A Question of Atheist Scruples – round 7

June 19, 2012

I really enjoy these thought exercises. Here’s today’s selection.

Your mate has been unfaithful. Do you leave him/her?

Monogamy is a rarity in the animal world. Even in the more specific realm of primates (which we are) there are only a few species that mate that way. In the even more narrow realm of human cultural history, there are ample examples of societies that organized mating and relationships along other, equally satisfying lines. Monogamy, as practiced now, may be more a product of a culture that treated women as property (“Do you take this woman?”) and it was expected that any children produced by her would be from the seed of the man she married. Property often transferred down the father’s line of the family. That’s why adultery has been considered a sin. Temptation, too. Even the briefest thought of entertaining another person is supposedly enough to send a soul to hell.

If two people have agreed that their relationship, however long they expect to have it, will be a monogamous one, then discovering one person has strayed… well, it’s a severe breach of trust to say the least. Some reaction may have to do with how long the relationship has lasted. If it’s only been a couple weeks and the guy is already plowing another field, then I made a mistake in picking him. I’d feel like an idiot but be glad I hadn’t really gotten too serious with him. If it’s been months and I’ve really cared about that person and discover secret trysts have been going on, it’d be a lot more devastating. But, if my interest in that person has been waning as well, I think I’d use the betrayal as the open door out of what clearly isn’t a relationship to be in anymore.

If it was someone I felt like I couldn’t live without, maybe I’d put up with the nights he didn’t come home, so long as there were still some nights he did.. but I can’t actually see myself wanting to be in that situation either. If I didn’t sign up for an “open” relationship, I don’t want to find out by accident that I’ve been in one all along.

During a discussion with a seatmate on a plane, you promise to send a relevant magazine article. Do you actually do it.?

The version of game I take these questions from came from the mid 1980s before the internet made information gathering so much easier. In the days of mailing, maybe I would have taken their address and gotten around to sending it eventually, but probably not. I tend to procrastinate with that kind of thing. With email, it’s a lot easier. I probably wouldn’t even have to send the article; I could just pass along what site I found it on and he or she could get it at the airport upon landing.

A neighbour’s kid finds $30 on your driveway and gives it to you. No one claims it. Do you give the money to the kid?

I’d be totally surprised the kid gave me the money in the first place. What a morally sound kid. If I found $30 on someone’s driveway, I don’t know if I’d go to the door and deliver it. Depends on whether or not anyone saw me pick it up, I suppose. If I later heard my neighbour griping over the loss of cash, I’d probably recall what I picked up and pass it over, though. Money is one of those weird things. If I found a whole wallet with ID and cash in, I’d deliver the wallet to the authorities untouched but bills flying around apparently ownerless? I refer the courts to the case of Finders vs. Keepers… I’d let the kid keep the money.

Last question for readers.

You reserve seats at a local theatre by phone (without paying). A few hours before curtain, you decide not to go. Do you bother to cancel?


Christian “The Devil will get you!” doctor given warning

June 15, 2012

The image offered by the Telegraph makes Dr Richard Scott look a bit demonic himself, but anyway. The story is this:

The GP, who has worked as a missionary doctor in India and Tanzania, claimed that, after the usual medical consultation, he made a “gentle offer” to the patient to broach the subject of faith and was told “go for it”.

But in an 11-page finding, the GMC committee ruled that the GP had told the patient he was not going to offer him any medical help, tests or advice and stated if he did not “turn towards Jesus then he would suffer for the rest of his life”.

The committee also found that the GP had said no other religion in the world could offer him what Jesus could and he had used the phrase, or something similar to “the Devil haunts people who do not turn to Jesus and hand him their suffering”.

The General Medical Council is not against religion, they claim, but their rules clearly stipulate that doctors “must not impose your beliefs on patients, or cause distress by the inappropriate or insensitive expression of religious, political or other beliefs or views” and will take action in cases where patients say such a thing has gone on.

After the hearing, Dr Scott said he remained unbowed and the ruling would not stop him using his faith in work.
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“I will continue to raise the issue of faith, in particular Christianity, where relevant in consultations in the future, because it is for the patient’s benefit.”

