Today I listened to an episode of On Being with an interview of a Dr. Christakis who has done research into social influences. For instance, he studied the widower effect, how a spouse is more likely to die soon after the other passing. He also did research that established that obesity is contagious through our social networks. Your friends can make you more likely to be obese and visa versa.

In the interview, they focused on Christakis’s newest book, Blueprint, The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society, where he argues that there are a few universal and morally good traits that are common to all human cultures. They are love, friendship, cooperation, and teaching/learning. Love between partners who have sex occurs in ever culture throughout the globe and throughout time. Even if a culture tries, it can’t suppress these fundamental traits. For instance, the host lived in East Germany in the 80’s. The police, the Stazi, got over 50% of people to report on those they knew. That is a high incentive to not form friendships but the host noted that everyone still had friends, it was just more complicated. The one that excited me was teaching. I had never thought about how active teaching occurs in every culture and is fundamental to being human.

Christakis argues that these traits are universal and inevitable in all cultures because they are evolutionarily ingrained in human nature. Each has a strong evolutionary benefit. For example, strong emotional attachment to your offspring (love) will increase their likelihood of survival. Forming friendships allows for collective action that couldn’t be accomplished alone like taking down large prey. Purposefully passing on survival skills directly increase someone’s likelihood to survive.

The interesting perspective that the author presents is that these are, as a whole, beneficial and morally good traits that all cultures are based on. So, when we are morally comparing one culture to another, it is similar to being on a 10000 foot plateau and comparing a 300 foot hill to a 700 foot hill. If you shift your perspective and look at the absolute elevation from sea-level you’re actually looking at a 10300 foot peak compared to a 10700 peak. They both are exceptionally high, or morally advanced, with relatively minor difference. I really like analogies that allow you to look at something in a completely different way. *smile*

Last week was the series finale for Pose and it posed an ethical dilemma. *chuckle* The character Pray Tell, who was HIV+, was hospitalized with pneumonia and was dying. There was a clinical trial for an anti-retroviral cocktail going on in the hospital but, out of 80 participants, only 2 were of color. So Pray’s friends lobbied (read threatened) the hospital to get Pray added and he recovered and went home to continue the treatment for the rest of the trial. Pray’s ex, who was young and also HIV+, showed up and as Pray was boasting about his recovery the ex showed he had a lesion. So pray started giving his ex the meds, saying they were extra, but they were Pray’s meds. The ex got better but eventually Pray died. Now that sounds like a noble act done out of love, right? But here’s the undiscussed issue: Pray’s death screwed the clinical trails results. If his death by complications of HIV while taking the cocktail prevented or even delayed the release of an effective treatment, did he save his ex at the cost of potentially many others? I think a moral compromise would have been for Pray to have given away his meds but then to have left a posthumous note to the hospital so they could remove his data from the trail. Then, at least, he wouldn’t have damaged the trail’s results.

On a different note, I have received notice that my 191 good time case will be heard by the NE Supreme Court in the first week of Sept. I hope I will be at Community Corrections by then so that I can appear in person to make oral arguments. Otherwise, I’ll probably video in while the state gets to appear in person. :/ I still have no doubt that I will win but I don’t expect a decision until around the end of the year. FYI, any serious legal action will probably take around 2 years to complete, and that’s assuming you don’t then go to federal court.

According to the NDCS Director Frakes it usually takes about 60 days for someone to be transferred to Community Corrections. Well, I’ve been classified for 51 days today. Someone else in my room has been waiting just over 3 months and another guy here at OCC has been waiting over 9 months. Later this month I will email John Krejci, a prison reform advocate whom the Director told it takes 60 days, and let him know that I’m past that limit. *chuckle* For now there’s nothing else to do but sit and wait. At least I’m doing more to work out every morning now. *smile*