Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Porpoise Driven Life - Silly, but not Stupid

This appears as a parody of The Purpose Driven Life. However, there is a deeper lesson to be drawn from it. Religion (at least the Judaism I practice and the Christianity I see around me) is primarily a matter of attitudes, preferences for one course of action rather than another. Knowledge (or belief) and skills play a part, but ultimately it's about what you choose to do.

Changing attitudes is hard. New year's resolutions seldom last until February 1st. To change an attitude, you often need to repeat the lesson over and over. Orthodox Jews do it by praying three times a day, and each of those prayers includes asking God for certain attitudes. Other religions also use repetition in other variations.

But our generation is chronically overstimulated. We are so used to tuning out things, it's all too easy to tune out messages that literally repeat themselves. One solution is to present the message in different fashion each time. Use jokes (such as "Porpoise Driven Life") to get people to listen, and embed the attitude changing lesson in those jokes.


  1. The whole thing kind of confuses me. But I think that it's a little like comparing apples to oranges. There are actually legitimate reasons to compare apples to oranges in the right context--sweetness, for instance, or relative roundness.

    Jesus told a parable that's confused many, about a manager (steward) who learns he's being fired, and so sets about making himself friends (at his boss' expense). Jesus points to him as a role model in the spiritual realm (but not, one assumes in the business realm).

    What all this means, I'm not sure.

  2. I need to explain what instructional design is. I'll do it in my next post.

  3. Some think that the Christianity became so strong in Europe because the ideas were compatible with the genetically typical disposition of Caucasians. Current genetic analysis point to Jews being somewhat distinct among Caucasians.

    AJA on graph:

  4. Anonymous, I don't think it's genetic. Christianity has a very successful track record with Ethiopeans, Koreans, and so on. For that matter, history is full of Jews who converted.

    Jews are genetically distinctive, especially in the Y chromosome, but I doubt that has much to do with the appeal or lack thereof of Christianity.

  5. Is it just coincidence that Christianity and Western Civilization evolved together? Surely we can't know, but it is an interesting idea. It was unifying and stabilizing. However Koreans were already stable and unified. The Christian influence seems for that society to be more liberating than taming. I don't know much about Ethiopians. Books have been written about the intelligence of the Eastern European Jews. Is it coincidence that Judaism appealed to these people or is it a gift from God. Of course I don't know, but it makes me wonder.

  6. I don't think it's a coincidence, I just don't think it's genetic. The Roman Empire was a very special environment, one that allowed things that wouldn't have been possible, or at least likely, for most of human history.

    Jewish intelligence is probably a matter of incentives. Judaism was hard, and the case for staying Jewish is mostly intellectual - so it appealed more to intellectually minded people.

  7. Would you consider being observant a selection pressure?

  8. Selection pressures are things that cause you to be less likely to have kids unless you do something or have some attribute.

    In the case of Judaism, there were three possibilities for each Jew in the middle ages:

    1. Not have kids.
    2. Convert to the mainstream religion (Christianity or Islam, depending on location) and have kids.
    3. Stay Jewish and have kids.

    To have Jewish kids, Jews needed to avoid #1 and #2. Both of these are selection pressures, of different types.

    Being observant vs. not being observant in modern society is a different thing. It seems that being observant is a lot more conducive to having your genes in the next generation.