Friday, August 10, 2007

Acting White: What is Cheating? Part II

Like the late, great Ray Charles and his Georgia, I continue to have cheating on my mind.

It dawns on me that no single propulsion factor is more responsible for the advancement of human societies than is cheating. The search for unfair advantage is far more enticing than fair play, having humans dominating all manner of competing species, from microbes to blue whales, and leaving only each other to contend with in the end. But as ardent animal-rights activist often say, the ability to dominate other species should not be an unquestioned right, should it?

Control of cheating is more reasonably an attempt to manage the risk of humankind’s overly aggressive nature as it pursues advancement. If the scientists at the Manhattan Project, who fashioned the atomic bomb the US dropped on Japan in WWII, were unfettered cheaters in their quest, New Mexico would likely be an uninhabitable glowing hole in the ground. Cutting corners is risky business.

If cheating was not in our DNA, humankind’s evolution could conceivably have been set back tens of thousands of years. On the other hand, if cheating goes unchallenged, the level of mayhem we would likely bring upon ourselves could just as easily define it as the tool of our early demised, rather than our longevity.

So I suppose the take-away is that we should look at cheating as a necessary behavior to our advancement, but one that has increasing drawbacks, relative to the degree that it is left unchecked. Because explaining this conclusion to my kids would be damn near impossible, I am back to square one – telling them not to do it, or there will be trouble. They will undoubtedly ignore me, but with a hoped for restraint that propels them to better, longer, more productive lives. Perhaps.

James C. Collier


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Antonio said...

I enjoy this blog but I find this entry confusing. If cheating is the pursuit of some unfair advantage, as you defined it in the previous entry, I don't see how cheating played a role in our dominance over other species.

The unfair advantage we have is reason, which we were given naturally. Our ability to innovate and attack problems from new angles allowed us to gain superiority over other animals. The weapons, technology, and other means that allowed us to do so arose out of necessity.

I think "unfair advantage" is a highly subjective term. What's unfair to one person or culture is fair game to another. "Cheating" is only useful in situations where the definition is clearly defined, such as sports and standardized testing.

Just my take.

James C. Collier said...

A: You are correct, the second entry does depart from the first. Your last sentence properly reconciles the two. But I would add that cheating on tests and sports is still murky. Kaplan is questionable 'help' and Mark McGuire gamed the system with a pro-steroid. Thanks.

Joe Friday said...

Garden of Eden.