On Being Ethical
Stevens F Johnson
***THIS PAGE IS A WORK-IN-PROGRESS***
The first draft is all but finished. Now comes the extensive editing, with photos, diagrams, and figures to be added. In the meantime, please refrain from quoting from here. If you have suggestions, I would appreciate any and all feedback here.

Table of Contents
INTRODUCTION
THE SIX PILLARS OF CHARACTER
    Trustworthiness
    Respect
    Responsibility
    Fairness
    Caring
    Good Citizenship
ETHICS AS INVENTION
TRUSTWORTHINESS AND RESPECT
    Lying, Stealing, Cheating, & The Golden Rule
LYING
    Definition
    Intention
    Reasons For Not Lying
    Fabrication
    Bold-Faced Lie
    Lies By Omission
    Misleading Statement
    Contextual Lies
    Fraud
    "Good" Lies
    St. Augustine's Taxonomy of Lies
    Other Lies
    Other Species
    Children
    "Accidental" Miscommunication
    E-Prime
    Truthiness
    The Big Lie
    Discussion And Summary
STEALING
    Definition
    Mens Rea (Intent)
    Specific Forms Of Theft
    Property
    Ownership
    Tangible Property And Intangible Property
    Copyrights
      Bundle Of Rights
      Works Of Authorship
      Copyright Protection
      Duration Of Copyright Protection
      Fair Use Exceptions
      Medium vs. Work Of Authorship
      No Copying
      Copying Is Stealing
      Remedies To Copyright Infringement
    Patents
      Definition Of A Patent
      Utility, Design, And Plant Patents
      A Teaching To The Public
      Patent Protection
      Patent Infringement
      Remedies To Patent Infringement
    Discussion And Summary
CHEATING
    Definition
    Children
    What Are Rules?
    Why Do We Need Rules?
      Analogy
    Academic Cheating
      List Of "Unintentional" Cheating
      Pandemic Numbers
      Miscellaneous Facts On Student Cheating
      Most Likely Cheaters
      Plaigerism
      Off-Campus Cheating: Distance Learning
      Common Excuses For Cheating
      Student Rationalizations For Cheating
      Ideas And Behavior That Reinforce Cheating
      Current State Of Cheating
      Honor Codes
      Why Cheat?
      What's Wrong With Cheating?
      Curbing Cheating
    Cheating And Business
      The Cheating Culture
      Cheating In The Graduate Business Schools
      Corporate Fraud
      Why So Much Cheating?
      "Winner Take All" Mindset
      Where Are The Watchdogs?
      Battling Business Cheating
    Marital Infidelity
      Fantasy And Reality
      Tidbits
      Ten Percent!
      A Simple Model
      Not Just Humans
      Medical Ethics And Pedigree Errors
      Nature Is No Excuse
    Discussion And Summary
THE GOLDEN RULE
    Ethic Of Reciprocity
    The Historical Golden Rule In Religion & Philosophy
    Benjamin Franklin And The 12 Foot Spoons
    The Silver Rule
      The Platinum Rule And The Indium Rule
    The Inclusive Rule
    The Golden Rule As Theorem
      Relevant Factors
      Exactly Similar Situations
      Self-Consistent Actions
    Others And "Others"
    Discussion And Summary
TRUSTWORTHINESS & RESPECT REVISITED
    Trustworthiness
      Integrity
      Reliability
      Loyalty
    Respect
MORE ON ETHICS
    The Other Four Pillars of Character
    Seven Step Path To Better Decisions
    Obstacles to Ethical Decision Making: Rationalizations
    Professional Codes Of Ethics
CONCLUSION
MORE READING
REFERENCES


INTRODUCTION

Unethical behavior and decisions of individuals do not, and cannot, lead to good and equitable results. Even if only a small fraction of a population is behaving badly, if the rest of us mostly resign ourselves to allowing it, deep and lasting damage is done to personal and professional relationships and to society. The particular damage is distrust and intolerance, learned by reaction to repeatedly experiencing the selfishness and exclusiveness that comes from the unethical behavior of others. Too often we resort to the same bad behavior as a result, for reasons of self defense or because we perceive it to be the norm.

Since the mid 1990s I have witnessed a free fall from good ethical behavior on my campus and in politics. I am alarmed at its effects. The basic fabric of society is becoming threadbare: Freedom, safety, and happiness. The basic structure of democracy is at risk: Respect, fairness, and openness. To arrest this descending spiral, we must repair the damage and prevent more from happening. My purpose here is to point out the source of this damage and suggest what we can do about it.

This article is inspired by a pamphlet published by the Josephson Institute of Ethics. I'll be highlighting their main points and expanding upon what I believe are the biggest problems that lead to unethical behavior. Be prepared to be surprised or embarrassed at some of these points. A simple pdf version of the Institute's pamphlet Making Ethical Decisions can be downloaded here. A high quality publication of the pamphlet can be ordered directly from the Institute.

Ethics is good behavior in our interactions with others. Good behavior is steered by a set of good habits and inclinations. These good habits and inclinations come from a collection of traits we call Character. (Actually, what we mean when we say a person has character is that she has Good Character, by convention.)

There are many ways to describe the traits of (good) character. The Josephson Institute organizes them into six categories, the Six Pillars of Character.1 They are, in descending order of importance,

By concentrating on these pillars, an individual can build character for herself. They are all important, but without Trustworthiness and Respect, there is no point to deal with the others if one is to improve one's own character, because the last four rest on the foundation built by the first two. I will be emphasizing Trustworthiness and Respect here.

But first, a brief description of all six pillars. Read the Institute's pamphlet for more careful and in-depth descriptions and how they tie together.

THE SIX PILLARS OF CHARACTER of the JOSEPHSON INSTITUTE OF ETHICS

Trustworthiness
Trustworthiness is by far the most important and the most complicated of the six pillars of character. A trusted person is above suspicion; She need not be monitored. Honesty is its principle attribute, and has two facets: 1) Communicating with truthfulness, sincerity, and candor (No lying; Warning! Lying includes more than mere speaking of untruths.), and 2) Good conduct by playing by the rules (No stealing and no cheating). Intent is the crucial element of honesty. Integrity, reliability, and loyalty are the remaining elements of Trustworthiness.1

Respect
Respect is the right of everyone to be treated with Dignity, even unpleasant people. The Golden Rule is the classic summary of treating others with respect. But be careful: The Rule is more complicated in its application than generally believed. Respect prohibits violence, humiliation, manipulation, and exploitation; It embraces civility, decency, courtesy, dignity, autonomy, tolerance, and acceptance.1

Responsibility
Being responsible means being in charge of one's choices in life, understanding that one's actions matter, and we are on the hook for the consequences. We are accountable by not shifting blame or claiming credit for the work of others, and by recognizing complicity with iniquity and wrongdoing when nothing is done to stop it. Responsibility also means finishing that which we have started and doing our best. Further, it means self-restraint, i.e., delay of gratification, never trying to "win at any cost," and restraining lust, hatred, gluttony, greed, and fear for the sake of long term vision and judgment.1

Fairness
Fairness is a difficult and tricky concept for most people, apparently, for it requires subscribing to a balanced standard of justice without any reference to one's own feelings or inclinations. True impartiality is sometimes hard for the best of us; That's why due process for dispute resolution is critical. Another typical stumbling block is the failure to realize that there is almost always more than one fair position or resolution. Fairness includes equity, the prompt and voluntary correction of mistakes and the improper advantage taken of other's weakness or ignorance.1

Caring and Good Citizenship
If we do not care for others, they become mere objects to be manipulated, and we feel no obligation to be honest, fair, or respectful. Good citizenship is recognizing we are part of a community within which we are obligated to know and obey its laws, and to stay informed.1

ETHICS AS INVENTION

The Laws of Nature describe the interactions between objects and processes. These Scientific Laws are carefully recorded observations of natural and contrived events and phenomena, observations repeatedly performed by many people over many decades or centuries. Scientists place high confidence in them as a result. So high is our confidence that Engineers use these Scientific Laws to reliably construct machines and processes that make up the foundations of our modern societies and democracies. Unintended Consequences of our gadgets can happen at any time, of course, if we are not foresightful enough to anticipate them in time to prevent them. But from the perspective of Mother Nature, all consequences are merely natural consequences: She merely goes about her merry way, following the laws of Physics and Chemistry, and does not care who or what might be adversely affected. That is, there is no such thing as Unintended Consequences to her. It may not be fair, but Nature is not about fairness.

Ethics is a philosophy of social behavior, an invention of sentient beings. It's about deliberate fairness with the promise of mutual benefit. Ethical Behavior is fundamentally necessary every time groups of two or more individuals get together. Even among the worst segments of society there has to be some minimal level of Trust and Respect, for if it did not exist, unrestrained selfishness and shortsightedness would lead them to kill off each other eventually.

There is another perspective as to why Ethics had to be invented. Ethics is not a part of Nature. In the four hundred years since Kepler, Galileo, and Newton founded Modern Science, no one has observed anything that could be construed as a set of natural laws of ethics. Nature is about Existence, the basic rules of forces, motions, energy, reactions, evolution, .... Fail to follow the rules, and an object will be destroyed. (More accurately, no object or process is allowed to come into existence in the first place if it can not follow the rules of Nature. Existence comprises the scientific concepts of self-consistency and constructive interference, a topic far afield the purpose of this article.) Nature has nothing to say about Ethics. So we humans invented it. Perhaps we are not the only species to have done so, though. The wolf pack is an ordered and caring society, too.

TRUSTWORTHINESS AND RESPECT

The first two Pillars, Trustworthiness and Respect, cover the largest territory within Ethics.1 This article focuses on the Honesty attribute of Trustworthiness, and on the Golden Rule approach to Respect.

Lying, Stealing, Cheating, and The Golden Rule
Both Honesty and the Golden Rule deal with what we should do and what we should not do. Honesty can be broken into three categories: No lying, no stealing, and no cheating.1 The Golden Rule has two versions that must be satisfied simultaneously: Treat others as you would have them treat you,1 and Do not treat others as you would not have them treat you. In order to follow these ethical guidelines, their terms must be understood.

Apparently, the concepts of lying, stealing, and cheating are not well understood anymore, and the Golden Rule (either version) seems to be ignored too often. We start with brief summarizing definitions. The following sections deal with details and examples for each in turn.

Lying is the intention to deceive or confuse. Lying is not in the words, or the lack of words; It's in the intention of the deceiver.

Stealing is the intention to misappropriate. Stealing is not in the actions, or lack of actions; It's in the intention of the misappropriator.

Cheating is the intention to defraud. Cheating is not in the actions, or lack of actions; It's in the intention of the deceiver/defrauder.

The Golden Rule is the intentional and habitual display of respect to others as an example for others as to how you would like to be respected.

LYING

Definition
To lie is to make statements that are untrue, when the falsity of such statements is known or suspected by the speaker. A lie can be a genuine falsehood or a selective truth, a lie by omission, or even the truth if the intention is to deceive or to cause an action not in the listener's interests.2 A lie (also called prevarication) is a type of deception in the form of an untruthful statement, especially with the intention to deceive others, often with the further intention to maintain a secret or reputation, protect someone's feelings or to avoid a punishment. To lie is to state something that one knows to be false or that one has not reasonably ascertained to be true with the intention that it be taken for the truth by oneself or someone else.3

Intention
Startling to most people is that, in considering whether a statement is a lie, the least important consideration is whether it is true! The more important considerations are, Did he believe it? Did he intend to deceive? Was he trying to gain some advantage or to harm someone else? Is it a serious matter, or a trivial one?2 Even a true statement can be considered a lie if the person making that statement is doing so to deceive. It is the intent of being untruthful rather than the truthfulness of the statement itself that is considered.3 How can that be? If a completely truthful and accurate statement is deliberately delivered in a manner that suggests that it should not be taken seriously, then it is a lie. Also, it is a lie when a person accidentally makes a true statement when he thought it was false. It's the intent to lie that makes it a lie.

Reasons for Not Lying
Philosophers over the millennia have agreed that there is no good reason for lying. Their most important arguments are:3
    1. Lying is a perversion of the natural faculty of speech, the natural end of which is to communicate the thoughts of the speaker.
    2. When one lies, one undermines trust in society.

There are different kinds of lies that have different effects and severity, however.3 The most important categories of lies are as follows:

Fabrication
A fabrication is a lie told when someone submits a statement as truth, without knowing for certain whether or not it actually is true. Although a fabrication may be possible or plausible, it is not based on fact. Rather, it is something made up, or it is a misrepresentation of the truth. Examples of fabrication: A person giving directions to a tourist when the person doesn't actually know the directions.3

Bold-Faced Lie
A bold-faced lie (often also referred to as bare-faced or bald-faced lie) is one which is told when it is obvious to all concerned that it is a lie. For example, a child who has chocolate all around his mouth and denies that he has eaten any chocolate has told a bold-faced lie.3 There are political statements that are way beyond exaggeration that would fall in this category.

Lies by Omission
One lies by omission by omitting an important fact, deliberately leaving another person with a misconception. Lying by omission includes failures to correct pre-existing misconceptions. An example is when the seller of a car declares it has been serviced regularly but does not tell that an unrepaired fault was reported at the last service.
3 Another example of lying by omission happens when one person witnesses, or has knowledge of, a lie by a second person to a third (who subsequently relies upon the veracity of the lie) but does not inform the third person of the lie; Here, two people are lying to the third person.

Misleading Statement
A misleading statement is one where there is no outright lie, but still retains the purpose of getting someone to believe in an untruth. Dissembling likewise describes the presentation of facts in a way that is literally true, but intentionally misleading.
3 Sarcasm and obfuscation are frequently used to mislead or dissemble.

Contextual Lies
Contextual lies: One can state part of the truth out of context, knowing that without complete information, it gives a false impression.3 Quoting out of context is a classic example. Likewise, one can actually state accurate facts, yet deceive with them. To say "yeah, that's right, I slept with your best friend" utilizing a sarcastic, offended tone, may cause the listener to assume the speaker did not mean what he said, when in fact he. did.3

Fraud
The seller of a product or service may advertise untrue facts about the product or service in order to gain sales, especially by competitive advantage. This is consumer fraud. An example is the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act that holds a seller liable for omission of any material fact that the buyer relies upon.3

"Good" Lies
There are some lies that are considered acceptable for certain situations: The white lie, the noble lie, the emergency lie, and the jocose lie.3 But don't get in the habit of using them (except maybe the jocose lie), because it is a slippery slope, and their proper use is quite rare. Even the jocose lie (lying in jest), which includes teasing, sarcasm, and storytelling (especially tall tales), can be misconstrued as true if the audience does not understand that it is not to be taken seriously. For example, a deadpan delivery of a sarcastically humorous story told in a normally serious situation to a largely naive audience runs the danger of being taken as a fact. (I personally experienced this phenomenon frequently in a law school class taught by a very strict and purportedly humorless professor. Most class members never knew these stories as jokes, and could not later be convinced that they were jokes.)

St. Augustine's Taxonomy of Lies
Augustine of Hippo (St. Augustine) created a Taxonomy of Lies, listing in order of descending severity:3

Augustine's Taxonomy of Lies in Stereographic 3D. (To see it in three dimensions, cross your eyes so that the two images overlap in your vision. Be sure you are facing the image squarely and level.) The axis from the back bottom corner to the left represents increasing harm, the axis from the back corner to the right represents increasing help, and the vertical axis represents increasing severity. The top-most data point corresponds to Lies in religious teaching, the bottom-most point represents Lies that harm no one and that save someone's "purity." This graphical representation clearly distinguishes the five most harmful lies from the three least harmful. [Click on the image for a larger version.]

(Jocose lies are not listed because Augustine did not believe them to be lies.) There are three attributes for each type of lie in this taxonomy: Harm, help, and severity. To the right is a three dimensional stereographic plot of Augustine's Taxonomy of Lies. The most toxic lies (most harmful, least helpful, most severe) appear near the upper left-most corner, the least toxic (least harmful, most helpful, least severe) appear near the lower right-most corner. The purpose of the 3D plot is to illustrate the great difference between lies that harm and those that do not (which are still bad because they are still lies.) It's quite interesting that he thought religious lies to be the worst kind of lie. Perhaps he had in mind the false authority of ipsit-dixitism (a self-referential appeal to authority or a stubbornly unsupported repetition of a disputed claim with the claimant asserting power or disinterest in objections3), which seems to be rampant in modern politics, too, particularly in politically conservative thought. More on these points later.

Other Lies
There are other categories of lies, too: Perjury, bluffing, exaggeration, puffery, flattery, and lying by obsolete language.3 They are important lies to avoid, but are not central to the purposes of this article.

Other Species
Lies are not confined to humans. Koko the Gorilla had been known to lie to her handlers (using American Sign Language).2 Nor are lies confined to verbal language. Deceptive body language, such as feints that mislead as to the intended direction of attack or flight, is observed in many species including wolves. A mother bird deceives when it pretends to have a broken wing to divert the attention of a perceived predator — including unwitting humans — from the eggs in its nest to itself, most notably the killdeer.3 But these are defensive tactics, meant to protect others.

Children
Lying is a learned habit: Evolutionary psychology is concerned with the theory of mind which people employ to simulate another's reaction to their story and determine if a lie will be believable. The most commonly cited milestone in the rising of this, what is known as Machiavellian intelligence, is at the human age of about four and a half years, when children begin to be able to lie convincingly. Before this, they seem simply unable to comprehend that anyone doesn't see the same view of events that they do - and seem to assume that there is only one point of view - their own - that must be integrated into any given story.2 If we grew up and lived in total isolation, lies would not exist for lack of need; There would be no one to lie to.

When children first learn how lying works, they lack the moral understanding of when to refrain from doing it. It takes years of watching people tell lies, and the results of these lies, to develop a proper understanding. Propensity to lie varies greatly between children, some doing so habitually and others being habitually honest. Habits in this regard are likely to change in early adulthood.3 Some, however, never learn this lesson, or at least not the universality of the lesson. In one respect, they are lying to themselves for thinking that it is acceptable to lie when it is convenient or to their perceived benefit.

"Accidental" Miscommunication
There are some regions in the United States (and likely in other countries, too) where "accidental" miscommunication is a habit of a large fraction of society: Not saying what one means and not meaning what one says. These are not lies, per se, more akin to sloppy speaking by not choosing one's words carefully. Such miscommunication can have some similar effects as those of a lie: Needless heated arguments with descending civility, where each side uses words and phrases believing them to have meanings different than the other side assumes. I have witnessed verbal combatants heatedly arguing in opposition to the other about some position in which they were in agreement (but did not know it); Their disagreement arose from the words they were using, not the substance of the argument. Another variation happens when two or more arguants are not arguing about the same thing.

