Saturday, June 22, 2013

Critical Thinking

Sunday Morning Sermon June 30 2013

Critical thinking is reflective reasoning about beliefs and actions. It is a way of deciding whether a claim is always true, sometimes true, partly true, or false. Critical thinking can be traced in Western thought to the Socratic method of Ancient Greece and, in the East, to the Buddhist kalama sutta and Abhidharma. Critical thinking is an important component of most professions. It is a part of formal education and is increasingly significant as students progress through university to graduate education, although there is debate among educators about its precise meaning and scope.

Critical Thinking has been defined by many in the following statement:-

"reasonable reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do"

"the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action"

"purposeful, self-regulatory judgment which results in interpretation, analysis, evaluation, and inference, as well as explanation of the evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or contextual considerations upon which that judgment is based"[

"includes a commitment to using reason in the formulation of our beliefs"

Within the philosophical frame of critical social theory, critical thinking is commonly understood to involve commitment to the social and political practice of participatory democracy, willingness to imagine or remain open to considering alternative perspectives, willingness to integrate new or revised perspectives into our ways of thinking and acting, and willingness to foster criticality in others.

Critical thinking clarifies goals, examines assumptions, discerns hidden values, evaluates evidence, accomplishes actions, and assesses conclusions.

"Critical" as used in the expression "critical thinking" connotes involving skillful judgment as to truth, merit, etc. "Critical" in this context does not mean "disapproval" or "negative." There are many positive uses of critical thinking, for example formulating a workable solution to a complex personal problem, deliberating as a group about what course of action to take, or analyzing the assumptions and the quality of the methods used in scientifically arriving at a reasonable level of confidence about a given hypothesis.

To add further clarification on what is meant by thinking critically, Richard Paul (1995) articulated critical thinking as either weak or strong.

The weak-sense critical thinker is a highly skilled but selfishly motivated pseudo-intellectual who works to advance one's personal agenda without seriously considering the ethical consequences and implications. Conceived as such, the weak-sense critical thinker is often highly skilled but uses those skills selectively so as to pursue unjust and selfish ends (Paul, 1995).

Conversely, the strong-sense critical thinker skillfully enters into the logic of problems and issues to see the problem for what it is without egocentric or socio-centric bias. Thus conceived, the strong-sense mind seeks to actively, systematically, reflectively, and fair-mindedly construct insight with sensitivity to expose and address the many obstacles that compromise high quality thought and learning. Using strong critical thinking we might evaluate an argument, for example, as worthy of acceptance because it is valid and based on true premises. Upon reflection, a speaker may be evaluated as a credible source of knowledge on a given topic.
Critical thinking can occur whenever one judges, decides, or solves a problem; in general, whenever one must figure out what to believe or what to do, and do so in a reasonable and reflective way. Reading, writing, speaking, and listening can all be done critically or uncritically. Critical thinking is crucial to becoming a close reader and a substantive writer. Expressed in most general terms, critical thinking is "a way of taking up the problems of life.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Think New

Sunday Morning Sermon - June 23 2013

It was while managing the implementation of the SAP ERP Solution for SACO in Riyadh, my present client, that I had to face the most hazardous experience of dealing with a 70 year old Lebanese Finance Manager who has been with the organization for almost 30 now. He just wont change. All he wants is the new SAP ERP software solution, costing his organization a good US$10 million, to deliver the same as what they have had for the past 40 years. S why the heck should the company bust up all this Moolah for more of the same in a new gift wrapping?

