Elon Musk and Ethics
I read a biography on Elon Musk awhile back. It was fascinating. He seems like a super smart, super driven, and genuinely concerned individual. Though, I clearly don’t know Musk or his motives.
I was troubled, however, recently when I watched a progress update about Neuralink. Neuralink is a company that has Elon Musk as one of its founders and is “developing implantable brain–machine interfaces.” Neuralink is working to invent “new technologies that will expand our abilities, our community, and our world.”
In the video update, Musk said he is concerned with our “species.” He speaks of “what we [humanity] would want.” He was presuming about the “sum of our collective will.” He talked about “the future of the earth” being “controlled by the combined will of the people.”
It reminded me of something perceptive C.S. Lewis said:
“Of all the tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under the omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber barons cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
It seems to me that Musk and his team have good intentions but an ethicist was eerily absent on the panel. And they spoke of such things as erasing fear and pain. One of the guys on the panel said he’d like to study consciousness and simultaneously dismissed all writings on consciousness in the last thousand years. That was very concerning to me. To sweep away a whole history of thought on a subject, even one as confusing as consciousness, in a mere fleeting moment is concerning. It speaks to the panelist’s pride and unreasonableness. As well as to what Lewis referred to as chronological snobbery.
One can have knowledge and intellect and be absent of wisdom. And history teaches us that science, even good science with good goals, can bring about terrible things. We can see this by looking at the origin of the Nobel Prize.
Briefly, Alfred Nobel was refereed to as the “merchant of death.” Among his inventions was dynamite. “Merchant of death” was not the reputation he wanted. So he funded the Nobel Prize in order to change his legacy.
Nobel’s intention was not to be a “merchant of death” but nevertheless his technology of dynamite led to the death of many. Technology itself is not wicked, but sometimes those who wield it are not wise and sometimes they are wicked and use technology in devastating ways.
Also, concerning is that Musk seems to be a naturalist and determinist. He talks about what the collective will of the world is. That, to me, is concerning. Especially from someone that believes they are doing good and yet, at the same time, have no basis for believing in the concept of good.
As amazing as Elon Musk is, in a lot of ways, he and his programs need ethics, and I would argue transcultural and transtemporal ethics.
My kids in my home need reminded and held to the transcultural norm of love and truth and if they don’t follow those norms my house is in unrest. How much more Musk and Neuralink?!
 He said, ““There’s a lot of really silly philosophy that’s been written about [consciousness] over the last thousand years.”
 Musk said, “The universe started out… hydrogen and then after a long time… well, what seems like a long time to us, that hydrogen became sentient. It gradually got more complex… We’re basically, you know, hydrogen evolved. Um, and somewhere along the way that hydrogen started talking and thought it was conscious” (See the 51:46 timestamp in Neuralink Progress Update, Summer 2020). If we are merely evolved hydrogen that think we’re conscious, how can we possibly make sense of our world? Is not then everything random? How can we trust our minds? That’s akin to trusting a random paint splash to relay truth. They’re both random chance processes with no real significance.
Is Homosexuality Part of God’s Good Design?
“Why does a person’s sexual preference matter? If a guy loves another guy why can’t they hook up? Why would God have a problem with that? God created everything, right? So, did He create homosexuality?”
I appreciate those questions. They are important because sex and sexual identity are deeply personal as well as powerful. So, the main question seems to be: Did God create homosexuality, is it part of God’s good design? In order to answer this question, I need to ask you a question. Do you consider yourself a tolerant person? Will you hear me out and listen to my perspective?
If you answered that you are a tolerant person, that’s great. That will be helpful as we look at this controversial subject. So, I ask you to kindly consider my perspective on this question.
I want to be faithful to what I believe the Bible teaches because through it God shows His love and grace. So, as we consider this question, I deeply want the love and compassion of Christ to come through. He loves us all and wants us to have abundant life here and now and forever. Yet, life holds many struggles and temptations.
As we consider this question, we are all caught up in God’s story, a story that can be summed up as creation, fall, redemption and new creation. What does the Bible have to say about this issue? The Bible provides directions to protect us and help us thrive. This is part of God’s good design. The directions include prohibitions against certain types of sexual activity. Those that violate the directions God has given often suffer for it. Individuals that struggle with homosexuality need to realize that natural disposition does not justify it any more than any other sin. And the fact that society elevates sexual fulfillment to the point of communicating that it is the purpose of life does not exempt it from God’s prohibition any more than any other sin. If you are struggling with this issue, then join the rest of us sinners and turn to Christ, who is good. God has given us the means to live within His good design.
The Crash of the American Church?