E-Prime
The most common type of miscommunication, however, is when one or more members of a discussion attempts to assert an opinion as a fact or conclusion. This is especially common among English language speakers; A simple yet elegant solution to this problem is to speak and write only in a special subset of the English language called E-Prime. To do so, however, requires abandoning lifelong bad habits of speech. (The verb "to be" in all its forms is completely disallowed. This includes "be", "is", "isn't," "am", "are", "aren't," "ain't," "was", "wasn't," "were", "weren't," "been" and "being," and their equivalent contractions "'m", "'s", and "'re.") It's worth the effort since it promotes crystal clear communication and carefully considered critical thinking, because in E-Prime it is almost impossible to state an opinion as fact and it tends to prevent a speaker from making statements that are false or are based on faulty logic and assumptions. (No, I am not speaking in E-Prime here, not all of the time. I have not mastered it yet.) If you are interested in looking into E-Prime, a few good places to start are here,4 here,4 here,5 here,6 here,5 and here.3

Truthiness
Then, there are those who have excellent command of the language, but little understanding of the facts or little inclination to defer to the facts. The best word to describe this phenomena is truthiness. Truthiness is a term first used in its recent satirical sense by American television comedian Stephen Colbert in 2005, to describe things that a person claims to know intuitively or "from the gut" without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts. Colbert sought to satirize the use of appeal to emotion and the "gut feeling" as a rhetorical device in contemporary socio-political discourse. "We're not talking about truth, we're talking about something that seems like truth – the truth we want to exist," he explained.3 It used to be, everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. But that's not the case anymore. Facts matter not at all. Perception is everything. It's certainty.7

The concept of truthiness caught on so fast it has an international following. "Truthiness: Something that is spoken as if true that one wants others to believe is true, that said often enough with enough voices orchestrated in behind it, might even sound true, but is not true." Spoken in the Canadian Parliament, May, 2006.3

Truthiness is a lie, and can variously fall into the fabrication, bold-faced lie, and lying by omission categories. It is also a form of ipsit-dixitism. Truthiness frequently has political overtones and purposes. Modern examples include creationism, denial of global climate change, supply-side economics, eliminating poverty by mere spending, and alien abduction. Some groups can wildly endorse these ideas without regard to the facts, without regard to those who disagree or whose expertise contradicts their theories, and with no concern for the eventual (unintended) consequences of acting on their theories. To be sure, many adherents to these kinds of ideas strongly believe them to be true, but because the facts and reasoning that should buttress them do not exist while contradicting facts and logic are steadfastly ignored or denied, they become lies when attempts are made to teach or impose them onto the general population.

The Big Lie
The grand daddy of all lies is the Big Lie. The Big Lie is a propaganda device in which those in authority repeat an outrageous falsehood over and over; If there is no countervailing voice exposing this Big Lie to the public, or if that voice is censored by the media, the Big Lie is likely to be believed.8 (The source of a Big Lie need not actually be in authority, but merely believe he is in authority.) The Big Lie is a repeated distortion of the truth on a grand scale, especially for propaganda purposes.9 Paradoxically, a Big Lie is often easier to get people to believe than a smaller lie, and more difficult for them to challenge even when facts support it. Propaganda is often based on choosing some very large but comfortable lie which is hard to challenge - for social status or other reasons - and spreading this throughout a whole society.2 The idea is that you just keep repeating the same lie over and over, in spite of all arguments or evidence to the contrary, until people believe it. Massive repetition is essential. (Think: "Why do they keep running the same stupid commercials on TV, over and over and over again, ad nauseum?")10 The difference between a Big Lie and a truthiness is the magnitude of the lie's outrageousness and the effort invested to promote it. The Big Lie is a truthiness of gigantic proportions.

The expression Big Lie (German: Große Lüge) was coined by Adoph Hitler in 1925 for a lie so "colossal" that no one would believe that someone "could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously".3 His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.3

Many well-known figures have spoken about the Big Lie: George Orwell (1984, about newspeak), Frank Zappa (The Real Frank Zappa Book, about organized religion, government, and the music industry), Richard Belzer (UFOs, JFK, and Elvis: Conspiracies You Don't Have To Be Crazy To Believe, "If you tell a lie that's big enough, and you tell it often enough, people will believe you are telling the truth, even when what you are saying is total crap."), Heinrich Himmler ("Tell a lie enough times and it will become the truth"), and Ernest Hemingway ("A big lie is more plausible than truth.").3,10

Of course, eventually every Big Lie is exposed, begrudgingly and late perhaps, and sometimes after damage has already been done. For example: Hitler's lies about Jews, and biblical inerrents' insistence of a 144 hour process of planet formation (including flora and fauna) less than 10,000 years ago and a rational ratio of circumference to diameter for the circle. Big Lies even happen in stories (The Emperor's Clothes).

In spite of its inevitable exposure, the Big Lie is so effective that it's still in wide use, so much so that a variant has popped up: A Big Lie that claims the opposing side is using the Big Lie. Let's hope we are not on the brink of a sinking spiral of civility and grid lock.

Discussion and Summary
There are many ways to lie, and many types of lies. Speech is not required to lie (behavior is sufficient), nor is a falsehood needed (the truth will do!). What is required to lie is the intent to deceive: What was the candidate liar thinking? The liar may in fact believe the lie to be true. The manner of delivery can be the source of the intent to lie. Failure to correct an untruth (even if the falsehood comes from someone else) is a lie; Lying by omission is the least recognized and least understood type of lie, and may be the most common.

Look at it from the victim's perspective. If it cost time, money, effort, friends, reputation, or trust as a result of acting upon the substance of the lie, then the victim has lost things that were possessed before the lie. Think of the Golden Rule before carrying through with a lie: Would you want to be it's victim if the roles were reversed?

One standard form of legal oath before making a deposition or taking the witness stand in a court trial is Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? for which the proper response is I do. There is a reason for making the oath so complicated. It's a reminder to the deposed and the witness how not to lie. The first clause (tell the truth) is the affirmation part of the oath, the second clause (the whole truth) reminds the oath taker to leave nothing out, that is, no lying by omission, no out-of-context lies, and no misleading statements, and the last clause (nothing but the truth) is a reminder to relate no falsehoods, including fabrications.

With respect to the description of the legal oath above, I have a personal and professional (as well as philosophical) problem with the standard advice given by attorneys of the witness: Give only minimal answers and do not volunteer any information. However, following that advice puts a witness in danger of violating the second clause of the oath, leading to possible if inadvertent lying by omission, out-of-context lies, or misleading statements. If upon cross-examination, the questioner asks the right questions to fill in the missing parts of the earlier answers, there is no problem. But that may not happen. It can be worse. Sometimes, a witness is exhorted to answer only with a simple "yes" or "no," and the judge may go along with it. If the question is improperly stated (by accident or deliberately), both allowed answers may lead to a lie. This happens when a question is posed that has an untrue assumption built in, and the witness is not allowed to correctly restate the substance of the intended question. Such a situation is especially problematic when an expert witness is on the stand (even more so when the witness is a scientist or engineer). The reason there is an expert witness is usually because there is a highly detailed or technical aspect to the trial that is needed to be addressed but is not generally understood by the judge or jury. But if the nonexpert questioner asks an overly simplistic question and demands an improperly simple answer, the witness is in a tough spot, damned if he does, damned if he doesn't. The only resolution is hope for a reasonable judge that can recognize the conundrum and allow the witness to sidestep the issue.

There is a related pet peeve of mine concerning questions asked in a court trial. An "accidental" miscommunication can happen when a "yes or no" question is stated as both a positive declarative question and a negative declarative question, all in one sentence. Suppose the question is "You were at home the night of November 17, were you not?" Suppose the witness was indeed at home the night in question. If the witness truthfully answers the first clause ("You were at home the night of November 17."), the answer would be "yes;" If the witness answers the second clause ("You were not at home the night of November 17."), the truthful answer would be "no." But a simple "yes" or "no" cannot be the correct answer for both clauses simultaneously. Such a sloppily posed question should be answered "I was at home the night of November 17" if the judge allows an answer that departs from a simple "yes" or no."

Engineers and scientists (particularly physical scientists, i.e. physicists and chemists) operate in a professional mode that requires accuracy, precision, details, and context that most laymen think is too complicated and unnecessary. Further, the experiments, calculations, and designs inherent to science and engineering do not allow for waffling, obfuscation, or lying. If an design engineer were to lie in his design of an airplane or bridge, the transgression would become very apparent when the airplane fails to get off the ground and the bridge falls down. The effects of an engineering lie are immediate, visibly obvious, and can negatively affect a large number of individuals. If a scientist were to lie about the results of her experiment, the falsehood is exposed when other scientists attempt to reproduce the experiment to verify its reported results. A scientific lie is similarly obvious and immediate to a large number of scientists. That is not nearly as true for other professions or for social lies. If a husband says he went to the office when he really went to a local bar, the wife may find out quickly and easily, it may severely affect their relationship, but the general public is not negatively affected nor is it aware of his lie.

As a result of the necessity of their profession, engineers and scientists generally have habits of honesty that also carries over to their private and social lives. They are typically perplexed about the relatively high frequency of lies in the general public and its generally nonchalant attitude towards lies.

It can be argued that speech is more than mere communication; It can also be a tool for manipulation, a means to an end. That is a valid point. Speech can be used to convince another to do something for you, and if successful, there is a meeting of the minds that seals a contract. But if false statements are used to convince the other to do a beneficial action, the victim loses assets as a result. For example: "I'll pay you next week if you give me the new car to use this weekend." But there is no intention to pay. A lie has just been committed. If the dealer volunteers to give up the keys to the car for the weekend under the promise of eventual payment, both a lie and a theft has occurred. Stealing is the next subject.

STEALING

Definition
In criminal law, theft (another word for stealing) is the illegal taking of another person's property without that person's freely-given consent. The word is also used as an informal shorthand term for some crimes against property, such as burglary, embezzlement, larceny, looting, robbery, shoplifting, fraud and sometimes criminal conversion. In some jurisdictions, theft is considered to be synonymous with larceny; in others, theft has replaced larceny.3 To steal is to take the property of another wrongfully and especially as a habitual or regular practice, to take or appropriate without right or leave and with intent to keep or make use of wrongfully, to take away by force or unjust means, or to appropriate to oneself or beyond one's proper share.11 Also, to steal is to take (the property of another or others) without permission or right, esp. secretly or by force, to appropriate (ideas, credit, words, etc.) without right or acknowledgment, or to take, get, or win insidiously, surreptitiously, subtly, or by chance.12

Mens Rea (Intent)
The actus reus of theft is usually defined as an unauthorized taking, keeping or using of another's property which must be accompanied by a mens rea of dishonesty and/or the intent to deprive the owner or the person with rightful possession of that property or its use. In criminal law, mens rea – the Latin term for "guilty mind" – is usually one of the necessary elements of a crime. The standard common law test of criminal liability is usually expressed in the Latin phrase, actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea, which means that the act does not make a person guilty unless the mind be also guilty.3 (The exception is strict liability crimes, not relevant to the topic at hand.) Mens rea is the legal term for dishonest intent of theft, and is well defined in laws that deal with theft.

For example, if X goes to a restaurant and, by mistake, takes Y's scarf instead of her own, she has physically deprived Y of the use of the property (which is the actus reus) but the mistake prevents X from forming the mens rea (i.e. because she believes that she is the owner, she is not dishonest and does not intend to deprive the "owner" of it) so no crime has been committed at this point. But if she realizes the mistake when she gets home and could return the scarf to Y, she will steal the scarf if she dishonestly keeps it. Note that there may be civil liability for the torts of trespass to chattels or conversion in either eventuality.3

Specific Forms of Theft
Specific forms of theft include:3

  • Art theft
  • Bank robbery
  • Bandwidth theft
  • Carjacking
  • Computer crime
  • Copyright infringement
  • Data theft
  • Economic Espionage
  • Embezzlement
  • Espionage
  • Extortion
  • Identity theft
  • Kidnapping
  • Laptop theft
  • Metal theft
  • Motor vehicle theft
  • Organized retail crime
  • Package pilferage
  • Patent infringement
  • Plagiarism
  • Piracy
  • Receipt of stolen property
  • Street sign theft
  • Tax evasion
  • Theft of services

Property
To fully understand stealing requires also a full understanding of property, the object upon which the act of theft is performed. In the context of stealing, the generic term property is presumed to include 1.) money, 2.) labor, and 3.) specific property (all three are included in the list above). Theft of money can involve bank robbery, computer crime, economic espionage, embezzlement, extortion, and tax evasion. Theft of labor is synonymous to theft of services, the refusal to compensate for services contracted for and rendered. Specific property (and the theft thereof) appears to be a straightforward concept, but is not nearly so simple as most assume.

Ownership
Ownership of property is concerned solely with control of the property by its owner. Physical possession is unnecessary, and for some things, impossible. For example, you can own but cannot physically possess such things as an automobile, a house, or land (say, wrap your arms around it or physically put it into your pocket or purse). Further, you cannot do just anything you wish with your property (drive the car you own on the left side of the road in the U.S., shoot at anything or anyone you wish with the firearm you own, or pollute the ground water below the land you own). But you can exclude others from using, occupying, holding, or selling your property (e.g., disallow a neighbor from using your automobile or prevent others from living in your house). Ownership of property is the right to exclude others from enjoying the perks that come with owning that property.13 From the perspective of ownership, possession could be physical possession (wearing shoes or using an MP3 player placed in a pocket) or constructive possession (physically possessing the deed to a house or a certificate of fractional interest in a business).

Tangible Property and Intangible Property
Property can be tangible property or intangible property. Tangible property includes real property (land and the physical structures attached to it, such as a house or a tree) and chattel (personal property, such as an automobile or a radio). Intangible property includes intellectual property (patented inventions, copyrighted works, trademarks, and trade secrets) and other (a catch-all category that includes money, labor for hire, business interest, and personal identity).13,14

Most people have a good grasp of what tangible property is, and what it means to have it stolen. Similarly for money, labor, and identity. However, understanding intellectual property is a challenge for many, perhaps originating from its apparent ephemeral quality, its intangibility. For the purposes of this article, the most relevant types of intellectual property are copyrights and patents.

Copyrights
The United States Constitution states, in Article I, Section 8, Clause 8,

The Congress shall have the Power ... To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.
The Constitutional Clause is the bedrock of American copyright and patent law.15 Intellectual property law that the clause authorizes plays a vital role in furthering creativity by ensuring that inventors, artists, and other creators will be able to profit from developing their work free from infringement.14 From the very beginning, the founding fathers of the country recognized the need to create and protect the rights of individuals to be creative and to reward them for their efforts. It was important to them. Of the eight articles in the Constitution, they put copyright and patents in the first, before addressing the executive and judicial branches and the States. Although Congress sets up the enacting legislation, it is interesting that this is the first mention of individual rights in the Constitution, even before the amendments that eventually came to be known as the Bill of Rights. One of those rights is legal protection from stealing, which is given the legal term infringement for copyright and patents.

• Bundle of Rights
Copyright is a bundle of rights, each of which can be donated, sold, or assigned independently, that attaches to any and every work of creative authorship. The copyright holder is entitled, under 17 USC § 106, to exclusive use of the copyrighted material, including reproduction of the works in any manner; preparation of derivative works; transfer of ownership; and public performance or display. Further, the copyright holder has the right to sell, rent, or lease copies of the work to the public.14

• Works of Authorship
A non-exclusive list of works of authorship that can be copyrighted:14

  • Literary works
  • Musical works
  • Dramatic works
  • Pantomimes and choreographic works
  • Pictorial, graphical, and sculptural works
  • Audiovisual works (this includes motion pictures)
  • Sound recordings
  • Architectural works

• Copyright Protection
Copyright protection does not cover ideas (including processes and procedures) but it does cover the expression of ideas. There are many ways to express the same idea, and each different expression of the same idea is separately copyrightable. In fact, it is possible to have two different copyrighted works by two different authors of exactly the same expression of the same idea, but only if they were created completely independent of each other. (This is not true for patents, though.)14

A work of authorship automatically becomes copyrighted when it is completed (fixed). Copyright protection is automatic:
  • There is no need to attach the author's name to the work (but it should be attached);
  • There is no need to attach the copyright symbol © to the work (but it should be attached);
  • There is no need to attach the year of the work's completion (but it should be attached);
  • There is no need to publish the work (but it should be published);
  • There is no need to register the work (but it should be registered).
Each of the five steps above makes the copyright protection better (by proving authorship) and easier for remedies to infringement to be awarded to the copyright holder.

• Duration of Copyright Protection
For an individual author, copyright protection is good for the life of the author plus 50 years. For the owner of works for hire, copyright protection is good for the lesser of 75 years after publication and 100 years after completion.14 During the term of protection, the copyright holder has the exclusive use of the work (if the use is legal), and a perfect right of exclusion of all others' use of the work. After the expiration of the copyright, ownership of the work falls into the public domain.

• Fair Use Exceptions
There are exceptions to a copyright holder's right of exclusion, for very well defined and limited uses. The fair use exception is set out in 17 USC § 107. For instance, a limited amount of material can be quoted, e.g., in a scholarly article or book, in order to further the argument of the article or give review readers a chance to form their own opinion of the work. Reproduction for criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research is deemed to be permissible fair use. So is parody.14 Great care must be taken to not take too much of the copyrighted work, and the user must always clearly identify the author. Failure to do either is an infringement (theft) called plaigerism.

• Medium vs. Work of Authorship
When a person buys a book, cd, dvd, computer file, or computer program, for example, the purchaser owns only the medium upon which the copyrighted work resides, not the words/phrases/chapters, notes/melody/arrangement, or images/composition/collection that represents the content of the copyrighted work. The purchaser owns the paper, ink, glue, and cover of the book but the expressions of the words printed on that paper are still owned by the author: The owner of the physical book and the owner of the story are two different persons.

• No Copying
The book owner is further restricted to personal use only, reading it silently or aloud to a small private group. Similarly for a motion picture dvd or music cd. However, what is not allowed, absent an explicit agreement with the copyright holder, is public display, performance, or recitation. No admission may be charged even for a small private gathering. Most important, there can be no duplication for use by, viewing by, or performance for others. There can be no copying for any purpose other than personal, private, archival, and nonprofit purposes. Copying is stealing for any purpose than these personal uses.