In an ideal world, our thoughts, experiences and beliefs would remain in a continuous state of refinement and renewal. We would frequently be exposed to new and interesting people, processes, ideas, and situations, and we would constantly discover, embrace, and enhance new aspects of our emotional, social, and intellectual lives.
However, this is rarely how life progresses on our planet, today. For many of us, personal ruts and situational repetition are the norm. Our focus narrows to daily stresses and events outside of our control. Our careers slowly push ahead, our circle of friends holds steady or shrinks over the years, and we content ourselves with familiar forms of work, recreation, mental stimulation and social interaction.
Then, one day, we wake up feeling we need something … different. Perhaps we tire of dwelling on old worries or lost opportunities. Maybe we get bored of doing the same thing day after day. Or possibly we just want to see the "old" world in an entirely new way.
Whatever the reason, it's not hard to change the way we think -- but it does take some common sense effort. 
Some people believe that the best way to help yourself change the way you think is to tell yourself -- repeatedly -- to think in a different way.
The idea isn't new. In fact, it's very, very old. Most religious practices involve the repetition of prayers, rituals, and offerings, appeals or affirmations. Militaries across the world demand that recruits change the way they think, and use chants, cheers and oaths to help do so.
You may decide to choose a very specific mantra -- "Public Speaking is fun!" -- or something a little more broad, such as "Live in the moment." As long as your mantra or affirmation isn't grounded in the status quo ("Nothing must change, nothing must change"), it may help you change the way you think.
But choosing a mantra isn't enough. It's important to take time each day to review and repeat the catchphrase, or you won't give its message time to sink in. Try to repeat it throughout the day whenever a situation presents itself that challenges you.
Trying to change the way you think? Why not try changing the things you do? It's not easy to change your perspective on things, especially when you're doing the same old things over and over.
Even making little changes in your life can help. Pick up a new sport or activity that you've always wanted to try. Go to restaurants, parks and other gathering places that you don't normally frequent. Try out a new author or musician, see a movie screened by your local film society, attend a community potluck, volunteer at a nonprofit, or attend a religious service that is different from your own. Use a different route to drive to work.
Are you something of a "control freak"? Farm out tasks to others and set aside your high expectations and instinct to take the project over and do it your way. If you're more of a passive person, make an effort (even if just for a day or a week) to take matters into your own hands and to be more assertive. Introverts, attempt to come out of your shells. Commit yourself to initiating and maintaining a five-minute conversation with a total stranger once a day.
By changing or breaking even small routines, your brain will be exposed to new stimuli and will create new neural pathways to accommodate changes.
You must know how you think in the first place in order to think differently.
We can't think differently if we don't pay attention to the way we currently think. It isn't hard to walk through life with unchallenged or outdated beliefs, preconceptions, wrong assumptions and a personal narrative that's badly in need of updating.
Many people are afraid of acknowledging and exploring their own thoughts and emotions, choosing instead to focus on life outside their own skin -- the needs of others, career goals that have been set, and the constant static of the Information Age. Focusing on self-awareness can help you reconnect with your true needs, desires and dreams. It can make you pay attention to how you treat people and how you feel about how you're treated by others.
It may seem almost indulgent to work toward becoming more self-aware, but if so, there's nothing wrong with splurging on yourself. Increased self-awareness can facilitate major life changes -- many programs place large emphasis on personal exploration, the processing of painful events from the past, and the acknowledgment of resentments and fears in order to overcome personal demons and addictions. Identifying your moods and emotions will make it possible to adjust them. You can't change the way you think until you understand what's causing you to think the way you do.
Want to change the way you think? How about changing the people around you?
To bring new thoughts, ideas and perceptions into your life, get to know someone with a different perspective, occupation, background, culture or religion.
Why? Hanging out with like-minded people is a good way to hear constant reinforcement of your own thoughts and beliefs. This also makes it easy to fall into "groupthink" and makes it more difficult to see (or acknowledge) faults, shortcomings and falsehoods of our own.
That's not to say you need to get rid of old friends -- just spice up your life with some new ones. New friends and acquaintances increase the odds that you're introduced to new ways of thinking. You may be pleasantly surprised to have your worldview rocked a little bit by a simple conversation with somebody who views life much differently than you do. The great thing about widening your social circle is that new friends can help expand it even further by introducing you to people you might otherwise have little opportunity to meet.
You don't have to travel to exotic lands to meet new people who think differently than you do -- in fact, they're all around you. It may just be a matter of being willing to initiate conversations with people from whom you'd normally shy away.
Going about your life the same way day after day, doing the same activities you've always done, and planning the next weekend to mirror the last one is a good recipe for shrinking your awareness, joy and understanding of the world.
We have a natural (and often useful) tendency to stick with the familiar in life and avoid situations that make us uncomfortable. This is a good way to stay out of sticky situations, but it's also a good way to get in a rut and stay there. Pushing yourself to embrace new activities and experiences that force you to step outside your comfort zone is a good way to change the way you think.
Perhaps it's something physically intimidating, like skydiving or bungee jumping. Maybe getting outside your comfort zone means you seek out public spaces in which you're an ethnic, cultural or religious minority. Instead of vacationing in well-worn tourist traps, try a new destination that's off the beaten path.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day, Dad

