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September 08, 1999 - Image 4

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4A - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, September 8, 1999

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Did you hear the one about the duck and the amoeba?

420 Maynard Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
daily.letters@umich.edu
Edited and managed by
students at the
University of Michigan

HEATHER KAmINS
Editor in Chief
JEFFREY KOSSEFF
DAVID WALLACE
Editorial Page Editors

Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the majority of the
Dailys editorial board. All other articles, letters and cartoons do not necessarily reflect
the opinion of The Michigan Daily.

While you were out
Our take on the summer

Episode II
few months ago. I was reading some
C. S. Lewis. He was talking about
morality and used unselfishness as one
example. He posed the argument that if
you asked some-
body why you ought
to be unselfish, he
or she would say
that being unselfish
benefits society.
Then, if you asked
them why you
should care if it ben-
efits society unless
it benefits you, their
answer would be
that it was because
you ought to be
unselfish. Lopez
He supposed that
humanity really M
could not find a par- Large
ticular reason for
doing good, but knew that good was what
it was supposed to do.
This led him to believe morality was a
real law created by a mind outside the
sphere of our existence and passed down
to us as the blueprint for our behavior.
Does that sound like a leap to you? It
did to me, so I thought about it for a
while.
I posed the question. "What exactly is
the origin of morality?"
If you were the one being asked those
questions, what would you say? Why
should you care whether or not some-
thing benefits society unless it benefits
you personally?
You can't say because it is right or

because it is unselfish.
Those are all circular arguments. I
would like to hear your answers to these
questions. Here was my train of thought.
Through our social development.
humanity has learned that "right" behav-
ior benefits all, even when immediate
consequences seem otherwise. The rea-
son I ought to be unselfish is because
deep down inside, I know that being
unselfish will benefit me.
But then how did I get this idea? Let's
assume that humans evolved. If evolution
is true, then there was a point in time
when humans were not socially devel-
oped. How would a totally ignorant
species learn to order itself into a com-
plex culture? To answer this, I looked at
ducks.
Ducks do not know morality like we
know it. Their behavior is controlled by
instinct.
Let us say that long ago, there were
two groups of ducks. One group of ducks
was wildly protective of its young, and
the other was not.
Which group of ducks survived? The
ducks that chose to look out for them-
selves surely died because all their young
eventually perished.
Only the protective ducks managed to
keep enough of their children alive to
insure the survival of their species. The
duck that protected her children to the
death was the duck whose gene pool was
most likely to live on.
Due to natural selection, we see the
reason that a mother is willing to die for
her children. Written into our genes is
the code that makes one instinct more
prevalent than another instinct at a cer-

tain time.
This does not get us closer to finding
the origin of morality, but it does help us
ask the question that produces our start-
ing point.
Why should I care about the survival
of the species? I could not find a reason
for our desire to survive.
I was talking with one of the guys in
the lab about what makes a single celled
organism want to live.
Have you ever looked into a micro-
scope and seen an amoeba divide? Why
the heck did it do that? Why not just
explode?
It appears that the basic prime driver for
all life is the genetic program to survive.
That is not to say that deep at our core,
all we want to do is survive. No, this is a
different kind of survival. It is the sur-
vival of the gene pool. It is not a con-
scious thing.
A computer virus replicates not
because it wants to, but because it is pro-
grammed in its gene pool. All life has
evolved from this program to survive and
because of this program, many sub-pro-
grams, or instincts, have been intro-
duced. This is our starting point.
Morality had to start with the basic
drive to survive.
I know this sounds like a basic biology
lesson, but it is an important foundation
for determining how morality must have
risen through the evolution of our
species.
We'll enter more into the philosophy
next week.
- This is Mike Lopez'sfirst column for
The Michigan Daily. He can be reached
over e-mail at manatlarge ┬žiumich.edu.

