Insights and Healing with Patrick Moore

Sunday Discovery Workshops

balance DSC_6715

 .. it is important to stay balanced … My wife Traci on her first fallen-log-creek-crossing

Sunday Workshop Series for Personal Discovery 

Upcoming workshop titles for everyone include:

  • Sociodrama
  • Life Lessons from Literature
  • Haiku in Nature
  • Writers Nonjudgmental Critique Group
  • Embracing Your Essence using the Seven Things
  • Exercising Your Intuition and Meeting Your Muse
  • Compassion–the Essence of Buddhism without the Rigmarole–Tong Len, Exchanging Self and Other and Beyond

Dates and times are always forming based on interest and in tune with synchronicity.

Please use the contact form at the bottom if you have questions or suggestions for a workshop including dates.

If you would like to sign up for my Personal Discovery Workshops Newsletter, please use this link:

  • Location: Patrick Moore Home Office near Tohono Chul Park, near Oracle Road and Ina, NW Tucson, AZ 85704. A small guest-house off the main house, with parking for ten people (photo at bottom).
  • Register by contacting Patrick (scroll down to use contact form at bottom)
  • Class size: 1-10 students.
  • Workshop Style: new information, nonjudgmental, safe environment to challenge yourself to be more than you have been. Solidifies your relationship with your essence through developing compassion, curiosity and other qualities. All workshops are mostly improvised to respond to the unique needs of those present that day.

The titles below are workshops I have taught for years to therapists for their continuing education, that I also allow non-therapists to attend. 

Equal-Power Partnerships at Work and Home

When I was young my Dad always told me, for any two people, one will be dominant. He believed this was true in work (he was a construction worker) and in relationships with women. As an adult I have learned differently. In this workshop we explore how we can be equal with others. This is helpful both for those times we overexert our power and underexert. A relationship with two equals is best described as a partnership. The workshop is improvised to respond to those present, to be relevant for your current interests and needs.


Reiki Level One (Shoden) Reiki Practitioner I

Reiki (lecture, hands-on, attunement)

Reiki is a method that activates, or gives you a shortcut, to directing energy–or, the stuff our universe is made of. Reiki is a compassionate method for healing, resolving, embracing and transforming issues and ailments. Reiki is equally effective for oneself, to empower goals, to finesse problems, to learn new skills, resume arrested development, for personal discovery and spiritual growth.

Reiki Level Two (Okuden) Reiki Practitioner II

Reiki (lecture, hands-on, hands-above, attunement)

Includes instructions how to direct energy (or, the stuff our universe is made of) in the past, future and incrementally over any span of time. For those, like me, interested in the fabric of the universe, this is the fun part!

Responding, Not Reacting – Being Nonjudgmental with Others and Yourself

Nobody is perfect. We all react. Still, we may learn to redirect our reactions quickly, so that we don’t blast others, behave impulsively and suffer unnecessary consequences. This is what Mr. Rogers was talking about in his video to congress when he tells the lyrics to a song for children about restraining one’s reactions. What can we do instead of reacting? Responding! The alternatives to reacting may include: humor (non-sarcastic), play, funny gestures, expressions, vocalizations or movements, loving, nurturing, improvising, creativity, sharing, vulnerability, patience, presence and compassion. In this workshop we will practice with partners and discuss relevant scenarios, in a fun way.


Holistic Healing – a Model of Body & Mind as attributes of Essence

Most of us know someone, or perhaps ourselves, who has faced an illness or behavior that threatens losses of functions, abilities, relationships or life itself. Facing such a harsh scene, many people suddenly question the meaning of life. Who are we? Why am I here? And this can be a good thing, if we engage these questions with curiosity, because the answers are often enlightening, fulfilling and empowering. Each person’s true essence is fully capable, and willing to embrace any challenge this world (or this body) throws at us. In this workshop we discuss life, death and health in a fun, fascinating light.

