Thursday, May 7, 2015

Physics-based Ethics: Civic Examples

          

            (Note: Since 2012, I have continually revised this essay, adapted from Albert Einstein. His thoughts are critical to the argument and much warmer than my writing, so please do not miss the quotation marks. Einstein used only one example, so I have added some to attempt answers I wish he could supply. Einstein's speech came two years after he signed a letter that alerted President Roosevelt of Hitler's intent to build an atomic bomb: see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Einstein%E2%80%93Szil%C3%A1rd_letter . This essay revises from "The Ethics of Physics.")

          Humankind employs a process for understanding, which applies in both physics and ethics.[1] In different space-times, humankind as well as each person seek comprehension of “relations which are thought to exist independently.[2] For examples, extraterrestrial life either exists or not, regardless of humankind’s apprehensions. Mutual appreciation is more productive than hate, regardless of the culture. Humankind's understanding progresses over eternity, while each newborn is ignorant and must grow personal autonomy within a normal lifetime if at all.
          In physics, statements of comprehension may be cosmic discoveries, for example, that the universe is expanding. Also, there are facts, as in elementary mathematics:  2+2 = 4, as 2 apples plus 2 oranges equal 4 fruit. Contrary statements, like 2+2 = 5,[3] (or 2 = 3), occur in games and art, for example, to metaphorically express the illusion that team effort exceeds the sum of members’ contributions.
          Comprehension is not “supposed to” apply in the intellectual world or civic world, such as ethics and civic morality.  Cultures have developed religions to attempt to appropriate the benefits of human experience as religious morality, but religious morals seem dysfunctional in civics or necessary public connections. For example, the intellectual constructs "eternal life," "reincarnation," and "only what you did survives your death," cannot be confirmed by physics, so they cannot be used to negotiate civic morality. Physics-based ethics seems a better option for civic morality, because it applies to every person. For example, a typhoon knows no favorite persons. Benefiting from physics seems the basis of civic morality. For example, consider the conflicting 1+1 = 1; as in my god[4] plus your god = your god, or my part of the summation is zero: my 1 = our 0--together we negate my god. Together we consider: Is your god our god? I would not agree to that proposal. But we may enjoy that we each have unique views of our differing experiences and hopes yet learn to appreciate each other as each of us is: civically collaborative. Therefore, we agree that 1+1 = 2 or 1 = 1. Each of our gods differs but we don’t question each other’s private pursuit of liberty.Thereby, civic alienation over religious hopes is lessened or avoided.
          But there must be civic justice. The Dali Lama said, I think erroneously, “The law of action and reaction is not exclusively for physics. It is also of human relations. If I act with goodness, I will receive goodness. If I act with evil, I will get evil.[5] In human relations or civics, reciprocity often fails; the Dali himself is a forced exile, because by force a people took land he occupied. I doubt he perceives he has either experienced civic justice or is receiving woe because he used force. But he was thinking in 2010 like Einstein's proposal in 1941, and my doubt might be eliminated by The Dali Lama's viewpoint. That is, I do not know the objective truth.
          Comprehensions have a common characteristic: each comprehension is “’true or false’ [or uncertain] (adequate or inadequate) . . . reaction . . . is ‘yes’ or ‘no’.” [6] I add acceptance of the unknown. Thus, each understanding may be valued: true or false or unknown. For example, respecting the existence of extraterrestrial life, the odds for true are high, so false does not seem likely; unknown is the preferred opinion. Because we appreciate each other despite our differing opinions about gods or none, we are able to strive together to understand the objective truth; reality; or what-is. Yet, even as we admit that some things neither of us knows, we each maintain personal hopes. With candid attitudes, two people may happily discuss whether supernatural “soul” is real or imaginary. I prefer to think my body and mind constitute my person, and there is no associated supernatural being. But I readily admit I don’t know: in other words, my focus on person rather than soul could be wrong. But such discussions are private, do not impact civic needs, and should not be imposed in the determination of civic morality.
          The process for understanding “has a further characteristic.” The noble work toward comprehension does not express emotions. “For the [searcher], there is only ‘being,’ but no wishing”; no praising; no believing[7]; no agendum; no ideology; no religion; no hoping; no pride; no contradiction; no goal beyond comprehension. Each individual who seeks civic understanding perseveringly rejects coercion from anyone, ancient or contemporary, yet also behaves so as to not coerce anyone or indoctrinate herself or himself. When we recognize either gullibility or self-persuasion, we stop; we strive to discover self-contradiction and eliminate it. I've muddied so much it is worth repeating Einstein’s simple statement, “there is only ‘being’ but no wishing.” The consequence of eliminating emotions is that determination of civic morality does not cause alienation among civic people: religious morality is taken as a private matter.