9

W elcome home. We hope your sum-
mer, whether it was spent mowing
lawns, waiting tables or interning for sweat-
shop wages, was rewarding and refreshing.
The four months of intellectual idleness
roared by too quickly, and now you are join-
ing about 37,000 other students on a semes-
ter-long voyage into Midwestern academia.
Besides your tuition, a lot has changed
both in Ann Arbor and nationwide:
In the University's continuing battle to
defend affirmative action from right wingers,
the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals
allowed about 60 high school students to
intervene in defense of the College of
Literature, Science and the Arts's admissions
policies. This will delay the trial about one
year, giving the intervenors time to prepare
arguments against the ridiculous charges that
the University discriminates against white
applicants. The University's admissions sys-
tem accounts for a wide variety of factors and
aims to make the campus more diverse.
Diversity is a learning experience within
itself, and those who have the most to learn
are the ones fighting against it. One case in
point is confused state Sen. David Jaye (R-
Washington Twp.), who continues his crusade
against the University's admissions policies.
He plans to organize his own intervention
with parents and grandparents of prosp'ective
white and Asian applicants. We suggest his
family organize their own intervention - to
stop him from tainting state politics with
racial hatred.
* President Lee Bollinger successfully
initiated his plan for a Life Sciences Center,
allocating about $200 million of University
funds to the project's start-up costs. This
institute will move the University's sciences
to a more competitive level with other top
universities. This is undoubtedly necessary
- ask anyone who has taken an undergrad-
uate chemistry class. While it has always
excelled in social sciences and humanities,
the University's natural sciences have been
neglected for too long. Bollinger's challenge
will be to ensure the project remains on
schedule - and in the minds of students,
faculty and potential donors This is a well-
conceived plan, but until the University con-
structs the building, buys state-of-the-art
equipment and hires top faculty, it will
remain only an idea. We hope this is an
aggressively pursued business plan, not just
a good idea of a shaggy-haired law professor.
- The College of Literature, Science and
the Arts also got a new dean, Shirley
Neuman. We don't envy her. Neuman will
face more stress than an air traffic controller
who moonlights in the emergency room. In
addition to fighting the highly publicized
lawsuit against her school, we hope she will
cut down the bureaucratic obstacles its stu-
dents face every day. This is a learning insti-
tution, and learning is often hindered by bar-
ners like early add/drop deadlines and little
room for technological education. She
should re-evaluate the school's increasing
amount of living and learning programs.
Students should not feel trapped in a pro-
gram that does not interest them.
* The Athletic Department encountered
further embarrassment in the past few
months. The budget allotted for the 1998-
99 athletic year resulted in a deficit rather

than the planned surplus. Also, the Athletic
Department was unable to escape the name
of banned booster Ed Martin. Allegations
arose that former star basketball player
Louis Bullock accepted thousands of dol-
lars from Martin before his graduation last
spring. Then last week another former

Sigma Alpha Mu's house burned down late
last month. Fortunately, students had not
yet moved in, sparing lives and personal
belongings. The cause of the fire is unde-
termined; a thorough investigation should
determine if the blaze was accidental or an
act perpetrated against the organization. In
a considerate and speedy move, the
University found alternate housing for the
displaced students, and further pledged to
remain involved with the investigation.
Detroit began to welcome casinos this
summer. While some depict these establish-
ments as the pot of gold at the end of the
city's 20-year path of poverty, it is impor-
tant to examine the casinos' motives. They
exist to drain money from their customers.
Although the permanent casinos will be
developed at the city's riverfront, local busi-
nesses should temper their optimism. Once
people arrive, casinos do not want patrons
to roam the streets and spend money down-
town - they want their customers to stay in
their building with open pockets. These
gambling houses will steal more than
10,000 hard-working employees from area
businesses by offering slightly higher
wages. Casinos will not lead to economic
prosperity. Look at northern Michigan.
Look at Atlantic City. The only thing
Detroit can count on is some Mafia pres-
ence.
O But Detroit has some promising eco-
nomic developments in its future - name-
ly the two planned downtown stadiums for
the Tigers and Lions. While the name
makes traditionalists like us cringe,
Comerica Park is an ideal way to draw peo-
ple into Detroit. The Lions, who have been
hiding in Pontiac for about 20 years, will
come back to Detroit, bringing with it their
loyal fans.
® Michiganders can breath a collective
sigh of relief - the state's highways
received a welcome and long overdue resur-
facing this summer. But as some of us were
trapped in our hot cars during huge con-
struction delays, we discovered an interest-
ing situation. Gov. John Engler, also known
as the "Pothole Governor," appropriated the
road construction funding before his re-
election bid, but he saved the hassles of con-
struction until he was re-elected. We think
that's pretty convenient.
As Columbine High School students
return to classes, the nation has been
plagued by many more gun-related
tragedies. Nearby Southfield, where a psy-
chiatrist and his patient were gunned down,
Georgia, Alabama and California are
among the many sites of highly publicized
shootings. The country must look at the root
of this malady - the vast availability of
firearms. Blaming these tragedies on televi-
sion or video games is an easy and incorrect
answer to this deadly problem. These gun-
men did not fit one common stereotype;
they ranged from high school students to a
day trader to a white supremacist. The
media could not have affected them all in
the same way. But if they had found guns
less readily available, perhaps their victims
would be alive today. Stricter gun laws will
not bring about a panacea, but it is a huge
step in the right direction.
® The FBI admitted to using com-

bustible tear gas grenades in the 1993 siege
at the Waco compound, which left about 80
Branch Davidian followers dead. The
agency still denies starting the fire, but now
admit they used a flammable tear gas pro-
pellant during the assault. They had previ-
ously denied using flammable weapons or

THOMAS KuLJuRGIs

TENATIVELY SPEAKING

--JI ------------S K 13

The Michigan Daily welcomes letters
from all of its readers. Letters from University
students, faculty, staff and administrators will
be given priority over others. All letters must
include the writer's name, phone number and
school year or University affiliation. The
Daily will not print any letter that cannot be
verified. Ad hominem attacks will not be tol-
erated.
Letters should be kept to approximately
300 words. The Michigan Daily reserves the
right to edit for length, clarity and accuracy.
Longer "viewpoints" may be arranged with an
editor. Letters will be run according to order
received and the amount of space available.
Letters should be sent over e-mail to
dailuleuters tchbeiedi eor mailed to the
Daily at 420 Maynard St. Editors can be
reached at 763-2459 or by sending e-mail to
the above address. Letters e-mailed to the
Daily will be given priority over those
dropped off in person or sent via the U.S.
Postal Service.