It is acceptable to loan or sell a book or cd to another for their personal use. It is also acceptable to make a temporary copy to loan IF (this is a big IF, and a somewhat dangerous one at that) the purchased original copy and the loaned duplicated copy are not used, viewed, read, or performed simultaneously. A purchased copy is for single use only.

Example: A purchased single copy of a computer program can be installed on both the office computer and the home computer under the restriction of using only one of the copies at a time. (Most people cannot be in two places at once anyway, so it is easy to comply.) The extra hassle of installing a program on the office computer, then uninstalling it at the end of the day so that it can be installed on the home computer for the night is eliminated. Books, music, and photographs have no similar associated hassle in bringing them home at night. The copying of books and music for personal use and for loan is not necessary and it is legally dangerous. All it takes is two individuals to accidentally view or read the copies at the same time to be in violation of the law, to infringe upon the copyright holder's property. The simple way to avoid this danger is DON'T MAKE COPIES FOR ANYONE ELSE.

• Copying Is Stealing
Don't give away copies of music, photos, books, computer files, or computer programs to others, not even to family members; It is illegal - it is theft of copyrighted property, infringement. It is also a crime to remove or alter the digital watermark attached to digital files. File sharing services are all subject to the same restrictions as individuals. All copyright holders have the right to subpoena any internet service provider for the names and addresses of alleged infringers.14

• Remedies to Copyright Infringement
The most common remedy to infringement is a court injunction to stop making copies and distributing them. There can also be actual damages or statutory damages ($500 to $20,000, or $750 to $150,000 for some infringements), and one year in prison plus $25,000 fine for willful infringement.14 Theft of copyrighted works is every bit as expensive for the thief as stealing an automobile or robbing a bank.

Patents
Patent law is a very detailed and technical part of the law. Because of its cutting edge nature, it is heavily science and engineering laden. In turn, its practitioners (patent attorneys and patent agents) must be well schooled not only in the law but also in the relevant branches of science and engineering. Since patent laws convey property status to inventions and ownership to its inventors, it is important for everyone to know something about patents, if only to avoid infringing upon the property rights of inventors. Most people will have little opportunity to infringe upon a patent, but just in case, the following paragraphs provide a minimal description of invention ownership.

• Definition of a Patent
A patent, the second form of intellectual property protection provided for in the Constitution Clause of the United States Constitution, is a grant, from the government to the inventor(s), of a limited right to exclude others from making, using, or selling one's invention, including the right to license others to make, use, or sell it.13

• Utility, Design, and Plant Patents
The patent is the most absolute form of intellectual property, a statutory monopoly. The most common patent is a utility patent, which permits the patentee exclusive use (within the United States) of the invention for a 20 year term, running from the date of filing (35 USC § 154).14 A patentable utility invention is any "new and useful process, machine, manufacture or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof." 35 USC § 101 (There are two other less common patents, the design patent, which covers an object's non-functional visual and tactile characteristics for 14 years, and the plant patent, issued for methods of asexually reproducing certain plants and good for 20 years.14) Unlike copyrights, only one inventor (or one team of collaborating co-inventors) is recognized for any given invention.

• A Teaching to the Public
The patent document itself is a teaching to the public of the invention and how to use it. The inventor (or assignee) is rewarded with an absolute monopoly for the term of the patent for the efforts invested in creating or discovering the invention. The general public is officially notified of the patented invention and all of its details when patent document is issued and the patent granted. When the patent expires, ownership reverts to the public domain. Until then, the inventor may do anything with the invention, or do nothing, while preventing anybody else from using it. Alternatively, the inventor may give up the patent to the public before its expiration.

• Patent Protection
Patent protection also extends to similar inventions (i.e., those with only trivial differences, such as different colors if color is not important for the use of the invention) by virtue of the Doctrine of Equivalents.14 The most important protection is the patentee's option to prevent any or all others from using the invention, the same important right for owners of all types of property.

• Patent Infringement
Because the holder of the patent has sole control over the technology for a period of time, anyone who reproduces the same technology without having an assignment or license may be guilty of direct infringement. A patent owner also has a cause of action against a party who induces someone else to infringe on the patent, or who contributes to patent infringement.14

• Remedies to Patent Infringement
As with copyrights, the most common remedy to patent infringement is a court injunction to stop making, using, or selling the invention. There may be damages awarded also, sufficient to adequately compensate for the infringement but only so long as it is not less than a reasonable royalty. For willful infringement, the court may award triple damages.14

Discussion and Summary
Property is property. All types of property have at least one universal attribute: Capacity of being owned. This capacity is the defining characteristic of property. A plot of land is property that can be owned, but the color of a tomato plant that grows on that plot is not property because it cannot be owned.

A tomato plant, and its fruit, is ephemeral. A tomato seed is not a tomato plant, but it can become a plant in time. Its potential to become a plant is the intangible property the owner of the seed possesses. The tomato fruit is an intangible property until it forms and becomes tangible. After the fruit is removed and carried away to be consumed, its existence as property vanishes, as does the plant itself come winter. Tangibility, portability, and durability have no bearing on property-ness.

Ownership is ownership. Ownership of any type of property has at least one universal attribute: Control over the owned property. This control is the defining characteristic of ownership. The authority to decide who may drive an automobile, and where and when it may be driven, is the mark of ownership. The mere driving of that vehicle is not the mark of ownership.

Theft is theft. Theft of any type of property has at least one universal attribute: The unauthorized removal of control over the stolen property from the proper owner. Loss of control deliberately caused by another is the defining characteristic of theft. Use of an automobile without permission is the mark of theft. The ease of taking and using the vehicle for an illegitimate purpose is not a mark of theft.

A common, ordinary, unlocked automobile (say, a Ford), keys in the ignition, is secretly stolen from the next door driveway of its owner, used by the thief to visit a dying friend, then returned to the neighbor's driveway without the neighbor knowing it was ever gone. A stolen Ford is as much stolen property as a stolen DeLorean, a rare, very valuable, and difficult-to-replace automobile. The easy availability of taking the car for a self-determined emergency without depriving its owner of its use does not excuse the theft. Scarcity, copyability, and deprivability have no bearing on ownership-ness. Easiness, accessibility, and necessity have no bearing on whether the act is theft or not theft.

Theft is a concept with almost universal understanding when it comes to tangible property. The concept of intangible property that can be owned, and subsequently stolen (notably copyrighted music performances), however, seems to be grossly misunderstood by many people worldwide. They are perplexed and angry at the prosecutions of those caught collecting, copying, sharing, and distributing music, especially if the internet is involved. Many do not yet understand that it is illegal to do so. Many others who do understand the illegality do not understand why it is illegal. And yet others vehemently disagree that it should be illegal to copy and share copyrighted music, and are working to legalize unauthorized copying.

Many argue that if it's on the internet, it must be free for the taking. Many argue that the owners should have known better to put their works in digital format and/or on the internet, so that it serves them right to have it all stolen by copying. Many argue that it is so easy to copy that it is (or should be) legal to do so. Many argue that the owners are not being deprived when music is copied and shared, so it must be permissible. All of these arguments are wrong, untrue, illogical, and one-sided. These arguments have always been wrong, untrue, illogical, and one-sided. Legal scholars and legislatures worldwide have recognized the legitimacy of ownership of intangible property for centuries.

Intangible property has the same attributes as tangible property. Stealing both types of property has essentially the same consequences. Copying another's intangible property without permission is illegal.

Ignorance of the law (as well as disagreement with the law) is no excuse, anywhere or any time. Ignorance or disagreement with the owner of property you misappropriate is no excuse either.

It's difficult to imagine an owner accepting an explanation "I didn't know the car (house, office) was owned by someone who did not want anyone else to use (enter, occupy) it" from the thief. The owner spent a lot of time, money and/or effort to attain and maintain the car (house, office) and is likely to be unsympathetic to the thief who has no patience to expend an equivalent time, money, or effort to obtain the equivalent property legitimately.

Similarly for the performer of a recorded song. The performer spent a lot of time, money, and effort in education, training, acquiring permission, rehearsing with other musicians, renting a recording studio, recording and mixing the studio sessions, and duplicating the final version for retail sale. The performer deserves both the credit and compensation for the effort, expense, and delayed gratification to get it just right so that consumers can enjoy it. It is hypocritical to object to the performer's (or the record label's) efforts to protect the property rights imbued in the recording while similarly protecting one's own property.

It is expected that one would object to a stranger yanking the sound system from one's automobile so that the stranger could enjoy it. Similarly for the artist whose music is ripped from the artist's album and given or sold away. Laws, regulations, and rules are meant to be fair for everyone, to be applied to everyone the same way. Refusing to live by the rules that others are expected to follow is cheating, the next subject.

CHEATING

Definition
Cheating is defined as the intentional act of breaking the rules, or attempting to achieve personal gain through fraud or deceit.16 To cheat is to deprive of something valuable by the use of deceit or fraud, to influence or lead by deceit, trick, or artifice, to practice fraud or trickery, to violate rules dishonestly, or to be sexually unfaithful.11 A cheater (sometimes called a cheat) gets something by dishonesty or deception; or by depriving one of his or her rights and usually connotes deliberate perversion of the truth; or by large-scale cheating by misrepresentation or abuse of confidence.11 Cheating is an act of lying, deception, fraud, trickery, imposture, or imposition. Cheating characteristically is employed to create an unfair advantage, usually in one's own interest, and often at the expense of others. Cheating implies the breaking of rules. Cheating is a primordial economic act: getting more for less, often used when referring to marital infidelity.3 Cheating is when a person misleads, deceives, or acts dishonestly on purpose.17

Cheating fundamentally includes several elements of both lying and stealing, with specific motivations to gain something of value by illegitimate means. That is why lying and stealing are discussed before cheating. Cheating is lying and/or stealing with the intention for acquiring something for more than merely the "pleasure" of fooling or depriving others.

Children
Cheating as a concept is not understood by children until around age seven. Preschoolers often change the rules to a game as they play, innocent of the fact that rules must remain consistent to have any meaning. By seven, however, children have gained an understanding of rules, fairness, and honesty, and cheating then becomes intentional.16 As with lying and stealing, cheating is a social exercise, whose negative consequences must be experienced in order to learn what all three are and why one should not partake of them.

Children may cheat for a number of reasons. Some never develop a sense of guilt, so they have no internal inhibitors to breaking rules. If they will gain something by breaking a rule, they break it without a qualm. Others experience a thrill in breaking rules, finding it exhilarating to oppose authority. "Getting away with it" gives them a sense of superiority and power over the rule makers and enforcers. Children who lack sufficient challenges in their lives may cheat out of boredom, in effect creating a challenge for themselves.16

Many children cheat because they feel compelled to measure up to a standard that they do not believe they can reach honestly. Further, the tendency to cheat is inversely related to the expectation of success.16

Studies have also discovered a (socioeconomic) class difference in attitudes toward cheating. Middle- and upper-class children who have been raised with academically oriented values view cheating as a much more serious issue than stealing. The theft of knowledge is considered a greater crime than the theft of money or material goods, for example. In contrast, lower- and working-class children who have grown up in a world that emphasizes material survival, and in which higher education is an unlikely privilege, view stealing as much more heinous than cheating.16

What Are Rules?
For the purposes of this essay, a rule is a usual, customary, or generalized course of action or behavior,18 a principle or condition that customarily governs behavior, a prescribed guide for conduct or action, or basic generalization that is accepted as true and that can be used as a basis for reasoning or conduct.19 Rules are guidelines for social interaction, a virtual road map for our travels through work days and leisure times, especially for those situations that are unfamiliar. They provide a mental hand rail to use while following the winding hallway to new experiences yet out of sight around the corner. And they offer a reminder of what has worked well in the past for similar situations.

Why Do We Need Rules?
Some [children and adults] would prefer not to have any rules placed on them at all, as they feel they become constricted by them, that their freedoms are infringed upon. But rules are part of life; The world would fall into utter chaos without them. Within every facet of our daily lives, we are confronted with rules. There are certain times that we must get up in the morning and certain times to go to bed. There are rules to maintaining a proper diet. There are rules for marriage, rules for the road, rules in schools and places of business. There are rules to become a member of an organization or church. There are even certain rules that we must abide by in order to be a citizen of any country.20 Young children are the most puzzled by rules because they are still learning about them. They begin their learning of rules with no idea of why they are important because they are born ignorant, helpless, and selfish.

Young children are taught certain rules that have a lot to do with their safety. Do not touch a hot stove or go near a tub of hot water. Stay clear of any stairs. Don't touch sharp objects. Don't fight with other children. Don't run out into the street. It sounds like a lot of "don'ts" that might constrict a child's natural curiosity about the world around them, but these are all general, common sense rules that help to keep them safe throughout their childhood. Without being taught such rules, the consequences could be dire. Rules are a necessary part of all our lives, and it starts from early childhood.20

Because children are not innately aware of dangers in life, they must be taught how to avoid certain things, as it is throughout the entirety of our lives. If rules are not taught and enforced, some wouldn't know the differences between right and wrong, safety and danger, the consequences of cause and effect. Left to our own devices, we just wouldn't have a clue and therein lies the chaos.20 Rules and limits are the beginning points of a rational and orderly relationship with your children. They tell us that there is a system, how it operates, and what is expected.21

People who habitually jaywalk (illegally walk across a street in the middle of the block) frequently step out in front of moving cars without thinking. They stop traffic, sometimes intentionally. Violating the rule against jay walking amounts to massive inconsideration to other people (complete strangers)22 as well as creating a safety risk for themselves and others. Without rules such as this, people would work against each other, being inefficient if not destructive, wasteful, and painful.

• Analogy
There is a phenomenon in Physics called wave interference that makes for a reasonable analogy about rules. There are two types of interference, constructive interference and destructive interference. Constructive interference happens when two identical waves that are in phase results in a composite wave of twice the amplitude and four times the energy where they overlap. Complete destructive interference occurs when two 180° out of phase but otherwise identical waves results in a composite wave of zero amplitude, that is, no wave at all. If the two waves are out of phase by less than 180°, the resultant wave will have an amplitude between zero and twice that of each individual wave, partial destructive interference.

The waves represent two people, each with similar goals, say, to reach the other side of the street/block, one on foot, the other driving an automobile. If they both follow the rules (pedestrian walking only in crosswalks, vehicle stopping at all crosswalks), then each accomplish their goal with a small amount of invested effort. This is represented by constructive interference, where each reinforces the other's cooperation by simultaneously achieving the goals. On the other hand, if one jay walks or refuses to stop at the crosswalk, the other is unjustifiably and negatively impacted. This is represented by partial destructive interference, where one refuses to cooperate, and only one achieves his/her goal. The worst case scenario occurs when neither follows the rules, both refuse to yield, and a collision occurs with resulting injury or damage. This is represented by complete destructive interference, where neither cooperate, and neither achieves his/her goal.

Academic Cheating
Student cheating in the high schools and colleges is pandemic, and well documented. Part of the reason it is so huge a problem is many students do not know what cheating is. A survey by Rutgers University Prof. Donald McCabe found that 50 percent of students don't think copying questions and answers from a test is cheating.23 McCabe predicts even more erosion of integrity in higher education when upcoming generations arrive: Their attitude is, "If it's on the internet, it's public knowledge, and I don't have to cite it."24

For those classes in which considerable homework is required, such as Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, and Music, students working together presents a conundrum. Profs. Craig Wright and Frederick Ziegler of Yale University, agree that problem sets are a peculiar problem, since there is a thin line between group work and just copying another student's answers. Ziegler tries to delineate this boundary for his students. "I actually encourage students to work on problem sets together," he explained. "My only request is that they don't hand in exactly identical papers." Ever since an incident in his class involving a student who stole someone else's problem set, Ziegler has made his students place their completed problem sets in locked metal boxes.25

Cheating has become commonplace in high schools, largely because students are using technology to gather and share information in rather innovation ways. Students can develop habits in high school that will get them expelled when they use them in college, and sometimes students won’t even realize their “habits” are illegal.26

• List Of "Unintentional" Cheating
Since students use tools and techniques that have not been used before, they might not always know what really constitutes cheating. The following activities constitute cheating, and can in a student getting kicked out of college:26

  • Buying a paper from an Internet site
  • Sharing homework answers via IMs, email, text messaging, or any other device
  • Having another student write a paper for you
  • Cutting and pasting text from the Internet without citing it
  • Using sample essays from the Internet
  • Using text messaging to tell somebody else an answer
  • Programming notes into your calculator
  • Taking and/or sending a cell phone picture of test material or notes
  • Video recording lectures with cell phones and replaying during test
  • Surfing web for answers during a test
  • Using a pager to receive information during a test
  • Viewing notes on your PDA, electronic calendar, cell phone, or other device during a test
  • Storing definitions in a graphing calculator or cell phone

• Pandemic Numbers
On the other hand, many students do know what cheating is. A national survey by Rutgers' Management Education Center of 4,500 high school students found that 75 percent of them engage in serious cheating.23 According to a national survey of high school students by Josephson Institute, cheating, stealing, and lying have continued their alarming, decade-long upward spiral.27 A 2005 Duke University study found that 75 percent of high school students admit to cheating, and if you include copying another person's homework, that number climbs to 90 percent.28

The 2002 Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth, a biennial national survey conducted by Josephson Institute, revealed that students admitting they cheated on an exam at least once in the past year soared from 61 percent in 1992 to 74 percent in 2002, the number who stole something from a store within the past 12 months jumped from 31 percent to 38 percent, and the percentage who say they lied to their teachers and parents increased substantially.27

Michael Josephson, founder and president of Josephson Institute, said of the report’s findings: “The evidence is that a willingness to cheat has become the norm and that parents, teachers, coaches, and even religious educators have not been able to stem the tide. The scary thing is that so many kids are entering the workforce to become corporate executives, politicians, airplane mechanics, and nuclear inspectors with the dispositions and skills of cheaters and thieves."27 Cheating does not end at graduation. For example, resume fraud is a serious issue for employers concerned about the level of integrity of new employees.29

Comparing his 1990 study to one done by William Bowers in 1964, McCabe and his co-author, Linda Klebe Trevino, caution, "Although the number of students who cheat has increased only modestly, the students who do cheat are engaging in a wider variety of test cheating behaviors today and are also cheating more often."30

• Miscellaneous Facts On Student Cheating
From the Academic Cheating Fact Sheet:29

  • Statistics show that cheating among high school students has risen dramatically during the past 50 years. While about 20% of college students admitted to cheating in high school during the 1940's, today between 75 and 98 percent of college students surveyed each year report having cheated in high school.
  • 73% of all test takers, including prospective graduate students and teachers, agree that most students do cheat at some point. 86% of high school students agreed.
  • "Thirty years ago, males admitted to significantly more academic dishonesty than females. Today, that difference has decreased substantially and some recent studies show no differences in cheating between men and women in college."
  • Academic cheating begins to set in at the junior high level.
  • According to one recent survey of middle schoolers, 2/3 of respondents reported cheating on exams, while 9/10 reported copying another's homework.
  • According to the 1998 poll of Who's Who Among American High School Students, 80% of the country's best students cheated to get to the top of their class. More than half the students surveyed said they don't think cheating is a big deal – and most did not get caught.
  • Profile of college students more likely to cheat: Business or Engineering majors; Those whose future plans include business; Men self-report cheating more than woman; Fraternity and Sorority members; Younger students; Students with lower GPA's or those at the very top.