In those halcyon times at College, we used to say that Mother's day usually comes nine months after Father's Day, if you all remember? Or should we rephrase it that Father's Day comes nine months before Mother's Day?

The world celebrates Father's Day on June 16 where Mothers, Wives, Children and friends congratulate the old boy for having played his part towards his responsibilities and guardianship.

We are all Father's in some form or another. Even SS must have his secret hidden somewhere in his closet, for sure. Even if not, he still has his Oru Paanai children to carry on fathering, in his own special ways, anyway.

It is quite natural for growing up boys to dream of the day when they become a Father, pacing the floor in anxiety, after having planted the seed(s) nine months before. I chose the plural to include all the Randy fellows who may have multiple trees to water at any given time.

As I remember my old man, tall and lanky as he was, a very strong personality and icon within my paternal family since he was the only real professional and breadwinner from the family in the 50's, employed as a Civil Engineer with the Buildings Department of the CMC, a very unusual and high profile position for a Thamby to be sitting in, during those good old days. Most Moors usually had their own businesses in the Pettah during that era and the sons simply took charge of the till after the old man moved on. We had so many of them within our own batch from RPS to College.

After retirement, much later on in life in the 80s/90s, there used to be many real estate and high powered building magnates who used to visit our home at Bamba to see Dad, seeking his advice on property and construction in the city, since he had become an authority of street lines, drainage systems, water lines, and other related parameters involved in the industry. Leedons Builders also hired him as a consultant to support all their real estate acquirement and construction projects which he carried on delivering until the time of his demise in 1989.

He also carried on his practice of Surveying, being one of the oldest Licensed Surveyors in the country. On the day of his funeral morning several clients called over at our Bamba home to collect their plans which he had called and confirmed were ready, the previous day. They were simply appalled to see his body lying in the living room waiting for burial. All the completed plans, invoices, and attachments were neatly clipped together on his work desk with names of the clients and instructions to deliver to the clients. hat was his style of working. Totally meticulous in everything he did. he had suffered the stroke on the evening of the previous day while watering the front yard with a hosepipe in his usual way, and my wife who was at the Bamba house chatting with him at that very moment rushed him to Nawaloka. I was, at that point of time conducting the IT operational support for the FX "Bourse Game" Workshop for Central Bank that Citibank was delivering at the Galadari Meridian  Hotel in Colombo.

When I got to Nawaloka he was still conscious and we spoke a little even though the medics were shooing me away from the ICU. He was in great spirit and possibly was aware tha it was his final call. He squeezed my hand very tightly as if to say "the ball is on your court now, mister", and passed away at 3:00 am. We buried him at 10:00 am on the same day.

My memories of him are so many. The drive to RPS in hos old Green Skoda CN7522 and then later on to College in his Black Hillman EL1468, are unforgettable. Some days we used to pick up the Aziz boys (Shibly, Imthiaz, & Ifthikar) from the private road adjoining the Bamba Market, along the way.

After retirement from the CMC, he joined up with Abbas Freighters Ltd, which was owned by one of his close friends SM Abbas from Ketwallamulla Lane in Maradana, and managed the complete operations of his freight forewarding and delivery services, mainly to the Government Stores at Slave Island. There were days when he used to pick us up from College at 3:40 pm and take us back to his Harbor office at Queen Elizabeth Quay to complete his days chores. We had lots of fun boarding the cargo ships and being entertained by the crew with fruits and toys. Watching the way they loaded and unloaded cargo on to the ships was also terrific. The labor force used to use code words for lifting (Arya) and for lowering (Abeys) to communicate with the crane operators. The harbor lunch packets were also a great icon of that era which we relished being so hungry at that time of day.