Research shows that the “evangelical church” lost around 10 percent of her people in the last decade. There are many factors that are involved that have resulted in this decline. Further, most churches that are growing are just taking people from other churches, not converting people. The Great Evangelical Recession explores the factors involved in the decline of the church and offers suggestions for the future. I found the book helpful and thought-provoking.
Slavery and its defeat
At the time of the writing of the New Testament, in the Roman Empire, there were essentially three classes of people: The rich, the slaves (about half the population), and freemen. These “freemen” were free in that they were not owned by anyone, yet they often went hungry because of their “freedom.” Whereas, slaves sometimes had good masters and sometimes had bad masters.
Slavery in Rome was not what it was like in America 150 years ago.
“In Paul’s day, slavery was not based on race. Additionally, slaves had any number of duties and responsibilities, ranging from farming, mining, and milling to cooking, teaching, and managing. Furthermore, slaves were not infrequently freed from the shackles of slavery (a process known as manumission).
There is no mistaking the fact, however, that slavery in the Greco-Roman world was degrading, dehumanizing, and downright disgusting. Taken together, slaves were perceived and treated as property and were frequently subject to unimaginable punishments based on their maters’ malevolent whims. Indeed, Roman historian Cassius Dio tells of an especially cruel slave owner, Vedius Pollio, who had slaves who displeased him thrown into a pool of flesh-eating eels.”
So, what was slavery’s defeat? Harriet Beecher Stowe said:
“The Christian master was directed to receive his Christianized slave, ‘NOT now as a slave, but above a slave, a brother beloved [Philemon 16];’ and, as in all these other cases, nothing was said to him about the barbarous powers which the Roman law gave him, since it was perfectly understood that he could not at the same time treat him as a brother beloved and as a slave in the sense of [unconstitutional] Roman law.
When, therefore, the question is asked, why did not the apostles seek the abolition of slavery, we answer, they did seek it. They sought it by the safest, shortest, and most direct course which could possibly have been adopted.”
Paul’s system founded on Jesus the Christ—Jesus who came to serve and not be served—subverts any form of human oppression. So, we see Paul lays the necessary groundwork for the emancipation proclamation. The gospel has changed the basic structure of the way Paul looks at the world and it should change the way we see the world as well. Read More…
Can we have hope in the midst of Trump’s (or Obama’s or Clinton’s) “reign”?
How can we as Christians have hope in the midst of the “reign” of political leaders that we dislike or disagree with? We can have hope when we…
understand who is the King
As Christians, the king or President is not our ultimate King, Jesus is. Peter and Paul both lived under Roman rule, which was not the best of situations. Actually, we are told they were both beheaded under Roman rule. There are many other things that we could look at that happened under Roman rule (e.g. slavery, infanticide, public crucifixion, pornography, bisexuality). However, those things were not Peter and Paul’s main concern. Their main concern was Jesus and His gospel and they could find joy in the midst of adversity in the eschatological hope of Christ and His coming Kingdom.
Our hope is in no king here. Our hope is in the King that came and died. Our hope is in that King coming back and setting all things right. Until then, our job is to be faithful representatives of the King that came to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.
Christ is ultimately King! Not Clinton. Not Trump. Read More…
Not all “facts” are created equal (and other proverbs for today)
A few important and relevant things I’ve found to be true through my short tenure on earth:
1. Statistics can be skewed (in all sorts of ways).
2. Money talks, and sometimes money makes people talk about facts that don’t actually exist.
3. “Sound bites” don’t equal sound knowledge.
4. Video doesn’t always equal validation.
5. One side sounds right until you hear the other (and a lot of times people don’t listen to or understand the other side).
6. People have agendas (and agendas come through more or less depending on the topic and the person).
7. Not everyone is a specialist (e.g. movie stars getting interviewed about their political opinion might be entertaining but it’s typically not educational).
8. “I read it on the internet” doesn’t equal truth (even if you see the same thing in a few places).
9. Science sold as fact is actually often still theory.
10. Dogmatic assertions should sometimes be doubted (or at least checked and not just by Google).
11. There is a difference between knowing something and wisdom (and the difference can be a matter of life of death).
12. Unless there is objective truth, the exhortation for people to be kind (e.g. planet care, respecting others, and not harming others) is subjective and relative to the whim of individuals (and thus doesn’t really need to be heeded).
13. The idea that there is objective truth is often unpopular but that doesn’t make it wrong.
14. People are often not familiar with what various fallacies are but that doesn’t mean that they are inept in their employment.
15. We can’t have a peaceful world where each person does what is right in their own eyes because people have conflicting desires that will lead to unpeaceful ends.
