Monday, August 30, 2010


One hundred and one years ago today, on August 30th 1909, C. Doolittle Walcott was returning to Washington DC from the British Columbia province of Canada when he stopped to examine some of the dark shale found in the Stephen formation near Yoho national park.

Known as “Doctor Doolittle” to anyone who had a good sense of humor, DD had just that year been awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Cambridge (in honor of the centennial celebration of Darwin’s birth).

DD was pleased with what he found. Here in the cool backwoods of the Canadian Rockies was a potential quarry of rare fossils of soft-bodied creatures. That this find was in the cool backwoods of the Canadian Rockies was a stroke of purest luck. DD had just landed a job with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. Washington DC in the summers of the early 20th century was just as hot and humid as today, but without air conditioning.

DD returned, with family members, every summer he could. His third wife painted well-received watercolors of the wildflowers found near DD’s fossil quarry. Hundreds and hundreds of pounds of Burgess Shale were shipped back to DC from DD’s quarry in Canada.

The Shale was found high on a mountain, but was deposited in a shallow marshy sea some half a billioin years ago.  That is a long time ago; a VERY loong time ago. 

The diversity of soft-body structures found among that collection of fossils was like none the world had ever seen. It was like the potential body types known to science had suddenly doubled. To this day new fossils are extracted from the Burgess Shale faster than they can be studied.

DD identified the fossils with a flair for conservative naming that hid their amazing diversity till the technology of air conditioning came to their rescue. Once the storage areas of the Smithsonian were made habitable the fossils of the Burgess Shale were re-discovered. Here was a new window into the potential for living diversity.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


I near the end of this “summer of death”. It appears as if every other e-mail I get is informing me about the particulars of somebody’s death. I was just informed the other day about the death of a relative whom I have never met. The e-mail’s title was her name and the word “died”. It took me a few minutes to figure out who she was. Apparently she was the third wife of the father of my step-mother. Never met the deceased woman, only met him a couple of times back over 20 years ago. She was nice people as far as I know, but I have to reach in order to make a connection between myself and this woman. When I do make the connection she nestles comfortably into the deadly gestalt I have made of this summer.

Pattern making is something the human brain does very well. It would not be too far off the mark to state that the human brain is a pattern-making machine. One can easily imagine the selective advantage gleaned from making connections between important events, and then identifying correlated phenomena. The patterns can even become self-referentially enabled. For instance a proto-human named Bob sees zebras running just before Carl is eaten by a lion; the next time zebras are running Bob runs also and is not eaten, and this proves a correlation between zebras running and being eaten by a lion. The pattern is created by the events surrounding Carl’s demise, and subsequent activities -simply by fitting into the pattern- help to prove the pattern.

What happens when there is no underlying cause unifying the correlated events? Correlation does not require causation. We can imagine how the zebra’s flight might be caused by the same hungry lion that ate Carl. What if Bob noticed a peculiarly shaped stone when Carl was eaten so every time he saw a similar shape of stone he ran, and was subsequently not eaten by a lion? It is obvious that foolish patterns could result.

I do not think there is any unifying causation in the multitude of deaths connected with me this summer. I cannot imagine any rational connection between an old woman’s death in Wisconsin and a middle-aged smoker’s death in Connecticut, and …and... any of the other three recent deaths. My mind grasps for a connection where there is not one. In the absence of rational connection I am perfectly capable of imagining irrational ones.

I can pick away at the set of irrational links with a small amount of rational examination. The fact that I am connected to each of the deaths can easily be explained away by the subjectivity principal. None of the deaths would be put into the pattern machine if I had not been connected to the death or the person who died. In other words: “If I was not thinking about the death then I would not be thinking about the death”. There are just too many people dying in the world for these deaths to make a pattern just because they happened in my cognitive vicinity.

Some other correlations I dismiss out of hand. "His noodly appendage" is not communicating lottery numbers through the combination of the Julian death dates of the departed (I’m sorry my pirate friends). The birthdates of the departed cannot be combined to yield the time the world will end. There are many potential causations whose implications outstrip the impact of the events themselves, and I dismiss these with impunity.

