"Johnny has been such an effective spokesperson for us because he truly believes in the power of our products," says the president of New Jersey's Franklin Electronics. Who is endorsing what?
by 5 p.m. ET Sunday to e-mail your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday's Question (No. 229)--"Don't Think So":
Fill in the blank in this quote from cognitive scientist Bruce Bagemihl: "We shouldn't have to look to __________ to see what's normal or ethical."
"Story of O."--Jeff Hoover
"The gun control laws of the world's civilized nations."--Eric Donaldson
"Our friends, clergy, or family. 'We should be able to get all our ethical input from television, movies, and popular music,' Bagemihl added. 'Can I get you anything? Coffee, tea, heroin, prostitute?' "--Tim Carvell (Dale Shuger had a similar answer.)
"Giraffes. Likewise, there's really not much point in turning to Quentin Crisp for advice on browsing in the tree canopy of wooded grasslands."--Jennifer Miller
"Pamela Anderson. 'But now that she's back to a C cup we can,' continued a smiling Bagemihl."--Beth Sherman
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Randy's Self-Reference Wrap-Up
Today's question, a cunning trap set by guest host Daniel Radosh, forces me to acknowledge authorship of a column in the New York Times Magazine, "The Ethicist," a sort of jumped-up "Dear Abby," responding to ethical queries from readers. I'm meant to analyze each question and extract a general ethical principle, a rule--i.e., to apply the skills of the lawyer. This, of course, is the least interesting approach. We all know you shouldn't shoot the guy. It would be more entertaining to consider mixed motives, mitigating circumstances, conflicting social pressures, complicated histories, and then find that in this unique situation you really should shoot the guy. It's the difference between the lawyer and the dramatist, between the general and the particular. (That, and the fact that show people have it all over lawyers when it comes to parties and shoes.)
What compels the lawyerly approach is not priggishness on the part of the Times (well, not entirely) but limitations of space. While the lawyer needs only a brief summary of the case, the dramatist needs a richly detailed scenario. Alas, the column permits only 400 words for each letter and response, so I necessarily take an approach that might generously be called concise but is frequently called (via reader e-mail) cursory (actually, "cursory, you idiot").
The oddest thing about the job is not its limitations but the curious caricature that illustrates each column. This sketch of a pensive moralist, the personification of the column, the Uncle Ben of ethics, the Betty Crocker of morals, looks not at all like me. It does, however, bear a striking resemblance to Michael Kinsley. Is that ethical?
(Send questions to email@example.com.)
Don't Tell Pat Answer
"We shouldn't have to look to the animal world to see what's normal or ethical."
Bagemihl is the author of Biological Exuberance, a new book about homosexual behavior among animals, in which he writes that same-sex shenanigans have been documented in more than 450 different species, including goats, dolphins, elephants, and bonobo apes. Penguins and geese maintain same-sex matings for life. Homosexual bears raise offspring together. Gay male trout move in with their straight female best friends and then the fun begins.
But in the current issue of Time, Bagemihl warns that beyond a vague statement that "diversity is part of human heritage," it's inappropriate to make claims about human behavior based on his findings. And yet, just look at that adorable picture of two boy giraffes with their necks entwined, and tell me you're not dying to turn it into a movie starring Rupert Everett as the one on the left and anybody but Nathan Lane as the other one.--Daniel Radosh
Randy's Return Extra
Everybody's got a jury duty story, so I won't go on and on about mine except to mention two highlights--Anne Meara and a bomb scare. You'd have thought it would discourage her but, jeez, she just kept coming back. Of course, you'd have thought she'd discourage us, but we kept coming back, too. State law.
I'm grateful to Daniel Radosh for filling in with disconcerting skill and to all of you for attenuating the pranks while he was the substitute. Now I'm going to leave the room for a few minutes, and while I'm gone I expect whomever took it to return Mr. Radosh's prosthetic head. Just put it on my desk, and we'll say no more about it.
Preachy cognitive scientists.