Expectations – Theirs and Yours

What an enlightening topic: to understand how many of our conflicts in life arise from unmet expectations. We drive ourselves crazy when we expect things of others they do not do, when we expect things of ourselves we do not do, and when others expect things of us we do not want to do! What’s the cure? It doesn’t take long to begin adjusting our expectations to be more realistic, and to begin negotiating kindly with others regarding their expectations of us.


Melting Muscles Basic – Prone (hands-on-body, back massage, clothed)

I have taught this method to about a thousand therapists, and a few dozen non-therapists. It is easy to learn and seems like magic when you feel a muscle melting under your hand. You will be receiving as much muscle-melting as you give. You will learn to relax about 15 muscles on the back of the body. Massage tables are provided. Wear sweats, pajamas or yoga clothing as we will be working through clothing (no jeans).

Clothed Massage Relaxes Muscles Better

In this workshop we do some hands-on-body “melting muscles” through clothing, with the recipient face-up on massage tables. We also discuss how and why muscles relax better when the recipient is clothed. If you be interested in starting a clothed-massage clinic, on the model of a network-chiropractic clinic, then this workshop is for you. If you are simply curious about how muscles feel safe and relax, and want to give and receive some nurturing treatment, this workshop is also for you..

Activating Your Intuition  (partner exercises and discussion)

Intuition is not magical, it is simply enhanced perception. This workshop is less about how intuition works, and more about practicing and improving our skills. Since intuition is natural, we don’t have to learn how to do it, only to recall how to do it. Once we are doing it we practice turning it off again, so that we become clearer about how to activate and deactivate intuition. Fun exercises including games, followed by discussion.

How Energy Draws Clients to your Business

Does your job rely at all on people being satisfied by what you do? Are you an artist, writer or musician? Did you know that your energy has a lot to do with how others will respond to your services and offerings? This workshop discusses the ways energy (or, the stuff this universe is made of) influences others and ourselves, and how we influence energy with our thoughts, interpretations and behaviors.

Exercising Naturally – how Oxygen Decreases Muscle Soreness, Improves Health & Mood

We start the day with a one-hour walk (or longer depending on participants) during which we begin to discuss how and why exercise benefits us so much. The emphasis is on creating a healthy relationship with exercise, that develops and grows more friendly over a lifetime.


The Philosophy of Ethics from Plato to Spinoza  

A fun way for professionals to get their “professional ethics” hours.

Also a fun way to learn about the history of ethics. Why think of others? Why not just take every advantage you can? Learn how Plato, Boethius and others answered these questions and see if their answers make any sense to you. While we are at it, we may learn “how to make life worth living.”

Breathing Naturally – from Deliberate Exhalation to Zen Meditation

Somehow, humans have forgotten the natural way to breathe that we did as children. Because we avoid exhaling, our blood becomes more acidic, we age faster, are more grumpy and sore. First we learn to deliberately exhale a little more, then we learn how to breathe more and more naturally, without controlling. You will also learn how gas exchanges at the lungs and how oxygen is transported throughout your body. With more oxygen you will be more alert, calmer, clearer, with more energy, vitality and endurance.


Muscle Guarding as Communication – Learning the Nonverbal Language of Muscles —  The Muscle Whisperer Class

Have you seen the movie, The Horse Whisperer? Have you seen The Truth about Cats & Dogs? How would you like to understand the language of human muscles? How would you like to talk directly with the subconscious, so that you can figure out why it is making the muscles achey, tight & sore? What if you could speak to the muscles in their own language, so they would agree to relax and play nice?

Reiki Level Three (Shinpiden or Shinpiden) Reiki Master PLUS Reiki Teacher Skills – How to Maximize Your Reiki Students’ Confidence and Effectiveness (Teacher Training)





The above are titles I have been teaching to therapists for years, that I allow non-therapists to also attend.

Is there a topic you would like to learn more about? Please let me know in the contact form below. In another post I will list a dozen more ideas I have for new workshops that interest me.