There were other interesting on goings within the harbor. Crates of whiskey used to be stored in the warehouses. The laborers used to hammer a nail through the wooden crates to penetrate the bottle inside and use a straw to take a swig, taking turns, one by one. The hive of activity, accompanied by sounds, screams, and screeches, inside those environs was unimaginable.

Having finished with Abbas Freighters Dad joined up as General Manager of Ceylon Carriers at Alvis Place, Colombo 2. Old man Nanayakkara was also a  close buddy of his. During the Russian Exhibition held at the Wesley College Grounds in Colombo, dad was fuly responsible to see that all the equipment from Russia was delivered and installed at the grounds. His Russian counterpart was Mr. Kranshoff, who was a jovial personality, and used to visit our home very often. I remember one of the huge wooden crates, as big as a 40 foot container, was shipped to our Bamba home to be used as a chicken coop for the many varieties poultry we used to rear in those times. We also enjoyed our first taste of doughnuts from one of the vending machines at the Exhibition.

I also remember the wonderful evenings we used to spend together, driving all the way to Galle Face, The Light House at Galle Buck, and then to Pilawoos in The Pettah for some Chappati and Chicken Curry.

Saturdays and Sundays were special cos all the cousins used to assemble at our Bamba house for the weekend and we played a cricket match followed up by Buriyani and topped up with Elephant House Vanilla Flavor Family Blocks. Evening tea was accompanied by "Murukku", "Vadai" and "Kesari" from Ramjee Lodge, opposite our home.

Dad was a good man. He spent his life fruitfully. He supported his parents and siblings, responsibly. He doted on us three. Yes, he had two official wives concurrently, but what the heck, that was his right and he utilized it honorably, instead of screwing on the side like many Thamby's used to do, and are still doing for sure. His quality of the English language, writing prose and poetry was fabulous. he was also an amateur photographer with his good old Kodak box camera which won him many awards from newspapers and other magazines. We used to subscribe to Life, Time, Mother India, and all the English newspapers at that time. Reading was mandatory in our home and everyone enjoyed it. The Radio was the next favorite.

Bless you, Dad! Thanks for everything.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Ethics of the Workplace

Sunday Morning Sermon - June 16 2013 

Recent events across business sectors on the globe do indicate the growing need for simple ethics programs to be implemented within human resources across all working environments. 

In Sri Lanka, very few organizations have formal ethics programs for their staff. They dont even think about the need to implement such an exercise and let their people have their way with each other, clients, vendors, and all other entities. 

Large multinational corporations, who use professional hiring techniques and interview processes, may choose to have some of these activities in place in order to generate a positive and decent culture within their own offices and branches.  

I remember, when I was attached to Citibank Colombo, as CIO in 1989/90, I was also given the roles of wearing the HR/Admin/Advertising caps since the Colombo branch did not have any budget for hiring separate executives for all these roles. It was an interesting experience that I enjoyed very much as opposed to the techie lifestyle that I was used to since 1970. It may not be surprising that the bank ended up having 4 internal marriages between staff members, all LBW, mainly because of the trying additional hours that were required for them to stay late into the night and complete the exhaustive days work.

Familiarity breeds babies, they say? 

During this era, I also had the privilege of introducing the concept of an Aptitude Test for all candidate hires in addition to group interviews that lasted just 15 minutes only. Worked very well across the table as the potential staffer had no option but to reveal himself/herself without being able to hide behind a mask. We never implemented any ethics program within the bank during that time but we were still able to inculcate some good values of behavior between all levels of staff for that short period of time, mainly due to the effective recruitment process that we deployed. 

The list of potential benefits linked to an effective ethics program may include the following:

  • Recruiting and retaining top-quality people
  • Fostering a more satisfying and productive working environment;
  • Building and sustaining the organization's reputation within the communities in which it operates
  • Maintaining the trust of all staff to ensure continued self-regulation
  • Legitimizing open discussion of ethical issues
  • Providing ethical guidance and resources for employees prior to making difficult decisions
  • Aligning the work efforts of staff with the organization’s broader mission and vision. 
Like most respected leaders, company executives would surely agree that high ethical standards are important within their organizations. But what does this mean in practice? What are the basic functions of an ethics program, and how can these programs lead to the kinds of benefits described above? 

