Current Work

Scholarship is a community activity. It usually takes me six months to a year from the first draft until something is ready to submit for publication. During this time I rework my ideas and seek feedback from colleagues. I welcome your thoughts on work in progress. Download a file, edit it, and contact me. I will respond with an email address for you to send it.

Building the Moral Community is now available on Amazon.

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Recent Presentations

ASDA Leadership, February 2017:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3



Moral Priming and the ACD Basic Rule

Building the Moral Community

400-page book developing the idea that morality (what we do to bring about a better world) is best understood in terms of the relationships among agents rather than the theoretical relationships between a person and a principle.

Ethics Cases

Eight moral issues in dental practice were presented to a sample of dentists and a sample of patients; all were asked to indicate which of various actions they felt were appropriate and which reasons carried weight. Although there was general agreement between patients and practitioners, the structure for viewing the ethical dimension of dentistry differed, with patients placing emphasis on oral health.

Inadequacy of Principles

Several formal arguments are presented demonstrating that a normative or principled approach to ethics necessarily underdetermines appropriate moral action. This is always the case where there are two or more agents and three or more alternatives and where there is one agent and four or more alternatives.


Agent-based computer simulations are used to show that, under plausible conditions, a mutuality (equilibrium in game theory) common approach to resolving moral engagements is superior. Experience confirms that this is, nevertheless, not the most common approach. By adding the single condition that self-interested agents are not allowed to participate freely in moral engagements unless they have superior resources (walls), the eventual outcome is wide gaps in thriving among self-interested agent and an overall degradation of the fitness of the community.

Reframing Ethics

A reinterpretation of the metaethical problem in terms of radical naturalism


Coercion is the unfair constraining of others’ options for one’s personal benefit.  It is unethical in most cases because there are alternative relationship for agents.  The small number of cases where it may yield satisfactory solutions are all mixed equalibria where one should randomly spread strategies across alternatives, as in robbing some banks or cheating on some tax returns.





How Dentists Read a Technique Journal Article

CLICK HERE for transcription of verbatim comments of research subjects

Combining Evidence and Experience

Research study of Bayesian updating as a model for how dentists combine evidence, experience, and the literature

Leadership Trajectory

Survey of 867 dentists reporting on their leadership participation in decade slices over their life; early participation predicts career-long patterns and maximal participation is reached about age 50 and declines rapidly after that.

Reading Habits

Data from dental editors and practitioners show that factual recall of material in JADA and ADA News increases as an interaction of reading and interest in the topic; editorials and research reports are read more carefully than advertisements or organization announcements.


I have a monthly, 500-word column on ethics in the California Dental Association Journal. Below are some of the pieces in press:

All in the Family

Why the elite do not understand the Millennials in their midst.

ADA Code of Ethics

Explaining the three parts of the Principles of Ethics, the Code of Professional Conduct, and Advisory Opinions.

The World is Coming Apart

Prosperity and communication have created the illusion that each of us will be better for taking our own small piece of the work and doing as we wish.

Ethical Sweepstakes

The dental profession should participate in debates about what should be done to improve oral health rather than demand that all others accept the profession’s perspective as a precondition of having a chat.

I Never Lie

Violating the principle of veracity is more than saying things that are objectively untrue; it includes letting others entertain misconceptions that work to their disadvantage.

The Dilemma Dilemma

Calling a situation in ethics a dilemma has become a cliché for “we may not be able to do anything about this” and “What I am about to say is pretty sophisticated.”

Virtue Epistemology

We are responsible to know that what we say is true and worth saying.

A Grammar of Ethics

Talking about ethics in the first person is ego-centric; transposing it to the third person is ego-centric on steroids; expressing situations in terms of what “we” should do is best.

Ring of Gyges

Invisibility about what we do tempts us to do less than we should.

The Cost of Ignorance

Patients should never be forced to bear the cost of our ignorance.

The New Autonomy

Autonomy is fine in principle, but a Pickwickian stance of only being heard in a favorable light is unrealistic and probably not very health.



Active Research

I am always looking for participants and collaborators. Contact me if you are interested.


Ethics in American Dentistry

The American college of Dentists has authorized a three-year study of ethics in the profession. This project will be grounded in data and is expected to produce recommendations for improving oral health by means of elevating ethical standards.

Justifiable Criticism

The circumstances and manner for dentists criticizing colleagues where they detect gross or continual faulty treatment is subject to wide interpretations. Practitioners are videotaped as they work through randomly presented vignettes and report on why they chose to take the actions they did.

PD Framing and Common Good Game

Agents respond to choices based on their framing of the situation, not on the objective characteristics of the situation. The Prisoners’ Dilemma Game has been widely studied and paradoxical results reported. It is possible that these strange behaviors make good sense if seen from the subjects’ perspective. There is also a rich research tradition where subjects honor the common good in a collaborative situation on some occasions and stick to self-interest in others. The circumstances that control this shift in framing is not understood.


Bayesian Updating

Dentists combine thoughts about the baseline from their personal experience with new evidence in continuous updating of what they believe the world is really like. This study explores the rough way this is actually accomplished.

Visual Reading

Much has been written about how dentists should read the literature, but little is known regarding how they actually approach a journal article. Practitioners are videotapes reading a high visual journal article. Verbatim transcripts of their comments during the process show some promise of revealing how dentists structure their approach to reading.