In his eyes, at least. I’d rather not be under a doctor who thinks it’s also his or her duty to play minister to my so-called soul. I think most patients just want to get well and will take a pill or surgery if either will get them to that goal. I know studies seem to indicate that faith and belief can assist in healing but so do placebos, pets, and compassionate caregivers. I’d take any of those over a prayer service, thank you very much, and I know I’m not the only one.


A Question of Atheist Scruples – round 6

June 12, 2012

Time for another round of Q and A:

You are a high school principal. Will you hire a gay teacher?

I will hire the most qualified applicant. If that applicant turns out to be gay, I wouldn’t see that as an issue, although maybe some parents might. Maybe my boss would, too. I’d still want to support my pick for the job, though. In this day and age, this is something that shouldn’t even be mattering anymore.

A friend has forgotten about a book he loaned you. You want the book and can’t get another copy. Do you keep it?

Maybe I’d feel tempted to remind said friend about the book but if friend hasn’t made mention of it in the weeks or months or perhaps years (it happens) then maybe the book means far less to that person and won’t care if it’s not returned. I have stuff I’d loan out and probably forget about. Other books do have more sentimental value and wouldn’t be offered up on loan, no matter how much a friend may want to read it.

You come across your mate’s personal address book. Do you glance through it?

I just did. Aside from one page, it’s blank. All that’s in it is family and likely added by his mom or sister, judging by the tidy penmanship. If I needed an address, I’d just ask him anyway. I don’t poke around on his Blackberry to see who or what he’s got listed in there, either. We don’t have many friends in common and I’m not one to pry.

Fourth for readers:

You lose an expensive gold watch and are reimbursed by your insurance company. Shortly afterward you find the watch. Do you return the money?


A Question of Atheist Scruples – round 5

June 7, 2012

Taking the leisurely route back into blogging here with another post demonstrating that at least one atheist has a decent grasp of morality and ethics. This minion doesn’t run ripshod through the world as if rules and laws didn’t exist. God might not exist, but decency does.

Preoccupied, you leave a large restaurant without paying your $3.50 bill for breakfast. You discover this three blocks later. You aren’t pressed for time. Do you return and pay?

Of course. Last time around it was 50 cents extra change that I didn’t see a point in returning. This is different to me. I’ve likely interacted more with the waitress, said yes or no to cream and sugar, or more coffee, agreed the meal was excellent (even if it wasn’t, the price makes up for it) and would feel particularly bad ditching on the bill since it’d likely mean some of her pay would have to go towards making up for it. I know most waitresses rely heavily on their tips to get anywhere, too.

You are applying for a job that requires experience you don’t have. Do you claim that you do?

I think the ruse would soon be discovered, so probably not. Instead, I’d try to convince the potential employer that I have a transferable skill set and learn quickly. I don’t tend to apply for positions I’m not qualified for.

I’m reminded of a story out of my alma mater back in 2001, now. The University of Regina wound up with egg on its face after it was discovered that they’d hired an engineering professor who’d falsified all her documentation yet wound up teaching classes there.

The University of Regina is passing its file on “Dr.” Lana Nguyen to the Regina police service, but continues to refuse to answer questions surrounding her employment and dismissal.

The police and crown prosecutors will decide if charges will be laid against the woman who defrauded the university of hundreds of thousands of dollars. University President Dr. David Barnard confirmed early this week that Nguyen resigned Feb. 13 after an annual peer review process revealed that she does not have the credentials with which she was hired.

Since her resignation, the University of Ottawa, the University of Waterloo, and the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Saskatchewan (APEGS) have respectively confirmed that she does not hold the bachelor’s degree, doctorate, or professional status she claimed. Her ex-husband Hien Nguyen studied and received diplomas from the two universities, and Lana Nguyen claimed his transcripts and research as her own, allegedly explaining that “Lana” was an anglicized version of “Hien.”

That takes more balls than I have, let me tell you.

A friend has sunk into a depression and behaves in an unattractive manner. Do you distance yourself until your friend gets it together?

