Josh Protests “Sale”

Bloged in Baby Jed, Baby Josh, Family by Mel Monday February 28, 2011

In a recent conversation while driving, Jed asked to buy more toys.

We asked him to suggest a few of his old toys which we could sell, so that we would have money to buy new toys.  (We could always do with more cash … donations anyone ?).  When Jed did not volunteer any old toys of significant value, or suggested selling only Josh’s (his younger brother’s) toys, I teased Jed by offering a few suggestions which I knew he would not agree to, including the possibility of selling Josh.

What I did not expect was a protest from Josh, who was seated at the back.   Having just turned 3 years, and only just starting to talk, we did not expect the baby in the family to be able to (and to have quietly) followed our conversation.  Hilarious!

(Jed, to his credit, did not want to sell his brother, even though we told him Josh would fetch millions of dollars).

Perth - the Final Photos

Bloged in Family, Overseas Trips, Perth 2010 by Mel Saturday February 19, 2011

I’ve been tardy in uploading photographs of my Perth trip last December.  Here are the final photos -

Going home

On Self as the Reference Point

Bloged in Faith, Musings, Philosophy, Society, World by Mel Friday February 18, 2011

In the thread where I wrote about about pineapple tarts, someone commended the use of "self as a point of reference instead of what other people tell you should be the point of reference".  I thought it was an issue which merited further examination.

"Using yourself as the point of reference".

That is an immensely attractive idea. Why listen to God or gods, when you can be your own ?

Now, let us take this idea - that a man should determine the rules by which he lives in his personal and absolute discretion - to its logical conclusion.

You don’t listen to any kind of authority if you don’t want to. And when you appear to be listening to a particular authority or subscribing to a particular belief system (religious or not), it is not because you believe that that authority or belief system is right. You are not aligning yourself with the authority or the belief system. Rather, what that authority or belief system says aligns with how you feel.

The only thing which restrains you are the laws enforced by society, which consequences (ie. punishment) you cannot avoid if you disobey.

Now, if a man determines the rules by which he lives in his personal and absolute discretion, in the absence of laws prohibiting certain conduct, why should he abide by what he is told about -

- incest, bestiality and necrophilia
- monogamy and adultery
- racism and genocide ?

He can just pick what he likes and discard what he does not like, or even invent his own rules !

I imagine that society would fall apart because all the rules by which we live would become personal, and no one rule would prevail over the other. When every individual is his own point of reference, everyone can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants to.

You may argue that such anarchy will not result, because those who hold the majority view in society in respect of certain rules, will establish laws to uphold those rules (eg. to criminalise incest). Consequently, there will always be a minimum acceptable level of order so that society can function normally.

While that may be true, what is there to prevent the majority from adopting as law (or permitting under law), that which we now consider morally wrong or inappropriate ? For example, permitting consensual incestual relationships, or encouraging racial discrimination. Remember, there are no moral absolutes if individuals form their own points of reference. So long as a majority in society in their personal and absolute discretion feel a certain way about a rule, that rule can become law.

Now let us ask ourselves some hard questions :

Do I live with complete disregard to societal norms and beliefs, and (except where prohibited by law) pick and choose to live by only those rules which I agree with ?

If your answer to the above is "no", then my question is why religion should (again) occupy a special "status" such that, in matters of religion, the individual is the point of reference, but in matters other than religion, societal norms or other rules are the point of reference ?

If your answer to the above is "yes" - and I imagine that there would be people who would answer "yes" to such a question - then my question is whether you are prepared to live with the extremes which would result if everyone adopted the same perspective towards rules.

God and the Origin of Pineapple Tarts

Bloged in Evolution, Faith, Musings, Philosophy, Science, Society, World by Mel Wednesday February 16, 2011

I was recently asked to justify my assumption that God exists : see link.  I gave a analogy using pineapple tarts in reply (reproduced below with minor edits).  I think I made some sense, though you would find better answers to this question elsewhere.