Essentially, ethics programs are meant to affect how people think about and address ethical issues that arise while they are on the job. By providing employees with ethics standards, training, and resources to get advice, organizations seek to create a work environment where it’s okay for employees to acknowledge that they have an ethical dilemma, and resources are readily available to guide employees in working through such dilemmas before making critical decisions. 

“It’s fine to have a structure that tells people they need to report it when someone does something wrong,” says Ms Gretchen Winter, vice president of business practices at Baxter International, USA . “But that’s not the main reason to have an ethics program.” 
She believes that ethical guidelines, in the form of policies and practices, “give employees the basic tools they need to take informed risks on behalf of their organizations.” Her language is intentional. At a time when many organizations are embracing “risk-taking,” she points out that all executives should view ethics as more than a way to simply reduce risks. Rather, ethical guidelines benefit organizations by steering employees away from ethical risk-taking and into more productive and appropriate kinds of risk-taking. 
Winter notes that busy association executives have a choice: “They can either have employees come to them with every ethical decision, or they can give employees a framework to make many of these decisions themselves.” Executives who can trust their employees to do the latter will have more time and energy for other work.

“Ethics programs cannot prevent all misconduct from occurring,” says Ken Johnson, an ethics consultant and colleague at the Ethics Resource Center. “Even in the best-run and most ethical organizations, there are always a few employees who willfully break the rules.” 

In such cases, there is no substitute for clear procedures and sanctions. But the real function of an ethics program “is to allow basically good people to do the right thing and succeed.” According to Johnson, this is the essence of a healthy work environment. People need to be sensitive to ethical issues on the job, but they also must trust their organizations enough to raise them. 
Recent research show very encouraging feedback for organizations that are putting their efforts into workplace ethics. For example, employees have high expectations for ethics within their organizations. More than nine in 10 respondents say that they “expect their organizations to do what is right, not just what is profitable.” This finding suggests that most employees are not so cynical about ethics at work. This should be encouraging news for all executives pursuing ethics initiatives. Most recognize that the long-term success of any program requires the active support of employees. 

Findings also show that both formal ethics programs and informal ethics practices are related to key outcomes. Employees who work in organizations with ethics programs, who see their leaders and supervisors modeling ethical behavior, and who see values such as honesty, respect, and trust applied “frequently” at work generally report more positive experiences regarding a range of ethics outcomes that include the following:

·         Less pressure on employees to compromise ethics standards
·         Less observed misconduct at work
·         Greater willingness to report misconduct
·         Greater satisfaction with their organization’s response to misconduct they report
·         Greater overall satisfaction with their organizations
·         Greater likelihood of “feeling valued” by their organizations 

These findings tell executives that a more positive ethical environment is strongly linked to a focus on ethics programs, to ethical modeling by leaders and supervisors, and to the “frequent” practice of key values such as honesty, respect, and trust.
Importantly for company  executives, the relationships described above are even stronger among employees in transitioning organizations - those that have undergone a merger, acquisition, or restructuring within the last two years. The findings suggest that organizations and employees may draw the greatest benefits of ethics programs when times are toughest. However, this also means that the foundations for an ethics program need to be laid in good economic times when, ironically, some of the most valuable benefits of these programs may be least apparent. 

It may come as a surprise that some organizations are able to use their ethics programs as a recruiting tool, but , in reality, it shouldn’t. In many cases, the top-quality people you want to hire are those who are looking for more than a job - they want to feel good about their work and about the integrity of the organization they work for. 

The good reputation that an association maintains within its key communities is an immeasurable asset that executives naturally want to protect. Winter notes that a strong reputation is, in many ways, a natural outcome of a strong commitment to ethics at all organizational levels. Executives generally recognize that employees can either enhance or diminish that reputation through their daily decisions and interactions. They may not fully appreciate how an ethics program can give employees the tools to enhance that reputation. 
One consistent finding is that senior and middle managers in all types of organizations are more positive about workplace ethics than are lower-level employees. This suggests that executives may underestimate the importance of specific ethics issues and concerns facing employees. As a result, they also may fail to address these issues adequately within their organizations’ ethics programs. Thus, it is important for executives to include input from employees at lower levels in the development of ethics programs and to continue to solicit their input and feedback on a regular basis. 

