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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sharing my Writing with Bow

A certain renowned ethologist has recently come up with a new book on the evolution of morality for a popular audience. Standing far, far away from the chimpanzees he studies, he observed them pick up his book, glance at it, and then throw it down. He even took a picture -- from a safe distance.

I also have just come up with a book for a general audience. The book is called Theodosia and the Pirates,  and though it is just fiction, it contains a lot of truth. Even some truth about morality, the evolution of morality, and how language and non-verbal communication actually work.

Much of what is in the book is what I have always believed. But there are certain contributions that Bow has made to my writing. For instance, the sequences surrounding Theodosia's pleasure cry come from my analysis of how involuntary vocalizations -- in Bow's case, those about food -- are for the benefit of others, not the individual crying out.

It is only after working with Bow that I have come to fully appreciate that intentional communication is full of lies, but unintentional non-verbal cues are the way nature provided for others to learn the truth despite the deceit of the speaker.

While all of the intellectual giants in the universities are lauding the ways in which the weak are protected in moral societies, my book deals with survival issues, and how it is that exposure to disease strengthens populations, while being sheltered from disease weakens.

I am not a Biblical moralist, but I do think that we can see the evolutionary reason why in the ten commandments there is a provision for honoring one's father and mother, but no provision for taking care of babies and the young.

Not only  has Bow helped me to understand many of these issues of emerging morality, I share my discoveries with him by  reading what I have written aloud.

Bow can be a harsh critic at times. But I do not shelter myself from his criticism. If he disagrees with a position I have taken, he can tell me to my face.

Watch his eyes as I read the book. Who do you think he favors as the better philosopher: Aristotle or Benjamin Franklin?


  1. It all honesty I get tired of the morality battles and such. Everyone has basic ideas on morality, and then everyone has differing ideas on morality. It comes to a point that the arguments get to be too much. I see a lot of good people who live their ordinary lives in more of just doing their own thing, not needing to preach and such. They seem the happiest to me.

  2. Hi, Julia. In theory, the subject of "the evolution of morality" is supposed to be value neutral -- the scientific study of how morality changes over time due to natural pressures of selection. In practice, though, most scientists cannot seem to stand outside the morality they espouse, so their studies do not come out nearly as objective and neutral as you would think.

    Writing about morality in a fictional framework can be a fun exercise though, like running a thought experiment.

  3. Believe me, I think everyone has some bias. Even scienstists who claim they are neutral probably have more than the average person. I think it is good you had fun writing about morality, but I just am being honesty about all the talk of morality from an introvert perspective. Someone today posted something about their faith and how this applies to everyone else, and I just did not understand the point of this. I can see why some people become hermits, and such. Not that I would, but maybe it is because they just want to commune with nature.

    1. I understand the urge to become a hermit. At various points in my life, I have retired from the rat race and have done my own thing. In fact, I am not far from being a hermit now! But a lot of hermits do write about how they think society should be, and what is a good way to treat other people. That's really all morality is: looking for a good way to interact with others.

  4. I think for more engaging minds, that is what morality is Aya. However, I guess I became jaded about the concept of morality at a young age because I witnessed how it was often invoked by so-called Christians who led double lives of infidelity, while telling others to be faithful to their marriages. So yes if a philosopher or an inquiring mind explores the subject, that is not as annoying.

    1. I know what you mean, Julia. There are some people who use the term "morality" as just an excuse to put down people who are not exactly the same as they are, and, of course, that's not what I want to do.