Highlights from the Josephson Institute's 2002 Report Card:27

  • Jocks and religious students cheat more. Students participating in varsity sports are more likely to cheat than non-participants (78% vs. 73%) and students attending religious schools are more likely to cheat than students at other schools (78% vs. 72%).
  • Boys steal more. Males are more likely to steal than females (41% vs. 35%).
  • Leaders steal less. More than one-third of students in leadership positions stole from a store, but they stole at a substantially lower rate than non-leaders (34% vs. 39%).
  • Honor students steal the least. Thirty percent (the lowest percentage of any group) of the honor students say they stole compared to 40 percent of non-honor students.
  • Lying to teachers is way up. The percentage who admit lying to teachers in the previous 12 months increased significantly from 1992 to 2002 (69% to 83%).

• Most Likely Cheaters
Denise Pope of the School of Education at Stanford University says that of all high school students who cheat, "the ones who cheat more are the ones who have the most to lose, which is the honors and AP (advanced placement) students. Eighty percent of honors and AP students cheat on a regular basis."28 Another group of students recently revealed to be most like likely to cheat is athletes. In a landmark survey of nearly 5,300 high school athletes conducted in 2005 and 2006 by the Josephson Institute of Ethics in Los Angeles, 65 percent admitted to cheating in the classroom more than once in the previous year, as opposed to 60 percent of nonathletes, a percentage that institute founder Michael Josephson says is statistically significant. And varsity athletes were more likely to cheat than nonvarsity. Further, he thinks "The major male sports seem to be spawning a win-at-any-cost mentality that carries over into the classroom. Thirty-seven percent of boys and 20 percent of girls said it was proper for a coach to instruct a player to fake an injury. Forty-three percent of boys and 22 percent of girls surveyed said it was proper for a coach to teach basketball players how to illegally hold and push, for example.28

• Plaigerism
Plagiarism may be another practice students don't consider to be serious. Some 58 percent of those McCabe surveyed acknowledged "one or more instances" of plagiarism, ranging from downloading an entire paper to "cutting and pasting" online publications and not crediting the source. "They seem to know what [plagiarism] is," McCabe says of his young respondents, "but they raise some questions about where that line is that actually crosses into cheating."31

• Off-Campus Cheating: Distance Learning
Online assessment for distance learning is even more conducive to cheating than on-campus learning. Cheating generally increases with age up to 25 then levels off: This is the prime age group for distance learning. Cheating also increases the more distant the student is from the instructor, and is easier. Online exams are not well secured, and frequently easily hacked with determined effort. Multiple or interrupted attempts at an exam are not easily preventable or detectable, as is unauthorized help during an exam. To date, little has been done to address these problems.32 Since the current trend in higher education is to more and more long distance learning, cheating can only get worse without extraordinary efforts to control it.

• Common Excuses For Cheating
The excuses offered by students for cheating are as varied as they are alarming:

  • "I actually think cheating is good. A person who has an entirely honest life can't succeed these days."23
  • "I believe cheating is not wrong. People expect us to attend 7 classes a day, keep a 4.0 GPA, not go crazy and turn in all of our work the next day. What are we supposed to do, fail?"23
  • "What's important is getting ahead."23
  • "Everyone cheats. There is no cushion, so you have to do well; there isn't a choice. In college, there is no room for error. You cannot fail. You refuse to fail. People become desperate, so they'll do anything to do well. That's why people resort to paying others to do their papers. Because you feel: Mess up once and you are screwed. The end."28
  • "It's no big deal."28
  • "I'm an English major, so I don't think cheating in my English courses could be justified, but copying homework or cheating in a math class that has nothing to do with my future career is different."30
  • "The real world is terrible. People will take other people's materials and pass it on as theirs. I'm numb to it already. I'll cheat to get by."353
  • "A lot of people think it's like you're not really there to learn anything. You're just learning to learn the system."35
  • A business student: "Everything is about the grade that you got in the class. Nobody looks at how you got it." He graduates in a few weeks and will go on to a job with a top investment firm.35
  • An engineering student: "You know, what do I need to know about English literature? I shouldn't have to take this course."35
  • "You don't want to be a dork and study for eight hours a day. You want to go out and have fun."35

• Student Rationalizations For Cheating
Not knowing what constitutes cheating is one reason for its prevalence. However, many students do know what cheating is, and even admit it is wrong to cheat, but cheat anyway.

Why do students engage in conduct they themselves think is wrong? Many researchers site neutralization of deviance, a concept first defined by Gresham Sykes and David Matza in 1957. Basically, neutralization is the old, familiar thought process that says, "Yes, this behavior is wrong, and society is justified in making rules to disallow it. BUT special circumstances make it OK for me to ignore this rule." Sykes and Matza defined five ways individuals often neutralize deviant behavior: denial of injury, denial of the victim, appeal to higher loyalties, denial of responsibility, and condemnation of the condemners.30

Many students believe no one is hurt by their dishonesty. Indeed, 29 percent in a Santa Clara University survey claim cheating is justified if the student learns from it. About a fifth blame the teacher for their behavior, one student wrote, "Cheating can be justified if the teacher is a tyrant---I mean, really." Another 15 percent excused cheating because the work was "meaningless." Peer pressure and the need to please their families (75 percent) proved to be the stronger loyalty than integrity.30

On the other hand, that many students feel compelled to neutralize their behavior can be construed as a hopeful sign. It suggests they have not abandoned the basic value of integrity—just decided that, in certain circumstances, it does not apply to them.30

To some students, cheating is not about values at all; it's about power. Some people, they argue, have the advantage of well-connected families; some are naturally bright; others get ahead through cheating. In these students' minds, all means are morally equivalent, according to Gary Pavela. For these young people, he observes, "Concepts like 'morality,' 'virtue,' and 'truth' have no meaning except to disguise and facilitate the use of power by those who have it, or seek it."30 In other words, cheating is a legitimate way to "level the playing field" for some students.

Students also make distinctions in the seriousness of cheating behaviors and, for example, may allow themselves to use sources without footnoting even though they would not purchase a term paper. To some of these students, integrity is not a virtue in and of itself. The ultimate question is not "Am I an honest person?" but "Will this behavior prevent my mastery of material I will need to become a competent professional?"30

In the 1960s, the concept of education for its own sake held greater sway among students. In the '90s, many young people look to the university more as a credentialing institution for business and the professions. Within this framework, cheating in a "nonessential" class may be more easily neutralized.30 That is, many students are effectively thinking "Cheating is wrong, but not in my case, because I have more important reasons."

Many cheating students believe that cheating in school is a dress rehearsal for life. They mentioned President Clinton's Monica Lewinsky scandal and financial scandals like the Enron case, as well as the inconsistencies of the court system.35 Michael Josephson says students take their lead from adults. "They're basically decent kids whose values are being totally corrupted by a world which is sanctioning stuff that even they know is wrong. But they can't understand why everybody allows it."35 So they fall back to the philosophy "Cheat or be cheated."28 Besides, as Josephson points out according to one study, less than 2 percent of all academic cheaters get caught, and only half of them get punished. So there's almost a 99 percent chance of getting away with it.28

• Ideas And Behavior That Reinforce Cheating
One of the most disturbing trends is that behavior once considered cheating is no longer thought to be so. Copying homework, for example. An eighth-grader in private school says, "That's not cheating, it's helping."28 "We call it the morning scramble," says Denise Pope of Stanford. "In the morning at a high school, you see a ton of kids sitting around copying each other's homework. Because a percentage of their grade is based on their turning in their homework. And a lot of these kids are doing so many classes and after-school activities that there's no way they could possibly do all the work required of them. So kids don't even count that as cheating. That's just sort of survival for them: divvying up the work. That's why they're IM-ing (instant messaging) all the time while they're doing homework. It's another way of divvying up the work. It's a way of ensuring that you get it done. It doesn't matter how you do it, just get it done and get it in."28

Many suggest kids learn to cheat from the larger culture. Josephson says, "The rule of thumb we use is: Whatever you allow you encourage. So whether they're seeing it with Enron or Barry Bonds or Paris Hilton, somewhere here or there, they are seeing people get away with stuff. The truth is they don't have to look further than their own high school. There is so much cheating going on in their own school by their own colleagues, with their teachers looking the other way, in a way that almost looks like passive approval. There's a culture that begins to develop, when you see people do this, and it provides the moral cover they need to insulate themselves from a conscience. It's like saying, "Come on, I'm not the only one, it's happening all the time."28

Kids also use survival-mode thinking and exercise risk management when they decide to cheat, says Pope. Suppose someone gets to the end of several hours of homework and it's 10 p.m. and she still has an English paper to write. If she turns in nothing, she knows it's a guaranteed zero. If she downloads a paper from the Internet, she might get caught and get a zero. But if she doesn't get caught, she might get an A. So it seems worth it to many to turn in the plagiarized paper.28

David Callahan, author of the 2004 book The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead, says there are two economic explanations for the rise of cheating. One is that there's more to gain. "We live in a time when the winners are getting ever more lavish rewards and the incentives to get to the top are greater than they've ever been before. In the late 1960s, if you were a CEO and you inflated the value of your company's stock by cooking the books, maybe you'd make a couple of extra million dollars when your stock holdings went up. But if you do that now, there's the potential to make hundreds of millions of dollars. If a top baseball player took performance-enhancing drugs 20 years ago and hit more home runs, maybe he'd make $1 million a year, which is how much the top players got paid in the mid- to late 1980s. Now, if you can join the ranks of the super top players, you can sign a $150 million, five-year contact."28

The other economic reason is there's more to lose. The penalties for failure, or for simply being ordinary, have grown. The middle class has been squeezed, so it's harder and harder to maintain a decent standard of living. Callahan says the two other things that account for the rise in cheating are lack of oversight and enforcement (as in deregulation in business and lack of serious consequences for violations in business, politics and the academic world) and a change in American culture, ushered in the 1980s with "greed is good" individualism and a shredding of the social contract. "In that cultural context, it's not surprising that people are willing to cut corners to advance their own self-interest."28

But even if kids are not aware of cheating scandals like Enron, says Pope, "they are absolutely influenced by the role models they see close to them." So when they see their parent go "diagnosis shopping" to get a doctor to say they have ADD so they can have extra time to complete their SAT test, or they hear a coach tell them to fake an injury in football when their team is out of time-outs to gain an unofficial one, kids get the message that it's OK, even necessary, to do take whatever steps to gain an advantage. And to an adolescent that may translate as lie, cheat and steal.28

• Current State Of Cheating
Margaret Fain and Peggy Bates of Coastal Carolina University summarize the current state of cheating: For lots of students, lofty ideas about honesty and integrity have very little to do with the "real" world or why they are going to college:36

  • Some students have no idea what an "education" really is.
  • Some students have come to college to get a credential--a credential that will allow them to pursue a chosen career. How they get this credential might be less important than simply getting it.
  • Some view any course not directly related to their major as a waste of time.
  • Some will cheat or plagiarize to maintain high GPAs--there is tremendous pressure from parents, grad school admissions, corporate recruiters, even from themselves.
  • Some are overloaded with work, school and family demands.
  • Some think it is no longer "socially unacceptable".
  • Some manage to make it to college thinking anything and everything on the Internet is public domain.
  • Many simply do not know what constitutes plagiarism--they have not learned about plagiarism in high school.
  • Some feel that 'cut and paste' or wholesale borrowing is not plagiarism.
  • Some students actually engage in this behavior out of self-defense--students in their classes are using it to excel, creating unfair competition.

• Honor Codes
In most honor systems, students pledge to abide by a code that clarifies expectations regarding appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Thus, wrongdoing is more clearly defined under honor code systems. When the definition of wrongdoing is made clear, it becomes more difficult for potential cheaters to rationalize and justify cheating behavior, and the incidence of cheating may be lower as a result. According to Phyllis Brown of Santa Clara University, the important thing is not so much the code as the clarity. The institution must explain what cheating is and what will happen to students who get caught at it.30

However, there is one consistent situation where honor codes don't work. “The [honor] system isn’t working for in-class exams,” says Stanford University senior Alexis Hallaby (who conducted an online survey of 1000 undergraduates), especially in rooms where tiered seats afford test-takers tempting views of the desks in front of them.24 The problem is that without proctors, the honor system depends on students both obeying the code and taking action when they see violations. And most students "just do not want to be snitches," Stanford's George Wilson observes.24

There is hope, too. More than a third of another Stanford survey's respondents think honest students are penalized by the honor code because others don't abide by it.24 That might explain why there is a small increase of students turning in cheaters, admits Wilson.24 "[P]eople who are cheating ... devalues my work ..." said one freshman.24 Still, a basic tenet is that faculty "avoid, as far as practicable, academic procedures that create temptations to violate the Honor Code"—and some would argue that an unproctored exam is one of those temptations.24

• Why Cheat?
There are diverse theories of explaining away the prevalence of cheating in the schools. Below are a few.

The best antidotes for cheating are teachers who fill children with a love of learning, who impart some idea of life's possibilities and who understand that assessment is merely a means to an end, not the end itself. A meaningful curriculum will shift the focus from learning boring lists of irrelevant facts to exploring subjects in depth. Ultimately the best solution is to make learning exciting and absorbing. Teach the whole child. Make the learning process student-centric. Allow students to buy into the process. Empower them to guide and direct their learning. Encourage creativity and critical thinking as opposed to rote learning.34 Unfortunately, today's emphasis on teacher and school accountability, which is currently founded on test scores only, results in pressures that push teachers away from instilling the love of learning in their students and toward "teaching to the test." Without any love of learning, children have no reason to take school seriously.

Parents have a huge role to play in combating cheating, too. That's because children mimic almost everything their parents do. Parents must set the right sort of example for children to copy, and they must also take a genuine interest in their children's work. Ask to see everything and anything. Discuss everything and anything. An involved parent is a powerful weapon against cheating.34 Failing that, school becomes just another obstacle to endure and children will take the cue of indifference from their parents. It's just a short step from indifference to hostility or cheating.

Apparently, the vast majority of young people (and adults for that matter) believe that cheating is wrong. Yet, by nearly every poll, most young people cheat at least once in their high school career. So, the most important question is why do young people behave in ways that are inconsistent with their stated beliefs? Perhaps the answer to this lies in a survival instinct, says Robert Kennedy. "I am not a psychologist, but I believe there is a mechanism within each of us which triggers a need to 'save face.' Saving face can mean a desire to save oneself from the angry assault of a parent or teacher; it can mean avoiding embarrassment; it can mean economic survival or a perceived pressure be it self-inflicted or inflicted by some other extraneous force. Nowadays, college acceptance is the major instigator of this survival instinct."34

The reason parents aren't outraged about cheating, suggests Madeline Levine, author of The Price Of Privilege: How Parental Pressure And Material Advantage Are Creating A Generation Of Disconnected And Unhappy Kids, is that we have come to value achievement over character. She is worried that the highest performing students in high school, who will become our doctors, lawyers, and policymakers, have few qualms about cheating.28 Indeed, this may have already come full circle. Donald McCabe attributes the rise in cheating to the state of ethics in mainstream society. When students compare cheating to what's going on in the rest of society, "it doesn't seem like a big deal."33

Further, "You don't find any parent movement saying, 'Oh my God, why is this happening?' " says Michael Josephson. "It's a silent conspiracy creating the disease of low expectations: 'Well, we can't really expect people to be honest anymore.' ... We have lost our moral compass. And no one is putting the flag in the sand and saying, 'This is wrong! It's dishonest, it's unacceptable, I don't care what the stakes are and why you're doing it, it's wrong, and we will not permit it.' The solution is in the voluntary commitment of the school system and the people who run it, the boards of education and the parents to say this is not acceptable. If they would do that, they could change it."28

• What's Wrong With Cheating?
To get students (or anyone) to stop cheating, they must first understand why cheating is wrong. Thomas Lickona, in his book Educating For Character: How Our Schools Can Teach Respect and Responsibility, defined a few reasons:34

  • It will ultimately lower your self-respect, because you can never be proud of anything you got by cheating.
  • Cheating is a lie, because it deceives other people into thinking you know more than you do.
  • Cheating violates the teacher's trust. It undermines the whole trust relationship between the teacher and his or her class.
  • Cheating is unfair to all people who aren't cheating.
  • If you cheat in school now, you'll find it easier to cheat in other situations later in life - perhaps even in your closest personal relationships.

From the perspective of a scientist or engineer, the second point above is the most important argument against cheating. A cheating science researcher (or a cheating design engineer) is trying to lie to Mother Nature herself. But she is not forgiving or understanding. Nature just ignores the cheaters and continues doing her thing as she has for the past 13.7 billion years. The cheating researcher or engineer eventually gets spanked when the lies catch up with him or her. For Nature, it has nothing to do with ethics; It has everything to do with the facts of reality. A faulty design for a bridge (a result of the student engineer cheating in his Strength of Materials course), for example, will result in an unfinishable structure (the spanking, for daring to fake knowledge and skill) at great wasted expense to his or her employer. Of course, the employer of this cheater will see it as fraud (breach of ethics).

• Curbing Cheating
As mentioned above, parents and teachers are the two most influential figures in the lives of children that should promote integrity in the schools. Donald McCabe agrees. He suggests we'd be much better off promoting integrity among our students rather than trying to police their dishonesty.23 However, to ignore the cheating that exists presently would defeat all attempts to prevent future cheating. So something should be done about the dishonesty that is here and now. A blend of policing and promotion seems appropriate.