Warmly, Patrick


Patrick’s Home Office




Shaming as a Tactic for Political Change?
August 24, 2016, 3:09 pm
Filed under: Literary Criticism, nature, Political Philosophy, Sociology

There is a new book that suggests shaming is a good way to hurry environmental changes. I want environmental changes as badly as anyone, but I think shaming people for the pollution they cause is likely to backfire. Is there a better way to help the world into better balance?


a photo I shot in 2002 of a man pondering big questions..


My reading of the American founding documents leads me to urgently protect others’ rights to their views and voices. I consider this “tolerance” to be one of the primary values of being liberal, which I consider myself. I would be a hypocrite if I were to shame someone for speaking their views. It seems that we liberals do a lot of the shaming, as I will describe below. I apologize to all the people who have been shamed for speaking their views. You have a right to have different values and ideologies than mine, and to say what your values are without being bashed for speaking up. If I am a vegetarian, I protect your right to say what you believe about the merits of meat and the meat industry. For me to reply, “meat is murderer, so you are a murderer,” is not an exercise of my free speech, the way I read the founding fathers. Shaming is a method of suppressing others in speaking freely, in my opinion.

I am glad this is coming up now. I have been thinking about the irony of shaming ever since early last year when that book came out: Is Shame Necessary?: New Uses for an Old Tool by Jennifer Jacquet.   While I disagree with Jacquet’s recommendation of shaming as a tool for political change, I can’t argue that shaming works to make political gains, at least when you look in a short enough term, say, a decade or two. If you look ahead more decades, or centuries from the shaming event, you see backlash that in some cases is worse than the gains.

I would like to advance two ideas about shaming. 1) I think shaming is incongruent with liberal philosophy. Any movement that behaves incongruently with its own principles is bound to block the fulfillment of its aims. 2) Furthermore, being shamed is horrible! It borders on abuse. Shaming has awful side-effects! Being shamed is traumatic. Traumatized people are likely to act out in terrible ways, decades later.

New trends in the year and a half since the shame-promoting book came out, I believe, show some of this trauma coming to the surface, not just in America but worldwide. Three articles from the current issue of The American Interest show this. The first article by Jonathan Haidt tells how after Brexit, many countries are thinking it is more important to preserve what little securities we have here in our own nation, than to press into global issues and risk losing our little securities. Those who want to focus on the needs at home (nationalists) are then judged by globalists as small-minded. A later article by David Blankenhorn tells how Trump Supporters feel judged. Another article later by Henry Foy tells how some Polish people feel they are being shamed by “Bicyclists and Vegetarians” for maintaining their traditional views including one-man-one-woman marriage. I urge you to read these three excellent articles at:


I offer a solution. Do not shame.

Less effective, you may argue? Perhaps in the short term. I believe in the long term, however, refraining from shaming will be more effective at fulfilling the aims not only of liberals but of all humans.

Below I first describe how shaming has been used to oppress the South for two hundred long years, then how shaming is currently being used deliberately, to battle the planet-murderers. Then I describe how the book To Kill a Mockingbird uses shame in a surprising way. While I am glad slavery was abolished, I don’t think the war between states has really come back to balance yet. While I want humans to stop polluting the earth, I predict a judgmental approach won’t succeed in the long term. While I am in favor of equal rights for all humans, I think uplifting one group by oppressing another will just have a see-saw effect with no lasting progress. Finally I offer what I think are better ways forward.


Shaming the Slave-Holding South in the 19th Century

Shaming has been going on in America for about two hundred years, I think. Before and during the War Between the States, abolitionists shamed slavery supporters, using namecalling, predictions of God’s judgment, threats of damnation, and other shaming tactics. Some reply, yes but it worked! Nobody doubts the public shaming humiliation did weigh on the side of Lincoln’s winning a second term and the North winning the war. Yes, slavery was abolished, which is a good thing. What was not yet a topic for public consideration at that time (that we now have the luxury to consider) is a new question:

Was there a way to get slavery abolished without oppressing a different population, ongoing?