Another finding strongly links pressures to compromise an organization’s ethics standards with employee observations of misconduct. 
Several employees who observe misconduct at work say they did not report it. There are many reasons why employees may decide not to raise ethical concerns or report misconduct they observe at work. Some believe that coworkers will see them as “snitches” if they report misconduct. 

Basically, there are a variety of practical reasons for company  executives to focus on workplace ethics and reliable data that support their efforts. The survey findings consistently link ethics programs and practices to more positive organizational outcomes (e.g., less pressure to compromise organizational standards and less frequently observed misconduct) and greater employee satisfaction. These data have direct implications for sustaining a productive work environment, attracting and keeping good employees, and maintaining the organization’s reputation among key stakeholders. 

Findings also identify ethics areas where organizations commonly encounter problems and suggest preventative actions. It would be naive to suggest that an emphasis on ethics will improve your work environment and solve your Company  problems overnight. But in many cases, a thoughtful and organized effort to target key ethics issues sends an important message. It tells employees that your organization is heading in a positive direction, one that is positive for them as individuals. 
Some people in an organization may have difficulty or be uncomfortable discussing these issues. Given these caveats, a valuable exercise for company  executives is to first ask, consider, and answer some key questions  as follows:- 

  • Why might good people in this organization do unethical things?
  • What are our organization’s values?
  • Have we adequately articulated these values internally and externally?
  • Does our organization have written ethics policies, procedures, or structures?
  • To whom is our organization accountable?
  • What do we mean by “success”?
  • Does the leadership of our organization support the idea of an ethical workplace?


Friday, June 7, 2013

Have we lowered the bar?

Sunday Morning Sermon - June 9 2013

The term "Lowering the Bar" has its roots in athletic competition. Remember, the standard tests we used to have to pass to complete our  academics each year at College during those gloruous days at Royal?
​ I never was good at high jump and had to keep lowering that bar surreptitiously to score my marks.​
In academic pursuits, a similar process is used. No reasonable person would ask incoming first graders to work advanced algebra problems. For them, "the bar" is set much lower. 
In many school systems, the "old" standard had been that any grade lower than 70% was unacceptable. Some better schools had required 80%, and a few model schools had required 90% mastery. Under the new universal standard, 60% is acceptable.
It's great to encourage weak students to achieve all that they can, but surely we can agree - in many fields of endeavor, 60% mastery amounts to total failure. Would you be pleased to fly with an airline pilot who successfully lands the plane 60% of the time? Would you be happy to sit on the couch and be under the care of a brain surgeon whose record of "getting it right" hovers around 60%?
This process has invaded our moral and social standards, as well. The television industry is only some 60 years old. In the early days, primarily because of the influence of decent society, TV shows didn't portray married people sleeping in the same bed. The worst language that you'd ever hear from your TV was "Gosh", "Golly", "Gee-Whiz", or "Dang". Nudity or near nudity was unthinkable. Stations actually lost their licenses for "crossing the line" of what was accepted as "Decency".
The standard was high, and we should be honest - in some cases, it was a bit comical. It was right to lower the bar just a bit - for example, allowing people who were portraying married couples to "sleep" in double beds. It's a slippery slope, though, and today, we have slid far down that slope. We've become accustomed to "prime time" shows featuring profane and vulgar language, "jokes" that emphasize inappropriate innuendos, extreme / graphic violence, the portrayal of unmarried couples (both heterosexual and same-sex) engaged in illicit relationships. The soaps have dished out everything one can conjure up in his or her mind to all kinds of extreme permutations and combinations.
Today, there seems to be absolutely very little social influence. The argument to lower the standard has promoted the concept that television should reflect real life. From that lowered starting point, we've descended even further, so that the most depraved members of society seem to have higher standards of conduct than those depicted on TV's worst shows.
Humankind has a long history - extending all of the way back to the "Garden of Eden" - of "testing the limits". Today, whatever limit of decadence is portrayed on TV is soon tested and "surpassed" by those who reject authority.
People should be alarmed that recent studies find little or no difference between actual life choices made by good, bad and ugly humans. Have we lowered the bar so far that we've forgotten our ultimate goal in life on this planet?
In most societies across the globe, somebody has "lowered the bar". If our compassion towards living beings is valid, our true goal must always be to press on toward spreading this within our own families, neighbors, communities, and nations.
We can no more simply sit and watch humanity stepping over the lowered bar with ease and comfort under the belief that they are doing good and achieving something valuable for themselves. We must begin to realize  that we can can force all human competitors to reach their best jumps - but like star athletes, we must always strive to lift the bar to new heights, and to inspire ​and encourage each person to progress toward achieving lofty goals - goals which will bring us quality of life on earth.
Human society in the present era are also shifting through major changes in ​the ​prevailing ​personal ​moral standards compared to what was seen in previous times. People have clearly felt the impact, and many of us seem uncertain how we should react to "the new morality".

