Some questions you might ask about the suggested answers

For each of the book's questions ask: what would be a better answer to this question? Read. Use a browser search engine to get more information. Think. Talk with friends and family. Try to have reasons for your answers. Don't expect everything to be clear right away; every day we are all learning more about how to live.

Who are we?

Does "people" mean the same thing as "human beings"?

Are people all alike?

Why are the differences between people discussed in terms of body characteristics? In terms of ancestry? In terms of life history?

Do the terms of the suggested answer favor the ideas of evolution? Is this fair? Is this based on evidence? What counts as evidence? Does it matter whether what we believe is based on evidence?

Some things are listed as "not meaningful differences" among people. Do any of those things actually have meaning in a discussion of differences of status as a human? Are any of the things listed as "personal preferences" actually not choices people make?

How are people different from other animals?

Are people really animals?

If humans are animals, aren't they absolutely different from other animals? If not, why not?

Are there good reasons to think that the other animals of the world exist only for the convenience of humans? Are there good reasons to think otherwise? Did any animals exist before there were humans on Earth? What is the evidence?

What notable abilities might sea mammals, land mammals, and especially primates have? What is a bonobo?

How do we humans live?

Does the suggested answer need to be made more complete?

Why is the Sun given so much credit for energy we get?

What is Earth?

How do we know that Earth is orbiting the Sun?

How do we know the Sun is a star?

How far from the Earth does the atmosphere extend? How does this distance compare to the size of the Earth?

How do we know about things coming at us from space?

Aren't the resources of Earth the property of whoever owns the ground or water on or under which they are discovered? Shouldn't those owners get to say how they are used and to profit as much as they can or want to from owning them? How can someone own water?

Who owns the oceans? Who owns the atmosphere?

Why do some people say the Earth is much younger than the suggested answer claims and that it got like it is now pretty much all at once?

Do we think we know why the time it takes to double the population of Earth is getting longer?

Where is Earth?

Where is the Universe?

Why do we think there are about 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (a sextillion) stars total?

Since our Sun has planets [and some other stars are known to have planets also], does it make sense to guess that a lot of stars have at least one planet?

Since one of the Sun's planets has life, does it make sense to guess that another planet somewhere has life or does it seem more likely that our planet is the only one that does?

How do we think we know the age of the Universe? How accurate is the believed age thought to be?

How do we get shelter, clothing, and food?

What about people who already have enough money that they don't have to worry about any of these needs?

What about people who have so little money or skills or abilities that they can't earn money or barter?

Can't people who are strong enough or important enough just take these things away from other people who have them?

Are there ways to arrange for people to get what they need that don't involve barter or money?

What is bartering?

Later questions refer to taxes; do taxes have anything to do with bartering?

What is money?

Why doesn't everyone use the same kind of money (dollar, euro, peso, etc.)?

How does the use of credit cards, debit cards, charge cards, and so on, change our activities about using money?

Why isn't just one single card used for all kinds of charging and paying?

Why do some of us live close together in towns and cities?

Why do people want to be alone sometimes?

Why do people want to be in small groups sometimes?

Why do people want to be in large groups sometimes?

What are conveniences of living in larger groups?

Are there other conveniences that should be considered?

Are some of the things listed not really conveniences?

What are difficulties of living in larger groups?

Are there other difficulties that should be considered?

Are some of the things listed not really difficulties?

How do rules and laws get made?

Don't the basic rules actually come from religion anyway? [this question will come up as part of later discussion, but it doesn't hurt to start thinking about it now]

What is the difference between a republic and a democracy? What is a democratic republic?

Wouldn't it be better to have a very wise person as a dictator instead of having any other kind of rules?

Is there one kind of rule-making that is better than all others? Why or why not?

Why is it good, if it is, to have checks and balances in the rule-making system?

How does a group decide what kind of rules it wants? Who gets to decide?

In the United States, who is in charge? How does this determine what the laws are? How can problems come about in a system like the one used in the United States? How can they be solved?

What parts of life do laws usually affect?

Since every law is a limit on freedom, why do people let themselves be ruled by laws?

If we do decide to have laws, shouldn't we have the fewest possible?

Shouldn't the people who have the most (land? money? resources? soldiers?) have more right to make laws than people who have less? Why or why not?

Are a lot of our laws just so that lawyers can earn money by having lots of problems wind up in courts?

Are there things in our lives that should be covered by laws that are not covered now? Are there things that are now covered that should not be covered?

What does being patriotic mean?

Is it more patriotic to defend the way the original authors thought about the Constitution and to do our best to figure out what they wanted us to do?