Still the mind forces connections. I felt the electricity of a summer thunderstorm, and watched its grey tendrils sweep across a desert valley; I connected this to the personalities of the dead.  I saw the full moon setting over a mountain ragged western horizon this morning, and made connections to the timing of this summer of death. I could feel the impact of the moonlight as if it bathed me in warmth transcendent of the very efficient mini-van temperature-control I was enjoying.

“Labor day is coming” I thought “One more new moon before summer slips into fall. The Autumnal equinox will be here soon enough.”

The full moon is iconic. There is a primordial urge to connect the moon's cyclic patterns of illumination with everything. When I connected the feeling generated by the full moon with the incomplete pattern agonized over by my mind it felt like the key had found the lock.

There is, of course, no causal connection between the moon’s phase, the sun’s position in the sky, and these random deaths. I can drive a correlation. As the equinox arrives, and the deaths diminish (or hopefully stop) it will enable my pattern. Time is measured in cycles of the moon, and after a certain amount of time this statistical clustering of events will end.

This too shall pass.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Earthrise 1.0

Forty four years ago today, on the 23 of August 1966, the first views of earthrise over the moon were viewed by humans.

Lunar orbiter I transmitted the above image to an eagerly awaiting gaggle of geeks back on earth. This mission to the moon experienced several glitches, the most serious of which was in the star-tracking system used for navigation. It is difficult to imagine the spectacle of a early 60s technological anomaly sputtering and sparking across the vastness of space.

Mankind looked back for the first time at our planet rising over the horizon of a distant lifeless world.

On that planet a new generation of Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda was popping up in showrooms across America. Those cars that would sputter and spark across the new interstate highways were the embodiment of technology to most people. People could smoke their pre-cancer cigarettes, and feel the summer air lapping at their large polyester lapels through the open window of their huge “mid-sized” next generation Dodge Dart. Half a million Americans were an unimaginable distance away wondering how you even pronounced the name Laos. A quarter of a million miles away man watched a new type of dawn.

Somewhere in California a music executive signed the last papers for the next day’s release of the first (and self titled) album by the group that called themselves “The Doors”. The first song on that album was “Break on through to the other side”, and the last song was “The End”.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Peace: day 3

Forty one years ago today, on August 17th 1969, organizers of the Woodstock music and art realized that there was no schedule. Estimates of what actual time bands played still range by hours.

We were ready to rock out and we waited and waited and finally it was our turn... ...there were a half million people asleep. These people were out. It was sort of like a painting of a Dante scene, just bodies from hell, all intertwined and asleep, covered with mud.” --John Fogerty

By the time James Hendrix closed the festival (actually starting after 8:30AM on Monday the 18th of August) most people had slithered back off to reality. In the mud-crusted fields of Yasgur’s farm over half a million people had celebrated for almost four days. Fewer deaths and assaults were noted than normally occur in any city that size over a summer weekend.

"if we join them, we can turn those adversities that are the problems of America today into a hope for a brighter and more peaceful future..." -- Max Yasgur

Sunday, 17 August 1969 (and into Monday, August 18th)
• The Grease Band
• Joe Cocker
• Country Joe and the Fish
• Ten Years After
• The Band
• Blood, Sweat & Tears
• Johnny Winter featuring his brother, Edgar Winter
• Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
• Paul Butterfield Blues Band
• Sha-Na-Na
• Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Henrix- Live at Woodstock 1969 from Michael Muracco on Vimeo.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Lies for Tears

This past Saturday, August 14th 2010, it was warm and clear in northern Utah. Groups of people gathered at many outside venues to soak in the warmth and fellowship. I was outside almost all day, and I can show you exactly the areas of my exposed flesh I missed with my SPF50 sunblock. Families took advantage of one of the last weekends before school starts for reunions. Pools were filled with excited screaming youngsters. Parents and grandparents languidly watched them and wondered what cosmological dark mater replaces the energy of youth.