Finally, you have asked me to justify my belief that God exists. As mentioned before, I do not think that God can be "empirically shown or tested to exist". However, this does not mean that there is no reasonable evidence to show that He very likely exists, as a result of which it would be reasonable to believe that He exists.

Suppose this Chinese New Year you visit a friend’s place and taste the most heavenly pineapple tarts. You ask him where he gets it from, and he tells you that his mother baked it. "Lovely", you say, and on leaving the house you compliment your friend’s mother on her excellent tarts.

Now, by asking your friend where he got the tarts from, you have assumed that they did not appear out of nowhere. There was no equivalent of the cosmic big bang on a much smaller scale plus millions of years of evolution which brought about the fortuitous existence of the pineapple tarts. You assumed that someone had made it.

If pineapple tarts are evidence of a maker, why are the intricacies of nature disregarded as possible evidence of a creator / designer, ie. God ?

I don’t have irrefutable proof that God made the world, but neither do you have inrefutable proof that your friend’s mother made the tarts. (The truth is that she bought them from a shop and passed them off as her own baking. An embarassing secret that your friend’s mother is determined to bring with her to her grave!).

Nonetheless, you do not doubt what your friend claims about the origin of the tarts, hence you had innocently complimented his mother on her baking skills. Now if you can accept what a person tells you about the origin of tarts, why is what a person tells you about God as the originator of the universe so unacceptable ?

(Please note that I have grossly simplified the factual matrix for the sake of illustration. I am not suggesting that believing that God exists, is as simple as believing that someone had baked pineapple tarts.)

Will Paternity Leave really work ?

Bloged in Family, Musings, Society by Mel Friday February 11, 2011

News of a renewed push to legislate paternity leave into law in Singapore — anything from 2 weeks to a month or even more (you wish!) — made the headlines yesterday : see report

One of the groups advocating for such leave, the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE), was reported to have said that such a policy would provide a more supportive environment for Singaporeans to have babies and help reverse Singapore’s declining birth rate.  A survey commissioned by AWARE also found respondents claiming that paternity leave would allow fathers to be more involved in parenting, with up to 75% of fathers saying that they would take paternity leave if there was such an option.  (Who in his right mind would refuse paid leave ?)

I am a father, and I am not convinced that legislated paternity leave will have the magical effect of inducing procreation.  Two weeks, or even a month, of paid paternity leave after the birth of a child, isn’t going to make me or, for that matter, Joyce, want to have another kid.

Such leave would allow fathers to spend more time with their newborns and wives.  That is a good thing. But it does not automatically make me a better / more involved father or husband.  To be brutally honest, do men relish the option of staying at home for extended periods of time looking after their newborns and / or wives ?  I suspect that some — maybe a fair number — would not.  Therefore, more critical than the leave, is the need for a change in the male mindset.

Men also need to consider if they are prepared to suffer the "collateral damage" from having or exercising the option of taking extended paternity leave, such as : being passed over for a job or a promotion because your wife is pregnant, not being graded for job performance in the year that the child is born, not being paid a performance bonus or increment in the year (or year after) the child is born, etc. issues which women currently face in the workplace.  It’s not fair, but it exists, and it is impractical to legislate against such practices because of the near impossibility of enforcement.

Personally, more than paternity leave, I believe it is important for there to be flexibility at workplaces to accommodate employees who are also parents.  From time to time, kids will fall sick, hurt themselves, throw tantrums, fail to sleep through the night, etc. and need a parent’s physical or emotional care and support.  If workplaces could grant parent-employees the flexibility to turn up later for work, or time away from office to attend to their parental responsibilities (eg. send kids to school or to the doctors), from time to time, that would help tremendously.  Again, such flexibility cannot be legislated; it requires a change in mindset of an organisation’s senior management, as well as of its junior managers / supervisors and non-parent employees who may have to shoulder the additional workload when their parent-employee colleagues are away.

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