Are criminal laws more or less important than civil laws?

If civil laws impose any restrictions on how businesses operate, is that a failure to recognize the merits of capitalism?

Why was the Bill of Rights added to the original Constitution?

What is meant by "respecting an establishment of religion"?

What is "redress of grievances"?

Is there a connection between "a well regulated militia" and hunting wild animals? Should there be specific legislation allowing for gun posession for personal reasons such as self-defense (would society be well-served by such laws)?

Should the fourth amendment be interpreted as protecting citizens (and possibly others?) against having their telephone conversations monitored by the government? What if the govenrnment says that it has good reasons for wanting to do so?

Does twenty dollars still seem to be the right cut-off for requiring a jury trial?

How should society determine if a punishment ought to be regared as cruel or unusual?

What connection is there (if any) between the eighth and ninth amendments and what people mean by "states' rights"?

How do people get the main jobs in the branches of government?

Why do we use elections to choose many of our government workers?

How do we decide between holding elections and establishing a hiring process as a method for filling jobs?

What happens when mistakes are made in electing or hiring people?

Who decides how much to pay people in various jobs on government? How?

Who votes in elections?

People talk about "one person, one vote"; for what elections does this really happen?

Would it be better to have "one person, one vote" for all elected positions?

What other principles could be used? One dollar, one vote? One acre, one vote? One vote for each year of education?

Should there be a test of knowledge of issues or qualifications of candidates given to people who want to vote?

Should elected leaders be expected to be wise enough to pass laws on their own, or should they usually refer proposed laws to voters for approval?

How important is it for any particular person to vote?

How much, if anything, should we know about issues or candidates when the election can affect our rights? Our taxes? Our freedom? Our impact on the environment? Our schools? Our roads? Our safety?

What needs to be done to be sure that voters have enough information to make informed decisions?

In what sorts of elections would it be reasonably safe not to vote or to vote without having much information?

What different types of electoral systems are there? Why is there more than one type? How do they work? When and where are they used?

What kinds of responsibilities come with living in groups?

What other examples of special needs should be included?

Should families with children in private schools have to help pay for public schools?

Should families with children in public schools have to help pay for private schools?

Should families without children or whose children are out of school have to pay for any schools?

Should people without vehicles have to pay for roads?

Should a person who owns a piece of land be able to use it for any desired purpose, such as farming, building a house, building and operating a store, building and operating a night club, drilling for oil, mining coal, or having a garbage dump, or should groups of people living nearby have some say about any of this?

Who pays for special needs, and how do they do it?

What kinds of tax seem to be fair? Unfair?

Some nations have taxes that are a good bit higher than those in the United States and provide a lot more in the way of health care, child care, care for the aged, and time for recreation. What seems good or not good about such taxation and such systems?

What is meant by graduated tax? Flat tax? Progressive and regressive taxes?

Does it make sense to try to arrange that one's own taxes are as low as possible, even if that means shifting cost to others? After all, isn't it "survival of the fittest?"

Do people also have non-material needs?

What non-material needs are missing from the suggested answer?

What kinds of things do you worry about? Are they related to needs listed?

How are non-material needs met?

What besides work, study, thought, human interaction, and play meet non-material needs?

Should practice of religion be on the list?

For your own list, what is the order of importance? Why?

What don't we know?

Regarding the list of three "least understood" things, isn't it enough to say "God made things that way" or "Allah made things that way" or "Zeus only knows"?

What is the point of talking about the Universe and the stuff we think it's made of? Shouldn't we use our limited lifetime to get a better understanding of:

what it means to be "fair"?
human behavior?
what the deity wants?
what it means to say someone "ought to do" something?
how to die with the most toys?

What is religion?

Is it possible to choose the "wrong" religion?

When a religion claims it is "right," does that have to mean that other ones are not?

About how many religions are there? How many Christian denominations? How many non-religious people? How many atheists?

Has the word "miracle" always seemed to mean "contrary to natural process" or could it have had a less controversial meaning earlier?

Are all "Gods" the same or are some of them different? If different, is there any rank?

In choosing a religion, is one actually gaining the most important thing and not giving up anything (or anything truly important)?

What is science?

Why might it be useful to make models of reality and to try to use them to predict how things turn out?

Why do people divide the sciences into different kinds the way they do? Is there overlap among them?

How can a science be right if it doesn't know its limits?

Is there a medical science? Why isn't one listed?

Are the predictions of sciences any better than other ways of dealing with the world? What would count as evidence for "better" here?

Why aren't astrology and other supposed ways of predicting the future included here?

Do religion and science provide complementary viewpoints?