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Wolverines thirsty, but not for blood

By Jeffrey Kosseff
Daily Editorial Page Editor
No wonder they call it the "Big House."
Our school's football stadium has worse
conditions than some maximum-security
prisons.
The crowded stadium's ban on outside
beverages, coupled with its vendors' inabil-
ity to stock enough water for attendees, is an
inexcusable mistake that punishes loyal
fans.
I was psyched to claim my new piece of
real estate last Saturday. I was assigned to
Row 1, a tremendous improvement from the
nosebleed seats I had three years ago.
But as I attempted to enter the gate, a vol-
unteer guard stopped me and made me get
rid of the 1.5-liter water bottle I purchased
on the way to the game.
"I guess they want to make money selling
their own drinks," the guard shrugged as he
prevented me from entering the stadium.
I swigged as much water as my body
could hold before entering the blistering hot
arena. As I walked over the sweltering, poor-
ly shaded blacktop surrounding the stadium,
I saw vendors selling bottled water for $3.

I'm not in the water-bottling business, but
I seriously doubt it costs anywhere near $3
to produce and sell 25 oz. of water. This is a
public institution, where most of the fans
attend school, work or have been graduated
- they are loyal Wolverines who are in the
stadium cheering on their team. , They
shouldn't be ripped off like. yahoos at a
county fair.
When I first saw this fiasco, my econom-
ics-major instincts took control. The
Athletic Department recently reported a
budget deficit. Its vendors are selling exor-
bitantly high priced water - consisting only
of oxygen and twice as much hydrogen. And
the best way to sell their liquid gold is by
preventing patrons from bringing in their
own beverages.
So I figured the Athletic Department
must be greedy. If they sold 100,000 bot-
tles of water at all six games, they would
have $1.8 million in revenue. Even if the
product and labor contract costs were 50
percent, which is a high estimate, the
University would rake in almost $1 mil-
lion.
But after Saturday's game, I realized I

could not chalk it up to greed. The Athletic
Department, in its water ban, was either
incompetent or sadistic.
By the third quarter, most vendors ran out
of water, as well as most other drinks. And
the few free water stands were difficult to
find. Lines for the water fountain were
tediously long. Even the sugary ice desserts,
which do little to quench thirst, were sold
out.
Athletic Director Tom Goss, who was
unable to be reached for comment yesterday,*
must re-evaluate the stadium's beverage pol-
icy before Saturday's game against Rice
University. I understand the need to control
what is brought in the stadium - if fans had
vodka in water bottles, chaos would ensue.
But the administration should compro-
mise on a new policy. Only allowing sealed
beverages would be reasonable. But to pro-
hibit outside beverages and have poorly sup-
plied vendors is irresponsible and inexcus-
able. The Athletic Department must move
quickly, before someone is seriously injured
from heat stroke.
- Jeffrev Kosseff can be reached over
e-mail atjkosseff@umich.edit.

SAT statistics show move in right direction

By The OW Hatchet
George Washington University
The College Board recently released some
encouraging statistics concerning the number
of minorities taking the Scholastic Aptitude
Test. A higher percentage of students who
took the SAT last year were minorities,
although minority performance on the test
remains well-below national averages.
Minority student participation in the SAT
increased by a third over the last decade.
Showing improvement in the statistics were
blacks (seven-point increase, 856 average
score in 1999), Puerto Ricans (28/903) and
Native Americans (42/965). Mexican

Americans (12-point drop, 909) and Latino/as
(-5/927) test-takers fared worse as a whole,
although the influx of participants in these
groups might account for the decrease.
The College Board announced it will offer
SAT courses on the Web, which should help
those who can't afford expensive preparation
courses. Yet, online preparation courses will
help only students who have Internet access..
The problem with the online service is the
students who lack Internet access are often the
same students who cannot afford expensive
test preparation courses. In these cases, the
online SAT preparation material will not help.
The newest statistics from the College

Board show clear progress for minorities -
not in the form of increased scores, but in
increased access to the SAT and therefore
higher education. Before a strategy can be 0
devised to raise minority scores, the test must
first be accessible to minorities.
The College Board is going in the right
direction by offering free SAT preparation
courses on the Web, but the real answers con-
cerning disparities in scoring must start long
before senior year in high school.
- This staff editorial appeared in The
GW Hatchet, George Washington
Universitys student newspaper last
Thursday.

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41

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