There’s a phrase that describes that kind of behaviour: fair-weather friend. I have a pretty poor track record when it comes to friendships as it is; I don’t need to start doing that kind of thing, too. I don’t go out of my way to maintain connections with people. Even with all the ways there are to stay in contact and updated on the lives of those I know, I still don’t bother doing the clicks required to inform me of their progress through life. And I assume they’re ignoring me to equal levels as well. It’s a character flaw, I suppose. I’ll also point out that I draw a fine line between genuine care and annoying nosiness and it often feels like too many people cross it. Me, I don’t like to pry. I prefer to assume that if it’s something I need to know, that person will tell me. Back when I was in the dating realm, though, I learned there are people who assume everyone wants to play 20 Questions every time there’s an encounter. I had a fun analogy built at the time to describe both types of people but I only recall my way of interacting: a pinball approach. I like when conversations bounce from topic to topic and don’t have a set goal at the end of it…like this blog post…

Back to the question. I guess it depends on just how “together” this friend needs to get. This is all assuming I’ve even put two and two together in terms of life issues and behaviour patterns. I don’t always pick up on that kind of thing. I’ve already said I don’t pry, so if this friend hasn’t come forward to explain why he or she is having a difficult time, I don’t know if I’d think of asking for explanations.

Last one to the readers.

You discover an excellent wine imported from South Africa. You know it was likely produced by workers who are exploited and discriminated against. Do you buy the wine?


A Question of Atheist Scruples – Round 3

May 15, 2012

I’m getting a kick out of doing this. Some of the questions out of this old Scruples game are a bit absurd and others leave too many options open for answers, but overall it’s getting interesting. Here are today’s ethical quandaries.

A friend asks you to join a demonstration for worldwide nuclear disarmament. You are busy. Do you go?

Where is it and how long does it run? If it’s at City Hall on a Sunday afternoon, I could probably swing it. Laundry could wait a few hours. If it would require weeks off work and cramped days sitting in a VW bus filled with angry sign waving hippies, I’d have to pass on it, no matter how much I might agree with them.

This isn’t news I stay abreast of, but I’ve found an opinion piece in the Toronto Star where the writer takes this position in terms of Iran.

Universal abolition of nuclear weapons is indeed a utopian ideal. As has been pointed out, it could not work in today’s international system of “a world divided into nations maintaining their full sovereignty.”

The authors of that comment were not utopians, though. They were the U.S. joint chiefs of staff. This was their judgment back in 1946, at the very dawn of the nuclear era.

Instead, we’ve gone the route of trying, by pressure and bribery, to limit nuclear weapons to respectable nations — or to weak ones (like Pakistan and North Korea). The consequence is an Iran within touching distance of gaining nuclear capability, and after it, almost anybody.

The alternative to that route would be, in essence, some form of global nuclear governance. Excruciatingly hard to accomplish, of course. But isn’t it time long overdue to have a serious discussion of that option?

And wasn’t that kind of initiative exactly the sort of thing that Canada, long ago it now seems, used to do and indeed was quite good at? Why not regain our voice?

We’ve seen the fall-out in terms of what happens in a nuclear event. Nagasaki and Hiroshima are testaments of that. No matter how bad one’s enemies are (or said to be), they’re still going to be surrounded by the innocent, those completely undeserving of the punishment. They didn’t necessarily choose their leaders and they don’t necessarily agree with them either. Those aren’t weapons anyone should use. They aren’t just enemy killers. They’re world killers.

Late one evening, your 19-year-old son asks permission for his girlfriend to stay over. Do you give it?

First, I’d be happy he asked. It shows respect for me and my house, which is cool, and if I said no, I think that means he’d abide by my decision instead of trying to sneak her in under the radar and risk disappointing me. (Or, he’s been sneaking her in for a while and finally feels some guilt about it…) While he’s nineteen and technically an adult, I’d rather know where he is and who he’s with than be up wondering why he isn’t home yet and what kind of trouble he might be getting into. If that means he has his girlfriend stay over once in a while, I think I’d probably be fine with it, so long as his girlfriend isn’t 17 or younger. I’d also be insisting on birth control, probably in some horribly embarrassing kind of way that only a parent can do.

You are a doctor. You have diagnosed a terminal illness. The family begs you to keep it from the patient. When the patient asks, do you tell him the truth?

If he asks, is it a safe bet that he probably already suspects that’s the case? I can’t see how lying to the guy would help the whole family cope with the news in the long run. I’d try to encourage them all to be open with each other and deal with the reality of the upcoming loss rather than pretend it’s not going to happen. They wouldn’t be giving their dad/grandfather/brother much credit. No doubt he’d notice a change in their behaviour towards him and know something was up. Also, how long does he have? If it’s a death that treatment could stave off for a few months, wouldn’t he want to know that option’s available sooner rather than later? At least give the whole family some time to consider the pros and cons of that.