The South went from pre-war abundance to post-war poverty. Some historians say the South has never yet bounced back from that blow. While I am glad slavery was abolished, I am sad that to accomplish this important gain, the North came to oppress the South morally and economically. How sadly ironic that, in attempting to free one group of oppressed, another group was oppressed. Later I will show how the shaming over slavery of the 19th Century continued into the 20th Century, over the civil rights movement. I will use the book and movie, To Kill a Mockingbird to show this.


Shaming in the Climate Change Debate

Those who see climate change as human-caused, tend to bash those who see climate change as natural fluctuations.

I love nature and I intend to make a difference to restore balance. But not by actions like shaming that cause more imbalance.

Since I love nature I do a lot of research and reading about how to change things for the better. Unfortunately most (or it seems all) the writing has adopted the language of war. It’s now a battle over the environment. Those who see climate change as natural fluctuations are now the enemy. If you were to do a wordlist of any environmental article or book you would get a high repetition of war terms. How can you wage a war for the goal of a peaceful state? That makes no sense to me.

Yesterday while reading State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible? by The Worldwatch Institute , I came across the word

ecocide. What is ecocide? Homicide is murder of a human. Genocide is murder of a whole race of humans. Genocide is considered horrific, a crime far more shameful than mere homicide. The word, genocide, is spoken now or written in a kind of shock-awe, because if the shame sticks to someone, the person is now a perpetrator of the worst imaginable crime and will be brought down, caused to fall from power, hung for war crimes or worse. So what is ecocide? It is the murder of an entire ecology–all humanity including all animals, all plants–everything in the ecosystem. If homicide holds shame, and genocide holds more shame, than how much shame comes with the term ecocide? If ever there was a loaded term…

I am a volunteer Friday Docent at a natural history museum. A docent interacts with people not as a teacher, telling them what is what, but as a facilitator, allowing the person to make his or her own discoveries. The museum’s mission is

“to inspire people to live in harmony with the natural world by fostering love, appreciation, and understanding…”

The mission statement was written in 1959. In 2015 the museum decided to take a stand on global warming. The museum now declares that climate change is human caused and not just a natural fluctuation. In particular the leadership at the museum would like us docents to promote energy that comes from other than fossil fuels.

I was inspired to volunteer at this particular organization because of its mission. I felt conflicted being asked to support a position that is generally considered to be liberal, when at least half of the visitors would be arriving with the opposite political position. Also, I don’t want to be “a liberal” when I’m at the museum. I just want to support people, without letting any of my ideologies slip out.

Does boycotting the fossil fuel industry match the museum’s mission statement? Mabye they overlap some percentage. Still, how can you get someone to harmonize with nature, while you are not harmonizing with that person?

I believe that climate change will come to balance faster and fuller by helping others to first feel inspired by nature, then to resonate naturally and feel love of nature. Once they are in this state, I trust them to come to their own conclusions. There is no need to tell people what to think, when they are already being natural.

Telling people what to think is always risky. Even if we tellers-of-facts are not being judgmental or shamey, I have seen too many people feel shame, when told their view is wrong. I am not willing to risk accidentally shaming someone by telling him or her that climate change is x y and z. I do wear a button that says, “Ask me about Climate Change,” as the museum’s leadership wishes. When people do ask, I ask them what they think. I support their thought processes. I connect with them person to person using the help of nature around us. I respond to the person in words, expressions, and energy so they feel competent, smart, reasonable, and capable of resonating with the natural world. Then I trust them to draw their own conclusions.


