Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Do "Universal Rights" Exist?
...each person owns themselves and has the self-determination that comes with that self-ownership.If you accept this as an axiom then is becomes relatively easy to derive a moral system in which humanitarian intervention is justified. But, being axiomatic, its an arbitrary statement without further underpinning. I can claim that "each person is owned by their parents" or "every person owns what they can control" or any of a number of other permutations and be just as correct. When a conflict arises between different axioms how do you arbitrate that dispute? Absent any sort of voluntary mutual agreement (like the UN, for instance) it seems untenable to suggest that there's any reason to favor one set of axioms over another. Interestingly enough, this seems to be a case where the religious among us have the upper hand over the non-religious. The religious can point to their deities of choice, say "because they say so", and be consistent within their own framework of reasoning. The non-religious, on the other hand, generally have no such escape from the question. The materialist/naturalistic epistemologies that I'm familiar with accept that the physical world is non-normative and that axioms are arbitrary; such frameworks provide no mechanism for choosing one set of axioms over the other. You can argue consistency within a particular framework (like, say, Utilitarianism), but you can't provide a reason to accept one framework over the other (Utilitarianism vs. Formalism).
1 By definition, anyone who leaves child porn lying around in their browser cache. 2 This isn't that far-fetched a scenario; black hats often use hacked machines as convenient file storage.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Presumption of Guilt In Rape Cases?
To use the consent defense, what is needed is not proof of lack of consent (stereotypical resistance) but proof that the alleged victim gave true, legal consent. If the alleged rapist says the alleged victim consented then proving that claim should be the defense team’s burden.with the presumption of innocence on the part of the accused? It would seem that, in the situation above, the burden of proof is placed on the defendant rather than the plaintiff. Additionally, what kind of proof would satisfactorily demonstrate consent? Absent physical violence a plaintiff can still claim coercion. This is an especially difficult charge to counter given that the reality of the alleged coercion is determined, in large part, by the subjective mental state of the plaintiff at the time of the event i.e. its epistemologically impossible for the defent to prove that the plaintiff didn't feel coerced. I still claim that a better heuristic for assessing whether a particular sex act constitutes rape is whether or not a reasonable alternative to engaging in sex is available.
The Virtue Of Selfishness
In a system that rewards self-interest, you just have to constantly act in your own self-interest, society be damned.At the root of this statement is the belief that a person cannot act in their own best interest without somehow destroying the very fabric of society. This belief is demonstrably false. This is most clearly demonstrated by the "give a fish/teach to fish" dichotomy. Can we agree that, when possible, its better to encourage people to become self-sufficient than to keep them perpetually dependent on others? I'll assume that you, the reader, have made vague affirmative noises at this point (if you haven't I'd like to hear why not). So I'll go on to ask "Why is that?". If we prioritize "teach to fish" over "give a fish", then it seems clear to me that we see an inherent value in allowing people to become self-sufficient. To extend the (blindingly stupid1) analogy in the quoted research, we think its a moral good that people be empowered to pick up their own pencils. Doesn't it also follow from there that, if people can pick up their own pencils, then we should expect them to? The above is an inane example, so let me present something from the real world: financial literacy classes. Are these classes a bad thing? Again, the rustling coming over the intarweb tells me that you're shaking your head. But really, at the heart of it, don't these classes teach people to make financial decisions that are in their own best interest? Here we have a clear example of people acting in their own self-interest by doing things like staying out of debt and saving money for retirement. Since no one that I can find is coming out against financial literacy I'm left to conclude that such classes and the behavior they engender have a net positive benefit on society. So, you see boys and girls, its not necessarily the case that acting in your own self interest is a bad thing. It can even be argued that empowering more people to act in their own self-interest has a net positive benefit on society.
1 I hate this type of research with the white hot intensity of a thousand burning suns. It reminds me a lot of an of-quoted study linking violent video games to increased aggression. The things that this type of study measures (e.g. picking up a pencil or blasting someone with a loud noise) are lousy proxies for real-world behavior, seriously calling into question the general applicability of their findings.
Monday, November 20, 2006
Double Standards: Fun Police Edition
Saturday, November 18, 2006
That's Great And All...
Thursday, November 16, 2006
The Roots Of "race suicide"
44. The Desirability of Children in Athens.--Besides the oversight of the slaves the Athenian matron has naturally the care of the children. A childless home is one of the greatest of calamities. It means a solitary old age, and still worse, the dying out of the family and the worship of the family gods. There is just enough of the old superstitious "ancestor worship" left in Athens to make one shudder at the idea of leaving the "deified ancestor" without any descendants to keep up the simple sacrifices to their memory. Besides, public opinion condemns the childless home as not contributing to the perpetuation of the city. How Corinth, Thebes, or Sparta will rejoice, if it is plain that Athens is destroying herself by race suicide! So at least ONE son will be very welcome. His advent is a day of happiness for the father, of still greater satisfaction for the young mother.1The source quoted is from 1910, so even if you assume the author is projecting then the concerns about race suicide predate the decline of agrarianism. When you think about it, concerns about race suicide ultimately reflect the fear that "us" is going to be overwhelmed by "them" through sheer force of numbers; such a fear is not specific to an agrarian way of life, but rather is probably present whenever two factions find themselves in conflict.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Are The Powers Of Darkness Appropriating "Neo-Pagan"?