Or, possibly the family just wants the news to come from loved ones instead of a complete stranger. Maybe they don’t intend to hide the truth from him at all, just choose the way they share it with him. In that case, I think I would have to respect their decision.

I leave the fourth open to readers:

The only available spot in the parking lot is reserved for the handicapped. You are in a hurry and won’t be very long. Do you park there?


A Question of Atheist Scruples – Round 2

May 8, 2012

I found a copy of A Question of Scruples a while back and decided it might be entertaining to go through the questions and answering them as honestly as possible. Like last time, I’ll answer three questions and add one more for readers to weigh in on.

You want to landscape your property but find that trees cost too much. Do you drive into the woods and take some?

Ha. No. I’d just raid my dad’s yard. Mom and Dad planted 2000 trees or so on their acreage in the early ’70s and saplings pop up all over the place, often where they don’t want them. They’d gotten theirs through Indian Head’s PFRA Shelterbelt Centre.

The benefits of shelterbelts are numerous. Shelterbelts reduce wind speed and thereby create a microclimate for yards, gardens, and crops. The wind is deflected up and over the shelterbelt, creating a well-protected zone in the lee of the belt. The zone of protection extends outward many times the height of the trees. Reducing wind speed can have a dramatic energy saving benefit. On average, a mature 5-row shelterbelt, with at least 2 rows of conifers, planted around a farmhouse will reduce its heat requirements by 25%. The trapped snow provides water for dugouts and soil reserves.

Not to mention trapping the pesky CO2 while they’re at it, and providing refuge for wildlife of all kinds, especially birds.

A friend wants to copy and swap some expensive software. You know it’s illegal. Do you swap?

My copy of Scruples come out in 1984 just as personal computers were coming into focus as affordable fun for the whole family. Apple’s famous ad for the Macintosh ran that year during the Superbowl. My school bought a couple Apple II’s for the whole student body to share and by 1987 there were two IIe’s in every classroom. The junior high I attended after had a whole room filled with computers for kids who wanted to take the programming class. I was satisfied with what little I knew of BASIC and LOGO, which wasn’t much. I never owned a computer until I reached university and discovered they were actually useful for other things. To finally answer the question, yes, I’d probably agree to a swap if we each had something the other wanted. Illegal or not, cops have more important things to do than crack down on software trading when it’s on a one-on-one basis. Cops could get after the library for loaning out DVDs and CDs, too. It’s pretty damned obvious that if someone borrows fifty CDs Friday night and drops them off again Saturday morning that they probably ripped every one of them to their computer. We don’t flag their cards and report them. No proof they did that. Suspicions, but no proof. I think far too many people have already shrugged off the illegalities of it and it barely tarnishes their notion of being a law-abiding citizen. And to get biblical on your ass, “let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” Do you see any stones flying?

Someone you don’t particularly like invites you to an expensive restaurant that you’d love to try. Do you go just for the meal?

Is he or she treating? I can think of a few people I’d force myself to sit across from if it meant I got free food out of it. If it’d be up to me to pay my way, I’d pass on the offer. I’d rather plan a night there with people I enjoy being around.

Last question, left for you to answer. Feel free to answer the other three as well.

The government has been overthrown by a party that is violent and undemocratic. You are asked to join the underground. Do you?


A Question of Atheist Scruples – Round 1

May 1, 2012

I found a copy of this at Value Village, a version of the game from 1984. I had no idea the game was still being made, though. According to official rules:

Scruples makes players sweat as they ask each other what they would do in a moral predicament. Luckily no one has to tell the truth and there’s no right answer!

Well, I guess that’s one way to play it. I was planning on playing it straight, though, since the point of this whole endeavor is to demonstrate an atheist’s ability to make ethical and moral choices. I’m going to pick three questions out of my card deck and answer them seriously. A fourth question will be added for readers who want to “play along” but feel free to respond to any question that looks like fun to answer.

So, question 1: You’ve gone to see a nude show. Next day, a female colleague asks how you spent the evening. Do you tell her?