Shaming in the Civil-Rights Era

In the book, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), Atticus Finch first establishes himself as holding the moral high ground by saying often to his daughter, Scout, morality depends on seeing things from other people’s perspectives. Fantastic! Wonderful! He is like the previous century’s abolitionists, taking the moral high ground by stating all men are created equal. Atticus walks the talk: he demonstrates his empathy principle in a dozen ways throughout the book. Unfortunately there are at least two times he goes against his own principle, which undermines the books big message. Bob Ewell is a white, “uneducated” Southern man who accuses a black man of abusing his daughter. Atticus is the lawyer defending the black man. The author leads us to believe the black man is innocent and the drunk Bob Ewell abused his own daughter, then later accused the black man of doing it. Atticus calls Bob Ewell “trash,” and teaches shaming to his daughter (who is narrating):

Atticus tells Jem, “As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it—whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.”

Atticus was speaking so quietly his last word crashed on our ears. I looked up, and his face was vehement. “There’s nothing more sickening to me than a low-grade white man who’ll take advantage of a Negro’s ignorance… (p. 221)

Now, trash is inanimate. Trash is not a person. This is something we have learned since the 60s, that when an oppressor wishes to abuse a person, the first thing he does is to label the person as a non-person, like, “He’s an animal. He’s a monster.” For a non-person has no rights, and you can do what you want to them. “Trash” is not a human being. In fact, trash isn’t even an animal or monster, which at least are living beings. Atticus is saying Ewell is not a person. Trash is only inanimate but that kind of inanimate objects that real people throw away. Not only average trash but “sickening” trash. Atticus is saying that Ewell deserves to be discarded and never seen again. Trash should be destroyed, like the rabid dog that Atticus shot earlier in the book. But trash is even less lovable than a poor afflicted dog. Atticus adds that Ewell is “low-grade.” Is Atticus following his own moral philosophy of seeing things from the other person’s perspective? In ten examples in the book, yes Atticus applied empathy, in two of those cases, Atticus applied the principle even to Ewell. But this time Atticus breaks his own rule.

To Kill a Mockingbird has one more example of Atticus shaming the Southern Man. Outside, after the court finds the black man guilty, the judge reaches to shake Atticus’ hand, but Atticus reaches past the judge to shake the hands of several black people. Why can’t he shake everyone’s hand, if equality is what we’re after? Apparently equality is not what Atticus was feeling in these two moments. Equality, yes–for the oppressed blacks. But for “ignorant” Southern whites–no.

Did the author intentionally write Atticus with these two incongruencies? Or was Harper Lee unaware of these tiny inconsistencies in Atticus’ moral philosophy? One may guess she did not see Atticus’ loathing Ewell as a flaw in his philosophy. Perhaps Lee also saw people like Ewell as “trash” and wished to publically humiliate those like him in the form of a best-selling book and movie. Apparently the author was reclusive and never said what she intended in her story. I don’t know that anyone ever asked her this question. I haven’t read any critiques of TKAM written prior to Lee’s death that have asked this question. Perhaps it would have been taboo to bring it up while she lived? On the other hand, we may ask,

Did Harper Lee intend that one day we would see the two incongruencies in Atticus Finch, an otherwise perfectly-moral man?

If Lee intentionally wrote Atticus this way, this would make it indeed great literature, the greatest. For who among us is perfect? Even Jesus threw tables around when he felt morally indignant. But if this was her intention (to show Atticus’ inconsistencies), nobody knew this during the civil-rights era.

The 1962 movie version of To Kill a Mockingbird had a huge influence on the civil rights movement. Gregory Peck’s performance showed disgust so convincing that any viewer comes away from the movie just as disgusted. The movie escalates the shaming of Bob Ewell so effectively, that it helped to change the State laws in the South and enforcement of Federal laws to make life safer for black people in the South. So again you could say, yes, shaming works. Shaming on the big screen works even better than shaming using a novel. But again I ask, at what cost? Was there a way to restore the naturally equal rights of one group of people in the 1960s without oppressing another group of people? Maybe again in the 1960s, we didn’t yet know enough to see that shaming is hypocritical to liberal aims and ineffective in the long run. There might have been another way, but the time was not yet right to implement it.