16. No political leader is the Promised One (no matter what they, the media, your friends, or your psyche says).
17. Money can’t buy happiness (but it can buy distraction); however, happiness can be quite cheap.
18. Video games, YouTube, and social media can keep us away from things that are much more rewarding and fun.
What ones do you like and not like? Why? And what would you add?
 That is, it ultimately does not matter morally if people “be kind and rewind,” recycle, or are racist if there is actually no objective right and wrong. However, if there is right and wrong, and it is right to recycle, then that means that there are some objective criteria of right and wrong not determined by me or you and that means that objective truth will have things about it that are not appealing to us but that does not change the truthfulness of the issues under question (whether murder, recycling, or a thousand other things). If not recycling is objectively wrong then so are many other things, some of which we would not like to be wrong (e.g. overeating moose tracks ice cream). We can’t have our cake and eat it too. We can’t both have and not have morality. It just doesn’t work that way. It’s an impossibility.
 Thus, the answer for world peace is not accepting that everything is relative (“whatever’s right for you”) but by patiently and loving communicating truth so that people can be sympathetically aligned (though not anonymous).
 As in the Christ/Messiah of Scripture.
Christianity is Polarizing
Christianity is polarizing, but why?
Teachers in public schools can’t share a Bible verses with their students, let alone lead a Bible study (at least in Fairfax, VA). However, if they started a club on Plato and Aristotle’s teaching it probably wouldn’t be a problem. Actually, they would probably be able to discuss Mein Kampf and it would be less alarming than Jesus’ command to love our neighbors.
Why is this the case? Christianity has not proved to be unhealthy for individuals or society (I could make a good argument for the converse though); and there are many people in America (and in Fairfax, VA) that claim to be Christians. A lot more than claim to hold to platonism, for example.
What makes Christianity polarizing?
The two main things Christians are called to do is love God and love their neighbor. That doesn’t sound so bad. The Bible tells Christians that true religion is to take care of widows and orphans.
Christianity has had a very important place in starting schools and universities (e.g. Princeton, Harvard, Yale), various hospitals, orphanages, and, of course, chic-fil-a. Christianity brought us the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) which brought us basketball which brought us the NBA… and Jordan… and Lebron…
So, what makes Christianity so polarizing? It seems like it has a lot of good aspects. Actually, Jesus Christ, who Christians worship and follow died for people that hated him; and Christians are called to love, serve, and sacrifice in the same way that he did. That’s why, for example, medical missions and orphanages sprouted up.
The Bible, the book that Christians follow, is the number one best seller of all time. No matter what people think about the truth claims of the book it is a work of profound literature. Even Richard Dawkins, a staunch atheist and many ways hater of religion, does not deny that it is an important book.
What causes all the problems when it comes to Christianity? Perhaps it’s that it teaches that we are (all) to love God and love our neighbors. We are (all) called to care for orphans and widows. We are (all) called to love in sacrificial ways.
Perhaps people appreciate these things but know that they are called to do them but don’t live up to them. Perhaps they feel guilty about it. Perhaps it’s a mixture of things. Perhaps people know that Christianity teaches that all are sinners in need of redemption.
Perhaps people know that Christianity teaches that all are sinners in need of redemption. Perhaps that’s offensive to some people, even though it seems to be a very empirical reality.
What do you think? Why is Christianity so polarizing?
Imagine: a picture of a man standing beside a fire extinguisher contemplatively looking at his home on the verge of going up in flames. You are looking at a picture of procrastination.
Part of this was written in the woods and there were still distractions tempting me to procrastinate. Partly because I wrote this on my phone in the woods. I was getting Snapchat messages and I was tempted to start taking pictures and posting them on Instagram. I was wondering what hashtags I should use, #tree? #trees? #woods? #treesinthewoods? Or is that too redundant? Or should I use all of the hashtags? And then there’s the question of location. Should I include the location or not? Should I zoom in a cool leaf and then use the little blurry feature to make it look cool?
That’s where our minds can go and do go, and super quickly. So, how, from a Christian perspective, can we take action against inaction? How can we have victory over procrastination?
First, it’s important that we know what procrastination is. Procrastination is the action of avoiding things that you need to do. “Procrastination… [is] willingly deferring something even though you expect the delay to make you worse off.” Actually, “The essence of procrastination lies in not doing what you think you should be doing.” So, one article I read said that procrastination is “the action of ruining your life for no apparent reason.”
It may be an action, and even an art and science, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. It feels like there was no action involved. It feels like it was inevitable. It feels…
[[My mind just interpreted me for something really important. So, I stopped writing this, and texted a friend to say: “I can probably go to a baseball game.”]]