There is a beauty in uncomplicated frolicking that is made more precious in the very young. Before language and vocabulary make their mess of communicating the nature of fun, there exists the briefest moment when only the act of play can accurately express itself. While the toddler morphs into a kid each misstep and wobble craft metaphors of a lifetime. A simple fall can be the perfect image of something as profound as a first broken heart, and yet the tears dry so very quickly and kind words assemble smiles from nothing but trust.

Do I sound sappy? I feel sappy writing this.

I love the look of smiles on very small children. There should be more smiles on kids, and fewer looks of horror and loss. Kids have no idea where they are going; they have no reason to feel lost.

At a World Mark Resort near Bear Lake in northern Utah this Saturday a large extended family gathered to relax beside the pool. Numbering over a dozen, eight of them gregarious adults, they were a considerable group. I knew a couple of the older generation of the adults.

At some point in time a 20 month old child of the party exited the “baby” pool, walked over to the “adult” pool, jumped or fell in, and quietly drowned.

What sense is there when smiles are turned to limp meat? How can metaphors of a fabulous future become memories so quickly?

How many times will the drama of a failed rescue be replayed; each event analyzed stepwise out from reality into a horrible repeating dream? I was told that my friend jumped in and retrieved the body of his grandchild. I was told he performed CPR. CPR on a small child breaks bones. Did he feel like he was breaking her or trying desperately to reclaim her life? I will never ask.

There are so many questions that float to the surface of consciousness when talking about an event as pathetic as this. The simple question “why” breaks down into shards whose edges cut hurtfully deep. Many of the questions we can only ask ourselves in silence.

There are the support questions (e.g. What can I do for you?, Do you need anything?, Will you call me if you want to talk?) that should be asked out loud, and often. It is in the spirit of support that the ideals of atheism break down for me.

Rational approaches might work for a rational world. A world where 20-month-old girls drown is bleached free of everything rational. Gravity, electromagnetic radiation, air, and viscosity are notional at best. Can a person stand on non-existent physical principals against an emotional tsunami that has washed away value itself? No.

What do I do when asked to contribute to the magic seen by those in pain as needed for coping? If I am asked to pray for the family or the dead child’s soul what will I say? If a grieving parent takes me by the hand and asks me to describe “the place” that their child’s soul has gone to will I reply: “I don’t believe in that nonsense"? No.

I will put my hands on their shoulders and say: “I will pray if you want me to”. I will hold their hands and make up stories about a heaven where it is always Christmas, and love glows on every surface like crude soft focus. I will look into their eyes and say, with the conviction of consuming honesty, that I want them to hurt less.

Peace: day 2

Forty one years ago today, on August 16th 1969, organizers of the Woodstock music and art became convinced that their original estimates of “no more that 50,000 people attending the festival” were wrong. Billed as: "An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music" the festival had morphed into an uncontrollable happening.

Fences were pushed down and all sanitation was overwhelmed. It rained. Everything, including naked throngs of skinny dippers, eventually ran into Filippini Pond on the north side of Yasgur’s farm.

The longest day of the event featured the headline psychedelic rockers.  The "day" went overnight, and the Jefferson Airplane did not finish until after 8:30AM on the 17th.

Saturday, 16 August 1969
• Quill
• Country Joe McDonald
• John Sebastian
• Santana
• Keef Hartley Band
• Canned Heat
• Mountain
• Grateful Dead
• Creedence Clearwater Revival
• Janis Joplin
• Sly & the Family Stone
• The Who
• Jefferson Airplane

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Peace: day 1

Forty one years ago today, on August 15th 1969, the Woodstock music and art fair opened. Located on Max Yasgur’s 600 acre farm near the town of Bethel in New York State; the festival would become an iconic event.

The first day featured folk artists and the creation of some of the largest traffic jams ever known. Arlo Guthrie announces that “The New York state thruway is closed”.

Swami Satchidananda gives the invocation for the festival at 7:10 PM shortly after Richie Havens finishes his set with the song “Motherless Child”.

