Anthropology

I’m a student working on an assignment that requires using an “ethical decision making process” to suggest a possible resolution to an “ethical” dilemma. The case we’ve been presented with is that of a person who has had a neurological deficit and hasn’t been improving as fast as the insurance company would like so the insurance company no longer wants to fund treatment. We’re supposed to use an ethical decision making model to decide whether or not we should lie to the insurance company about progress to prolong treatment or find some alternative solution. Do you know of any resources for making “ethical” decisions that don’t actually involve ethics or morals?

Is it possible that human culture evolves as do biological life-forms? It is well-known that some life-forms actually do overtake other life-forms so that there is an imbalance in a particular eco-system to the short-term favor of the aggressive life-form. So, isn”t human culture, which is, in a very real sense, our tribal “nest” also prone to these same short-term imbalances?

I always end up in conversations about your book in hopes of introducing someone to a different way of viewing the world and our place in it. I get lots of arguments, but one that I haven’t been able to get around is that “What makes man different from animals is the ability to reason. Dogs don’t reason and remember and can’t make decisions like we can. That’s why we’re so special.”

I wonder if you can elaborate on the idea in My Ishmael of the similarities between cult and tribal mentality. I agree that people who join cults are looking for a sort of tribal fulfillment for which we all may be looking. I can also see your reasoning in asserting that the word ‘cult’ has bad connotations in our culture and that we are predisposed to believe that cult leaders are crazy. However, I believe there is a psychological control element to cult behavior that I don’t imagine is present in tribal behavior. I know that often people involved in a cult want to leave and can’t which also doesn’t translate to the dynamic within a tribe, in my opinion. Also, I don’t think the self-destructive aspect of cults translates to tribal thinking. I can’t imagine a tribe destroying itself because of perceived threats from other tribes. I guess what I’m saying is that I think cults are bad. I can see that the desire to join one is a symptom of our non-tribal society and I think this is a valid point. The rest of the argument in My Ishmael is a bit of a stretch for me.