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Binary Thoughts

August 31, 2011

from 8/20/2011, comments at Countering.

“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”– Mark 8:36

I’ve been accused of black-and-white thinking in the past. Binary thoughts. Right. Wrong. I keep getting told there are shades of gray that we must all dwell in.
I like gray. My closet is painted gray. Can’t see much of the walls, though, so it’s easy to forget that it is indeed that color. That every morning I start my day in gray. My closet’s crowded, though, and I find choosing outfits to be a serious pain in the ass, so I have a “uniform” of the same shirt in all the possible colors (same goes with pants and shoes, what can I say?). In other words, I may start my day in gray, but I hightail my ass right out of it as fast as I can.
I don’t like dwelling in gray places, places where you must navigate a world where morality is muddled and ethical behavior a secondary consideration, if even that.
Learning to live in gray places gives me a decidedly icky feeling. I’m having some problems with it, to be honest. There’s right and there’s wrong. I’m not talking legalities. Laws can be changed and what was the prior day wrong may now be right. I’m talking about ethics and principles. Guiding lights that help our path through all that murky gray remain clear and hopefully untainted.
Let me give a personal example of where that gray exists and where two competing principles that I try to live by are right now making me feel like I am between a rock and a hard place. On Countering and at Science 2.0 I write about science, about pseudoscience, and about lines we should not cross. You know, like not using your kids as guinea pigs and feeding them pot in brownies because it’s ethically, morally, and legally wrong to do something like that. Not that I feel strongly about it or anything. Or putting a nicotine patch on them because you read on a yahoo group that it helps (or that you should put it where a teacher won’t casually discover it). Sure, nothing wrong with doing that kind of thing, is there? Except that if you got caught doing that crap to a non-disabled child, you wouldn’t have custody of the kid for long. Or giving a perfectly healthy child who happens to have autism a herpes medication. That kind of stuff I have an ethical problem with.
This personal position clashes at times with my other principle, which you find at the Autism Blogs Directory, which is inclusion and acceptance. That means that there are people on the directory who may actually engage in those behaviors I have ethical issues with. Let’s take facilitated communication, which anyone who has read me knows is one of my serious pet peeves. There are individuals on the directory who are facilitated. Take rapid prompting, FC’s cousin. Yup. That’s represented there, too.
It sets up a tug-of-war, these two competing principles that can manifest in the real world and leave me fighting my binary thoughts while warring against various biases and heuristics that are hardwired into me to help me resolve the cognitive dissonance as quickly and painlessly as possible through sunk-cost fallacies and self-justification.
It bites. Or is it bytes?

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