Speaking of Southern Man and Popular Culture, musician Neil Young sang a potent rock song called Southern Man in the 1970s that shamed the Bob-Ewell-type Southern Man. The band Lynrd Skynrd wrote a retaliatory rock song called Sweet Home Alabama. In the 70s I took sides with Neil, against Skynrd. Other rockers took sides too. I had never been to the South and had done no research other than Neil’s song, but the song seemed to be all I needed to take a stand. Maybe we didn’t know any better then. Who started it? You could say the Southern Man started it by treating the Black Man as a lesser-than person, or even a non-person. But how does it help for Neil Young to make the Southern Man into a lesser-than person or a non-person? From Lynrd Skynrd’s perspective it was Neil Young who started it…


Who’s Responsible?

Who is more accountable for the escalating tension, is an important question to ask. David Blankenhorn asks this question in his article Listening to Trump Voters in this month’s American Interest:  Blankenhorn asks the question with regard to Trump Supporters. If they feel traumatized by decades of having their ideology described in shameful terms like “racist,” with momentum on the side of accelerating liberal advances, who is to blame for their electing a liberal-slayer?

Let’s say… let’s guess that the answer to Blankenhorn’s question is, we liberals are at least partially accountable. Liberals have made huge advances for several decades since Reagan, sort of leaving conservatives behind in a lot of ways. And how do the victors treat the defeated? With more leverage, with more hateful terminology, with threats to completely dismantle everything they once held dear, their very identities. To force liberal ideologies into schools and courts, to change the very balance of the country for good. It must feel like being cornered, like facing extinction at the hands of gloating, condescending executioners who judge you without even understanding you.

What could we liberals have done differently? Or better, what can we do differently now? Because let’s say Trump doesn’t win the presidency, but all these people are still feeling traumatized, shamed, disgruntled, resentful. They feel like they don’t have a voice and when they do voice their opinions they are ridiculed. The answer is, don’t ridicule. Don’t shame. Listen. Hear. Value the person who has the opinion. Ask how they came to have that opinion. Be curious. Be nonjudmental. Let them have the moment to share what they think without thinking of winning the argument. It’s okay to have conversations that are just learning about another person without debating the competing views.


Take a Stand

I am not suggesting we rest on human rights. There is a huge difference between stopping something that goes against human rights, (or natural rights), which I advocate, and shaming the ones who had participated. Shaming is considered by many experts in family-and relationship-psychology to be a form of abuse. Some might say, even if shaming borders on abuse, it is far less abuse than what the others are doing. This may be accurate. But even as a less-intense form of abuse, I stand by the concept that shaming is a) mildly abusive and therefore incongruent with a philosophy of abuse-stopping, and b) while it may “work” in a decade, shaming has many unwanted consequences in following decades, that will in time outweigh the benefits–especially when other ways also “work,” ways that do not leave resentments or festering traumas.

What other ways? Something like the museum’s mission statement. Listening with curiosity. Listening–not just waiting until it’s my turn to say what I want, but really wanting to understand the other. What led to that view? Wow, my view is a lot different, I wonder how we got to have such differences? Nonjudgmentally. With compassion for the person as a person, not as a political party, class, age, region or other label. You get the idea.

Are Coyotes Superior to Wolves?
February 1, 2016, 1:45 pm
Filed under: ecology, live food, nature, science, soul, synchronicity, tucson

I read a lot. Currently I am reading Lawrence Kohlberg’s book on moral stages , Wolves by Mech, and Best American Science and Nature Writing of the Year. I also received training from a major natural history museum on interpreting coyotes and wolves for museum visitors. I find that by reading as widely as possible, new ideas combine in my mind. Some combinations are too broad and people I share them with don’t see the connection. Here is a thought I had while reading this morning, and you can decide if it is useful or not to you.