Friday 15 August 1969
• Richie Havens
• Sweetwater
• The Incredible String Band
• Bert Sommer
• Tim Hardin
• Ravi Shankar
• Melanie
• Arlo Guthrie
• Joan Baez

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Five thousand one hundred and twenty four years ago today, on August 11th 3114 BCE (Gregorian), absolutely everything began. This is the date given according to the Mayan “long count” calendar. Yes, this is the same calendar that many believe predicts the end of everything on the 20th of December 2012.

Interestingly enough the 2012 end date is not the first end of the world that the calendar was used to describe. Apparently the gods Tepeu and Kukulk├ín tied to make man a few times, but had ingredient issues. First they tried mud, which crumbled. Next they asked for some help from other gods and together they decided to make man out of wood. They did not get the results they wanted; an event I am surprised is not re-created as a morality play about the dangers of designing things by committee. Eventually T&K hit upon the idea of making mankind out of corn. So here we are, and everyone (including the great corporation of Monsanto I’m sure) is pleased.

The next time you say that something is “corny” think about whether you really mean that it speaks to the underlying formulation of humanity.

The 5,000 year timespan between the creation and 2012 is called a “b'ak'tun”. As the creators of the prophetic calendar do not exist anymore there is not a reliable pronunciation guide for this word. I think it should be pronounced: “Buh-Hack-Uh-Tun”. We are in the thirteenth Buhackuhtun.

This means that we have should have ample evidence of previous attempts at creation. Yay!

Now if we do not have this evidence we should not be too worried about the validity of the predictions for the end of the world. According to some people the Mayans got everything wrong except the date for the end of the world. The real gods were not those flying feathered serpent things; no, they were something more like bearded-sky-fellow. The real end of the world will not be the result of stale cornbread syndrome; instead we have not been good enough to our omnipotent god so he’s going to take his ball and go home.

Strangely enough the Mayans thought the not being nice enough to the god(s) was why the wood people did not work out. There are so many similarities that the Mayan stories must be true…only different.

One popular reason why we cannot find the evidence of creation(s) (and my absolute favorite reason) is that the god(s) is messing with our heads. Physical evidence is just so fabricated anyway. We are supposed to listen to those voices in our, or someone else’s, head. We should listen to talking plants or animals (sometimes…there is that whole snake thing I will not be getting into right now). We should look for great psychedelic visitations that would be obviously hallucinogenic if they were not true.

Matter and the physical laws are all a ruse. Our senses betray us by design. We must be transported orthogonally to the notions of space and time to a place where the most banal of messages communicates the actual truth of everything. Our bodies are vessels that reign in energy that only our thought patterns control. Everything exists in an undifferentiated state that we are fooled into a belief in.

Ok…OK…I know. If you throw too much of reality under the bus it is obvious that creation never even happened. Some stuff must be real or nothing was created. However much the “nothing is real” world might be an engaging idea it remains a trivial solution to the problem of creation. How do we know what is real and what is a cosmic joke? Wellll…we have people who tell us what is real. In fact the clues to reality are even written down in some cases. There may be a few inconsistencies between the accounts, but the vast number of accounts could be viewed as some level of proof that one of them is correct.

What of the next Buhackuhtun? What will the god(s) do for the next iteration of man? There is good reason to believe that the gods will find favor in creating everyone in my image. You might not find me attractive, but you are not a god; are you?

In fact, now that I have written it here, I can accurately state: “So It Is Written”.

Perhaps, and I am using my vast knowledge of biology here, if enough women became pregnant using my sperm, the gods would see that all of mankind was beginning to look like me without necessitating the end of the world. If you are a young woman of childbearing age you only have until March of 2012 to try and help save human civilization.

Some of you might not believe in my vision for the next Buhackuhtun. You may believe, instead, that the god(s) will use titanium instead of corn to make the next iteration of man. This next-man might look like the 2012 Olympic mascot named “Wenlock”.  The god(s) might call him "Wenlock-Man".