          At this point, it is important for the reader to recall I am adapting an essay by Einstein and to be alert to the quotation marks to capture his warmth in the following passages.
          Guided by understanding, we need not respond to doctrine, like, “’Thou shalt not lie.’”
          Yet, “we do not feel at all that it is meaningless to ask such questions as: ‘Why should we not lie?’ We feel that such questions are meaningful because in all [ethics] some . . . premises are tacitly taken for granted.  We then feel satisfied when we succeed in tracing back the ethical directive in question to these basic premises. In the case of lying this might perhaps be done like this: Lying destroys confidence in the statements of other people. Without such confidence, social cooperation is made impossible or at least difficult.” For example, after the lie, the liar may fear future dialogue with the deceived party, who, in turn, may sense the liar’s apprehension. Or, judging from his own behavior, the liar may suspect the deceived party is also a liar. “Cooperation, however, is essential to make human life possible”, even worthy of appreciation. Thus, our commitment, “‘[We shall] not lie,’ has been traced back to the demands: ‘Human life shall be preserved’ and ‘Pain and sorrow shall be lessened as much as possible.’” The just person gravitates toward cooperative autonomy which implies complete integrity; rejects fear and embraces empathy for other persons and self; has too much humility to lie; is authentic; is true to the person, physics, and other persons.
          Thus, it seems the process for understanding can apply to ethics. “Ethical directives can be made rational and coherent by logical thinking and empirical knowledge. If we can agree on some fundamental ethical propositions, then other propositions can be derived from them, provided that the original premises are stated with sufficient precision.” For example, persons expect appreciation to overcome hatred. People are connected and therefore may expect each other to positively communicate. “Such ethical premises play a similar role in ethics, to that played by axioms in mathematics.”
          “But what is the origin of such ethical axioms? Are they arbitrary? Are they based on mere authority? Do they stem from [humankind’s experiences], and are they conditioned by such experiences?”
          “For pure logic all axioms seem arbitrary, including the axioms of ethics. But they are by no means arbitrary from a psychological and genetic point of view. They are derived from our inborn tendencies to avoid pain and annihilation and from the accumulated . . . reaction[s] of individuals to the behavior[s] of their neighbors.” Just as physics exists and can only be discovered, ethics exists and can only be discovered. Just as physics may be vainly denied, ethics may be unjustly and unprofitably rejected.
          “It is the privilege of [humankind’s] ethical genius . . . to advance ethical axioms which are so comprehensive and so well founded that [persons accept] them as grounded in the vast mass of their individual . . . experiences.” Humankind has accumulated experiences from more than 100 billion lives over two million years, even though our mtDNA kinship extends back only 0.2 million years. The leading edge of ethics marches today on the minds of seven billion people, faster than ever before in history. Yet the earth is in turmoil over religious moralities instead of at peace with civic morality.
          For an individual to learn ethics is a daunting quest, because humans are born totally uninformed and there is so much to learn. Nevertheless, each person, after becoming basically informed (typically in about twenty years) has the potential to enjoy some sixty years to psychologically mature and to help fulfill and expand the ethical axioms of humankind. The gift of life presents the opportunity and potentials for joy. Anyone who squanders their life for either personal appetite (perhaps dying young) or an ideology (perhaps dying immature) usually misses the chance for self-discovery. Whether that’s good or bad I do not know but doubt it is good. It seems to me the meaning of life is to emerge an adult with the goodness you always imagined you'd posses.
          “Ethical axioms are found and tested not very differently from” the physical axioms. [Understanding] is what stands the test of experience” and approaches the objective truth.[8]
           These principles expressed by Albert Einstein can be used by a people to establish civic morality, whereas religious morals are based on opinion and can never be resolved without physics-based ethics.
Addendum
          Einstein’s discussion, I believe, was for the cooperatively autonomous audience, for most of whom even “white lies” merely prolong the inevitable submission to the objective truth. Even the cancer patient’s question, “Am I going to die,” may be answerable, for example, “We’re going to do everything we can to prevent it,” or, “In time, yes, but we are going to work toward keeping you alive.” A child’s innocence can be transitioned without mendacity.[9] For example, a child who has the personal autonomy to ask if Santa is real gains confidence to hear something like: Yes: Santa is a metaphor--an annual reminder for each person to offer authentic good will toward all civic people all the time. However, there is no person named Santa.
          The need to deceive the enemy is obvious. However, the deceit must be carefully crafted and executed; obvious deviations from established principles will be accepted by only the most uninformed or gullible person. Gullibility is a deadly error left out of the seven deadly sins for self-evident reasons. It takes understanding and humility for a person to overcome personal gullibility.