The Heinz Dilemma is a fictional story Kohlberg would tell: Heinz’ wife has a fatal disease and the pharmacist is overcharging for the medicine she needs to live. Then Kohlberg would ask the listener, should Heinz steal the medicine to save his wife’s life?

Last week I heard that coyotes around Tucson frequently break into chicken coops and take the chickens. What occurred to me while reading this morning was, coyotes are answering the Heinz Dilemma: coyotes are stealing the medicine needed to save lives.

Kohlberg does not think there is a right or wrong answer. Kohlberg asks the person to explain why they have the answer they do. For example, some people say, “It is wrong to steal.” Why is it wrong to steal, Kohlberg would ask. One person might say, “Because you will get caught and there are penalties.” Another person might say, “Civilization depends on humans following a social contract. If people break this contract, our human species could disappear.” Kohlberg would assess these two answers as different stages of moral reasoning. As you might guess, Kohlberg considers the avoidance of penalty to be a lower stage of moral reasoning (stage two) than the promotion of the species (stage six). Coyotes appear to be explaining their answer with, it is right to steal when this preserves a species that could be lost. If you would grant coyotes could have moral reasoning (a stretch, I admit), their answers would place them in stage six.

And I don’t know if that’s why coyotes are truly stealing chickens, to preserve life, as Heinz might steal the medicine for his wife. And what do coyotes have to say about the chickens’ lives? After all, Heinz doesn’t kill the pharmacist to get the medicine. All I am saying is I had this thought while I was reading this morning… Maybe the connection I made isn’t worth blogging about. But I still wonder, can we learn anything about human stages of moral reasoning by considering coyotes and other animals’ behaviors?

Soon after my first thought about coyotes, it occurred to me this morning that wolves think differently than coyotes. Wolves have a social system where the strongest Alpha delivers punishments to the others to keep them in order. The rest appear to willingly submit to this structure. Those who behave correctly are given food, friendly touches and sometimes the pleasure of mating. Could we say wolves are at a stage two moral development? May we deduce that coyotes are operating at a higher moral stage than wolves? Let’s leave this idea for a minute. I will come back to this.

I regularly give presentations standing in front of wolf enclosures and coyote enclosures. Sometimes the wolves or coyotes listen in as I talk to the humans. I pass around (to the humans) the skulls of wolves and coyotes. Notice they are indistinguishable except for the size. In fact all canines: wolves, coyotes, foxes and your dogs at home can interbreed and have live, healthy pups who can also breed. When you define “species” as those who can have healthy live young who can also breed, as some scientists do, all canines are one species–Dog. The groupings, “coyote,” “wolf,” “fox,” “greyhound,” and “terrier” are just different breeds, with different specialties and habits.

Dogs have one molar per jaw, which means they are designed to eat some vegetation. The rest of the teeth and jaws are designed for killing and cutting meat. So if you only had skulls to go by you might guess all dogs would eat 95% meat, 5% vegetation. It turns out however that wolves eat 100% meat, and coyotes here in the Southwest eat 50% vegetarian. Coyotes here especially love saguaro cactus fruit. In cactus fruit season, coyotes abandon all meat and survive on fruit, which shows a preference, since meat is still available. Last summer I picked up some coyote poop in a baggie, that was full of little seeds. I planted the poop and within a week had hundreds of little saguaro cactus babies:


saguaro sprouts a week after Patrick collected coyote scat

It appears coyotes are a prime planter of saguaro cactus seeds, plus fertilizer! What a service they provide nature! Perhaps this is one reason the Tohono O’odham in this region consider Coyote to be one of three beings who created the world (the other two being Raven and Big Brother).

The rest of the year coyotes eat mesquite pods, palo verde seeds and ironwood seeds when in season. When none of their favorite foods are available they return to meat in the form of hares and other rodents, lizards and other reptiles and insects, which are available here year-round.