Regan McMahon suggests five ways to curb cheating:28

  • Create an honor code with student input so they're invested in it.
  • Seriously punish cheaters according the academic integrity policy.
  • Create multiple versions of tests to make purloined answer keys useless.
  • Ban electronic devices in testing rooms.
  • Develop multiple modes of assessment so the grade is not determined primarily on tests.

Robert Kennedy further suggests:34

  • Model integrity, no matter what the cost.
  • Don't assume young people know why cheating is wrong, both from a personal and corporate perspective.
  • Enable students to understand the meaning and relevance of an academic lesson.
  • Foster an academic curriculum which perpetuates the "real-world" application of knowledge.
  • Don't force cheating underground - let students know that you understand the pressures and, at least initially, be reasonable in responding to violations.

Other measures could include:

  • Use proctors for all exams.
  • Ban multiple choice exams. All to often, they become merely "multiple guess" tests, which measure nothing and allow for a nonzero score for knowing nothing. At the very least, make exams only partly multiple choice, other parts comprising "fill in the blank," short essays, or open ended questions or problems.
  • Ban calculators from exams, even for science, mathematics, and engineering classes. If they are essential, then provide identical calculators for the duration of the exam, to be returned when the test is submitted to the instructor or proctor.
  • Do not allow erasers, water or soda bottles, coffee cups or mugs, or food to be brought in by test takers. There are widely used methods of using these items for cheating. Provide water for them if necessary.
  • Discount the "dying grandparent" excuses (which always pop up during the last third of every semester) for prospectively missing long scheduled exams.
  • Have all make-up exams be oral examinations within a week or so of the missed regular exam, with a maximum score no better than the class average.
  • No early exams, whether they are regular exams or Final Exams.

Cheating And Business

• The Cheating Culture
David Callahan contends the cheating and lying from Wall Street to university exam rooms are unraveling the fabric of the nation. The road he traveled to get to that conclusion started when he wrote his 2002 book Kindred Spirits: Harvard Business School's Extraordinary Class of 1949 and How They Transformed America. As he conducted his interviews, many with men who had run some of the country's largest multinational corporations, he became convinced that they operated under very different moral guidelines than many of their successors. "They were not saints," says Callahan, "but they had very different values. They grew up during the Depression, fought in World War II, went to Harvard Business School on the G.I. Bill, and many came from the working class. They went into business with low expectations. They did not have a strong sense of entitlement. Wealth would be created patiently over many years. They were thankful for what they had been given, and many had a belief in social equity." The anger he encountered among these men over the huge compensation packages awarded to heads of companies today, coupled with their disgust with the loss of values, led him to wonder what had changed in American society.37

The results of his question are presented in his 2004 book The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead.37 The flaunting of ill-gotten gains during the first Gilded Age provoked the broad moral concern of turn-of-the-century progressive reformers. They laid the foundations for the American version of the welfare state, which came into being during the New Deal and framed public discourse throughout the post-World War II decades. Corporations had struck an implicit social compact with labor unions, trading job security for acceptance of work rules, and loyalty to their employees and their community in exchange for a steady supply of skilled workers. By the ’80s that compact was broken, and the only constituencies recognized by corporate executives were their shareholders and themselves. The unleashing of turbo-capitalism under Ronald Reagan brought with it a privatization of public morality. Government became less concerned with curtailing corporate malfeasance than with policing personal behavior. For the new breed of moral reformer, marijuana was more alarming than toxic waste.38

If one defines cheating as breaking the rules to get ahead (as Callahan does), then it matters who is making the rules as well as who is breaking them. Deregulation has made many unethical practices technically legal, such as those that pervade the credit card industry: deceptive advertising, usurious rates, hidden fees, excessive penalties.38 Another example is the "acceptable" practice in business for cheating and gaming one’s customers known as the Least Noticeable Difference (LND). This is a product strategy that involves improving gross margin via minute degradations to the size or ingredient quality of a product. The key is to ensure that the quality or size is reduced just enough so that most consumers will never notice.39

Callahan pins much of the blame for the steady erosion of values and honesty in America on the growing social and economic inequality in the country, or what he calls "our war against poor people."37 According to Callahan, since the advent of the Chicago School of economists in the 1970s, policymakers have overvalued competition, consumption and deregulation. The result is a nearly unprecedented rise in pressure to cheat just to make ends meet for many. "The GDP has grown in this country by 40 percent in the last two decades, and yet more people are feeling more financial anxiety it seems than ever before."40

• Cheating In The Graduate Business Schools
Callahan's explanation may or may not be accurate, but cheating is very much seated in the business community, starting with the schools. A 2006 survey, carried out by Pennsylvania State, Rutgers and Washington State universities, covered 5,331 students at 32 graduate business schools in the U.S. and Canada. Out of those, an astonishing 56 percent of business students were willing to own up to cheating.41 Note, that is just those who admitted to their own cheating! It doesn't end there. After doing 3.8 million background checks, Automatic Data Processing Inc. announced in April 2004 that 52 percent of job applicants had lied on their résumés.42

• Corporate Fraud
There have been many very visible scandals in the corporate world during the past decade or so. They were all widely covered in the news media, so the details of their transgressions will be skipped over here. An incomplete list includes Enron, Tyco, Adelphia, WorldCom, Bayer, Parmalat, Haliburton, and Martha Stewart.42,43,44 The church hierarchies of various denominations and faiths are not immune.42 Tax evasion, both corporate and individual, more than doubled during the 1990s (at least $200 billion a year) and continues to rise.45 The recent investment scandal promulgated by former NASDAQ chairman Bernard Madoff (arrested in 2008 for a Ponzi scheme that lasted decades) in which he stole at least $50 billion set a new fraud record for an individual.3

And then there is the mortgage loan crisis of the last few years whose crash led to a world wide recession second only to the Great Depression of the 1930s. The greed and shortsightedness that pushed the subprime loan business to collapse has not yet been fully exposed. It continues still. Apparently many of the executives of the biggest companies involved have yet to learn their lesson: The huge bonuses given to some of them in spite of government bailouts to keep their companies afloat have created outrage in the general public.

• Why So Much Cheating?
The barriers to cheating are falling. In the office, there are legal disincentives, but fewer social sanctions about twisting the rules. Indeed, regulators are now forced to set standards that people often followed automatically a generation ago.41 Business has developed a "win at all costs" culture that, at least tacitly, encourages rule-breaking. In a recent survey, many of the students said they cheated on their exams because they assumed that was the normal thing to do. That's probably true once they go to work as well. The prizes on offer have grown hugely -- while the punishments have hardly grown at all.41 "Americans have long been tolerant of cheaters in business," Callahan says. "We admire the rich, even if they broke a few rules to get rich. When it comes to money, we're more focused on the ends than the means."41

In his book, Callahan shows how Americans have cut corners to get ahead. It is the "culture of pleasure that creates the tax evader, the cautious embezzler, the resume fabricator, the digital file swappers . . . and the romantic cheaters."46 Ours is a culture where winning and success has become sacrosanct. We are livid at our executives when they break their trust. But we (more than 50 percent of Americans own public stock) were more than fine with CEOs living large during the boom as long as they kept propping up share price so we too might cash in.46 "We say we want a renewal of character," James Davison Hunter wrote, "but we don't really know what to ask for . . . We are, in effect, petrified of such moral leadership because of the very demands it would place on us."46

Character has always required a reality bigger than oneself -- a reality that impinges upon us from the outside. Such a reality is immune from our manipulation and dictates the boundaries of our life. Absent such restraint, pragmatism governs our leaders, for when reality becomes no bigger than the desires and dreams of individuals, personal survival and pleasure becomes the only true god. Character is irrelevant today not because people want it to be, or don't have enough role models to emulate. It is irrelevant because the concept of character is just that -- a disembodied concept.46

Callahan is not concerned with "cheating" in terms of lifestyle choices like sexual behavior or drug use, but rather with ordinary people's willingness to deceive others and cut corners purely to make more money or win some prize. Examples include financial advisers who accept payoffs to knowingly steer customers toward risky investments, lawyers and doctors who bill for hours never worked or services not delivered, students who copy test answers or buy term papers, and employees who use company time for personal business or play.47

• "Winner Take All" Mindset
Since the 1970s, the United States has increasingly become a "winner-take-all" society, argues Callahan. In field after field, a few top performers receive pay and public acclaim out of all proportion to what most workers doing substantially the same job can command.47 As economic inequalities have deepened during the last several decades, the renewed worship of money has bred temptation at all levels. Executives at Enron, WorldCom and other corporations, intoxicated by the heady atmosphere of deregulation, defraud shareholders of billions and get away with little or no punishment. The little guy naturally says: If the big shots get away with it, why not me? So he cheats on his taxes, steals from his company and downloads music without paying for it.38 "I see cheating as the symptom, not the problem," says Callahan. Cheating is "a profound moral crisis that reflects deep economic and social problems in American society."40

From a recent interview with Callahan: It's long been observed that the United States is a society where personal wealth is so intensely respected that little attention is paid to the "means" by which one attains that wealth. As Charles Dickens noted 150 years ago, Americans are always ready to forgive rogues—as long as they're rich. Thanks to the trends of the past quarter century, this national trait has become ever more pronounced. If you mix the values of the "me" generation with the notion that "greed is good," you get lots of cheating.48

More from that interview: When corporations and individuals lie about company performance and share values, everyone loses except those individuals who cheated, cashed out, and got away (thus maintaining our 1% population of "the rich"). And yet the penalties for this type of cheating are nearly nonexistent. How is this possible in a democratic society—where the good of the many outweighs the good of the few? American society has defined crime very narrowly over the past decades. We've imposed draconian punishments for wrongdoers in the lower classes—like drug dealers—while largely ignoring the white collar crime wave. My hope is that the corporate scandals of recent years, as well as growing revelations on middle class crime will help right the balances of justice in this country. Everyone should play by the same rules. And everyone who breaks the rules should be treated the same way regardless of whether they are a billionaire or a homeless person. Unless we have this basic fairness, the social contract will lose its legitimacy.48

• Where Are The Watchdogs?
To be sure, the winner-take-all aspects of our economy and culture inspire great striving and the pursuit of excellence. But they also bring out the worst in people, producing envy, cheating and cutthroat behavior. Another reason a culture of cheating thrives today is the failure of watchdogs to enforce strict rules. More of us will cheat if we don't think anyone's looking. The problem of sleeping watchdogs is common across U.S. society. Tax evasion more than doubled in the 1990s, passing $200 billion a year, as Congress reduced the Internal Revenue Service's enforcement capacity by cutting its budget. The Securities and Exchange Commission, which oversees Wall Street, knew that there was an epidemic of accounting fraud in corporate America during the recent boom, but it didn't have the resources to stop these abuses. Academic dishonesty thrives in part because schools often do little to police and punish students.45

• Battling Business Cheating
The best approach to fighting cheating and fraud in business involves the businesses themselves, because they can take ownership of the problem and the solution. In other words, the system will only work if people regulate themselves. And if they hadn't bluffed and cribbed their way through their economics paper, even MBA students might realize that a market based on integrity will be a lot more efficient than one dominated by deception. Instead of all those courses in accounts and marketing, MBA subjects should probably focus more on ethics. Honest business behavior starts in the classroom.41

The corporate clean-up of the past few years has focused on such things as making CEOs and board directors more accountable for earnings statements, and on reducing conflicts of interest among auditors and stock analysts. While these steps are important--and, in fact, much tougher reforms are imperative--new rules only scratch at the surface. Also needed are new reflexes toward honesty among corporate employees that are so strong and automatic they can overcome the impulse to follow orders and protect institutional interests.43

How do we foster such reflexes? One way is by making ethics training a much bigger part of professional education in the United States. This means, as many have suggested, curriculum changes at business schools that now treat ethics as a side topic and--with their relentless bottom-line orthodoxy--even undermine the ability of students to think ethically. It also means a new stress on ethics in a whole host of programs that train accountants, managers, marketers, and anyone else destined for corporate life. Right now, most young people barely hear the word "ethics" on their way to the business world.43

Another way to foster such reflexes is for companies to get much more serious about ethics training. If boards of directors really care about shareholder interests, they will push corporations to develop a whistle-blowing culture in which employees are prepared for the tough ethical dilemmas that may come their way and rewarded for doing the right thing.43

Further, we are unlikely to achieve our potential as a society if we don't work to reverse "unethics" or if we accept "keeping the scorecard from getting any worse" as success.44 That would be like treading water blindfolded in a whirlpool where the water is being sucked down the drain faster than it's being pumped in. It may seem sufficient effort for a while, but eventually the reality of an empty pool becomes too obvious to ignore.

Business must take a very active role at imposing integrity on themselves. For example, boards of directors also have to demand more than a vanilla statement in the CEO's introduction to the annual report. They should direct the CEO to develop measures and report on ethical performance as they require reporting on other performance measures.44

Compensation committees should be cautious that rewards to CEOs and senior management teams aren't so lucrative that they may encourage executive decision making that is more compensation driven than strategically driven. Out-of-balance rewards don't help. They may be legal, but, given the interests of employees, retirees and stockholders, they're hard to justify as ethical.44 On that theme, Callahan suggests that the surest way to end cheating is to drastically reduce inequalities of income, status, and perceived security throughout U.S. society. Among other things, funding new programs to expand opportunities for the disadvantaged, and removing inequities in law enforcement, will, he believes, help establish a new social contract in society and restore trust in U.S. public institutions.47

Two more suggestions from Callahan: Allocate more money and personnel to enforce existing laws. Have professional associations rethink their reason for existence. Their true task, he believes, is to guard and enhance the status of their profession, not to blindly defend the privileges and reputations of anyone currently practicing in their field. Instead of uncritically championing doctors, lawyers, or teachers as a group, their respective professional associations ought to serve the larger public interest by insisting on the highest levels of preparation and practice from every professional in their field.47

The most important place to begin, however, is with ourselves. Ordinary individuals must be prepared to lead by example, regardless of how celebrities, opinion leaders, or even their own neighbors may behave. Each of us must dare "to be a chump." This means paying your full share of taxes even when you are sure that many other people cheat and get away with it. It means paying full price for a new compact disc even when you know you could easily, if illegally, download the same songs free from the Internet. It means doing the right thing, not the easy or most profitable thing, in every situation. And it means refusing to quietly tolerate cheating by others.47

Jack Nadel's How to Succeed in Business Without Lying, Cheating or Stealing is a real-life primer on doing business the old-fashioned way — with honesty, integrity and an acute understanding of simple principles of success. Among his pointers:49

  • Honesty is not only the best policy – it’s the most profitable.
  • Sell the sizzle – but make sure there’s a good steak underneath.
  • If it doesn’t sell with good marketing — it's probably a bad product.
  • More deals are killed by sloppy execution than by bad concepts.
  • Money attracts good people, but pride makes them great.
  • Always try to hire people who know more than you.
  • The inability to make decisions can destroy a company.
  • Lawyers are like atomic weapons — they are to be used only as a last resort.

Once upon a time, business was generally perceived as ethical. Sure, there were exceptions then, but today the old exceptions are closer to being the norm. It does not have to stay that way. Indeed, it cannot stay that way. It is possible to go back. But we as a society and as individuals will have to stop cutting corners, stop looking for the easy or fast way, stop making exceptions for ourselves that we would deny others, and begin to be exemplars of integrity.

Marital Infidelity

No discussion about cheating in general would be complete without addressing cheating within a marriage. Although the subject is a bit afield of the original intent of this article, it is sufficiently relevant to other types of cheating that its inclusion is warranted.

Cheating here means breaking the established rules, whether they are explicitly or implicitly agreed upon by the partners (spouses, girlfriend/boyfriend), of maintaining sexual and emotional exclusivity with each other. As with most cheating, it implies behavior that is kept secret from the nonparticipating partner. Unlike most other cheating, it is possible for both partners to be cheating on the other, perhaps simultaneously as well as secretly.

• Fantasy And Reality
Although approximately eight out of ten of Americans disapprove of adultery,50 a study published in 2006 by the Journal of Sex Research showed that 80 percent of women (compared to 98 percent of men) have frequent fantasies involving persons other than their partner, and the gender gap narrows in longer-term relationships.50 Clearly, extramarital sex is on our minds. But it is not easy to determine how many go beyond the fantasy stage.