Applications
            I have not had the pleasure of discussing applications of Einstein’s theory beyond his example respecting lying. Most people readily agree that civic people do not lie to each other, because they cooperate for solutions to civic problems. A person with need cannot communicate that need by lying. So far, discussions with a civic people convince me there is never an excuse for lying. Caring for someone near death, there can be candid talk. The enemy who intends to kill you needs to trust it when you say, "One more advance and I am going to annihilate you." However, I have thought about many applications of physics-based ethics and want to share some for discussion by a civic people. Please use the comment box a the end of the essay.
          The idea is to establish physics-based ethics for negotiating civic morality, keeping private the opportunity for each person to pursue comfort in the face of the unknown, whether their personal liberty is served by religion or not. Physics-based ethics is a part of a theory for governance of by and for a civic people. So, when my opinion seems to conflict with your wishes, realize 1) there has been no candid discussion toward compromise, 2) the object of negotiation is endorsement by a civic people, not necessarily restriction of individuals (no-harm people can behave as they wish), and 3) I write my opinion, not knowing the objective truth. Lastly, for people with the means to defy understood physics, there should be no restrictions as long as they do not cause harm: a person with the means to fly to the moon with no harm should be able to fly to the moon unencumbered by a other people.
            First, a process by which humans may establish physics-based ethics needs to be known and cultivated. A rudimentary process has the following five steps:
          •      Understand the physics of a civic issue
          •      Personally act according to the understanding
          •      Civically or legally endorse the understanding by agreement or by legislation, respectively
          •      Remain alert for change in the understanding
          •      With new understanding amend any civic order.
For example, many children experience spitting into the wind and 1) would never try it again, 2) would not encourage another person to try it and 3) imagine that throwing sand into the wind would be worse. The physics of this ethic is so obvious no one analyses it: it is tacitly understood, and no laws are required for general adoption of the ethic: don’t spit into the wind. However, if the CDC announced a study, with evidence that some patients’ Ebola-infected spit, upon exposure to outside air, may instantaneously, autogenously vaccinate the patient, Ebola patients might spit into the wind. 
          This example seems far-fetched but illustrates the essential elements for beneficial living in a world in which physics is both continuously emerging, continually discovered, and used beneficially. Thereby, a civic people determine ethics. A civic people must 1) candidly understand the physics of each civic issue, 2) use Einstein’s “‘being’ but no wishing”, 3) publicly share trust and commitment, and 4) be alert to new information that demands change.   There are many issues I would like to discuss with a civic people, perhaps starting with my opinions, but opposition to my opinion might be the starting point. Some cases are presented below for civic consideration by a people for a people.

Racism

            A people of the United States is attempting to recover from nearly four-hundred years’ involvement in slavery and consequential injustice. Slavery is still practiced[10] in some countries. Imposition of slavery in this country was carried out by five European countries cooperating with Africans who sold Africans in the Atlantic[11] slave trade. Abolitionism was alive in America with Philadelphia’s Quakers in 1758.[12] In 1775, Thomas Paine wrote a scathing letter in opposition to Christianity’s involvement in slavery[13], and with Benjamin Franklin founded the Philadelphia Abolition society. Benjamin Franklin argued for abolition in the Constitutional Convention of 1787. The South Carolina declaration of secession[14] cited religious opinion as the last in a list of reasons for the legislature's decision. Toward the end of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln suggested[15] that regardless of the outcome, both the South’s god and the North’s god will still be held as just and good (my paraphrase and irony if Lincoln would disagree). People who can brook self-contradiction may to this day cite Bible verses that seem to justify slavery, we may assume based on a white god. In opposition is “Black theology and the Black church,”[16] which imply a black god. It seems reasonable that each person’s god should be in that person’s image--it's a matter of culture. However, a civic people do not base civic morality on religious beliefs.
          Consider human physics. Thomas Paine, in 1775, wrote what everybody knew, based on what humankind understood then:
          Our Traders in MEN (an unnatural commodity!) must know the wickedness of
          the SLAVE-TRADE, if they attend to reasoning, or the dictates of their own
          hearts: and such as shun and stiffle all these, wilfully sacrifice Conscience, and
          the character of integrity to that golden idol.
Paine claims that only by self-contradiction can a person slave-trade. Physics dictates that any economic system that takes from one person the product of her or his labor and gives it to another is not feasible, be it slavery, communism, or socialism: one person cannot subjugate another. Today, the study of mitochondrial DNA, mtDNA, informs us that we are kin—all living people evolved from a woman who lived perhaps 200,000 years ago.[17] Lines of descendency from each of her contemporaries died off. Also, skin-color relates to evolution at globally lateral location of a population and respective receipt of the Sun’s radiation, more than other factors.[18] In 2015, there is no excuse for racism, and continuing the black v white divide at the expense of humankind based on the Bible is a travesty that can be resolved by a people with civic morality based on physics-based ethics. In summary:
Inhabitants of the United States are willfully alienated on skin-color
     •      mtDNA shows that living humans are kin
     •      skin color is an evolutionary result of varying radiation from the Sun
     •      despite some good, the Bible contains ideas that can be used for harm
     •      A people must not use religious scripture to attempt civic morality
     •      A people must not use religion—for or against--to divide[19]