Recall here that I am a woman, not a guy.

First, it depends on the atmosphere of the work place. I know people who made the mistake of telling coworkers they’d gone to the casino when it first opened and rumours got flying about how often they were probably gambling. Some of them were close to the truth, but that’s beside the point. Gossip might be the glue that holds a social group together but what people do off the job should be their own business (so long as it’s not illegal or hurting anyone). People love to judge other people on their choices, though. Setting up the notion that someone might have a reputation as a problem gambler (or “slut”) may effect how that person is treated in the workplace.

Second, it depends on how well I know her and what her role is in that workplace in comparison to mine. If she’s my supervisor, I don’t know if I’d admit I went to Chippendales or whatever. If I knew the woman well enough to know she was heavily religious and unlikely to be impressed with my blasé account of seeing men with their kit off, I’d probably lie and say I’d stayed in. If she was someone I did know well who’d be heartily envious over how I spent my night, I’d go to town elaborating on the show when we found a quiet time to catch up.

As an aside, Saskatchewan is the only province in Canada that bans the mixing of strip clubs and alcohol. A protest show called “Naked if I Want” is set to run here in Saskatoon on May 4th at the Cosmo Civic Centre. Email mybodymydance@hotmail.com to get more information or request a place on the guest list.

The idea was for the Liberals to host the stripping event and oppose the alcohol control regulation that prohibits establishments from serving liquor when the entertainment involves nudity, a strip tease performance, or a wet clothing contest—but the party shut it down.

“The members didn’t like it, there was no official policy passed, so it got shut down,” Buckner said. “I was devastated.”

Buckner, who performs as a drag king with the stage name Stevie Blunder, has since decided to hold the show and give the proceeds to support the Saskatoon Slut Walk and Consentfest. Both events are dedicated to “ending victim-blaming and making sex-positive attitudes where we really need them—here in Saskatchewan,” she said.

What a good first question. You’d think I had planned it so I could lead into that story, but I assure it it was all coincidence.

Question 2: In his will, a man leaves your charitable organization a substantial bequest but fails to provide for his sick widow. (The bastard!) The whole estate is needed to maintain the widow. (Shit!) Do you fight to keep the bequest?

Cripes. Temptation is to keep it, but if word got out, and it inevitably would hit the Twitterverse in a heartbeat, my organization would be likely shitbombed with complaints and accusations and a withdrawal of support from dedicated donors. Bloggers would write about this poor woman and set up funds so people the world over could dig deep into their own wallets for a couple bucks to help her out. She’d probably get a lot more money that way… but the right thing to do would be to announce publicly that the bequest was going to be redirected to her. The good press garnered from that magnanimous gesture would boost my reputation as a caring person and probably boost donations to my charity. Maybe I wouldn’t get the same dollar value in the long run, but I’d feel better about myself. She’d get the help she needs and I’d still be able to help others. Win win.

Question 3: You are the director of the neighbourhood food cooperative. A member – a single mother with four children – is caught shoplifting $30 in groceries. You suspect she has been stealing for years. Do you press charges?

I had to look up how food co-ops work. I’ve never used one, but I’ve walked by Steep Hill on Broadway quite often.

As a co-operative, our products represent what our members want: quality, not profit, is our motive. We as Steep Hill members have the opportunity to be involved with the everyday operation of our store through a monthly work commitment.

Shopping at Steep Hill is a friendly experience, without the pressures and stresses of supermarket shopping. Meeting your neighbours, getting to know people with similar concerns are added attractions at Steep Hill Co-op. Nobody profits except the members.

Okay, so I think what might work in a case like this would be bringing it to the attention of the other members to get their input. Would they be pissed off enough to want to cancel her membership or would they be willing to make arrangements for her to work the value of the food off? With four kids, she’d definitely need the food. I suppose it would also depend on how bad off she actually is. What if this is a woman who got a hell of a divorce settlement and could afford to buy organic at Sobeys but likes to give the impression that she’s merely a community conscious volunteer? In that case, yeah, I would want to press charges.

Question 4, and open to comments from the peanut gallery: You’ve accepted a date when someone you REALLY like calls and asks you out for the same night. Do you try to get out of the first date?

Okay, some of the questions are a little less thought-provoking than others…


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