Infidelity and adultery happen frequently in all places of the world. No group, regardless of sex, race, religion, level of income, location, etc. is unaffected by cheating and unfaithfulness. That is a fact.51 "Good husbands" can cheat. Infidelity can occur even in happy marriages. Rich or poor, young or old, newlywed or approaching a fiftieth anniversary - infidelity can happen to anyone. It has been estimated that infidelity touches 80% of all marriages.52 More specific facts and statistics regarding cheating lovers is difficult to come by, however, due to the inherent secrecy of this issue. Cheating is, by nature, a process of lies and deception, requires hiding behavior and evidence, and is not something most people are willing to reveal to anyone, even a researcher.51

The problem with research findings and the statistics presented is that not everyone is honest with their answers and often times the population used in the statistic does not represent the population as a whole. Because of this problem, there ends up being two types of infidelity statistics: the low percents and the high percents. The low end statistics usually have a broader and more accurate polling of the population, but end up with less honesty in the results. The high end statistics tend to have a less accurate representation of the population, but more honesty in the results based on the type of people that come forward to answer the questions.51

Below is a summary of the full range of possibilities on the true nature of how frequent cheating occurs:51

  • Men who admit to infidelity or adultery: 22 to 68%
  • Women who admit to infidelity or adultery: 14 to 66%
  • Marriages in which at least one partner committed adultery: 40 to 80%
  • Marriages that end because of adultery: 17 to 65%
  • Marriages that survive after adultery was exposed: 30 to 35%
  • Men or women that admit to having an affair through work: up to 35%
  • Men or women who would have an affair if they knew they would not get caught: up to 75%
  • Average length of an affair: 1-2 years

The low percents numbers are typified by a survey conducted the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago: 25 percent of men and 17 percent of women have had extramarital affairs.50 However, these numbers come from self-admissions, an important factor to consider when estimating the true incidence of cheating. Independently, it has been found that when relating to matters of a personal sexual nature, men under-admit by a factor of 1:2 and women under-admit by a factor of 1:3 to 1:4.53 Using these factors to extrapolate to a true estimate yields a cheating rate of 50 percent for husbands and 50 to 70 percent for wives. That means among all marriages, only 15 to 25 percent occur where neither spouse has cheated. Also, 25 to 35 percent of all marriages have both spouses cheating on each other, 15 to 25 percent with a faithful wife and philandering husband, and 25 to 35 percent with a faithful husband and a wandering wife.54 All these estimates are consistent with the high percents quoted earlier. Incidentally, the 50 percent estimate for married women is in agreement with psychologist Bonnie Eaker Weil, who has written several books on adultery.50

• Tidbits
Some interesting tidbits of relevance. Studies have found that men are less forgiving of affairs than women. When a woman has a physical affair, she's risking her marriage more than a man who has a physical affair. Women are more forgiving.50 More on this point later. A Taiwanese study on extramarital affairs identified men married from 8-16 years as the group at greatest risk, as they are involved in about 24% of all affairs. Not far behind on the risk scale are people 2-4 years into marriage. And 16% of all affairs happen during the first year of marriage.50 People whose sexual histories included more risky situations or had cheated on a partner before were more likely to lie to get what they wanted.50

More tidbits. A study by Lucielle Ostertag from the Italian Institute of Social Sciences showed husbands and wives who cheat on each other are more likely to stay together. According to the scientific survey, the more extramarital flings a couple enjoys, the more likely they are to remain together and the happier they will be. "Not every extramarital affair is good," admits Dr. Ostertag. "Long-term relationships outside of marriage were found to be quite damaging.50 An article in a 1997 issue of Newsweek magazine noted that various surveys suggest that as many as 30 percent of male Protestant ministers have had sexual relationships with women other than their wives. The Journal of Pastoral Care in 1993 reported a survey of Southern Baptist pastors in which 14 percent acknowledged they had engaged in "sexual behavior inappropriate to a minister." It also reported that 70 percent had counseled at least one woman who had had intercourse with another minister.50

• Ten Percent!
Both genders are heavy into cheating on their spouses. For men, it has been almost an a priori assumption, a cultural truism. For women, however, it is only recently that the substantial suspicions that have been there for decades among geneticists and others has begun to trickle into the social and legal discourse.55

Geneticists, disease researchers, and evolutionary psychologists have known it for a while. Consistently, they find that one in ten of us wasn't fathered by the man we think is our biological dad, the one assumed to have contributed his sperm to the process. Even Dad himself may be under this impression. And Mom, knowing it's not a sure thing, just keeps quiet.56 Geneticists have stumbled upon this phenomenon in the course of conducting large population studies and hunting for genes that cause diseases such as cystic fibrosis. They find purported full siblings to be half-siblings, fathers who are genetic strangers to more than one of their children and uncles who are much closer to their nieces and nephews than anyone might guess. Lumped under the heading of "pedigree errors," these so-called mis-paternities, false paternities and non-paternities are all science jargon for the unwitting number of us who are chips off someone else's block.55

Non-paternity is believed to cut across all socioeconomic classes and many cultures.55 Actual figures for these pedigree errors range from 1 percent in high-status areas to 30 percent (sometimes 50 percent) in lower-status areas. The overall figure of 10 percent is an average estimate based on many studies taking place in sundry regions over the course of decades.56

A British survey conducted between 1988 and 1996 by Robin Baker, a former professor at the University of Manchester, confirmed the 10 percent figure. That seems high to skeptics such as Dalhousie University geneticist Paul Neumann, although even he admitted that "my colleague, who's a woman, tells me women have no trouble believing it. . . . It's the men who can't."55 Others, such as Jeanette Papp, director of genotyping and sequencing in the University of California at Los Angeles' department of human genetics, feel that 15 percent is reasonable for the Western world.55

If men are surprised at these percentages but women not so, that might explain why women are more forgiving of their wayward men than men are of their women: The ladies know something that their significant others do not.

Considered in light of long-held views about sexual behavior, it exposes the myth of female monogamy and utterly shakes the assumption that women are biologically driven to single-mate bliss.55 Factor it into genealogical attempts to trace ancestry and it can snap entire branches from a family tree.55

Presuming a pedigree error of 10 percent, an individual has less than 50 percent chance of being genetically related to any male in the family tree further back than six generations (roughly 150 years); With the 15 percent figure, don't bother going back more than four generations (a century).

• A Simple Model
The well established 10 percent pedigree error in the general population is inconsistent with the 15 to 20 percent cheating rate from the self-admissions of wives. With readily available birth control and abortion, the fraction of wives that cheat must be much higher.57 In fact, any known pedigree error can be used to work backwards to determine a more realistic estimate.

A simple model with reasonable assumptions can deliver probabilistic predictions of cheating over a large population. The model here assumes no birth control when the husband and wife are coupling, but birth control is used when she is coupling with her lover. Typical failure rates are 15 percent for condom use and 5 percent for oral contraception (the pill) over the course of one year.58 The model uses a composite average of 10 percent failure rate, corresponding to 90 percent effectiveness for pregnancy prevention. Another assumption takes advantage of the likelihood for a woman, according to sexual behaviour expert Judith Lipton, "to conceive with a fresh partner because a woman can essentially develop antibodies against her regular partner's sperm, so that she may be more likely to be impregnated by fresh sperm"55 presuming she does not couple with her lover as much as with her regular partner, a good strategy if she is not to arouse suspicion. The 10 percent pedigree error is also assumed.59

The model predicts a minimum rate of cheating in the general population of wives of 30 percent if the rate of coupling with lovers is on par with that with husbands: A typical cheating rate is 50 percent under that condition. If coupling with a lover is only half the rate as that with the husband, the minimum cheating rate is 60 percent with the typical rate approaching 100 percent.59 These predictions are rough confirmations of high percents values arrived at by other means, as quoted earlier.

• Not Just Humans
All this messing around might have been predicted by animal behavior, but it has been only recently that researchers learned just how hard faithful females are to find in any species. Dr. Barash, a zoologist and professor of psychology at the University of Washington, explained that while it was generally known that most mammals are rarely monogamous, certain species were held up as paragons of virtue. Scientists believed, for example, fidelity was definitely for the birds. But despite thousands of hours of observation, birds managed to fool not only their mates into thinking they were faithful, but their observers. Their DNA tests show that 10 to 50 per cent of birds are fathered by a male other than the one sharing the nest.55

In part, researchers figured females would be deterred from cheating since they had more to lose than a male by fooling around -- their mate might stop foraging to feed the hungry offspring, cutting off the animal equivalent of child support, or worse, turn violent. Yet this, he said, seems only to have inspired females to perfect the art of secrecy and deception: They persistently sneak off in search of stronger genes, better feeding grounds, or good providers and protectors. These trysts may have been overlooked, said Frances Burton, an anthropologist at the University of Toronto, because the researchers were often male. "There is a weird double feedback thing that goes on when it comes to observing animals, particularly non-human primates. We impose upon the observations human prejudices . . . it can obfuscate whatever truth there is."55

DNA testing has eliminated all but 3 percent of 4,000 mammalian species that might be monogamous. But none of this should imply that humans are incapable of monogamy, Barash adds. "Saying something is natural is often used to justify unacceptable behavior. It's natural to poop on the floor, but we spend a lot of time becoming house broken."55

Borash's wife, Dr. Judith Lipton, however, says the moral transgression of infidelity cannot compare with the deception of lying about paternity. She thinks paternity fraud should be considered a crime of the highest order. "Reproductive deception is morally similar to rape. "If you trick someone into raising a baby not his own, and he puts 20 years of his life into an endeavor based on a falsehood, that is appalling. If I were the queen of the world, birth control, of any form, would be available to any woman who wants it and DNA testing would be available for all the men so that they would know who their babies are."55

• Medical Ethics And Pedigree Errors
Based on a 500-year-old common law, most US states operate on the presumption that a husband is the father of any child born to his wife during a marriage. It is a presumption so strong that courts typically discount DNA results to the contrary, in the "best interests of the child," in divorce and child support decrees. Canada has a similar legal attitude. "Fatherhood is a social reality, not a genetic reality," says Bernard Dickens of the University of Toronto.55

Dickens firmly believes that people who undergo genetic tests to find out about paternity are entitled to such information. But he says those being tested for a genetic ailment or some other inherited trait cannot expect the same: "It's not for geneticists to spring this information upon them. The point is, when you are testing for a particular trait, it's either there or it's not there, and there is no need to say why it is or why it isn't." Some fathers, of course, feel differently. Stacy Robb, founder and president of the support group DADS Canada, said that "it's unfair because the doctors come across this information and they don't tell the man listed as the father on the birth certificate. It's a disregarding of men's rights. The point is mothers and fathers are not treated equally."55

They have a point. The paradigmatic situation is that three people come to the hospital together, a husband, a wife, and their child who they fear has cystic fibrosis. If the child has the incurable disease she must have received two copies of the CF gene, one from each parent. Tests confirm the families worst fears -- she has the disease -- but also reveal something unexpected. The child's mother carries one of the culprit genes, but the father's DNA shows no such sign, which means he is not the carrier and therefore cannot possibly be her biological father.56

Typically, the hospital staff keeps the secret from him, but when they tell the mother, it rarely comes as a surprise. If the case involves an expectant mother the hospital's legal obligation is clear, says Cheryl Shuman, director of genetic counseling at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto: The developing baby is considered part of the mother and the results of the tests therefore belong to her. After birth, the course of action is less clear, she says, but lawyers advise that the child is to be considered the patient, whose needs trump those of the parents. Since telling the father could trigger a breakup and leave the child without proper support, the hospital keeps the secret. Sometimes the secret can be a whopper. In one family with four daughters, the DNA analysis was so surprising that counselors asked the mother to explain. "It turned out that the daughters had three different fathers," said Peter Ray, a scientist at the hospital.55

Bernard Dickens is wrong. He is in favor of lying to the duped dads, lying by omission. Fatherhood is both a social reality and a genetic reality. Favoring one to the exclusion of the other is unethical and unprofessional, and should be illegal. Allowing the mother's deceit to continue is no different than allowing a lingering infection to fester, hoping it will cure itself without treatment by not informing the patient of his true condition. That's a head-in-the-sand approach at best, medical malpractice at worst. There is an infection in the marriage that produced the pedigree error, and allowing it to percolate further in secret may well make things worst in the relationship. Better to give the husband the option to deal with it (or not) in his own way while it may still be curable.

The lawyers advising the hospital are presuming to know better than those involved, rewarding the mother for her successful lie. They are effectively operating as a secret tribunal, where the victim is convicted of a crime committed against him. If they were to operate in court with the same attitude as they have towards duped dads, withholding evidence (another example of lying by omission), they would be at severe risk of contempt of court and of losing their license to practice law.

The courts are wrong to insist upon a common law that made sense 500 years ago but has been superseded by modern knowledge and technology. Back then, there was no other way to determine paternity, so the presumption was quite practical. Today, it is unethical to insist upon an outdated "practicality" based on ignorance when we know better and can easily do better. It may well be in the best interests of the pedigree error child to consider its true paternity while evaluating the fitness of the mother to be the custodial parent and whether she may be responsible enough to properly administer the child support money from the duped dad.

Dr. Lipton is right: Reproductive deception is the moral equivalent of rape, as well as fraud. Consider the following analogy:

Suppose two cars have an accident, the second car irresponsibly overtaking the first, sideswipping it, and running it into a tree. The driver of the first car has a concussion and develops permanent amnesia about the events leading to the accident and immediately after. The driver of the second car takes advantage of the first's amnesia and successfully sues him for his own injuries and damage. The first driver's insurance rates increases precipitously for years thereafter. His medical and legal bills pile up for decades. The police discover a video recording of the accident after the court case has concluded, vindicating the first driver, but decide it's a moot point to disclose its existence: Too much hassle and paperwork to reopen a case that has already been satisfactorily closed. This example could be labeled "accidentive" deception, the legal equivalent of protected fraud. The duped driver is paying for an accident not of his doing, and paying for it for a long time, like the duped dad. The reckless driver has gotten something for nothing, and no one else officially knows, like the lucky lover. The duped driver may or may not wonder why he was driving so badly to cause the accident, out of character for him, and what to do differently in the future, never knowing he did nothing wrong. Worse, though, is the reckless driver who may likely think he can continue to escape the consequences of his recklessness. The duped driver deserves better from the reckless driver and from the police, just like the duped dad deserves better from the lucky lover, from his cheating wife, and the DNA testers. This is a no brainer. Reproductive deception is the moral equivalent of rape.

• Nature Is No Excuse
Some research seems to imply that cheating, marital infidelity, is natural, pushed by evolutionary biology. Perhaps that is so for the animal kingdom in general, but that does not mean it is inevitable for humans. Humans have something the rest of the animal kingdom does not: Civilization, with all of its attendant attributes such as laws, regulations, enterprises of specialties, languages that can express, support, and expand abstract thought, literature, poetry, song, and celebration, the precise universal language of Mathematics, the scientific process of discovery and invention, war, peace, travel (including to places that are ultimately hostile to human life), self-awareness, the capability of conscience, and a sense of past, present, and future. We can learn, unlearn, and relearn. We can culture and promote other species. And we can learn not to poop on the floor. So certainly we can learn not to break the rules that we have ourselves constructed.

Cheating is breaking the rules. If promises are made to observe monogamy, then keep to those promises. If those promises cannot be kept, then do the adult thing and admit to the failure. Let the chips fall where they may, pay the price for what has been purchased by breaking the rules. Do the ethical thing.

Perhaps the rules may be renegotiated (but don't bet on it). On the other hand, if no rules have been broken, there is no cheating: If the husband and wife of a given marriage have different rules than most, such as having no restriction on extramarital flings that are not a secret from each other, then sex outside the marriage is not cheating. Similarly, if a marriage is dissolved by divorce or death, sexual liaisons with others is not cheating on the ex/dead-spouse.

Know the rules. Abide by them. Renegotiate them if necessary and possible. Within a marriage, the rules, the agreements, and the process of arriving at rules and agreements need not be public. Neither do following or breaking the rules. But little should be kept secret from a Significant Other. Big secrets like cheating do not promote stable relationships, the very definition of marriage.

One last collective point. Ladies, bide your tongues about complaining of your men's wandering eyes and hands. You are at least as guilty of failing to keep your panties on around men as your men are at keeping their zippers up around women. And when it comes to lying, you've been caught out. Gentlemen, keep your zippers up. So what that your women have a high likelihood of playing around behind your back, that's no excuse for you to reciprocate. Marriage is not a game of one-ups-manship cheating. Couples, start communicating with high integrity, honesty, and fairness. Follow the rules, all of them, all the time. If one or both of you cannot play by the rules, either change the rules by mutual agreement or get out of the corrupt relationship.

Discussion and Summary
Cheating is the ultimate corrupt combination of lying and stealing, and a gross and deliberate misrepresentation of self: Talent that does not exist, faked qualifications, history that isn't, possibilities stolen, trust betrayed, and false knowledge, not to mention theft of property, damage to others' reputation, creation of liability, delay or prevention of real achievement, consequences deferred, and the projection of mistrust onto society. The character of a cheater is constructed of smoke and mirrors, an illusion, a mirage so ephemeral that a large portion of a cheater's effort is spent on hiding things.

Every segment of society is involved with cheating and it's consequences. Cheaters are at least a near-majority of every age bracket, every income bracket, every profession, every business category, every social institution (i.e., marriage), and every organization (including religion). Protests of denial are naive, devious, and/or hypocritical. The hypocrisy of exceptionalism is rampant, the idea that "cheating is bad ... but not for me."

Then there are those who don't even know what is and what is not cheating. Somehow, children can get all the way through college without knowing the definition of cheating, or why it's bad. Many of those who do know think there is nothing wrong with it, or don't care. The people or groups that are the most prevalent cheaters are those who least need to cheat to succeed or have the greatest to lose if they're caught: Businessmen, religious leaders, students, and spouses. Cheating is so widespread now that even the cheaters are being cheated, and many of them don't know it! Unfortunately, cheating the cheaters does not cancel out the damage: Entropy never decreases and cheating definitely increases entropy.

Sure, there are some differences between various groups of students when it comes to cheating. Students at religious schools cheat slightly more than at others, 10 percent or so. Student leaders steal slightly less than nonleaders, 10 percent or so. Big deal! The point is the percentages are way too high. It's not worth splitting hairs. Anything higher than single digit percents is too high. From that perspective, cheating in all student groups is four to seven times too high. And they carry that bad habit with them after graduation. Look at business: Calling what they do there normal business practice is a cop out, a lazy cop out at that.

It's seems amazing that civilization in general, let alone business in particular, works as well as it does, for all the burden cheating creates for it. Apparently, society is so accustomed to cheating it no longer sees it as anything other than normal. It's really immature, uncivilized, and selfish. It contributes to the dumbing down of society, perhaps going as far as evolving into an idiocracy. (Let's hope not. Rent the movie Idiocracy. You'll go to sleep depressed.) It may be only by good luck that society has not yet hit the threshhold below which the system collapses.

Cheating is childish behavior. By the time children are in middle school, there really is no excuse for it. But it is excused nevertheless. Too much pressure to "succeed." Everyone else is doing it. Huge rewards for those who get away with it. The punishment is so little that it's worth it. Too much effort to do things yourself. I want it now. I don't like him/her/them. Rules are for other people. It won't hurt anybody. They can afford it. I've got mine, who cares about them.

After age seven, cheating could be considered sociopathological behavior. Of course, most cheaters are not really sociopaths, but they surely act like it by their actions and rationalizations. The fact they rationalize their cheating actually demonstrates hope, though. It shows higher intellectual capability and conscience, even if they aren't using either. True sociopaths don't bother to rationalize.

Cheaters don't clean up the mess they leave behind. That job goes to the noncheaters. A depressing job. In fact, most of the real work in the world, the real accomplishments, are done by the noncheaters, the naive, flexible, patient, reliable "chumps." Perhaps they were what Le Baron Russell Briggs had in mind when he said "[M]ost of the work of the world is done by people who aren't feeling well."

What will it take for us collectively to realize what we are doing to ourselves, and to do something about it? Great shocks like war or big frauds like Enron and the subprime mortgage debacle don't seem to work. It's always "somebody else's fault." Our own impatience and unwillingness to look at ourselves gets in the way.

We have to start doing things differently, each of us on our own. Stop cutting corners, don't take credit for other's work, do more than the minimum required of you, pay it forward, actively teach your children to do the same, passively set an example of high integrity. Stop cheating. Don't tolerate cheating in others. Point it out to them. Be a whistle blower if necessary.