More examples, follow without prior discussion.

Faith: personal trust and commitment by persons among a people
•      Among responsibilities most humans accept is personally finding comfort against the unknown
•      Some people find comfort in religious belief, with its religious morality
•      Others find comfort in faith in the objective truth, considered a myth by some
•      Still others wait for discovery, simply accepting the unknowns
•      When religious morals conflict, believers who are of a people use civic morality for civic action
•      Religious institutions supported by a civic people conform to civics

Vehicular traffic necessarily risks property and health
•      Two vehicles must cross paths but cannot occupy the same space-time
•      Experts continually update regulations technology, accommodating new technologies
•      Ethical persons know and observe the regulations
•      In a collision, no one questions the travel purpose (e.g., were you going to worship your god?)

Discussions among people are candid
•      Born or naturalized, a person is physically here
•      Without candidness, citizens hide their perceived civic needs
•      Without candid consideration, a people cannot compromise or deliberate
•      Alibis, evasion, and lies prevent ethical civics
•      Special-interest groups or factions need civic cooperation
•      A people transcends and protects all civil groups--acts so as to not excuse, withdraw, lie, or hide
•      For civic governance, a super-majority of each faction is of a civic people

An adult and a child playing with shape-blocks
•      Delight when the child initially matches shapes
•      The child may try a square peg in a round hole
•      To insist on a mismatch may frustrate the family
•      The ethical adult encourages shape matching 

Medical use of beneficial components from marijuana
•      Some components from marijuana, cannibanoids, are proving useful as curative drugs
•      These components should be covered by FDA like any other drug
•      The infrastructure for supply should be set up without encumbrance by marijuana laws
•      A civic people approve medicines and their supplies as soon as possible

A child is conceived when an ovum from a woman is fertilized by sperm from a man, whether by nature or by technology.
•      Thereby, the child’s genealogical and perhaps psychological heritage is determined.
•      The child has the inalienable right to the equality and dignity of her or his heritage, unto   posterity (to grandchildren of the parents and beyond).
•      Adult contracts that deny a child’s equality and dignity conflict the ethics of physics, e.g., consensual sex without regard for progeny, divorce, surrogacy, single parenthood

The woman has continual dual autonomy: to herself and with her viable ova or conceptions
•      Ethical men protect the woman’s dual autonomy
•      The woman has privacy in the decision to remain pregnant

Ethical couples empower their conceptions’ opportunity for personal autonomy and beyond
•      Ethical couples respect their child and posterity (grandchildren and beyond) as persons
•      Monogamist couples provide equality, dignity to their progeny
•      Ethical parents are not promiscuous

Same-sex monogamy
•      Same-sex partners cannot be a child’s couple
•      Opposing arguments aggress against the child
     •      Don’t object to a father and a father: We tolerate you
     •      Don’t question our partnership: Fidelity to physics is obsolete
•      Same-sex monogamy is ethical for a family of two

A people need children for progress, not abuse or subjugation
•      A people must ethically gain children and provide
     •      Secure, ethical connection to child care (usually civic parents) and society
     •      Education at the leading edge of understanding
     •      Invitation to personal autonomy, cooperative autonomy, and liberty for psychological maturity
•      When parents forfeit, a civic people lamely surrogate
•      In human physics, the body develops procreation ability a decade before the person is psychologically prepared to parent
•      A civic people license procreation to secure each child’s equality and dignity