Did the suggested answer help you understand anything?

Did the suggested answer make you feel better?

Both? Neither?

What is art?

What should "count" as art? What is meant by graphic arts?

Is there a way to compare examples of any particular kind of art (say, two paintings)? To say that one is better or worse? How?

Is there a way to compare two different kinds of art (say, a symphony and a statue)? To say that one is better or worse? When there is some sort of overlap (say, an oil painting and a watercolor)? How?

Can or should knowing what the artist had in mind (as, perhaps, suggested by a title) make any difference about the quality of a work of art?

What is history?

Is history taught in schools in a way that lets the student try to understand what problems were involved, what choices people were trying to make, and what outcomes they hoped for, or is it taught as a story of events as they are thought by a text author to have occurred?

Might a government have an interest in encouraging that history is taught in one or the other of these ways?

What is mathematics?

Is counting natural? Could a modern culture get along without counting? A primitive one?

For every number (such as 3) there is an opposite or negative number (in this case -3); why are such numbers also used?

Why are terms like "associative," "distributive," and "commutative" used in mathematics?

What is geometry about?

What is philosophy?

Why might an ordinary person (i.e., not a professional) want to know something about philosophy?

What do people mean when they talk about having a "personal philosophy"?

What is ethics?

What is the difference between ethics and laws?

Are religious rules the same as ethics?

If the rules about fairness, justice, and so on, don't come from a God, how can they have any force?

What are basic rights of humans?

If all rights are negotiated, how can they be important enough to die for? Do they have to be undeniably valid to rate such extreme loyalty?

With so many people on Earth and with resources getting used up, is it necessary to have the right to fight wars to protect "our share"?

Does each person have a right to make her or his life whatever she or he wants it to be? Is that actually a non-negotiable right to try to succeed? Is that the same as a basic right to the pursuit of happiness?

If there is no basic right to liberty, is slavery OK?

If there is no basic right to life, how can people expect to survive?

Do animals have rights? How would they be able to negotiate them?

What is social science?

What do social scientists do that makes them different from natural scientists?

What is cognitive science?

Can computers think?

What is business?

Does it make sense to treat corporations as if they were people in the sense of having the same rights and responsibilities as people? When does this seem to work? Are there any difficulties with such a view? What can people do that corporations can't?

Can a business commit (be somehow responsible for) a criminal act? Can it be punished in the same ways a person can? Is it reasonable even to ask this?

Does it make sense to say that a business is or isn't a good citizen?

Are there ways in which the government should and should not regulate what businesses can do?

Doesn't free trade mean a better life for workers in other countries?

Is luck an important part of peoples lives, or do they necessarily pretty much deserve the circumstances into which they are born and the opportunities they have?

What is the practice of journalism?

Do journalists have freedom of speech? Can they then say whatever they want?

Are newspapers, television, magazines, and radio influenced by their advertisers in what they say about current events and government policies?

What is the practice of medicine?

What are the kinds of practice usually called "alternative medicine"?

Should governments have any role in regulating the giving of health care? Why or why not?

Is health care a right? If not, why should anyone care who else gets it?

What other kinds of medical specialists than those listed are there?

What is the practice of law?

Why does a lawyer have to pass a bar exam to practice law?

To what extent, if any, should governments regulate the practice of law?

What are the punishments for breaking the law?

When a person commits an offense, what sorts of actions should society take?

Does punishment as currently used always or usually satisfy society's needs?

When a person has been punished, is that person less likely to offend again? What factors might help decide?

Does the fact that the U. S. has a higher fraction of its citizens in prison than any other country necessarily mean that U. S. citizens are more likely to be criminals? Does it mean that some countries tolerate too much crime?

What is the practice of pharmacy?

Is it appropriate for a government to regulate the production of medicines? Is it appropriate to regulate their sale?

What are "drugs" when they are not medicine?

Should any drugs now illegal for use be made legal? Should any drugs now legal be made illegal? What about drugs like "date rape" drugs? How should questions like this be decided?

What is the practice of engineering?

What sorts of knowledge and skills does a person need to acquire to become an engineer?

What other kinds of employment are common?

Have any major kinds of employment been left out of the suggested answer?

What about the entertainment industries, including professional sports?

What difference does all this make?

Is "living together peacefully and productively" a sensible goal, or is it too simple to be realistic? Too complicated?

What does reciprocity mean?

What large questions remain to be considered?

How could we ask the right questions about protecting the Earth environment for future use by humans?

What other questions seem important?

Where do we go from here?

That is very much up to you.

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© 2007 Robert E. Reynolds