Of course such heresy may “darn you to heck for some time”. You can, however, hedge your bets. You don’t need to worry if you follow my simple plan. If you send me money I will spend it on anything I can think of that will prevent the world from ending on December 20th 2012. If I get enough donated funds I will devote my life to the twin tasks of preventing the end of the world in 2012 and not paying tax on the donations.

I am afraid for the future. I am afraid that too many people will keep both their wallets and knees so tightly closed against me that there will be no hope for realizing my elegant plan to save everything. Imagine the terrible future when an epidemic of apocalyptic conjunctivitis wipes out Wenlock-man.

I will continue to look into the progress we are making towards “end of Buhackuhtun day”. Creation only happens about once every five thousand years, so mark your calendars!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Kayaking in Africa

There is something about seeing something happen, and yet knowing in the pit of your emotional center that it is not true, which can be the best part of delusion. There are three major flavors of denial, and this one is called “simple denial”. This is not called “simple” because it requires the fewest mundane activities to realize; it is called simple because it is supposedly easy for someone else to see. The objective viewpoint is the key to its simplicity. It should be called this because when someone successfully points out to me that I am in an intricately crafted state of denial I feel quite simple.

Denial is often referred to as a defense mechanism. The idea being akin to believing that what you can’t see can’t hurt you. In a world blackened by impenetrable darkness, where enemy and friend alike are isolated by the failure of their senses, this might be true. I find that not seeing the dangers in my life is more often accomplished by burying my head in the sand rather than some atmospheric phenomenon.

The problem with attempting to mount a defense against reality is that reality always wins. One could fairly accurately suggest that: the better the defense against reality, the worse the eventual defeat. There are, however, instances where denial works quite well.

Several years ago I received some disturbing medical information. Due to a symptom set which I had been somewhat delayed in addressing it was suggested that there “were significant reasons to believe there could be advanced cancer” in one of my internal organs. The doctor was then able to get internal specialists to clear spaces on their busy calendars to see me the next day. When the specialists were sent my information they immediatly scheduled a semi-invasive diagnostic procedure which required an anesthesiologist and a surgery room, and they scheduled it before ever seeing me in person. I was sent information on how to begin the preparation for the procedure. There were apologies provided for putting it off for two days, but “these procedures usually have to be scheduled five weeks in advance”.

There is something about knowing that one has an inoperable terminal cancer, as I knew I had, which produces some strange behaviors. I decided not to tell anyone, and kept my promise for several dozen hours. I stared awkwardly at my then pre-teen AOD and unimaginably young AYD. I felt strangely alone and isolated. Stupid things took on new meaning, and I found myself repeatedly thinking “this thing is stupid and it has taken on new meaning”. I had visions of running through fields just to drop down into a fetal ball in the center of them, and while rocking slightly I would pee my pants so I could know some warmth. I provided AYD and AOD with uncomfortably long hugs.

When I broke my vow of silence and told my wife she stated the obvious: “This is a diagnostic procedure, they have not diagnosed you with anything yet”. I looked into her eyes and imagined that I saw an anticipation of the freedom my rapid expiration and life insurance could afford.

I decided to whole heartily embrace the idea that there was nothing wrong. By the time I began preparing for the procedure in earnest I had reached a state of pseudo-acceptance that sprang more from simple denial than from any type of mature coping mechanisms.

“Nothing was wrong” I told myself “what, me worry?”

I stayed up late at night pouring over how utterly unconcerned I was with the situation. I began sighing at unfortunate times during conversations just to demonstrate how very relaxed I was.

The diagnostic procedure showed no cancerous, or even cancer-like, material. I was asked how I let what should have been a simple complaint go until it manifested such significant symptoms. A course of treatment was suggested that worked. In very little time I was both real symptom, and fake cancer free.

Though denial did work for me in this situation I think I could have done a much better job of using it. I have embarked on a concerted denial training regimen.

I have been developing “denial intervals”. In these I simply deny an emotionally hurtful situation outright and then steadfastly deny any corroborating evidence that hints at the existance of the emotionally hurtful situation. I do this for just long enough that I begin to question the nature of my emotional aptitude (an 8.5 on a scale of 10) and then I relax by ignoring the emotional pain until I recover enough to begin the active denial again.  I have not hit uppon an optimum number of repetitions as I have not really mastered the transition into acceptance. 