Probably the highest profile change has to do with our perception of ​personal ​sexual standards - and the highest profile of those may be the changing views regarding same sex relationships. Several well known community and religious leaders have publicly switched sides, and now say that two consenting adults, regardless of gender, should be allowed to marry if they wish to do so.
Although it has been clearly understood, by most cultural and religious standards that relationships between men and women are to be limited to those who are married to one another in monogamous heterosexual relationships, many of these social leaders are now encouraging couples to "try" marriage before actually "tying the knot", and many have seen it fit to "bless" non-traditional relationships too.
Even though divorce has been strongly discouraged by most ​people, today's failure rate for marriage hovers around 50%, and isn't noticeably different between "believers" and "unbelievers". Relationships outside of marriage reflect the evolving standards, with religious members behaving very much the same as their "unchurched" neighbors.
Recent reports from studies undertaken, indicate that the percentage of live births to single mothers in the western world is about 40%, and among certain ethnic and cultural groups was far above 50%. There seems to no longer be any discernible stigma attached to sexual activity or birth outside of marriage. In many cases, unwed pregnancy actually seems to be a matter of pride.

It shouldn't surprise us when people who profess no religious beliefs promote such choices, but since all religious scripture are very clear in rejecting sexual activity outside of traditional marriage, how will the ​Mullah's, Bullah's and Pullah's,​ justify the growing tendency to join the movement? Is sin less sinful when it is ​indulged in and ​enjoyed ​with​ the people whom we ​have access to and seek pleasure from​?

Saturday, June 1, 2013

First Lesson in DNA Genealogy

Sunday Morning Sermon - June 2 2013

​When I inherited my paternal Grandpa's massive research on Sri Lankan
​Moor ​
genealogy, which he had worked on for fifty years before his death in 1972, it never occurred to me that I would be diving deep into human cells that would give us clues about where we came from. While the work has been extremely exciting through the years
 since then​, the labor of finding clues and links has also been quite back breaking.
Extending my own research to all the other communities and ethnic groups in Sri Lanka has also been another adventure for me. ​
In recent times with massive leaps and bounds in gene technology
medical science has broken ground on identifying blood lines
​and origins ​based on DNA
genealogical DNA test looks at a person's genetic code at specific locations. Results give information about the persons genealogy or ancestry. Generally, these tests compare the results of an individual to others from the same lineage or to current and historic ethnic groups.

Taking a genealogical DNA test requires the submission of a DNA sample. This is usually a painless process. The most common way to collect a DNA sample is by a cheek-scraping (also known as a buccal swab). After collection, the sample is mailed to a testing lab
who process the test and submit the findings​.