That’s how our minds work, or at least my mind. Of course, distraction is different than procrastination but it’s en route.
Procrastination is intentional (or unintentional) distraction. And intentional action, which leads to accomplishing something, is the opposite of procrastination. It is purposing to do something and then avoiding the many distractions, good (texting your friend, enjoying leaves) and bad (e.g. Facebook stocking old friends), to accomplish that goal.
Why is productivity prized and procrastination penalized? What’s the big deal about watching endless loops of funny dog videos on YouTube? What’s the big deal about interrupting writing to text a friend (and take pictures of leaves and post pictures on Instagram and… and…)?
Proverbs and Procrastination
Most people say that they struggle with procrastination. There is so much to be done and so much to do to distract us.
Congratulations! The human attention span has shrunk from 12 to 8 seconds in around the span of a decade. Goldfish now have a longer attention span than humans!
Sometimes it seems like we’re helplessly stuck in destination procrastination. So, what can help us?
The book of Proverbs teaches us that productivity is good and procrastination is bad. For example:
“Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise” (Prov. 6:6).
“Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense” (Prov. 12:11).
And there’s many others: Proverbs 10:5; 14:23; 19:15; 20:4, 13; 24:30-34; Ecclesiastes 5:12; Titus 3:14. “Wise wants” inform the counsel in Proverbs. Presumably, people desire to have a reputation for trustworthiness and honor; healthy friendships, including delightful romance; a sense of security and confidence; usefulness; and competence and success at work.
Many Proverbs capitalize on our “wise wants.” “Lazy people are soon poor; hard workers get rich” (Prov. 10:4 NLT). “A man is praised for his insight, but a twisted mind is despised” (Prov. 12:8 HCSB). These verses capitalize on the fact that we want to avoid poverty and want approval. Proverbs teaches us that if we want to avoid poverty and want to obtain approval we must work hard. So, Proverbs uses “wise wants” to speak to the issue of procrastination.
Enjoying life and having fun is good. Even having wealth is good, when used to God’s glory. Paul tells us that we are to receive all God’s blessing with thanksgiving (I think that even includes funny dog videos, but of course in moderation) (1 Tim. 4:4).
So, I’m not knocking on fun, pleasure, and leisure. They are God-given and good. But God has also given us things to accomplish and we flourish in life as we are functioning in His ordained will. We were meant to live for more than just distraction. We were meant to live for a purpose. It’s as we understand that purpose that we begin to experience freedom from distraction and procrastination. So, what purpose are we ultimately called to?
We’re called to…
Work for the Lord (Col. 3:23)
We are to work for the Lord in “whatever” we do. There is no area of our life that is ok for our ultimate motivation to be for ourselves. What about school? Sports? Family life? Work? All of it is supposed to be done as work unto the Lord, not men, not anything else.
Our work is not to be done in a begrudging manner. Our work is to be done “heartedly.” That is, fully, sincerely, enthusiastically, energetically, to the Lord.
However, we can’t manufacture this. It can, as we have seen, be hard enough to get something done, but now I’m saying not only do we need to work and get something done, we are to do so with a happy heart. This is hard so what can motivate us to defeat procrastination and live with purpose?
Work for the Reward from the Lord (Col. 3:24a)
Ultimately procrastination, as the opening illustration shows us, is not helpful and is actually illogical. But that’s not it. Procrastination doesn’t lead to prospering. We were created in the image of God not to procrastinate but to be productive, to create and “subdue the earth.” When we are functioning according to our design, doing what God has given us to do, it is then that we prosper (and realize I do not mean financially, I mean teleologically).
However, that’s not it. Not only does life and our purpose in it just fit when we are carrying out what God has given us to do (that is not to say that life is easy) we also see that there is a “reward.” We have reason to keep our hand to the plow and purposely avoid distractions because we have a reward we’re working for, an “inheritance.” One that does not fade and won’t be destroyed (1 Pet 1:4).
So, hear Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air” (1 Cor. 9: 24-26).
Serve the Lord (Col. 3:24b)
We’ve clearly seen that it’s not about us. It’s about the Lord, we see that very clearly from Colossians 3:23-24.
So, if the “Lord Christ” is what it’s all about, if seeing Him, and keeping Him at the forefront of our lives helps us defeat procrastination and instead live God-glorifying and productive lives then it’s important that we see and know Him. Only then will we understand the purpose He’s given us. So, what is so glorious about Christ that can arrest our attention and make us drop everything thing to live for Him?
That question has been answered by many book-length treatments so I will just quote from earlier in Colossians:
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together… For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, He has now reconciled in His body of flesh by His death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him.”