Despite my lack of emotional coordination the training is working. I could now have my heart ripped from my chest, salted, and pounded flat with a meat tenderizing mallet; only to remark: “It needed to be aired out a bit”.

Of course nothing like that is remotely possible.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Most famous late mother's day present ever

Sixty-five years ago today, on August 6th 1945, the first atomic bomb used against a population was detonated at 0815 in the morning above the city of Hiroshima Japan.

The bomb had a nickname; it was “Little Boy”. Little boy used the fizzile Uranium isotope ‘U235’ to produce an enormous release of energy. Despite the devastation it caused it is estimated that only 1.38% of the ‘U235’ was used in the detonation.

70,000 people were dead by 0816. Tens of thousands more would die as a result of the bombing over the coming weeks.

The B29 that delivered Little Boy to Hiroshima was selected just after mother’s day 1945 (before the plane had left the assembly line) by its pilot Col Paul Tibbets as the plane that would deliver this weapon to Japan. He named the plane after his mother “Enola Gay Tibbets”.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

106 Trombones

A couple of weeks ago, on July 24th, I attended an early morning parade through the streets of downtown Salt Lake City. Despite the fact that the parade celebrated an event (the “discovery” of the Salt Lake Valley in 1847 by Brigham Young) inexorably linked to the Mormon Church there were a few floats and groups that were not overtly LDS-themed. Among these were synchronized motorcycle police from each of the several police forces that utilize motorcycle policemen. One of the policemen was obviously a woman, but she wore a cute little fake mustache to fit in.

There were several borderline-LDS themed groups; the most irksome of these were our major elected officials riding by in convertibles. There was Senator Hatch showing that, despite his advanced age, he can still wave without visible life support machinery. Senator Bennet was smiling despite the fact that his re-election never made it out of the republican state caucus, and so he is gone. Then the honorable Governor Gary Herbert rode by.

Everyone was languidly clapping for everyone. The heat was threatening 100F, and the sky was cloudless. Herbert smiled a smile only possible after years of practice, and a little coating of Vaseline on one’s front teeth. I just couldn’t help myself; I started yelling.

I could have yelled many things. If I had known ahead of time that I would be yelling I would have thought up something profound, or at least sensible. I did the best I could.

“Global warming is real!”

The Gov looked over at me and his smile flickered almost imperceptibly. The men in cheap suits and little white spiral-wired earphones looked unamusedly in my direction; one may have almost grabbed towards something near his armpit.

“Get your head out of the sand (yes I DID say "sand") and do what is best for humanity!”

The governor turned away, but several people in the crowd stared at me as if they wished to catch flying insects.

“Don’t ignore global climate change!” I yelled in finality at his car as he continued on down the road.

Then I noticed AYD and AOD. They were not amused. AYD slunk off to pretend she did not know me.

“What are you doing Dad?” asked AOD. “You are totally embarrassing me!”

She then stamped off to join her sister.

Later, after they realized they would have to ride home with me or walk, I had them alone in the car. I looked at them and attempted to arrange my eyebrows into a look of understanding and fatherly concern.

“I hope you’ve learned a valuable lesson” I said.

“What that our Dad is a complete embarrassment and that we shouldn’t go into public with him?” retorted AYD. “We’ve known –that- for years”

“No” I said. “That you can voice your opinion in public without shriveling up and dying”

"Embarrassment will not kill you” I continued “But sometimes silence can. You have a right to be heard by people elected to public offices that represent your interests. Sometimes you are given an unexpected opportunity to exercise that right. It is often worthwhile to try and take advantage of unexpected opportunity.”

Sunday, August 1, 2010


One hundred and seventy seven years ago on this day, August 1st 1833, British parliament passed the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 (3 & 4 Will.4 c.73). Within four weeks the act received royal ascent, and exactly one year later, on the 1st of August 1834, slavery was abolished in most of the British empire. A generation would pass before slavery was abolished in the USA.