There are three types of genealogical DNA tests available
today​. They are, 

1. autosomal (atDNA) tests for all ancestry​

2. mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)
tests females along their maternal lineage​

3. Y-Chromosome (Y-DNA)
tests that are made along direct paternal lines​

Y chromosome (Y-DNA) testing 

A man's patrilineal ancestry, or male-line ancestry, can be traced using the DNA on his Y chromosome (Y-DNA) through Y-STR testing. This is useful because the Y chromosome passes down almost unchanged from father to son, i.e., the non-recombining and sex-determining regions of the Y chromosome do not change. A man's test results are compared to another man's results to determine the time frame in which the two individuals shared a most recent common ancestor, or MRCA, in their direct patrilineal lines. If their test results are a perfect, or nearly perfect match, they are related within genealogy's time frame.
Each person can then look at the other's father-line information, typically the names of each patrilineal ancestor and his spouse, together with the dates and places of their marriage and of both spouses' births and deaths. 
Y-DNA tests generally examine 10-67 STR markers on the Y chromosome, but over 100 markers are available. STR test results provide the personal haplotype
A Y-DNA haplotype is the numbered results of a genealogical Y-DNA test. Each allele value has a distinctive frequency within a population. For example, at DYS455, the results will show 8, 9, 10, 11 or 12 repeats, with 11 being most common. For high marker tests the allele frequencies provide a signature for a surname lineage.
​own ​Y-DNA Test, done in 2008, indicates that I belong to the R1a Haplogroup. The migration pattern of this group seems to originate somewhere in East Africa, passing through northern Saudi Arabia, Iraq, across the Caspian Sea to Kazakhastan and Eastern Europe (Turkey), before moving eastwards to settle
d inter marry​
in South Asia, either through trade, migration,
​survival, ​or pure
​human ​adventure. They didnt come to conquer and oppress like the Portuguese, Dutch and Brits without a doubt.

My Y-DNA Markers, which are used to compare one individual to another for lineage and relationships, are as follows:-
Fazli Sameer's Y-DNA Profile
Y-DNA STR Results
20 Certified Markers

Its very easy to have a Y-DNA test done and will cost around $100 from any testing lab across the globe. The results can be extremely fascinating when comparing to the results of others and seeing the many close matches that may be prevalent therein.

Genebase, who did my test keep the results archived in their database and do the matching automatically and send me updates on a regular basis of possible close matches and generation links.

To date, I have
​found ​around 1,368 close matches
​(between 17 to 18 matches out of a total of 20 markers) ​
with other people who have also done their Y-DNA test and whose results are stored in the Genebase
​database ​archives. The closest I have so far
separated by 23 generations with a good 18 out of 19 markers within my Y-DNA Haplogroup.

They are:

1. Thiruvengadam Ramakrishnan from Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, India (R1a1a)
2. James Jaworski (R1a)
originally  from Europe
3. Caetano Filipe Colaco (R1a1a1h1)
from Goa, India. Originally Hindu but Catholic now

There are many others from all corners of the globe with similar close matches including those whose ethnicity are Tamil, Sinhala, and Eastern European. The need for more people to test their Y-DNA and have the results stored in the database becomes relevant in trying to establish these matches. I even have a matches to Arab and Jewish guys within 37 generations with 17 out of 19 matches.

The ethnic matches that I have from the database, so far, are as follows:-

(2 matches)
(188 matches)
EUROPEAN (110 matches)
 ​ ​
matches) - most of the Tamil/Sinhala come under this
JEWISH (4 matches)
UNSPECIFIED (972 matches)

Interesting stuff to browse through during ones leisure and understand that we have cousins across the globe and that the whole earth is our homeland.

​It would be interesting to trace back from the DNA results of GeeKay, Brian, (both Dutch connections), Ando (Portuguese connection),Muthu/Skanda/Suren (possibly INDO IRANIAN, DARDIC*, DRADIVIAN). Irshad may also be a typical R1a like me unless there are some significant variances by the fact that they have roots in Matara and Weligama
​ and it may not be clear from where they landed there unless we have some evidence to look at​

*DARDIC - The Dard people (Devanagari: दारद, Perso-Arabic: دارد) are a group of Indo-European Indo-Iranian-speaking people predominantly found in eastern Afghanistan, the Gilgit-Baltistanregion and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in northern Pakistan, as well as Jammu and KashmirThe community is also known as Brokpa, Drokpa and Shin