That’s what led Paul to say “I count everything as loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ” (Phi. 3:8). As we know Christ more and more we will strive to live for Him more and more and not to earn His approval but simply out of love. We will put away distractions because they’re just that, they’re distractions.
A Few Suggestions
- If your same old proven-not-to-work methods aren’t working then get new methods
- Don’t let short-term temptations overwhelm your more important long-term goals by intentionally remembering what it is you’re working towards
- Break tasks down into smaller goals that can be more easily accomplished (“A remarkable, glorious achievement is just what a long series of unremarkable, unglorious tasks look like from far away”)
- Ensure the task is specific, not vague
- Put checks in place to ensure that your tasks get done and you don’t get sidetracked (e.g. Ulysses’ knew he needed to be bound to the ship’s mast)
- Put your phone on airplane mode or throw it away
- Do what you have to do, not everything that comes into your mind
- Remember, putting things off only piles them up and makes them heavier
- Do the things you really hate first
- If you procrastinate you’re not doing the best that you can, you’re also missing a lot of real fun, like enjoying your hard earned accomplishments
As we live on purpose for the Lord we will more and more stop procrastinating because we are given amazing motivation to do so.
 James Surowiecki, “Later: What does procrastination tell us about ourselves.”
 Tim Urban, “How to Beat Procrastination.”
 Lizette Borreli, “Human Attention Span Shortens To 8 Seconds Due To Digital Technology: 3 Ways to Stay Focused.”
 Rick Horne, “Counseling Angry, Unmotivated, Self-centered, and Spiritually-indifferent Teens.”
 “How sad to see brilliant, creative people pouring hours and days of their lives into creating cities and armies and adventures that have no connection with reality. We have one life to live. All our powers are given to us by the real God for the real world leading to a real heaven or hell” (John Piper, Taste and See [Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books, 2005], 139).
 Interestingly, although procrastination “seems to involve avoiding unpleasant tasks, indulging in it generally doesn’t make you happy” (Surowiecki, “Later”).
 Urban, “How to Beat Procrastination.”
Kim Kardashian, Kanye, Christ, and Snapchat
Kim and Kanye are the superstars of Snapchat Stories. It seems like one or both of them always have something going on, from Kim’s body parts to Kanye’s billion dollar (?!) debt. I, however, actually don’t read their Stories or typically any of the Stories. It can be bad enough just looking at the Stories (recall what’s typically featured in reference to Kim). So, why don’t I read the Stories and why does it matter?
Why I Don’t Read the Stories
Well, there are a lot of reasons. I’m busy. That’s an important one. However, I’ll concentrate on three things.
- I need to focus on the Kingdom, not Kim. Seeing Kim and Kanye and reading about their exploits does not help me focus on the Kingdom. Reading about Kanye and his “killer” clothes won’t make me want to invest in the Kingdom but in Kenya’s debt relief program.
- There is news worth reading but it’s typically not on Snapchat Stories. There’s probably something better to read than “Sex Workers Explain How They Deal” and “Kylie Flaunts Under And Overboob.” That being said, I did read an interesting story about the urine content in swimming pools from Snapchat. But typically other news sources are more relevant, even if they are more thought provoking and deep. (On an aside: watch out especially for kiddie pools!)
- I need Christ. Not Kim. Not Kanye. It’s God that “makes known to me the path of life. It’s in His presence that there is fullness of joy. It’s at His right hand that there are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11).
Why Does it Matter?
It matters for a lot of reasons, again, time is a factor. But I’ll concentrate on three things.
- I need to invest in the treasure that cannot fail or fade but I’m often tempted to get that backwards. Reading about Kim and Kanye’s antics is not helpful in reminding me about what matters.
- Time is precious and there is only so much time to read and watch things. So it makes sense to use our time and even our leisure wisely, and for me that typically doesn’t include Snapchat Stories.
- It matters because I am a new creation called to live as a new creation focused on Christ and His glory (cf. Col. 3:1-17). It matters because there is great joy to be found but that joy is not found in deceitful desires but in the good that God has abundantly provided.
Kim and Kanye are not Christ, so let’s not give them, or anyone else, or anything else, the attention only He deserves.
I am a lot of things; saint and sinner. I struggle and I strive. I am a husband and father of three. I have been in pastoral ministry for 10 years. I went to school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but most of my schooling has been at the School of Hard Knocks. I have worked various jobs, including pheasant farmer, toilet maker, construction worker, and I served in the military. My wife and I enjoy reading at coffee shops, taking walks, hanging out with friends and family, and watching our three kid's antics. :)