There were some important exceptions to the SAA1833. Some entire landmasses (like the island of Ceylon) were excluded from abolition. Many slaves were re-titled “apprentices” rather than getting freedom. There were many banal particulars that are embarrassing in retrospect.

The slave trade had supposedly been dealt a killing blow decades earlier with the passage of the Slave Trade Act in 1807. The slave trade continued; only now it was rife with stories of entire ship’s cargos of slaves being thrown overboard to avoid fines.

“However, you may purchase male and female slaves from among the nations around you. You may also purchase the children of temporary residents who live among you, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat them as slaves, but you must never treat your fellow Israelites this way.”
---Leviticus 25:44-46 (New Living Translation)

What I find amazing is that abolition was attempted at all. People began standing for a morality that to them was palpable rather than defending a morality that was dictated by scripture. It was from these actions that a modern Christianity with which people can rightly be moved was formed. People have been able to point to abolition as a single moment when society decided to abandon, and make illegal, an accepted practice simply because it was wrong.

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.”
--- Ephesians 6:5 (New Living Translation)

I, of course, believe that the change of heart was caused by the action of dissenters whispering the virus of reason into the ears of the masses. Perhaps proto-atheists or secularists poisoned the well of morally righteous slavery. It is undeniable that many of the loudest voices declaiming slavery were those of individuals who thought of themselves as Christian.

“All slaves should show full respect for their masters so they will not bring shame on the name of God and his teaching. If the masters are believers, that is no excuse for being disrespectful. Those slaves should work all the harder because their efforts are helping other believers who are well loved. Teach these things, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them.”
--- 1 Timothy 6:1-2 (New Living Translation)

We are modern humans in a modern world. We know that slavery is wrong. The human who professes to own another human being is committing one of the gravest injustices possible in a moral society. We know this to be true because we have figured it out. The SAA1833 might have needed to nod to banal requirements to make abolition possible, but the reasons for those particulars have become lost to history.

“If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave and they had sons or daughters, then only the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master. But the slave may declare, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children. I don’t want to go free.’ If he does this, his master must present him before God. Then his master must take him to the door or doorpost and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will serve his master for life.”
--- Exodus 21:2-6 (New Living Translation)

Many people have taken this move into morality a few steps farther. Some people examine their actions and ask if they are morally right. Many do this without consulting scripture at all. Most people who I am pleased to call my friends and who call themselves Christians, only use scripture to support moral choices rather than to guide them.

“If a man beats his male or female slave with a club and the slave dies as a result, the owner must be punished. But if the slave recovers within a day or two, then the owner shall not be punished, since the slave is his property.”
--- Exodus 21:20-21 (New Living Translation)

Many of these good modern Christians view morally guided choices as a tenant of their faith. Some even go so far as to suggest that becoming an atheist would impede their ability to make morally correct choices. There is something to their concern.

"When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not satisfy her owner, he must allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her.”
 -- Exodus 21:7-8 (New Living Translation)

After generation of selective interpretation of scripture modern Christians have developed a complex structure to promulgate their moral code. Many of the elements of the complex structure must be preserved in order to preserve the society that depends upon them. It may appear to be a simple matter of identifying important elements as reasoned and not organically Christian, but does one do this by learning all about Christianity or by reasoning through an entire moral code of ethics? We are quickly swamped by the task.

“However, anything specially set apart for the LORD—whether a person, an animal, or family property—must never be sold or bought back. Anything devoted in this way has been set apart as holy, and it belongs to the LORD. No person specially set apart for destruction may be bought back. Such a person must be put to death.”
 --- Leviticus 27:28-29 (New Living Translation)

The best course of action is to act “as if” a particular morality has been adopted. Whenever the moral code comes into conflict it should be examined. Although personal examination are continually needed the most important examinations are those which can be communicated to many people. Professional moral philosophers are needed for the work of teasing a rational morality out of a morally just society. Sayings, proverbs, parables, poetry, and hymns should be developed which spotlight the rational morality which is needed for the future. I alone am not up to this task.