lives.

So now what?!

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.    1/23/11

What form of Government?

January 21, 2011

What form of Government?

That is an intimidating question for me because I do not consider myself to be an expert in political science and government. To be sure, I have my opinions, but so does everyone else. Why should anyone pay any attention to my views on such matters?

Frankly, I do not think that identifying the most desirable form of government for a socio-culture is all that difficult. The selection can be made in various ways that do not require special expertise in, or about government.

Which form of Government has led the modern world in military matters, science and technology, medicine, education, and art and entertainment during the past 200 years?

Who venerated and protected the rights of individuals more?

Who invented more?

Who educated more of its population?

Who produced more?

Who has the world imitated the most?

Where does most of the world wish to immigrate to?

Who has been the leader in business and economics?

Who has done the most to keep peace in the world and settle world conflagrations?

Who has provided the most cash, material, and human assistance to other nations or regions struck by famine, pestilence, or natural disasters?

There will be some who will find fault with my favor of our American Constitutional Liberal Democracy. They may wish to cite great civilizations in antiquity and argue that their contributions to the evolution of societies have also been great. That is true, but they have long ago slipped from the top.

Some may wish to argue about relatively recent trends among social or economic indicators which suggest that America is in decline. This is a good argument.  But other great sociocultures went through different periods of strength and relative decline and maintained their greatness for ver long periods. Finally, yes,  America’s social indices suggest that our population’s behavior is weakening and becoming more and more troubled with each passing generation.

All of this is not an indictment of our governmental system, it is rather, a series of accurate observations that will lead us to the true source of our present decline. 

We have ignorantly rejected the faith-based moral code of conduct that once made us great.

If America can adopt a workable moral code of conduct acceptable to the vast majority of its population, teach it to its children and encourage its conformity in its adult population, it will again continue its ascendency.

Fail to do this and we will continue to suffer behavioral chaos and decline.

Don’t believe me about continued decline? Check out the new cable series by MTV entitled Skins. MTV is just one media venture that we allow to make hundreds of millions of dollars by turning our children and teens into barbarians.

Wake-up America! You threw away your Moral Code!

You damn-well better find another one and stick to it.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D. 1/21/11

Self-Defeating Cultures

January 20, 2011

Self-Defeating Cultures
Saying and doing things that make us feel loving,    caring, compassionate, noble and needed can frequently be damaging to all concerned.  The following four propositions will clarify my meaning.

1.   The parent who goes too far in loving, protecting, and “doing” for their child is likely to rear an individual that is demanding, self-centered, anxious, fearful, dependent, and helpless.

2.   The Nation that provides its irresponsibly unemployed, uneducated, destitute, and overly fertile citizens with free money, food, child care, transportation, communication, housing, medical care, and entertainment will raise a rapidly increasing percent of the population who are as described in proposition # 1.

3.   Those nations that overprotect other cultures by spending their own resources to save them from the pain of famines, plagues, overpopulation, and wars can actually retard the development of those cultures and increase their long-range suffering and dependency.  All cultures must learn to respond independently to the immediate conditions that threaten them or they will perish. To over-protect cultures from the consequences of their own actions has the same predictable effects as the overprotection of children, as discussed in proposition # 1. 

4.   Cultures live in a Darwinian, naturally selecting, world as do individual organisms and species of organisms.  The feel-good concept of a “world culture” must accommodate that fact.  Cultures that are currently “fit” (in the cultural evolutionary sense) can destroy themselves by squandering their own precious and dwindling resources to teach other cultures to also be helplessly blind to the immediate contingencies of their own survival.

The clearest single prototype of all four of these levels of maladaptive and self-defeating behavior is us, the United States of America.   
Such a cultural organism, without change, cannot long survive.

V. Thomas Mawhinney Ph.D.

P.S. 1/20/11,  There should be no objection to one Nation helping another, providing they have the resources to sustain themselves for a reasonable time frame during which the other culture is progressing toward an ability to sustain themselves. This form of constructive samaritanship can strengthen and benefit all involved and it is in keeping with the Judeo/Christian moral code that we once more fully embrased.

The Purist Virtue

January 18, 2011

Founder's Quote Daily

“Give up money, give up fame, give up science, give the earth itself and all it contains rather than do an immoral act. And never suppose that in any possible situation, or under any circumstances, it is best for you to do a dishonorable thing, however slightly so it may appear to you… From the practice of the purest virtue, you may be assured you will derive the most sublime comforts in every moment of life, and in the moment of death.” –Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, 1785

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As a Nation, how are we doing with our virtuous behavior?

As Individuals, how are we doing with our virtuous behavior?

Which political leader has spoken to us as Thomas Jefferson once spoke?

VTM, 1/18/11

Our Fallen Heros

January 17, 2011

Our Fallen Heros

A friend sent this video to me. It left tears in my eyes and a renewed deep gratitude for those who serve our country under hazardous circumstances.

Please view the following and pass it on to your friends.

VTM,   1/17/11

P.S. Thanks to Joe Grunert for sending me this video.

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