For example, perhaps we could use billboards or 15-second television commercials to teach the public, to illustrate with the simplest phrases and the most eye-catching cartoons and animations, what constitutes lying, stealing, and cheating. Perhaps role playing in the grade schools could teach the bad consequences of cheating to young children. For big time adult cheaters or small time repeat cheaters, send them back to a special "grade school" to learn what they didn't learn the first time around, a Kindergarten for convicted CEOs and thieves. Perhaps it could be a deep immersion Kindergarten, where they experience the receiving end of lying, stealing, and cheating, that is, anger, frustration, ruin, and embarrassment. After learning the consequences of others' bad behavior, experiencing the consequences of other's good behavior could more readily induce them to learn the Ethics of Reciprocity, otherwise known as the Golden Rule, the subject of the next, and last, major section of this article.

THE GOLDEN RULE

The approach of this section, about the Golden Rule, is a major departure from that of the previous three sections. The lying, stealing, and cheating sections dealt with concrete definitions and specific behaviors to avoid. The Golden Rule deals with behavior that should be embraced, without going into specific concrete definitions of that behavior. As such, it prescribes voluntary action of support that is intended to promote similar action of others in response.

Ethic Of Reciprocity
The Golden Rule does not to have just one single definition. In essence, it is an ethical code that states one has a right to just treatment, and a responsibility to ensure justice for others. It is also called the Ethic of Reciprocity. It is arguably the most essential basis for the modern concept of human rights. A key element of the Golden Rule is that a person attempting to live by this rule treats all people, not just members of his or her in-group, with consideration.3 What is good enough for me is good enough for you, and vice versa.

The Historical Golden Rule In Religion And Philosophy
The Golden Rule is often thought of as originating in Christianity with the Biblical verse "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (Matthew 7:12). But some versions of the Golden Rule existed long before Christianity. It is in fact a common belief held in some form by most world religions. The earliest form of the Golden Rule in religion dates prior to Confucianism and Buddhism. Confucius is attributed with a statement in the 6th Century BCE that "one should not extend harm to others which one would not wish for one’s self." Buddhism documents also dating from the 6th century BCE include the quote "Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful." Hindu religious aspects that include the teaching of Karma also date to the 6th century BCE or earlier and include in the Mahabharata the prescriptive to "Do not unto others which would cause pain if done to you" (5:15:17). "That which is hateful unto you, do not impose on others," Judaism. The Torah also includes the prescriptive dated at about 1400 BCE as "Love thy neighbor as thyself" (Leviticus 19:18). In Islam, Mohammed’s Farewell Sermon includes the statement "Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you." 60,62 Note that some versions are expressed in the negative.62 More on this point later.

The sentiment behind the Golden Rule can also be seen as expressed by Homer in either the 8th or 9th century BCE. In the Odyssey, a character states "I will be as careful for you as I should be for myself in the same need" (Book 5 Verses 184-191).60

Other examples of the Golden Rule in ancient Greek philosophy:3

  • "Do not to your neighbor what you would take ill from him." – Pittacus
  • "Avoid doing what you would blame others for doing." – Thales
  • "What you wish your neighbors to be to you, such be also to them." – Sextus the Pythagorean
  • "Do not do to others what would anger you if done to you by others." – Isocrates
  • "What thou avoidest suffering thyself seek not to impose on others." – Epictetus
  • "It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly (agreeing 'neither to harm nor be harmed'), and it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living a pleasant life." – Epicurus
  • "One should never do wrong in return, nor mistreat any man, no matter how one has been mistreated by him." - Plato's Socrates

The Golden Rule in Native American Spirituality:60

  • "All things are our relatives; what we do to everything, we do to ourselves. All is really One." Black Elk
  • "Do not wrong or hate your neighbor. For it is not he who you wrong, but yourself." Pima proverb.

In the movie Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, the "not too smart" heroes coined a few sayings that supposedly altered the future, one of which is "Be excellent to each other". It is a wonderful modern version of the Golden Rule.61 One might say that it's a most excellent version.

Benjamin Franklin And The 12 Foot Spoons
Benjamin Franklin was intensely interested in the Golden Rule, and dreamed of an organized effort to promote it. There is an allegorical fantasy attributed to him that illustrates the fundamental difference between a world of people who are looking out for themselves first, and a world of people who make caring for others their first priority. Essentially, the story exemplifies living by the Golden Rule, or not living by it, in a nutshell. It goes something like this:61

There was a man who died and was being taken to heaven by angels, stopping at hell on the way. The angels took him to a place where there was a great bowl, so great that it was as big as a lake. The bowl was filled with a nutritious stew. All the way around the sides of this bowl were people. Emaciated, starving, miserable people. These people had spoons to eat the stew with, that were long enough to reach it from the shore (about 12 feet). The trouble was, while they could scoop up the stew into the spoon, they could not get it into their mouths because the spoons were so long the stew would fall off before they could get it to their mouths. So here were all these pathetic people, suffering and moaning in agony, constantly trying to eat the food that was abundantly in front of them - all in vain. Next, the angels took the man to heaven. To his surprise, he saw the same scene! There it was, a giant lake-like bowl of the same stew, surrounded by people with 12 foot long spoons. Yet something was different here - all these people were smiling, happy, and healthy looking!

"What is the difference here that these people are happy and well fed?" the man asked the angels.

They replied, "Have you not eyes to see?" The man looked more carefully, and observed that one person would scoop up the stew, and bring it to the mouth of another. Then someone else would scoop up stew and feed it to the other.

The angels smiled and said, "Here the people feed each other. Here are the people that learned the way of Love."

The story is a bit of an exaggeration of the Golden Rule, of course, but it demonstrates it's prime point: Helping others has a boomerang effect of helping self if there is a willingness to voluntarily initiate the effort. The story is also an oversimplification of the rule, whose application in real life can become at once subtly difficult and socially damaging if care is not taken. Before that can be explained, it's necessary to look into the details of the Golden Rule from the point of view of logic.

The Silver Rule
One of the best versions of the Golden Rule is:

  • Treat others only in ways that you are willing to be treated in the same exact situation.

To apply it, you'd imagine yourself in the exact place of the other person on the receiving end of the action. If you act in a given way toward another, and yet are unwilling to be treated that way in the same circumstances, then you violate the rule.63

This particular version includes the positive Golden Rule and the negative Golden Rule, which are, loosely speaking:63,64

  • Treat others as you would have them treat you.
  • Do not treat others as you would not have them treat you.

Sometimes, the positive version only is called the Golden Rule (which will now be labeled the Reduced Golden Rule), while the negative version is called the Silver Rule.64 The Reduced Rule is a rule of initiative, while the Silver Rule is one of constraint. However, consistency requires that both must be followed simultaneously in order for either to be sensible. To do this, knowledge and imagination is needed: Knowledge to know what effect our actions have on the lives of others, and imagination to insert ourselves, vividly and accurately, in the other person's place on the receiving end of the action.63

• The Platinum Rule And The Indium Rule
There is another pair of rules that are closely related:3,64

  • Platinum Rule: Treat others as they would have you treat them.
  • Indium Rule: Do not treat others as they would not have you treat them.

The Platinum and Indium Rules have their detractors, with good reason. How does one know how others want to be treated? Asking may not work if they are not in a position to answer or they have not reached a particular and relevant understanding. Guessing won't always work either. Their tastes may not be the same,3 their values may encompass quite different needs, priorities, and environments. Because of these potential incompatibilities, these rules are not worth further consideration as a general rule of conduct. Of course, if one can reliably determine their tastes and values, there sometimes may be an ethical duty to treat them accordingly.

The Inclusive Rule
The inclusive rule, where both positive and negative rules are implicitly assumed and hereafter simply called the Golden Rule, is the best we can get. It tells us what we may or should do subject to our willingness to accept it in return, and only requires knowledge that can be determined externally if we do not already know the relevant facts from personal experience. If the requisite knowledge is not available or if the necessary imagination is not possible, then the Golden Rule is not applicable. In such a case, if a decision must be made whether to act or not, some other ethical rule of conduct will have to provide guidance.

The Golden Rule As Theorem
Still, it is expected that the Golden Rule should apply to the vast majority of situations. With that expectation in mind, there have been objections to its oversimplicity.3 In his book Formal Ethics, Harry J. Gensler proposes modifying it slightly to answer those critics:

Golden Rule: Treat others only in ways that you are willing to be treated in exactly similar situations.

The positive and negative versions are implied, the term "others" means everyone (absolutely no exceptions, that is, no exclusions whatsoever), and the phrase "exactly similar situations" means those situations in which the roles are reversed but where the situations are otherwise VERY similar, and similar only for those factors that are relevant to the situation and actions in question.65

Gensler uses a form of symbolic logic to prove the validity of the Golden Rule, using axioms, theorems, and corollaries of rationality, prescriptivity, and universality.65,66 Basically, he requires all actions that affect others to be self-consistent, good for everyone, every situation, and in every "direction." The Golden Rule does not say what should or should not be done. It does say that the actions we perform that involves others must be internally consistent, no contradictory elements of the actions. In other words, it requires conscientiousness and impartiality.65

Relevant Factors
With respect to acts of the Golden Rule, relevant factors of a situation are those factors that have direct bearing on the action that is being contemplated, factors that might assist in determining what the action should be or not be, or whether any action should be done. A relevant factor of a situation is one that might necessitate a different action if that factor were itself different. A different irrelevant factor would not require a different action.

For example, the time of day or season of the year likely would not be relevant as to whether to help an. injured stranger stop a bleeding wound. On the other hand, it might well be relevant that a tornado is bearing down. The color of the hat the stranger may or may not be wearing is also unimportant. (It'll probably be lost to the wind anyway.) Generally, gender, religion, political view, education level, and economic status should have no bearing on the Golden Rule. It should make no difference whether one dislikes the person. The following illustrative story is true.

A very partisan man, in a crowd gathered to see the President of the United States, was one of several that tackled a man who had heckled the President and had thrown an egg at him. He was furious at the man's display of disrespect and the danger he represented to the highest office-holder in the land. The gathering happened in 1948, the President was Harry S Truman, and the partisan man was a life-long diehard republican. His friends and family were astonished. In a small but important way, he had followed the Golden Rule by going to the assistance of a democrat, a political arch-enemy. His explanation was simple, "He was the President." His political views were irrelevant. (The partisan man was my grandfather. -sfj)

• Exactly Similar Situations
The phrase "exactly similar" seems contradictory, but as used here, it is a term of art with a meaning that is not the sum of its component words. It refers to just how similar the relevant factors must be when imagining the reciprocal action. The ideal reciprocal situation would be exactly the same as the original situation. But Nature does not allow such a thing. Exactly same situations are impossible because Nature can not reproduce such exactitude. Ultimately, it is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of Quantum Mechanics that puts an upper limit on the precision of "exactness." However, for the purposes of the Golden Rule, there is no need to go any where near that level of concern. So, how much similarity is needed? How close is close enough?

To answer this question, consider the following analogy. The fast flow of water in a river channel is continuous from one moment to the next and from one spot to a neighboring spot, but there are lots of microvariations of speed and direction from turbulence and eddys. Yet for all this random variation on a small scale, the flow of the river in general is unchanged on the average. The effects of turbulence is smoothed out by averaging over periods and volumes that are large as compared to the scale lengths of the individual whirlpools and eddy currents that comprise the turbulence. The resulting viscosity and mixing effects are what is experienced by a swimmer or a boat. That experience in the water is what could be described as exactly similar from one time and place to the next. The individual splashing and water drops may be different, but the net effect is the same. A huge number of extremely tiny variations are not individually experienced because they contribute collectively only as a single whole effect, a single factor. Swimming or boating on the same part of the river at the same time of the year during the same kind of weather leads to exactly similar situations.

Exactly similar situations so far as the Golden Rule is concerned have the same description. Many tiny variations of relevant factors are unimportant when their collective effect is macroscopically identical. If the variations occur on a scale so small they are undetectable, close enough. If the averages of variations from moment to moment are undetectable, close enough. That means something like 99.999% similar is close enough. Even that is probably overkill. Likely 99.98% similar is close enough to being close enough.

• Self-Consistent Actions
The phrase self-consistent seems not to be known or understood much outside the theoretical Physics community. Even non-science college professors, including law professors, typically are baffled by the expression. Perhaps the combination of "self" and "consistent" is jarring, at once non-sequitur and a little bit redundant. At any rate, it is a crucial concept that must be understood so that the Golden Rule can be properly followed.

Self-consistent means internally consistent. A self-consistent process (whether abstract, mechanical, political, theoretical, ...) has no internal contradictions, no internal elements or rules at odds with other internal elements, no outcomes that negate the initiative. No paradoxes arise when a self-consistent set of actions is engaged. Each element is always active: There is no disable option to artificially turn off some or all elements at the whim of the operator, no artificial exceptions. All the elements operate in harmony without spiraling upward into a destructive explosion or downward to a null result. There is a technical description for such a self-sustaining process: A self-consistent process is a stable process, neither accelerating into a runaway outcome that is unsustainable nor extinguishing itself to nothing.

A classic illustrative example of a paradox occurs in a science fiction setting, involving time travel. A man goes back in time to kill his grandfather before his grandfather has the chance to meet his grandmother. As a result, the man's father is never born and neither is he. Which means he is not around to go back to kill his grandfather to prevent his own father from being born. Which then means he is eventually available to go back and kill his grandfather. And so on. An infinite loop of contradiction is created, from which there is no escape or resolution. The cause-and-effect actions of the time traveling man is internally inconsistent, self-contradictory, a paradox.

Because of this projected time travel paradox, it has been hypothesized by theoretical physicists that either all time travel is impossible because they can create self-contradictory time loops, or (more likely) only certain instances of (self-consistent) time loops are possible. A third possibility could exist, an explosion of alternative time lines that the fabric of space-time might not be able to sustain. To pursue all three of these possibilities further and their relation by analogy to the Golden Rule, consider the concept of feedback.

An engineering design process called feedback control theory attempts to mimic the structure of nature to create machines and processes that are inherently stable. A engineered stable process or machine runs continuously without constant adjustment or tinkering from outside and does so without destroying itself and without requiring to turning itself off to maintain stability or prevent its own destruction. In principle, any unstable process can be made stable, and any stable process can be made more stable. This is accomplished by providing one or more negative feedback loops. A feedback loop is constructed by taking information from the output of a process and feeding it back to the input of that process. A negative feedback refers to sending the negation of the output information to the beginning to mitigate any overdriving (or underdriving) from the input. Negative feedback promotes stability, positive feedback promotes instability.

A simple example is an electric motor with a feedback loop. The motor is set to a certain rotational speed. However, perhaps due to variations of the input power voltage or the environmental temperature, it starts rotating faster. A tachometer detects this increase, and sends a feedback signal back to the input to slow down. It stops sending the signal when the desired speed is reached. If it slows down too much, the feedback signal tells it to speed up. The negative feedback always pushes the motor toward the desired (stable) speed. Without the feedback loop, the motor may run erratically, it may run so fast that if burns out, or it may not run at all. With positive feedback, it will either come to a halt or pick up speed until it flies apart.

In the Golden Rule, the phrase "... only in ways that you are willing to be treated ..." plays the role of the negative feedback loop. It prevents faulty outcomes from occuring as a result of inconsiderate input initiatives, and it corrects small errors of good intention that can produce unintended consequences. It tends to prevent efforts that may be wasted (a null result), it tends to prevent efforts that may lead to acrimonious feelings and reprisals (resentful or destructive responses), and it tends to fine-tune efforts to produce effects that are acceptable to everyone involved (universally acceptable results). It creates the self-consistency and robustness required to make the Golden Rule a universal rule of behavior.

Others And "Others"
To whom should the acts of the Golden Rule be directed? Of whom is the Rule speaking when referring to others? For any given group or individual, the answer is likely to seem obvious. However, most of us presume we are more enlightened and experienced than we really are. As a result, the others of the Rule is very frequently more inclusive than we think.

In the preferred embodiment of the Golden Rule, "Treat others only in ways that you are willing to be treated in exactly similar situations," everyone in the world is to be treated the same way as everyone else. The others referred to in the Rule are human beings in need. It does not say some others, it does not say others sometimes, it does not say others some places. There are no qualifications beyond being homo sapiens sapiens to be considered an other with respect to the Golden Rule. That is what makes it a universal rule.

Unfortunately, sometimes for some people others means "others" like themselves only. For example, the Old Testament version of the Golden Rule, "Love your neighbor as thyself," referred to Jews with Jewish neighbors. However, Jesus certainly stretched this in his version of the Golden Rule in the New Testament by including the parable of the Good Samaritan. Thus others then included not only Jews but also Gentiles.60

Nowhere in the Koran is there an expression of the Golden Rule. Because of its absence there, Islam is the only major religion where the Golden Rule is not held to be central to its theology. Muslims are typically surprised to learn their faith does not teach it. There is, however, a very restricted version of the principle of reciprocity found in the Hadiths. The Hadiths are a non-binding collection of sayings and acts of Mohammed and his companions. They have much less authority than the Koran, but contain a version of the Golden Rule which applies only among "brother" Muslims. This Islamic "brotherhood rule" does not apply to non-Muslims. (A non-Muslim is not to be addressed as "brother" by a Muslim.) The Koran itself makes that clear (Koran 48:29). Islam denies the universality of the Golden Rule because it starts with the division of all humanity into two different groups: Islamic and non-Islamic. Every aspect of Islamic ethics is based upon this separation.60

A reasonable conjecture would be that the lack of a universal Golden Rule in Islam would be a surprise to non-Muslims also. However, from a historical perspective, perhaps we should not be surprised. Christianity was quite intolerant of other religions for the vast majority of its history in spite of its own teachings. The Crusades were wars on Islam, explicitly sanctioned by the Christian church. The mistreatment of Jews was frequently claimed to be justified by Christian theology. Indeed, Christianity has been at war with itself, leading to schisms within, as has Islam. Perhaps the development of a truly universal Golden Rule is the result of cultural and religious (and political) maturation that requires time to evolve, an ongoing process within all faiths and societies.

Individuals can also fail to universally apply the Golden Rule, often without realizing it. There are several ways that such a failure can become established (misunderstanding the concept, misdefinition, lack of proper attention, failure to connect the concept to a real-life situation, for examples) but there are only two ways it can continue: Habit and inexperience. Bad habits are notoriously difficult to break, and one often needs help from family or friends to identify them. Sometimes, experiencing the effects of the Golden Rule can highlight one's own failure to think of it as something that should be good for everyone, making it a learning moment. More often, though, the general accumulation of life's experiences eventually exposes one's own misapplication of the Rule. Either way, the key is to recognize those learning moments, and to take appropriate advantage of them.

