Moral Prestidigitation: This Situation is BIGGER than Rules.

March 12, 2006 | By | Reply More

Contrary to today’s moralists, the important issue is not what the rules are, but whether to apply established rules.  Throwing out the moral rulebook occasionally leads to heroic feats but it occasionally leads to Abu Graib.  As Aristotle wrote, rules are not a substitute for good character.  Stay on the lookout, then, for those who play the moral rule shell game.  They give great homage to rules until rules become inconvenient.  Even young children are capable of seeing through this tactic.  It was used by Ferdinand the Rooster in the movie “Babe the Pig”:

[Babe the Pig]   . . . so I go through the kitchen, across the living room  . . . into the bedroom, get the mechanical rooster . . . and quietly bring it out to you.  (Pause)  I don’t think I can do it.  It’s against the rules. Only dogs and cats allowed in the house.   

[Ferdinand] I like that rule; It’s a good rule.  But this is bigger than rules.  This is life and death.

[Babe]  It is?

[Ferdinand]  Aaaaaahhh!  Follow me!

So what about the rule that we follow evidence where it leads, including when it substantiates evolution?  For instance, counting layers of cosmic dust (on the moon), layers of sediment (in many places, including the ocean floors) and counting rings on bristlecone pine trees each disprove the biblical method of determining the age of the earth. 

“Don’t always follow the evidence where it leads!” squawk the religious conservatives.  “Follow the evidence only when it doesn’t make us uncomfortable.  Only when it doesn’t challenge our scripture! Follow the rules only when we say DON’T follow the rules.  THAT is our new rule.”   


Category: Good and Evil

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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