I tell the people in my presentations that wolves prefer meat, and coyotes prefer vegetables when they can get them, even though their teeth and jaws are identical. They’re the same species. It’s their choices that are different, their preferences, their behaviors, their culture, their traditions. Wolves eat one thing–animals larger than themselves that it takes a group to pull down. Coyotes eat what they can find including lots of things with seeds. Wolves are set in their ways. And because of this, wolf numbers are declining in the current world. The large game that wolves exclusively eat is hardly available for them except in a few protected areas. Except free ranged cattle. And when they eat cattle, ranchers kill them. Wolves’ choices are leading them to extinction in this modern world. Wolf numbers are declining, with certain sub-species like the Mexican Grey Wolf endangered and extirpated.

Coyotes on the other hand are flexible. They’re wily. Not only are they flexible with what they eat, but appear to have nothing against human encroachment. Coyotes are happy to live in cities. Phoenix has a very high population of urban coyotes who live in the dry washes and golf courses. In Tucson we have coyotes in my neighborhood and yard. The neighbors hate packrats, rattlesnakes and wouldn’t tolerate wolves or cougar in the neighborhood, but coyotes they love. Some houses in my neighborhood are even decorated with coyote silhouettes, as if to honor or welcome them. Coyote numbers are increasing in this modern world while wolves are declining.

Is there a message here? Are coyotes superior? Wolves are too large, and their ways and traditions can’t work any longer in this world. Keep this in mind as you hear the next part. Several natural wolf-coyote matings have been confirmed in the wild. Both male and female wolves have chosen to court coyotes to have offspring with. Why? Could wolves be thinking, My kind is not long for this world, I had better do something? Could they be thinking, We need to get smaller and be more flexible like coyotes if we are going to make it? Do even wolves notice the superiority of coyotes?

Let’s look at it from an evolution model. If coyotes and wolves had a common ancestor, and split into distinct mating groups around two lifestyle preferences, this would be an example of what is called natural selection, or survival of the fittest. The competition between wolves and coyotes would be en example of evolution in our midst. Our current era would be an early stage in the differentiation of canines into different species. For if we were in a later stage, coyotes and wolves would be so genetically differentiated by now that they could no longer have live pups when mating. Wouldn’t it be exciting if we are living in the midst of an evolution process? Two groups of cousins with different strategies: Which will win? Which will survive?

According to the evolution model, the group that survives is “fittest.” The survivors are better, superior, more evolved. According to this model, later developments in any species are superior and better than their ancestors. In this model every species now living is fitter and more evolved than the bacteria that are all our common ancestors.

Which sounds a lot like Kohlberg’s view of moral stages. Kohlberg says that since younger children never have stage six reasoning but only older children and adults ever get past stage five, later developments must be superior, higher moral reasoning. In both cases: the evolution model, and Kohlberg’s model of moral development, later development is superior, fitter and higher.

But I’m going to throw a wrench in the gears of those models. If coyotes survive and wolves die out, does “survival” prove that the one species is superior to the other? Or does it only prove the one species is more adapted to the world we have today? If the world still had giant sloths, mammoths or even buffalo roaming around, wouldn’t it be wolves who would be increasing and coyotes decreasing? Instead of fitter, should we simply say, have an advantage in the current environment?

But if later-evolved does not mean superior or better, how can we explain humans’ strong sense we are superior to our pre-human ancestors? Are humans not superior to little primates and bacteria, but only better adapted to take advantage of the current environment?

Now apply these questions back to moral stages. In individuals, all Kohlberg showed was that older individuals tended to explain their moral reasoning using ideas higher on the six-stage scale than younger individuals. All he’s shown is that higher on the scale equates to older, not higher.

But if older does not mean morally superior, how can we explain that only people over 21 may vote and only people over 45 may be president? Are adults not superior moral reasoners to children? And how should we interpret the old saying, Be like the little children?

I am not trying to disprove any models. I happen to appreciate the models of natural selection and moral stages. But I don’t swallow them whole. I ask them tough questions. I don’t have good answers to these questions yet but if you do, please comment. Thanks.