Discussion And Summary
The Golden Rule is a calling for us to be selfless, at least sometimes. It asks us to do things that we are not obligated to do, at least sometimes. It asks us to ease the pain and suffering of others, at least sometimes. It asks us to promote the growth and welfare of others, at least sometimes. And it asks us to do these things without any expectation of immediate return favor, always. The Golden Rule is the ultimate pay it forward rule of behavior, because it sets us up as examples of good character.

Before taking any action with the Golden Rule in mind, take a few moments to think of yourself in their place. Make it a habit. Even better, make it a habit even when not considering a Golden Rule Act. It might lead you to decide that action is appropriate after all. Third parties are also potentially affected, so considering yourself in the place of a third party is important, too. A negative effect on a third party may require a Golden Rule Act that we might not have otherwise done. Such an act could be as simple as merely suggesting an equivalent alternative to a second party to prevent or mitigate an adverse outcome for an unrelated third party. On the other hand, such an act may be as provocative as intervening on behalf of a third party. Golden Rule Acts need not involve personal physical acts; Simply calling attention to some particular situation is enough, especially if you do not have the resources to deal with it yourself.

The Golden Rule requires us to have the proper attitude for doing the right thing regardless of the immediate popularity or unpopularity of the act. It's the long term effects of your acts of kindness that is important, for there is where the ultimate effect occurs for paying it forward. The best example of the Golden Rule as applied by society at large is teaching our children, at home, in the schools and universities, and on the job as apprentices, how to be productive, patient, and to get along with others. As parents, teachers, and employers, we have to be patient and understanding ourselves as our children learn and mature, making us examples of the skills and virtues we want to pass on.

The Golden Rule also means allowing others to take appropriate advantage of your own skills, possessions, and knowledge. Of course, if you are a professional with a service or product to sell, there is an obligation to yourself and to your business to expect compensation. Even here, the Golden Rule expects you not to gouge your customers by demanding too much in compensation, most especially of those in immediate need.

You don't have to wait for Golden Rule situations to happen before you think about what you could do. Think ahead, do some preemptive planning. Think about what situations you could find yourself in where you would appreciate a bit of assistance, a little encouragement, a word of advice, or a modicum of temporary protection. Then, when you see others in those situations, you no longer need to wonder what to do or even if you should do anything. You have already decided. At that point, you need only carry out your plan of action.

Everyone is entitled to an initial presumption of respect, whether by the Golden Rule or some other mechanism. If you discover later that some individual is not deserving of your respect, you can leave him or her behind with good conscience. But be fair about such a decision. When a person is in great pain or anguish, sometimes their behavior may be atypical, unintentionally harsh, without being aware of it. Patience and understanding is then the right attitude to muster. Don't rush to a judgment of abandonment without first considering this possibility.

There is no good reason to not use the Golden Rule with other species. An animal in pain is also in need of help or compassion. Many mammals have the capacity of self-awareness and intelligence as well as compassion: Whales, dolphins, wolves, and gorillas, for example. They also display reciprocity of compassion and protection, to their own kind and sometimes even to humans. Dogs and dolphins are well known for assisting humans in need. If and when extraterrestrial life and intelligence is discovered (or they discover us), it is a safe bet they will also have developed their own version of the Golden Rule, and it will be similar to ours.

Don't let others succeed in forcing you to use only their version of the Golden Rule (presuming they have one). Not family, not friends, not organizations, not religion. Often enough, they have their own purposes that may be at odds with the universal value of the Golden Rule. Think for yourself. Think "outside the box." Be above the petty excuses and prejudices of others when following the Rule (or any other aspect of ethics for that matter). Be an example of good character, set a high standard, by applying the Golden Rule to everyone.

Being ethical is not always easy. In fact much of the time, it is difficult, time consuming, or expensive. Consider the classic parable of the Good Samaritan. A traveler is mugged and left injured and in pain. Several travelers pass by him but refuse to help, including some who should have known better. A stranger with no particular obligation or expertise stops to assist the injured man, treating his wounds and taking him to an Inn to recover, paying for his stay there until he can travel. The stranger's actions satisfies both the affirmative and constraining parts of the Golden Rule. He decides that he would want someone to help him and would not want others to ignore him in that situation. His decision to act was relatively easy for him, but it did cost him time and money.

Consider now a different situation. A child is painfully dying but could be saved by blood transfusions. Her parents refuse to authorize the transfusions for personal or religious reasons. There appears to be an ethical dilemma. The intentions of the Good Samaritan who brings the child to the doctors, who then have an obligation to treat her, are at odds with her parents' preferences. Whose wishes prevail? For a young child, it's not that difficult to decide. She is not yet capable of determining what is in her own best interests. She knows only she is in pain, and may know what her parents wishes are but not why. The Golden Rule tells us to carry out the transfusions. There is considerable legal precedent that supports this action. To withhold medical care from a young child is parental abuse, and is illegal.

The situation gets dicey if the dying child is in mid-adolescence but still younger than the age of majority. She may or may not yet be capable of knowing what is in her own best interests or understand why her parents would have medical help withheld. It's important to make this distinction because a Golden Rule Act is applied to the child, not the parents. If it is determined by someone properly qualified that she is capable of making her own life and death decisions, then the ethical thing to do is let her decide. Regardless of what the decision is or who makes it, someone will be disappointed. That's what makes good intentioned ethical decisions difficult sometimes. There is no where near as difficult a situation if she is a legal adult with a sound mind. Unless, of course, she is unconscious and time is of the essence. Then, in the absence of a prior directive, placing yourself in her place is the ethical approach.

The Golden Rule is only a policy, a guideline. It helps govern our own behavior towards others in terms of how we want to be treated. We are not islands in a sea of people, but members of a village. Look after the village in whatever capacity you have, and it will look after you.

TRUSTWORTHINESS AND RESPECT REVISITED

The remainder of this article discusses other aspects of ethics. It is not meant to be an in depth account, but merely provide an outline for further study. It is presented only for the sake of completeness.

Trustworthiness
The Josephson Institute breaks Trustworthiness into four categories, Honesty, integrity, reliability, and loyalty. This article has concentrated on honesty (no lying, no stealing, and no cheating), but it is only the beginning. (A necessary beginning, because without honesty, the rest is moot.) Once the concept of honesty is mastered, it's time to start applying it to the other three categories.

• Integrity
A person with integrity is an individual who acts according to her beliefs, not according to expediency. She does so with consistency, because there is no difference in the way she makes decisions from one situation to another: Her principles do not vary at work or at home, in public or alone. An individual with integrity is the original what you see is what you get personality. People who act inconsistently have no integrity; They are called hypocrites or two-faced.1a Too often, hypocrites don't even know of their lack of integrity. When pointed out to them (gently), some are puzzled or surprised but willing to think about changing their ways, others may become quite angry and defensive. So it may not be worth the effort of speaking to them of their inconsistency, especially if it is unlikely they will have to be dealt with in the future. Better to be a good example of integrity and hope they'll figure it out on their own eventually.

• Reliability
Reliability basically means keeping promises. There are two aspects to ponder here. Avoid unwise commitments if it is likely that they cannot be kept, whether by one's later unwillingness to carry through, by one's inability to carry through, or there is a realistic possibility that unknown or future events may intervene that will make it difficult, undesirable, or impossible to carry through. Further, make sure one's commitments are clear to others (not to mention to oneself), that there is no misunderstanding as to what the promises involve.1a All these factors should be addressed before verbalizing any promises.

The second aspect of reliability to address potentially happens after a promise has been made. Avoid bad-faith excuses. Interpret one's promises fairly and honestly. Don't try to rationalize noncompliance.1a Failure to carry through on a promise, no matter what the cause, should be followed by an apology. If an explanation is appropriate, it should always come after the apology. If the people to whom the apology is addressed have any integrity themselves, they will accept the explanation much more readily if they are done in that order.

• Loyalty
Loyalty is a responsibility to promote the interests of certain people, organizations, or affiliations, a duty that goes beyond the normal obligation we all share to care for others. But there are limitations to loyalty. No one has the right to ask another to sacrifice ethical principles in the name of a special relationship. Having many loyalties inevitably requires prioritizing them. It is reasonable to assume one's own children, spouses, and parents must come first, which will mean having to subordinate loyalties to others. Of course, multiple loyalties can lead to conflicting interests. Employees and public servants, for example, have a duty to make all professional decisions on merit, unimpeded by conflicting personal interests. They owe ultimate loyalty to the public. Sometimes, loyalty may require safeguarding confidential information, but not where it breaks the law or threatens others. Then, there may be the obligation to become a whistle blower.1a

Respect
Everyone has a right to be treated with dignity, regardless of who they are or what they have done. The Golden Rule is a good guideline for extending respect to others. We have a responsibility to be the best we can be in all situations, even when dealing with unpleasant people.1a

Civility, courtesy, and decency requires a respectful person to be an attentive listener (which generates respect in return), but patience need not be endless. People need to make informed decisions about their own lives. Dignity and autonomy requires us not to withhold information they need to make those decisions. Everyone, including maturing children, should have a say in the decisions that affect them. Judge others only on their character, abilities, and conduct. Accept individual differences and beliefs without prejudice.1a

MORE ON ETHICS

The Other Four Pillars of Character
Life is full of choices, and we are responsible for them. That means several things: Being in charge of our choices and, thus, our lives, that is, being accountable for what we do and who we are, hence recognizing that our actions matter and that we are morally on the hook for the consequences. It also means pursuing excellence and exercising self-restraint.1a

An accountable person is not a victim, does not shift blame, and does not claim credit for others' work, but does lead by example. If others depend upon our knowledge, ability, or willingness to safely and effective perform tasks, we must diligently pursue excellence by being reliable, careful, prepared, and informed. Being responsible also means perseverance when necessary, finishing a task started even as obstacles arise. Perhaps most important is exercising self-control, restraining passions and appetites for the sake of longer-term vision and better judgment, and delaying immediate gratification.1a

The highest form of caring for others is honest benevolence and altruism, not much different than the Golden Rule, as is good citizenship.1a

The most important of the last four pillars of character is fairness. Fairness is another tricky concept, probably more subject to legitimate debate and interpretation than any other ethical value. Disagreeing parties tend to maintain that there is only one fair position (their own, naturally). But essentially fairness implies adherence to a balanced standard of justice without relevance to one's own feelings or inclinations.1a How is that achieved?

Process is crucial in settling disputes, to reach the fairest results and to minimize complaints. A fair person scrupulously employs open and impartial processes for gathering and evaluating information necessary to make decisions. Fair people do not wait for the truth to come to them; They seek out relevant information and conflicting perspectives before making important judgments. Fair decisions are made with impartiality, without favoritism or prejudice.1a A sample Investigation Guidelines document illustrating a fair and transparent process of dispute resolution is here.

Fairness also requires equity. For example, an individual, company, or society should correct mistakes promptly and voluntarily. Also, it is improper to take advantage of the weakness or ignorance of others.1a

Seven Step Path To Better Decisions
Problem solving, also known as critical thinking, takes time and effort. It is not easy, and almost always takes longer than originally anticipated, frequenty because the problem is bigger than thought at first blush. Getting it right, arriving at a correct, fair, ethical, and effective resolution, varies from one situation to another, and there is more than one way to accomplish it. One approach, involving dispute resolution and mentioned above, is outlined here. Another, geared to solving Physics and Engineering problems, is displayed here. A more generalized method, from the Josephson Institute, is summarized below.

1. Stop And Think. The oldest advice in the world is think ahead, a powerful tonic against poor choices and most especially for preventing foolish and impulsive behavior. Taking the time to think about pending decisions also takes us out of the immediate situations where powerful desires or pressures of hurriedness, or fatigue or ignorance, could push us into unwise decisions.1a

Think ahead! What a concept. It's probably the best and simplest advice in the world, too. A corollary idea is plan ahead. Anticipate some of the more obvious possibilities. It's not hard, and it does take self-discipline, but the payoff makes the effort worth it. Theodore Roosevelt said "Make preparations in advance. You never have trouble if you are prepared for it," and "Nine-tenths of wisdom is being wise in time." Wisdom in hindsight is not worth much. Unless, of course, a lesson is learned.

2. Clarify Goals. Before you choose, clarify your short- and long-term aims. Determine which are most important.1a

3. Determine Facts. First resolve what you know, and then what you need to know. Be prepared to get additional information, to verify assumptions, and to verify uncertain information (that is, dubious "facts" offered). On that last point, we often discover that there are different versions of the facts and disagreements about their meanings. Here are some guidelines:1a

  • Consider the reliability And credibility of the people providing the facts.
  • Consider the basis of the supposed facts. If the person giving you the information says he or she personally heard or saw something, evaluate that person in terms of honesty, accuracy, and memory.
  • Remember that assumptions, gossip, and hearsay are not the same as facts.
  • Consider all perspectives, but be careful to consider whether the source of the information has values different than yours or has a personal interest that could affect perception of the facts.
  • Where possible, seek out the opinions of people whose judgment and character you respect, but be careful to distinguish the well-grounded opinions of well-informed people from casual speculation, conjecture, and guesswork.
  • Finally, evaluate the information you have in terms of completeness and realiability so you have a sense of the certainty and fallibility of your decisions.

Getting the complete set of relevant facts is crucial. Robert A. Heinlein said it best:

What are the facts? Again and again and again -- what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore devine revelation, forget what "the stars foretell," avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable "verdict of history" -- what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future, facts are your single clue. Get the facts!

4. Develop Options. Make a list of options and a set of actions. If you can think of only one or two options, you're probably not thinking hard enough.1a

5. Consider Consequences. Filter your choices through each of the Six Pillars of Character. Eliminate unethical options. Identify the stakeholders and how the decision is likely to affect them. Consider your choices from the perspective of the major stakeholders.1a

6. Choose. If your choice is not immediately clear, talk to people whose judgment you respect, keeping in mind the ultimate responsibility is still yours. If that avenue is not feasable, imagine what the most ethical person you know do? "What would Gandhi do?"1a "What would Mr. Spock do?"

Consult your own conscience, too: What would you do if you were sure everyone would know? Choices that only look good if no one knows are always bad choices. Character is revealed by how we behave when we think no one is looking. And don't forget the Golden Rule.1a

7. Monitor and Modify. Most hard decisions are based on imperfect information and predictions. So many of them will be wrong. Keep track of their effects, and don't not be shy to modify them as new and better information comes along.1a

Obstacles to Ethical Decision Making: Rationalizations
In making tough decisions, don't be distracted by rationizations for bad decisions. Below is the Josephson Institute's list of the most common ones.

If It's Necessary, It's Ethical. This is just a false assumption that says necessity breeds propriety.1a

The False Necessity Trap. We tend to overestimate the cost of doing the right thing and underestimate the cost of failing to do so.1a

It's Just Part of the Job. Everyone's first job is to be a good person.1a

I Was Just Doing It for You. This is a primary justification for committing "little white lies." This rationalization overestimates other people's desire to be "protected" from the truth, when in fact most people would rather know unpleasant information than believe soothing falsehoods. Consider the perspective of people lied to: If they discovered the lie, would they thank you for being thoughtful or would they feel betrayed, patronized, or manipulated?1a

I'm Just Fighting Fire With Fire. When you fight fire with fire, you end up with the ashes of your own integrity.1a

It Doesn't Hurt Anyone. This rationalization treats ethical obligations merely as factors to be considered in decision-making, rather than as ground rules. Problem areas: Asking for or giving special favors to family, friends, or public officials; Disclosing nonpublic information to benefit others; Using one's position for personal advantage.1a

Everyone's Doing It. This is a false "safety in numbers" rationale fed by the tendancy to uncritically treat cultural, organizational, or occupational behaviors as if they were ethical norms, just because they are norms.1a

I've Got It Coming. People who feel they are overworked or underpaid rationalize that minor "perks" -- such as acceptance of favors, discounts, or gratuities -- are nothing more than "fair" compensation for services rendered. This is also used as an excuse to abuse sick time, insurance claims, overtime, personal phone calls and personal use of office supplies.1a

I Can Still Be Objective. By definition, if you've lost your objectivity, you can't see that you've lost your objectivity!1a

Professional Codes Of Ethics
Individuals are often members of professional societies that provide services and opportunities that are unique to a particular profession. Almost every professional society has developed a professional Code of Ethics that is applied to the particular profession. Engineers, journalists, nurses, and teachers, for example, all have codes of ethics. However, they really don't add much to the practice of ethics per se aside from reminding it's members that they are obligated to be ethical.

So why have a professional Code of Ethics?67

  • To define accepted/acceptable behaviours;
  • to promote high standards of practice;
  • to provide a benchmark for members to use for self evaluation;
  • to establish a framework for professional behaviour and responsibilities;
  • as a vehicle for occupational identity; and
  • as a mark of occupational maturity.

The IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineeers), the AIChE (American Institute of Chemical Engineers), and the AITP (Association of Information Technology Professionals), for example, have codes that mostly restate the generic ethical principles that everyone should have. Other professional societies go too far in their Codes of Ethics by detailing specific procedures and behavior. Such detailed manuals are really Codes of Conduct, Statements of Values, Mission Statements, and policies. There is nothing wrong with them and they are appropriate, but they are not Codes of Ethics.

On the other hand, the SPJ (Society of Professional Journalists) seems to have a Code of Ethics between these two extremes. General ethical guidelines are applied generally to journalism without going into too much detail, hence allowing for flexibility and adaptability. All four Codes are here.

CONCLUSION

MORE READING

This is an ever expanding list of books and articles that are relevant to this article.

  • Kindred Spirits: Harvard Business School's Extraordinary Class of 1949, David Callahan, Wiley (NY) 2002.
  • The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead, David Callahan, Harcourt (NY) 2004.
  • Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street, Jim Wallis, Howard Books/Simon & Shuster (NY) 2010.
  • Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe, Greg Epstien, William Morrow/HarperCollins (NY) 2009.
  • Einstein's God: Conversations About Science and the Human Spirit, Krista Tippett, Penguin (NY) 2010.

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Last Updated February 25, 2010.
© 2009, 2010 Stevens F. Johnson and the Dept. of Physics/Science, Bemidji State University. All rights are reserved unless explicitly stated otherwise.