No one knows if a god influences physics or not
•      No one knows how limited human perceptions are
•      No one knows the limits[20] of the universe
•      The god may yet be discovered
•      In ethical civic negotiation, spirituality is private
•      Some people privately pursue the supernatural
•      No person should limit a person's civic pursuit of psychological liberty

Governance with the ethics of physics, recap
•      Racism can become obsolete under the ethics of physics
•      Faith: personal comfort against the unknown
•      Vehicular travel risks property and health
•      Discussions among a people are candid
•      An adult and a child playing with shape-blocks 
•      Medical components from marijuana
•      A child is conceived in equality and dignity
•      The woman has continuing dual autonomy
•      Ethical couples respect their child
•      Same-sex monogamy
•      A people need children for progress, not abuse
•      No one knows if/not a god influences physics
•      (Alert for a case for spitting into the wind)

Bristol University has a physics and ethics education program, PEEP[21], online. Its issues are more commercial and less socially bold than some of the above issues. They assert that lying is sometimes justified, and we oppose that advice.

Cynthia tells me
physics-based ethics is common sense with a mediator when people disagree. Civic morality is based on physics.

For a people to not use
physics-based ethics concerns me.

Note: the revision of "the ethics of physics" to "physics-based ethics" started with Doug Johnson's recent argument to me on the phone that "the physics of ethics" seemed more appropriate, because physics drives humans to ethics. He was joined on June 20 at a library discussion by Alex Townsend, Mark Logan, Gordon Hughmark, Holly Beaver and I. Mark liked "physics" as a broader expression than "nature." Alex thought naturalism was divided by the physical and the psychological and suggested methodological naturalism. He mentioned the need for evidence, and "evidence-based civics" was suggested. On further thought, artful people often bend evidence to support notions. Gordon expressed that physics is the bedrock on which everything stands. We feel that physics-based ethics is a worthy revision and look forward to future discussions.
Copyright:  July 12, 2012. Phillip R. Beaver, author and creator, revised June 28, 2015.  Copy only with permission. (Adapted from “The Laws of Science and The Laws of Ethics.” Einstein: Out of My Later Years. Pages 114-115.) Revised August 30, 2015



[1] Adapting Albert Einstein’s 1941 speech, “The Laws of Science and The Laws of Ethics.” Starting at http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/my-friend-einstein/, but corrected to the referenced book. (The online version has a couple minor errors.)
[2] In the body of the essay, quotation marks refer to Einstein’s essay. Toward the end, his passages are extensive. There are no quotations of Einstein in the addendum. I like his conversational style and mimicked it.
[4] I do not know if anything controls the origins and progress of reality and avoid pretense by using “god” instead of terms commonly taken for granted. My expression, god, may be read with an interrogatory inflection. In this way, the reader may sense the humility I intend.
[6] “I do not know,” is an assertion that requires humility, integrity, and fidelity, applying in each instance to both the objective truth and the self. In other words, when you do the work to reach understanding but cannot draw a conclusion, you admit to yourself, “I do not know,” thereby avoiding contradiction. Admitting to self can be difficult when the question is, “Is there a god?”
[7] Phil Beaver has a policy against believing. I prefer to wait for discovery and understanding of the objective truth.
[8] The objective truth is the reality that yields to neither faith nor hope nor reason nor force nor words. I trust in and am committed to the objective truth much of which is undiscovered and some of which is known; that is my statement of faith; my faith provides me the comfort to attest “I do not know,” when I do not know.
[9] I was prompted to post this essay after reading and commenting on Shirley S. Wang's article, "Clues to Teaching Young Children to Tell the Truth," June 30, 2014, at online.wsj.com/articles/clues-to-teaching-young-children-to-tell-the-truth-1404167647?tesla=y .
[10] “Where slavery is still practiced”: online at www.religioustolerance.org/sla_world.htm .
[11] Atlantic slave trade, online at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_slave_trade#European_participation_in_the_slave_trade .
[12] Quakers: online at abolition.nypl.org/essays/abolition/2/
[16] Southern University. Online at www.subr.edu/index.cfm/newsroom/detail/739 .
[19] I am reminded of Abraham Lincoln’s statement that a house divided must fall.
[20] Michael Polanyi in Personal Knowledge, 1958, seems to assert that worshipping his god liberates him from his perceptions. Personal, private liberation seems to be a good thing for anyone.
[21] Physics & Ethics. Online at www.peep.ac.uk/content/618.0.html .

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