This is just plain weird... It appears that he's just randomly choosing this term for everyone he disagrees with, as well as lumping them in together for no apparent reason.Its not necessarily as weird as it looks; it might be part of an attempt to appropriate and subvert the word. Its like what happened to the term "atheist"; if you successfully associate a term with pedophilia and cannibalism* then you've gained an edge over people who self-identify using that term. Like atheists in the recent past, neo-pagans are still largely marginal in terms of their visibility in the public discourse, so people don't have a good, concrete understanding of the term. What understanding they do have is probably colored by inaccurate popular representations, making the term particularly susceptible to subversion. The lack of any sort of substantial representation for neo-pagans on the national stage means that no one is going to complain when the term is abused.
* Hyperbole alert... but not by much.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Too Good To Pass Up
Via Jesus' General I ran across a Harper's article about Ted Haggard. There's no point in piling on Haggard at this late date... he says he's done with that sort of thing <rimshot>. But read the description of worship services at his mega-cathedral cum Wal-Mart:
The band stood. A skinny, chinless man with a big, tenor voice, Ross Parsley, directed the musicians and the crowd, leading us and them and the choir as the guitarists kicked on the fuzz and the drummer pounded the music toward arena-rock frenzy. Two fog machines on each side of the stage filled the sanctuary with white clouds. Pod-shaped projectors cast a light show across the ceiling, giant spinning white snowflakes and cartwheeling yellow flowers and a shimmering blue water-effect. “Prepare the way!” shouted Worship Pastor Ross. “Prepare the way! The King is coming!” Across the stage teens began leaping straight up, a dance that swept across the arena: kids hopped, old men hopped, middle-aged women hopped. Spinners wheeled out from the ranks and danced like dervishes around the stage. The light pods dilated and blasted the sanctuary with red. Worship Pastor Ross roared: “Let the King of Glory enter in!” Ushers rushed through the crowds throwing out rainbow glow strings.and compare with
Dionysos, also called Bacchos and known by various other ritual names, is supposed to have been a Thracian deity, but he is not listed in the Homeric cycle of divinities, and is generally thought to have come from the East.. The seventh Homeric Hymn tells the story of his miraculous apparition to the pirates who were abducting him in the Adriatic Sea. One of his names, Lyaios, would seem to come from the verb 'lu-' which means "loosen, let loose" and this function, performed with the drinking of wine, with ecstatic dancing and flagellation with the 'thyrsos', a rod with a sharp pine-cone tied to the tip, is central to his role. Accompanied by men and women who are in various states of self-induced trance like hyper-activity, he provides for large numbers of men and especially for women an emotional release from emotional repression through his psychologically liberating services.1Same story, different players... so much for divine inspiration.
Friday, November 10, 2006
Setting Standards For Home Schooling
- Why is certification necessary?
- Assuming certification is necessary, does the current process of certification actually ensure quality pedagogy?
- Is it possible to provide a quality education for children without being certified?
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Commerce Clause Overreach?
Second, as Justice Stevens himself has recently explained for the Court, Congress's Commerce authority extends at the very least to the regulation of even nonprofit entities if they "purchase goods and services in competitive markets, offer their facilities to a variety of patrons, and derive revenues from a variety of sources, some of which are local and some out of State." Camps Newfound/Owatonna, Inc. v. Town of Harrison, 520 U.S. 564, 585-586 (1997). That almost certainly describes all, or virtually all, clinics and other facilities at which the abortions in question would take place.I may be missing some legal subtleties here, but I'm failing in my valiant effort to imagine a group which the phrase "purchase goods and services in competitive markets" doesn't cover. I find myself asking what activity isn't covered by the Commerce Clause? Google doesn't provide a good answer to this topic, just a bunch of people complaining that the Commerce Clause is being abused Its an established principle1 of Constitutional interpretation that each word has a meaning. Can we extend this notion and assert that each phrase has a meaning as well? What I'm getting at here is that The Framers wouldn't have specifically said "among the several States" if they had intended for Congress to be able to regulate all forms of economic activity (which seems to be where things stand now) . Doesn't the Commerce Clause's mere presence indicate that they understood there to be a limit to Congress' power to regulate economic activity? Put more succinctly, it seems that the continued expansion of activity which is regulated under the Commerce Clause runs afoul of this implicit limit.
1 Wish I could find a cite for this... asserting established principles is not something I do lightly.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Next Steps Now That The Good Guys Are In Charge
Let's Hear It For Non-Stupidity
When Its Bush vs. Mondale, We All Lose
Fool #1: I can bench 250 pounds. Fool #2: Good thing I'm not a bench, you'd kick my ass.I'm led to understand that Fool #1 eventually topped this by removing his pants, though I wasn't there to witness it personally. Regarding the Mondale vs. Bush bake-off-a-pa-loo-za: I'm glad that I've grown up in an era where the American palette has become slightly more sophisticated.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Vote By Mail Is Not Secret
Anonymous Voting and "Vote By Mail" systems
¡Mancow, El Nacimiento!
Friday, November 03, 2006
Sci-Techs Are People Too
- It is by no means universal; many sci-techs are just as passionate (and just as irrational) as the general public when it comes to discussing the world at large.
- It can be taught; dispassionate consideration of public policy doesn't require any specific cognitive hardwiring, but rather a firm dedication to principle unclouded by personal biases.
- Suspension of emotion for the purpose of problem-solving doesn't imply that a person has no other emotional outlets.
- Treating emotion like some sort of a fluid that builds up over time is trés Galen. There's been very little empirical study to support what is ultimately a folk view of emotion.